In 2008, Panasonic and Olympus worked together to debut a new sensor system called Micro Four-Thirds. It was the start of the mirrorless revolution that has now worked its way up through APS-C sensors right up to full-frame, but it all started with Micro Four-Thirds (MFT).
Fast-forward a decade and Micro Four-Thirds is still the system of choice for thousands of photographers - and for good reason! The system offers photographers a perfect mix of portability and powerful features - all while delivering impressive value for money. In celebration of a decade of MFT cameras, we’ve shortlisted seven great things about the system…
The first MFT camera, Panasonic’s DMC-G1, offered a modest 12-megapixels of resolution, but today’s MFT cameras can do much better as sensor technology has rapidly advanced. For example, the Panasonic GH5’s and Olympus E-M1 MkII now serve up 20-megapixels - enough to deliver a max image size of 5184x3888 pixels - more than enough to allow photographers to produce big prints.
Great video functions:
Micro Four-Thirds cameras have always boasted excellent video specifications and have arguably been a step ahead of DSLRs in offering better video features at the same price point. Panasonic’s GH5 is a tried and tested tool for full-time working videographers, but even some of the more consumer-level models sport excellent features. Cameras like the Panasonic GX8 and the Olympus E-PL9 both offer photographers 4K video capability without breaking the bank.
Having great cameras is only half of the battle, because for a system to be truly successful, there needs to be a plentiful selection of lenses for photographers to choose from. MFT users were onto a winner from the beginning, as Olympus shooters could also make use of Panasonic lenses and vice versa, but third-party manufacturers quickly started offering lenses in MFT-fitment, further extending the choice of optics. Today, MFT photographers can select from fish-eye optics to telephoto lenses and everything in between.
One element that separates Micro Four-Third cameras from their rivals is the crop factor. MFT cameras have a 2x crop factor, which doubles the lens' effective focal length. Thanks to the crop factor, a 50mm lens becomes a 100mm, and a 300mm optic becomes a 600mm. While this means you’ll have to buy an ultra-wide angle for landscapes, the advantages for wildlife and sports photographer are clear, enabling shooters to get up close to subjects from a distance.
Micro Four-Thirds cameras have often been among the first to debut new technology, such as vari-angle screens and Electronic Viewfinders (EVFs). One of the these breakthrough moments was Image Stabilisation and now the vast majority offer IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation), with many boasting the sophisticated 5-axis technology that typically offers up to five-stops of compensation. This feature comes into its own when shooting handheld in low light conditions and enables you to capture sharp shots a slower shutter speeds.
Speed and autofocus:
Okay, so ten years ago the DMC-G1 was lacking in both speed and AF prowess - offering 3 frames a second and 23 AF points. Compare that to the Olympus E-M1 MkII, which offers 121 AF points and a lightning fast burst rate of up to 60 RAW files per second, and it’s clear MFT cameras have come a long way in both areas.
A smaller sensor means cameras are more compact and far lighter than APS-C and full-frame models and this appeals to photographers who want to travel light. You can pack a camera like the Olympus E-PL9 plus three lenses into a tiny space, making it ideal for carry on luggage and taking on your vacations.
Take a full-frame camera, plus a battery grip, plus a big telephoto lens and you’re talking about some serious weight and there’s been many cases of photographers who have traded in their heavy gear for the lightweight benefits of the MFT system. What’s more, the discretion a small camera system offers is of massive appeal to street photographers who want to capture candid images without drawing attention to themselves.