The Micro Four Thirds Game Heats Up…


pmaWithout question, the 2009 PMA expo has been rather ho-hum. Blame it on the economy, lack of imagination, or simply the weather, but the few photographic devices released seem like either a rip-off or remake of something we all have seen before. Do we need any more point & shoot cameras featuring nothing more than a color change and a half-megapixel more than its predecessor released just six months ago? Well, the big three of the camera industry Canon, Nikon and Sony (yes, Sony) seem to be saving up any new gear introductions for a better economy or Q3 2009, whichever comes first. Thankfully we have a growing range of EVIL cameras to keep us occupied until then.



I have a slight obsession with the micro four thirds concept and its cousin the unofficially termed “Micro APS-C format” being pushed by Samsung (Pentax?) with their recently prototyped NX. Both of these formats owe a lot to the pocket rangefinders of the 60’s, 70s and early 80s, but more directly to the solo designer, Charles Davis, a retired physicist and his Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) camera project. {ed. Note the old link I had for his website is no longer working, so if anyone has a update please share.} For weight weenies and flyweight packers, these EVIL cameras are just what we have been hoping for.

micro-four-thirds-system-logoEven though I am a diehard sheet film shooter, I see a great deal of promise in the EVIL camera format. I would be ecstatic to see a digital version of the Leica (Minolta) CL. As I espoused upon last week, the ‘micro-whatever’ format presents a platform for producing well-crafted, and thought-out photographs with manual controls and digital convenience without the SLR-style bulk that is the standard when moving up the food chain from point & shoot cameras. Mimicking the way Bresson and Capa wielded their classic rangefinders, modern reportage, art, street or pictorial shots beg to be produced with this genre of unobtrusive micro cameras. Assuming that the formats don’t flop, I am not planning on investing in any of these products until “Gen-2.” As most consumer electronic junkies know, never be an early adopter unless you don’t mind being a beta tester.

At the PMA show in Las Vegas, Olympus finally set a date (vague implication of a “summer release”) for their Werra-inspired (copied) MFT camera. From the images seen round the web, I do not see the shutter speed and aperture dials one would expect on a camera with interchangeable lenses, so I can only assume that this still unnamed camera is going to be aimed at the Leica D-Lux/Sigma DP type of crowd. Yawn…


Two cameras separated at birth... by about 60 years!

Two cameras separated at birth... by about 60 years!

For those of us who are not lawyers or dentists with vast amounts of disposable income to blow on devices never to be fully appreciated or understood able to distinguish an f-stop from a g-string, Panasonic has added an ‘H’ to the G line, giving the option to shoot HD video with a still camera. By using an MFT to Leica M adapter (via a Novoflex or RayQual product) a Summilux can be used in a way it has never been before: as a video optic. Aside from the addition of video recording, the Panasonic GH1 seems to be identical to the G1. I would guess the GH1 is but a small price decrease away from replacing the G1 outright.


Undoubtedly there is more to come. I will be getting my grubby mitts on a G1 or GH1 soon to test out the Leica adapter. I write all of this with the satisfaction of knowing that the big boys in their lofty offices do read blogs and websites like this one. If they didn’t, then the current and pending crop of EVIL cameras would not exist. I think we all owe a special thanks or at least a polite nod to Charles Davis and his pet project camera.

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