Unofficial Micro Four-Thirds Preview

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Right now, I am starting work on an article for my other (paid) content publishing venue on using Leica M lenses on the new Micro Four-Thirds (MFT) camera. This would be facilitated by using the Novoflex or CameraQuest Leica M to Micro Four-Thirds adapter.This article is a total gamble as I am hoping at least one of the two rumored Olympus MFT cameras is revealed at the upcoming PMA show in Las Vegas, thusly justifying the article. We have all seen and been titillated by the carrot-colored Werra-inspired Olympus prototype shown at last-year’s Photokina trade show. Supposedly there is to be a second Olympus model that looks and functions more like the currently available Panasonic G1.

Most people look at the new format with the same short-lived pleasure that APS cameras like the Nikon Pronea line or the Pentax Auto 110 garnered. “Hey, it has quality interchangeable lenses like my SLR but is the size of a point and shoot” is the market mentality MFT is shooting for. Where I would prefer to see this line progress is into the economy rangefinder market currently dominated by the film-based Cosina/Voigtlanders. Not all of us have sugar-daddies, dental practices, or trust funds to provide us with a Leica M8 (or better yet, the ridiculously priced M8.2 Safari Edition). A few decades ago, there used to be a wide range of economically priced and mid-range rangefinders that have slowly vanished, leaving this format to the luxury market. Excluding Voigtlander, the RF market over the past 20 years has produced high priced cameras like the Konica Hexar, Zeiss Ikon, Rollei branded (and doubly-priced) Voigtlander, and the Nikon S3 reissue. All of these cameras were originally sold or are currently marked with unbearably high price tags.

So what happened to the Werras, the Canon QL17s, the Rollei 35s, and the Petris? The auto-everything point and shoot market killed them. They will still kill them in today’s digital market, but if these new MFT cameras are aimed at SLR owners looking for a compact and portable second camera, they had better make these new cameras sophisticated enough and inexpensive enough to keep up. This is a very tight rope to balance upon, especially with our piss-poor global economy and the rising value of the Yen. That is where some second-hand Leica M lenses come into play.

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My fantasy second kit for travel and expedition would not be a compact SLR like the Nikon D60, but rather a rangefinder that looks like the above Olympus, with manual focus and controls. I could mount an old 135mm Tele-Elmarit and with the 2x lens crop factor, my heavy DSLR and a 300mm f/2.8 lens are easily replaced by a system that is a fraction of its size. There is a drastic difference in size between the 135mm f/2.8 Tele-Elmarit and a Nikon 300mm f/2.8.

On the other end of the optical spectrum is where you may have some trouble factoring in the 2x factor. The inexpensive Cosina/Voigtlander glass can help as they produce a 12mm and a 15mm screw/M-mount that would produce an angle of view equal to a 24mm or 30mm lens on a full-frame.

Anyhow, I know these cameras are the beginning of a line. I can only hope that this design evolves into something that resembles what I am dreaming up in the above paragraph. Through my work, I am occasionally lucky enough to be in touch with some camera reps and engineers, so I will sniff into their progress quite closely and share with you what I can.

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