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Four-Thirds Systems

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A while back Dr Mustard stirred things up a bit by mentioning his interest in the Leica D-lux 3. Now there is PanaLeica offering (Panasonic DMC-L1 and Leica Digilux 3) which has interchangable lenses as well as the five Olympuses (E1, E500, E300, E330, and in Europe the E400). In the meantime Sigma is offering some 4/3 lenses as well as Leica. So support is growing. There are certainly some lenses that are pro quality. The Olympus 7-14mm is certainly UW friendly as is their 50mm macro. The Lecia 14-50 is an IS lens. The first I think.

 

So what do people think of this system? Certainly a niche area. I recently sold off all my old FD kit and I am somewhat drawn to the system as the lenses are small which given that alot of my top shooting is in remote areas small is good.

 

BTW http://www.four-thirds.org/en is a website that is a cooperative between the players.

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History is littered with formats which, whilst perfectly logical and even forward thinking at the time, failed because of very entrenched existing ones. The situation may have changed with digital but I suspect that Canon & Nikon represent main stream thinking and their formats are the ones most likely to survive. My first camera was an old Kodak 828, now long gone and even in my childhood one which it could be difficult to find film for, and since then there has been 126, 110, discfilm, APS, and no doubt many more. Each was a part of the photographic evolutionary process and many excellent images were no doubt taken on these formats. Nevertheless, 35mm remained a dominant format which still endures even today, and now as a digital format. Perhaps I am too conservative in my thinking, but when changing format represents a substantial investment which it might not be possible to recoup if that format fails to find sufficient adherents, you need to make a careful and balanced judgement about the advisability of buying into a newish system. Whilst the physical format is new its ration is that of 6 x 4.5cm medium format which is a pleasant ratio to work with - but do see the 'cropping' posts too!

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final print shape and cropping debate aside....

 

I'd vote for a square sensor any day, especially if we could push a button and get a 2:3 vertical or horizontal crop if we want (no more rotating camera/repositioning of strobes). Sure you could just have square all the time, but the h/v rectangle option would save file size if you knew what you wanted at time of capture. Our lenses project circles, so a square in the middle of it makes sense.

 

The other format that I think will get adopted is 16:9 , as we start to show stills more often on TV and widescreen monitors become the norm. It is a beautiful shape.

 

Think the APS/advantix film concept with the various formats it offered. Another hit from Mr Kodak –not– it offerred 4/3, 2:3 and 16:9 and a wider pano I think.

 

darren

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............

I'd vote for a square sensor any day, especially if we could push a button and get a 2:3 vertical or horizontal crop if we want (no more rotating camera/repositioning of strobes)..............

 

yes, .........but I'd vote for a round, concave sensor........programmable or interchangeable........to a shape similar to the lens......

 

then all light passing through the aperture would have an equal distance to travel to the capture device.......

 

I wonder if such a system would also correct fringing (CA), barrel and pin cushioning distortion.......along with removing the need for major repositioning of strobes as mentioned when going from landscape to portrait............

 

btw, microscopes, telescopes, binoculars..........all share round lens shapes with the camera.........yet it's the camera that produces an image with corners............

 

cropping to taste to creative preferences would dictate final composition..........

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Olympus has a questionable track record in this respect. The old Olympus OM SLR was a fine camera, but alas, Olympus orphanned it and the lens mount. When they did. all third party support died too.

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I love the square sensor idea -- so outside the box, it's in the box. This would require very few lens/sensor mods, and really seems quite reasonable to this nerd. Memory is so cheap now (circa 70 us for 4gb of 150X cf) that I don't even care about preselecting crops. High time that (digital) sensing media got in tune with the radially symmetric geometry of the lens! EDIT: and no need to pivot the camera and stobe arms!

 

A round, flat sensor also sounds good ... tailored to whatever diameter the manufacturer wants. It would require clever layout, though, to get a good yield from the cylindrical blanks. This, too, seems reasonable -- at least for high end cameras.

 

A concave sensor, though, would require a whole new school of lens design, and would be difficult to fabricate: a fascinating speculation.

 

All that said, the draconian 2x crop of the 4/3 sensor does not bode well...

 

Fun stuff.

 

Chris

Edited by CeeDave

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I also like the square sensor idea although I won't hold my breath for it coming on the market. If they do they probably find some nice marketing term for like "the 16/16" format :(

 

The only gear I know of that is optimized for the classical format are some (most?) strobes that produce a cone of light that is wider than high. That's easy to fix and if you have two strobes you can put one horizontal and one vertical.

 

Bart

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The only gear I know of that is optimized for the classical format are some (most?) strobes that produce a cone of light that is wider than high. That's easy to fix and if you have two strobes you can put one horizontal and one vertical.

 

 

Well picture frames for one thing. Last year in Switzerland over the holidays I was helping my brother and sisters-in-law pick a picture frame for a photo shot with an Oly and they just couldn't understand why they couldn't find a frame to fit the photo. No use explaining it either...

 

I really like the idea of a square sensor. This would be the perfect way to perpetuate the megapixel race without making the sensors (and whole camera) significantly bigger than full frame. It would be really open up the creativity of photography if we routinely took 16:9, square, or even circular photographs, not to mention the ease of shooting portrait in landscape position.

 

Of course this can all be done in postprocessing today. With 10, 12 or even 16mp there are plenty to crop away.

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going back up to Paul's post on closed, limited formats... teh 4/3 system is open, and the last year was very good for it, when finally not one but many companies other than olympus finally joined it. It really seemed to turn the corner and become a real System and one that would last.

 

The zuiko olympus glass is great and always scores very highly in lens tests and in qualitative eyeball print quality.

 

I like my E1 a lot. Great color. Weatherproofing is a great feature. The sonic dustbuster really works. The 7-14 is a great lens. Many friends are getting the E330 with live view and like it. PMA in march should bring a lot more from Olympus.

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Personally I really like more rectangular images. I don't believe there is anything wrong with 4:3, it is just a personal preference.

 

My favourite format is the 35mm film size of 3:2, although I also like 1.614:1 (PHI) and 4:2 for panoramas.

 

When I shot my hasselblad underwater I enjoyed the square sensor, and was pleasantly surprised how many underwater subjects actually suit this format. That said when I asked other photographers and editors for advice on how best to compose with medium format they just said "put the subject small and in the middle and then the client can crop the image into either a horizontal or a vertical". Seemed to rather undermine the point of being a photographer to me.

 

Alex

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Seemed to rather undermine the point of being a photographer to me.

 

Alex

 

 

i like your comment there..

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That said when I asked other photographers and editors for advice on how best to compose with medium format they just said "put the subject small and in the middle and then the client can crop the image into either a horizontal or a vertical". Seemed to rather undermine the point of being a photographer to me.

Alex

 

That's what's been one of the best things since we began to supply digital files (scans first, now captures) rather than trannies to clients - only give what you want, no matter what shape it was shot on...Too bad international paper size proportions (A4 etc) don't match any of our standard formats...

 

The other advantage of shooting on a square is perspective control. Being able to compose a horizontal image at either the top or bottom of frame means you can keep the film plane and subject plane more parallel than you can on a rectangular sensor that is cropping in the middle of the image circle. Effect is like having a lens with some "shift" capability.

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i must say i really like the 16:9 of my HD video a lot better than the 4:3 of my old one... more pleasing to my eye

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Seemed to rather undermine the point of being a photographer to me.

 

Alex

 

Tht is the dilemma of every professional - photographer or otherwise. The client will have his own opinion and you cannot stop that!

 

It would be nice if photographers could be venerated as artists but even Michelangelo had to deal with the Pope! Nothing written and published has not been subject to an editor's input (or out-take).

 

I am doing a book at the moment. I was commissioned by a book packager that has an editor. The British publisher and the American publisher both have editors. They have each stated things like: I have never heard of stinging plankton/Surely no-one would want to dive in shark-infested waters?/It would be very inadvisable to dive on a wreck of a ship that was sunk by an atomic bomb. See what I mean?

 

Back to formats. Most magazines are A shape. If you shoot a 35mm shape (2:3) it will be cropped by someone, even if it is used full page or DPS. It's a sad fact of life that everyone involved in the process of bringing pictures to the public will want to prove the value of their input (or interfere!).

In the computer age, everyone has the opportunity to "improve" your pictures unless you simply make art prints and sell them in frames.

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I like my E1 a lot. Great color. Weatherproofing is a great feature. The sonic dustbuster really works. The 7-14 is a great lens. Many friends are getting the E330 with live view and like it. PMA in march should bring a lot more from Olympus.

 

Ah but the question really becomes not only Olympus but also PanaLeica. They have a body and 2 two lens. Will PanaLeica continue to let Olympus take the lead or pony up some more? I know that the E1 will be updated with something ?? But what else will happen? I am also going to guess that the 4/3 system is probably more popular in Asia where it seems Olympus is more popular onthe 35mm front.

 

BTW Hugyfot has anounced that they will be making a housing the PanaLeica. It due out early next year. I asked about preliminary photos and details but nothing is firm yet.

 

Edit - PanaLeica will have some more lenses

 

http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/cda/parts/im...9-4049-2-1.html

Edited by allen

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Seems to me that the world is composed of two types of people: the sheep, those that place more importance in "following the crowd" and the goats, those that value "individuality, innovation and advancement".

 

Life as a goat is not always easy, sometimes lonely, and, occasionally, you find that there is big price to pay for not sticking with the crowd. But the upside is that you will often discover new and better ways of doing things. You'll find a way of doing something new that'll stamp your mark on history.

 

In the computer world, we have Windoze users (sheep) and Apple users (goats). Over the years, Apple users have had some nervous moments when it looked like their platform would disappear. They've sometimes had to do without some software and computer games. But they've benefited by a much more usable, efficient, reliable system that enabled them to do things that the sheep could not. Even today, Windoze still can not accurately render colours...

 

In the world of photography, the sheep always pick Nikon and Canon. Honest products but almost never innovative. Olympus, on the other hand, has always been a risk taker, pushing innovation and making radical decisions. Not all of their innovation worked out and, at times, their strategy has wobbled about. But look at the features that has come out of their innovation.

 

Most of the discussion in this thread has focused on the relative dimensions of the 4/3rds system, no doubt prompted by its very name. But, if you study the concept closely, the dimensions are one of the least significant break-throughs. Lens coverage (sharpness from edge to edge), open standards, lens data transmission and camera body size are much more important factors. Throw in the self-cleaning sensor, the ergonomic layout and the dual storage media and you've got a very viable system.

 

Maybe the 4/3rds system will not become mainstream. But, how relevant is that. Leave the mainstream to the sheep. As long as the buyer can keep the system functioning for a reasonable equipment life time, the innovations will justify the investment.

 

Regards

Peter

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hehehe....

 

you know you are inviting comments about bein an old goat eh?

 

:wacko:;)

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hehehe....

 

you know you are inviting comments about bein an old goat eh?

 

I have to confess to certain goat-like attributes. :):):)

 

But I've gotta take umbrage at that "old" business... :wacko:;):angry:

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"In the world of photography, the sheep always pick Nikon and Canon"

 

It could already be argued that Canon users are the goats if you go on the PC percentage users vs Apple percentage users and apply it to underwater photographers! But seriously you have to look at the 4/3 advantages/disadvantages and I see nothing to fundamentally give 4/3 users an underwater advantage over either existing Nikon or Canon systems. But if you like the 4/3 then I see nothing wrong with it either. But long term I would still say that it is unlikely to be as good an investment in terms of trade in values for upgrading - which may or may not bother you. Choice is predominantly a good thing isn't it?

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Hi Peter,

 

Interesting point of view. Olympus would like you to believe that they are the only innovative DSLR company - that's their sales line. But it's not true. Canon invented IS, ultrasonic focusing, etc. What has olympus invented - a smaller squarer sensor. This is supposed to result in better photos and smaller camera bodies, but has this actually been the case?

 

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

 

Cheers

James

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It could already be argued that Canon users are the goats ...

 

I tell you what Paul, in any reasonably sizeable group of underwater photographers I feel very much in the minority. Shooting Canon, with TTL then going through the images on a non-Mac laptop. I get some right funny looks. ;):):angry::wacko:

 

 

Martyn

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First of all I would like to say that it is nice to see this amount of participation in the Wetpixel forum in regard to Olympus.

 

I agree with some that much to much emphasis is being placed on the term 4/3rds and not on the system itself. Olympus never really entered the Auto focus 35mm SLR film market and therefore had no "legacy" lenses to support as Canon, Nikon and others did. As a result Olympus was able to start with a blank page and built an entirely new interchangeable lens digital SLR system without having to support many past products. If you want, Olympus does sell an adapter which will allow the use of Olympus 35mm manual film lenses.

 

I don't know what advertising James has been reading but Olympus has never said that they are the "only" innovative DSLR company, only that they have built the Olympus E-systems from the "ground up". A statement which I would find hard to argue with. Regarding James statement on innovation I guess he has forgotten about the "supersonic wave filter" which eliminates dust each time the camera is turned on. This item must be of interest to at least some digital photographers because others including Canon are now introducing their own versions of a dust cleaning system. Olympus has in fact succeeded in building the smallest and lightest DSLR, the 10 MP E-400, which by the way has an Olympus housing, the PT-E03 which will be as small as a lot of digicam housings.

 

Olympus also has the largest selection of made for digital lenses which is the heart of the Olympus system. Olympus E-system lenses are getting rave reviews from testers in many areas of the world. You would be kidding yourself if you believe that you can slap any old film lens onto a digital camera (even a 35 mm chip camera) and get the same results as if you had designed a lens specifically for that sensor. Don't get me wrong, many film lenses (particularly those with a narrow angle of view) work very well with digital cameras. However Canon and Nikon would have had no need to design new digitally specific lenses for the 1.5 and 1.6 sensors if all their film lenses had worked as well with digital as they did with film. Further if just having a 35mm sized sensor was the solution to all problems digital Nikon and everyone else would have had one by now and the price would have come down on these sensors.

 

Also James, Olympus didn't invent the 4/3 sensor, Kodak did. Unlike Canon, Olympus don't make their own sensors.

 

Back to the original 4/3 question, it is clear that many don't understand that 4/3 format has been around for years. The medium format 645 cameras have all but replaced the square 2 1/4 X 2 1/4 in the print world. Even the venerable Hasselblad has built a 645 camera and AF lens set for both film and digital, "from the ground up" without having to argue their logic for doing so.

 

645 and 4/3 are the same thing, four units on one side and three on the other. 645 is 1.5 cm x 4=6 cm and 1.5 cm x 3=4.5 cm. Olympus is 4.5 mm x 4= 18 mm and 4.5 x 3=13.5 mm. This 4/3 or 645 format has been a good thing in the print world because most magazines are closer to the 4/3 or 645 format than to the 3/2 or 35 mm format. In most cases this means less cropping with 4/3 than with 3/2.

 

It is clear that Canon and Nikon make outstanding products and that users of these products, myself included have been vary happy with the results over the years. The Olympus E-system products will also produce outstanding images as well and the 7 to 14 mm zoom, 11 to 22 mm zoom, 14 to 54 mm zoom, 50 mm macro, 35 mm macro, Sigma 100 macro and 8 mm Fisheye are well suited to U/W photography.

 

Olympus has a smaller sensor and therefore more noise problems above ISO 400, we all know that. AF speeds are also a bit slower, but have improved greatly going forward. If it was up to me I would be asking Olympus to build a camera with better image quality at ISO 50 and 25 where I would use it most, not at 800 and 1600.

 

Olympus entered the interchangeable lens DSLR market in November of 2003 and lost millions of YEN in the imaging division through 2005 due to R & D costs. At that time Olympus was selling no interchangeable AF lenses or AF-SLR film cameras or DSLR (interchageabel lens) cameras. As of 2006 Olympus imaging division is showing profits in the millions of Yen and selling millions of E-system cameras and lenses.

 

Olympus won't be for everyone and they have never said they intend to surpass Cankon only that they intend to produce a quality product at a fare price. I am sure that Companies like Sigma, Panasonic, Leica and others would not have signed on if they didn't think 4/3rds had an outstanding chance for success.

 

If everyones reluctance to include Olympus as a player is a fear that the system may fold remember that the most successful underwater system of all times, NIKONOS has folded but no one doughts the quality of the images produced by the Nikonos system.

 

Phil Rudin

Edited by tropical1

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I can not understand why the camera manufacturers carried so much baggage across from the film world into the digital world. With the step-change in technology, they had a chance to remove some old confusions.

 

F-stops could have been replaced with a simpler 0 (closed) to 100 (max open) number.

 

ISO could have been replaced with a signal amplification percentage.

 

Focal lengths could have been replaced with a positive/negative zoom index around a central "normal human eye" angle-of-view.

 

Shutter speeds could be decimal instead of fractions.

 

I can hear you all getting ready to type: "but the old ways are logical". Maybe they seem logical to someone who has used them for many years. But, if you have ever run a beginner photo course, you'll know the difficulty new photographers have in getting their head around these archaic concepts...

 

A few of us old photographers would have grumbled and struggled for a while but the new generations would have benefited from more logical systems and easier learning curves.

 

Oh well.

 

Regards

Peter

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Speaking of a clean slate. That is what I am working with. About a year ago I sold all of my Canon FD gear including several "L" lenses. I never even entered the EOS line up. So I am generation skipping.

 

Being a Canon user I started looking at their system. I tried the 5D. Very nice, but really big. I schelp a lot of my gear up some really big mountains and down some really narrow dirty canyons. And some of the EOS lenses are pretty big and heavy. I also like the 30D and I know I would be happy with that body. Now for the lenses, my line up would likely include the 10-22mm EF-S, 60mm EF-S, and 17-55mm EF-S. All are digital only lenses which are ground up designs. So are folks buying those lenses also taking a chance that the 1.6 sensors will be around as well?

 

So if I would be happy with Canon lenses and the 30D why look at the 4/3 systems? I think does have qualities that I might not find in other systems. Yeah, the lens line up is limited but how many lenses does one really need? At this point the lenses I might want are either available or announced.

 

 

BTW I work on a Linux box and Mac laptop. I must be really be a goat.

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It is very encouraging to read about such enthusiasm to try to be different. My only concern is that the effort to think different doesn't end with the kit. It would seem a pity to go to all the effort to get a different camera - and then just take it to Lembeh and shoot pygmy seahorses like everyone else.

 

Being a goat should also continue with your photography, and shouldn't just end with equipment choices.

 

Alex

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