Hans Groen

experience with mft / micro 4/3

Since 2006 I have been using Olympus cameras — again, for I owned an OM10 in the 1990s, but lost that one on a holiday trip. I first had the Four Thirds E330. At the time it felt I need to replace the body, Micro Four Thirds had become the ticket. To be honest, if Minolta would have stayed in the camera business, I might have stayed with that brand. I had a Dimage D7 which I enjoyed very much; it was in design rather a mirrorless slr with a fixed lens (but a very good 28-200mm/2.8-3.5 equiv.). When Minolta sold the camera business to Sony, I looked for Olympus for a replacement: they make very good lenses, as I knew from experience, and I thought the concept of the Four Thirds system to be very sensible: smaller equipment for the same focal length and a lens design that projected the image more perpendicular on the chip.

Well, smaller size?

FT promised more compact equipment, but that seemed harder to achieve than they probably thought at first. The first generation kit lenses that came with the my E330 were not particular small. The professional lenses were quite substantive, also in price — the DZuiko 14-35 was the equivalent of the fullframe 28-70 zoom, but then Olympus gave that lens a constant aperture of 2 in stead of 2.8. (There is a good artistic reason for this: in terms of the depth of field aperture x on MFT-format works as an aperture 2x on 35mm film format.) Likewise, my workhorse, the 12-60/2.8-4, is a fairly substantial lens, comparable in size to 24-105 zoom lenses for full frame.

I think what Olympus underestimated was that halving the focal length means a more spherical lens. A traditional 28mm lens almost always shows some visible distortion. The 12mm of my 12-60 lens needs some extensive correction, and the mustache remnants at 12mm  are the witness. Eventually the designers gave up optical correction at the extreme wide-angel: they do it in software, via the lens profile that gets loaded into the jpg-engine or your raw-software. So my Lumix 14mm/2.5 relies on correction in the software, but it is not a very expensive lens. I do feel a bit cheated when I see that the mZuiko 12-40 for which I would have to pay about €800 also is corrected via the software.

Resolution

I do not care much about resolution. For my needs at the moment, the 20Mp are more than sufficient; in case I need more, there is a high-resolution option via pixel shift. My Minolta D7 had 5Mp and with some minor fiddling one can get very nice images already with that pixel count. Always ask yourself: how often do I have to produce a razor sharp A0 poster with my camera. The biggest jump that I experienced was when I got the E-M10 which has no AA filter.  There is a definite clarity and crispness in the images, instead of the in comparison slight cloudiness from chips behind an AA filter.

The bigger issue with 4/3 is noise, because the chip is smaller the photocells are also smaller. I think 4/3 will always drag a bit behind the bigger chips, but again, I do not care much. See it as a feature, as people used to go wild about the graininess of 6400ASA film. But if you need smooth pictures in low light, full frame is the option.

What I would like

Lenses for 4/3 are either fairly cheap, or very expensive, but nothing much in between. There are a couple of handy zooms in the 35-100mm, or 40-150mm range for around €200,-, but they all have an aperture of 4-5.6. If you want 2.8 constant, you pay at least 4 times that amount. What I would like is a 30-120mm/f4 zoom for somewhere around €500. Then a pancake-like 14mm/f2 which is optically corrected. And a 135mm/f2.8 telelens, preferably with a close focus of about 0.5m.  All for €350-600. The Korean Samyang already produces some of these primes; it should not be too difficult to make them autofocus for MFT, or at least connect the aperture. But I definitely challenge Olympus to develop these kind of in-between lenses, as they will make all the features of the OM-d E-M1ii work on their products.