Micro Four Thirds is a mirrorless camera system with interchangeable lenses. Panasonic and Olympus first released it in 2008.
The Micro Four Thirds camera system provides photographers with a smaller, more portable alternative to full-frame DSLRs.
In this essay, we’ll go through how and why Micro Four Thirds came to be. We’ll also talk about what the future holds for this handy camera system and if you should have one in your gear bag.
What Does the Term “Micro Four Thirds” Mean?
The term Micro Four Thirds (abbreviated MFT or M43) refers to the size and form of the sensor found in all Micro Four Thirds cameras.
So, first and foremost, let’s speak about sensors.
A sensor at the back of your digital camera detects and organizes light to form a picture. In photography, we frequently refer to the size of a sensor and the number of megapixels it can produce. These dimensions are standardized, making it much easier to compare different camera manufacturers.
Full-frame and APS-C are two popular sensors that you may be familiar with.
Sensor with a Full-Frame
Full-frame sensors are designed to have the same size as a 35mm film negative. This implies that while shooting with a full-frame camera, the sensor measures 36mm x 24mm. Full-frame sensors are often found in high-end, pro-level DSLRs.
Sensor Type APS-C
This sort of sensor is also known as a cropped sensor. An APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C) sensor is 23.6mm x 15.7mm in size, which is smaller than a full-frame sensor. In entry-level and mid-range DSLRs, APS-C sensors are present. They are utilized by a variety of camera manufacturers. Canon also makes a smaller model that measures 22.2mm x 14.8mm.
What are the dimensions of a Micro Four Thirds sensor?
A Four Thirds sensor measuring 17.3mm x 13mm is used in the Micro Four Thirds system.
This sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio, as opposed to the 3:2 ratio of full-frame and APS-C sensors. This is the origin of the MFT system’s name.
Why you may wonder, is the sensor this small? Isn’t it true that a larger sensor is always better in photography? No, not always. This is determined by how you want to use your camera and what you expect to photograph.
Many photographers prioritize usability above image quality. This is precisely the target audience for MFT.
Panasonic and Olympus saw a possible market gap in 2008. What’s the issue? Photographers are burdened by heavy, large, and expensive photographic equipment.
Their idea was to use the considerably smaller Four Thirds sensor in a novel system that didn’t require a mirror box or a pentaprism. Because there is no need for a mirror in the Micro Four Thirds system, both the camera and lens are much smaller.
Isn’t the problem solved?
The Micro Four Thirds method isn’t ideal, to be sure. When employing a smaller sensor, there are various limitations to consider. We’ll go through things in further depth now.
The crop factor is one thing to consider.
What exactly is the Crop Factor?
The degree of lens magnification induced by a cropped sensor is referred to as the crop factor. This word is used in photography to describe how the size of a cropped sensor affects the focal length of a full-frame lens.
Let’s start by comparing full-frame and APS-C sensors to have a better understanding of this.
Crop Factor for Full-Frame Sensor
A full-frame sensor is obviously bigger than a cropped sensor. When a full-frame lens is attached to a full-frame camera, the projection it creates precisely exposes the sensor from corner to corner. Anything more would be excessive, while anything less would result in an incomplete image with black edges.
Crop Factor for APS-C Sensor
Because an APS-C sensor is smaller than a full-frame sensor, it covers a lesser surface area than a full-frame lens’s projection. The crop factor refers to the variation in coverage. An APS-C sensor has a crop factor of 1.5x.
What is a Four Thirds Sensor’s Crop Factor?
A crop factor of 2x is provided by a Four Thirds sensor.
This is due to the sensor covering about half of the surface area of a full-frame sensor. To put this into context, this means that a 300mm full-frame lens mounted on an MFT camera body has a focal length of 600mm.
MFT systems may thus be significantly smaller and more compact than full-frame DSLRs.
Crop factor, on the other hand, influences not just focal length but also aperture. This implies that with an MFT camera, an f/4 lens has an aperture of f/8.
Are Micro Four Thirds Cameras Reliable?
The quality of an MFT camera is determined by your approach to photography and the subject matter.
Users of Micro Four Thirds cameras trade-off decreased weight, size, and equipment costs for a loss in image quality. As previously said, the relevance of image quality is determined by what you’re photographing and how the image will be disseminated. For most loyal MFT users, the sacrifice in image quality is a minimal price to pay for the convenience and lightness of carrying a smaller camera.
These features make MFT very appealing to travel and outdoor photographers.
To further grasp these distinctions, let’s look at some of MFT’s primary benefits and drawbacks.
What Benefits Do Micro Four Thirds Cameras Have?
First, MFT cameras have a far shorter flange distance than SLRs. As a result, camera bodies may be significantly smaller. Lenses are also shorter and more compact because to the 2x crop factor of MFT cameras.
Also, in photography, size and weight are really important! Every gram and kilogram is important. MFT cameras and lenses are substantially lighter than full-frame counterparts.
MFT cameras are also significantly less expensive than full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. For those on a tight budget, purchasing for MFT cameras and lenses offers more bang for your dollars than the professional, full-frame market.
You’ll also have a lot of alternatives when it comes to MFT lenses. Panasonic, Olympus, Tamron, Sigma, Voigtländer (COSINA), Kowa, and Venus Optics are among the brands to consider.
Finally, MFT cameras are excellent for videographers and filmmakers. This is because of its compact and fast-editing file sizes, 4K video capabilities, native live-view, and depth of field.
What Are the Negative Aspects of Micro Four Thirds Cameras?
As previously stated, smaller sensors yield less megapixels. As a result, if you need huge files to publish in large format, MFT is unlikely to match your picture quality requirements.
In low-light settings, the Four Thirds sensor is similarly restricted. This frequently results in large and audible noise.
The Four Thirds sensor has a doubling effect on lens apertures due to its 2x crop ratio. As a result, the bokeh and depth of field are restricted. MFT may not be the best choice for you if you want a narrow depth of field in your photographs.
Because MFT cameras lack mirrors, you must frame your photographs using a digital viewfinder or a live-view camera display. Although digital displays are improving, there is still latency, which might slow you down.
Finally, MFT cameras cannot match with full-frame cameras when it comes to catching fast-moving objects in focus.
Is the market for Micro Four Thirds cameras still viable?
There has been a rising discussion about whether MFT will become outdated in the near future.
The growth of smartphone cameras is the key point of contention in this issue. But why is that?
One camp claims that smartphones will completely replace the Micro Four Thirds standard. This is owing to the rising size, usability, and image quality of smartphones.
Can Micro Four Thirds cameras compete with camera smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and Huawei Mate 40 Pro?
In the Smartphone age, the interchangeable-lens market has shrunk. Dedicated MFT users, on the other hand, believe technology is still important. This is especially true for vloggers and YouTubers who appreciate MFT’s robust video features.
The verdict on whether MFT will survive is yet out. Nonetheless, there is substantial indication that the system may be phased out in future years.
Olympus just divested its camera division. However, it is too early to tell whether they will continue to create new items for the Micro Four Thirds system.
Panasonic has made significant investments in its full-frame R&D department in recent years. In 2019, the firm made a big statement by releasing the award-winning S1 and S1R.
Panasonic, together with Sigma and Leica, has joined the L-Mount team. As a result, some believe Pansonic will discontinue both the L-Mount and MFT mounts.
The Micro Four Thirds controversy continues to divide the photography world. Voices on both sides present compelling evidence for the organization’s survival and collapse.
Despite the fact that the digital camera business has undoubtedly altered in the smartphone age, Micro Four Thirds may continue to surprise us.
Micro Four Thirds is an excellent alternative for photographers looking to progress beyond smartphone photography without breaking the budget. MFT still has a lot to offer vloggers, YouTubers, filmmakers, and travel and outdoor photographers.