RAWsumer reviews at the Compact Reviews Organizer
CANON: G11 S95 G10 G9 S90 SX1is
PANASONIC: LX5 LX3 LX2 FZ50 FZ100 FZ40/FZ45 FZ38/FZ35 FZ28
FUJI: S100fs
NIKON: P7000 P6000
CAMERA DIARIES: Panasonic LX3 Canon G10

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Will Micro Four Thirds kill the RAWsumers?

The surprise launch of Micro Four Thirds poses an interesting existential question for RAWsumers. Will it kill them?

For new readers, we define RAWsumers to be fixed lens digital cameras that support RAW natively. (Cameras with CHKD or other hacks, we call quasi-RAWsumers).

The Ricoh quartet (GR/GX), Panasonic LX3 and other Lumixes, Canon G9, the lead Fuji, have been leading a mini-renaissance of the RAWsumer. However, a number of people were attracted to RAWsumers because of their small size compared to DSLRs. The availability of smaller "Micro Four Thirds" with interchangeable lenses may cause a number of these people to "move" to this new format instead of going for cameras like the GX200, LX3, or G9.

Granted, very little is known about Micro Four Thirds at the moment, and we still don't know what the "Big Boys" will do. Will Canon and Nikon resurrect rangefinder formats from the past? Will they attempt a micro-format of their own? Or will they attack this segment with smaller more advanced cameras, perhaps having APS-C/DX size sensors. As you know, APS-C/DX sensors (1.5x wrt to 35mmff) are larger than Four Thirds (2x wrt to 35mm).

So in theory, the name brand recognition and the larger sensors, may be enough for Canon and Nikon to prevent Micro Four Thirds from expanding beyond the realm of Oly-Panasonic.

But, ultimately it is up to the buyers. If the Micro Four Thirds cameras are nicely designed, not crippled, flexible, versatile, interchangeable, and reasonably priced, they may be irresistible, especially to the photographers who have been waiting for years for something like that!

If you are a photography book writer, you better start writing a street photography book :-)

More Opinions on this
The Doonster tries to balance the "sky is falling" vs "dead end" comments made across the internets.

A detailed look at what we know so far about Micro Four Thirds and its potential impact on Serious Compacts at Serious Compacts.


Anonymous said...

It's supposed to be "backwards compatible" with four thirds lenses... That tells me this is a flop already. The problem is not the size of the camera, there are plenty of small enough four thirds camera backs.. The problem is that the lenses used are as big as full frame lenses!! The whole idea with four thirds was to enable lens designs to become smaller and lighter. Instead we continue to see cropped full frame lenses in use. When there is a truly new lens mount designed for small lenses that fit a four thirds sensor or similar size sensor then we can start talking of a rawsumer killer. For now the size and weight of the lens is the major culprit in any four thirds system, that would make me choose a rawsumer compact if I want to be mobile.

1001 noisy cameras said...

Very good points. It's as if Olympus designed the original Four Thirds but couldn't let go of the 35mm SLR legacy at the same time.

There is a picture of a mock lens at Tam's blog, and it looks smaller than the old 14-50 lens, but will the "serious" lenses be rangefinder-small or just smaller than 4/3rds? So many questions, so few answers!

Juha Haataja said...

Potential weaknesses in the micro 4/3 format are the autofocus system and the dust removal system. One good point about RAWsumers is that the dust (mostly) stays outside. And if the autofocus can't compete with DSLRs, there isn't much benefit in the concept. But it remains to be seen how these things can be solved. First generation devices may not be quite competitive enough.

1001 noisy cameras said...

Indeed, it will be interesting to see how it plays out! And MicroFourThirds better have some product news by Photokina. If they wait for months and months like they did with the original Four Thirds, people may forget about them. Hopefully they learned their lesson then!

Juha Haataja said...

The lens sizes will be interesting to see. I hope there will be "pocketable" offerings, then mFT would be a nice stepping stone from a compact. A couple of wide/normal fixed (bright) lenses would be good to have. The current Olympus 4/3 "pancake" lens is not so impressive.

And I sure hope Olympus and Panasonic will announce something soon, otherwise what was the point of the standard announcement.

1001 noisy cameras said...

Yes! It took the original FTs forever before starting to deliver on its promise with the E4xx-series. Hopefully they learned their lesson and can start MFTs with products that are closer to the press release promises right away!

Frederick W. Chapman said...

Dear Anonymous (from Aug. 6, 2008),

Micro Four Thirds (MFT) is not "backwards compatible" with Four Thirds (FT). Your hasty conclusion that "this is a flop already" is based on misinformation. Here are the facts.

MFT is a completely new lens mount which allows smaller and lighter lenses to be used with the full-sized Four Thirds DSLR sensor in MFT camera bodies. FT lenses can be mounted on MFT bodies using an adapter. In fact, as I write this, lenses from every major camera manufacturer can now be mounted on MFT bodies using an appropriate adapter.

This is one reason the MFT system has such strong appeal for professional photographers -- MFT bodies can mount a wide variety of high-quality legacy lenses from other camera systems. This ability, which is unique to the MFT system, was made possible by doing away with the reflex mirror and pentaprism, thereby allowing lenses to mount closer to the image sensor.

Would you like to discuss the MFT system with well-informed photographers who are actually using MFT bodies and MFT lenses? If so, I invite you to join my Micro Four Thirds Photographers group on LinkedIn (click on my name above for the link).

Best wishes,

Fred Chapman
LinkedIn Group Owner
Micro Four Thirds Photographers

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