Looking back and ahead to Micro Four Thirds
The only camera system that is compact and lightweight for easy portability and delivers professional quality images
That’s Micro Four Thirds.
Various manufacturers are introducing full-frame cameras.
However, cameras are tools, and the best tool is the easiest one to use.
The Micro Four Thirds system allows anyone to easily take high-image quality pictures,
which are the hallmark of the SLR camera.
Let’s take a brief look at its history and future potential.
What Is Micro Four Thirds?
The Passion Behind the Development.
“Micro Four Thirds is a full-digital format that was developed based on the open Four Thirds format, designed exclusively for the mirror-less camera system. Its flange back is short, so it allows flexible optical design. Together with various digital technologies incorporated in the system, the Micro Four Thirds has realized a “truly-digital” interchangeable lens system camera for the first time. We initiated development and have been delivering Micro Four Thirds products to satisfy the needs of all types of users by leveraging its compact size and light weight.”
“For the development, we focused on the four main advantages of the Micro Four Thirds: the SLR’s high image quality, compact size, real-time live view to capture exact images seen through the camera, and compatibility with video recording. We have designed and developed new products and the series that specifically focuses on one of these advantages - the one specialized for video recording and the other realized astonishing compact unit size, etc.”
“Once a new lens mount is created, it sets new specifications for the lenses to follow, so its future potential is a critical factor. It is not so difficult to make a lens mount that functions without a problem, but it is a challenging task to develop a lens mount while thinking about its future capabilities. To develop a lens mount that will be continued to be used, it is necessary to anticipate its future, too. Concretely speaking, we have added two extra pins in addition to the 9-pin connector used in the Four Thirds mount because we had expected that all digital cameras should go photo/video hybrid. We believed that these two extra pins can secure backward compatibility to support digital signal exchange required for advanced video recording, and it worked.”
Superiority of the Micro Four Thirds
“The compact size and light weight, which can be readily recognized at a glance, tends to make other advantages of the Micro Four Thirds less prominent, but the biggest benefit goes to the lens side, rather than to the camera body side. The Micro Four Thirds gives more lens design flexibility. It enables the use of small lenses to configure a compact, lightweight and easy-to-handle lens system with high performance. It expands the variation of products much greater than the single-lens reflex system. Thanks to our collaborative relationship with Leica, we were able to begin designing and developing the lenses based on the established scheme. This allowed us to try out new possibilities while focusing on our all strengths, instead of struggling with the birth pains.
For example, production of the molds used for making aspherical lenses requires the highest level of craftsmanship. However, we were able to manage it by attempting new methods from design to development without being bound by conventional thinking. It is amazing that we have been introducing valuable MFT lenses one after another.”
“Thanks to the collaboration with Leica in making the lenses, the level of quality and performance of the standard-class lens we created were totally different from other lenses in the same class in the market. To be honest, we had to minimize the manufacturing cost of the kit lens in the commercial point of view, but we did not know how to compromise to meet the target product price.”
Market Evaluation of LUMIX
“Panasonic began manufacturing cameras rather late, so we did not want to market practically the same products as those already in the market under our brand name. Based on our advanced digital and optical technologies accumulated in the development of professional video cameras, we were able to develop products creatively without being confined by existing frameworks. Starting with the development of the world’s first Full-HD AVCHD video recording capability, Panasonic continued to accomplish many “world’s firsts” one after another, such as the first Continuous AF for video, touch-control monitor, the world’s fastest AF and largest number of burst shots, not to mention the introduction of 4K/30p and 4K/60p and consumer digital video cameras with superb video recording performance to meet the emerging needs of times. We are pleased and proud to be called ‘innovators’.”
“Customers tend to evaluate newcomers more critically, so the development staff and manufacturing staff worked hand-in-hand to achieve a performance that can be expressed with numeric values. In the case of a lens, we enhanced the MTF as much as possible to guarantee a high performance level in any shooting situation for all users. Users of our products, particularly professionals and high-end amateurs, quickly acknowledged the quality and performance of our products and actively recommended them to others or posted their product reviews to praise the reliability and performance of the products. As a result, LUMIX has become a trusted and proven brand worldwide.”
Technological Advancement and Future of MFT Cameras
“We have introduced the GH5 to the market in 2017 followed by the G9 and GH5S in 2018. The 6K PHOTO high-speed burst and high frame rate slow motion integrated in these cameras were cutting-edge features around that time. These features were made possible with high-speed signal readout in the sensor, which is a prominent advantage of MFT, compared with that of full-frame sensor.
In addition, outstanding energy efficiency of MFT sensor contributes to extend continuous video recording time even longer. Carrying all technological advancements accumulated through the development of MFT products ever, we have made an entry to full-frame mirrorless camera market in 2019 and pursued higher image quality, more powerful image stabilizer, as well as other advanced technologies such as recognition of subjects for AF using deep learning technology. And then, these latest technologies will be integrated back into the future MFT products.
We are sure there are a lot more possibilities we can realize by combining the technological value developed through both MFT and full-frame cameras and lenses. In these days, customers use camera for wide-ranging purpose and in wide-ranging way, and even they keep on changing. Analyzing the trend carefully, we were determined to provide new value to customers and stimulate demand.”
“Smartphones’ built-in cameras are gaining higher image quality and new products that capture and record images suitable for posting on social media, such as action cameras, are becoming increasingly popular, making orthodox cameras less attention grabbing. In fact, Photokina has come to an end after 70 years and the camera industry is faced with difficulties. Since people are refraining or restricted from going out of their homes and from traveling due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many people spend more time looking at old pictures and watching family videos to enjoy a relaxing time at home. Although the current situations may continue for a while more, we hope that people will continue to keep cameras by their sides as tools to record unforgettable moments in life. When we hear customers’ voices requesting improvements, new features, etc., we will strive to meet their needs and exalt the industry together with users.”