Micro Four Thirds
The Micro Four Thirds System came into being to fulfill the promise of the original Four Thirds System: create smaller interchangeable-lens digital cameras. While the original Four Thirds cameras weren’t that much smaller than conventional APS-C D-SLRs, the Micro Four Thirds cameras are—due, in large part, to the elimination of the SLR mirror box and pentaprism. These models provide the features of a D-SLR, including interchangeable lenses, but without the bulky SLR finder.
With no TTL optical finder, Micro Four Thirds cameras provide viewing via the full-time Live View LCD monitor like a compact digital camera. The first two Micro Four Thirds System cameras, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-G1 and DMC-GH1, also provide an eye-level electronic viewfinder so you can use the camera like an SLR when desired.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 List Price: $899 (with 14-45mm zoom)
The new 12.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-GF1 is the smallest and lightest system camera, marginally smaller than the Olympus E-P1 and some 35% smaller in volume and 26% lighter than Panasonic’s original Micro Four Thirds model, the DMC-G1. As with the Olympus E-P1, you can purchase an optional Live View eye-level finder for the GF1, but that increases bulk. Note that the GF1 has a built-in flash, missing in the rival Olympus E-P1.
QUICK CONTRAST-BASED AF: Those who think that term is an oxymoron will be surprised when they try the GF1. Although not as quick as a top phase-detection system, the GF1’s contrast-based AF is quite functional, much faster than rival contrast-based systems. HD VIDEO CAPABILITY: The GF1 can shoot 720p HD video in two formats—AVCHD Lite (for long duration and viewing on Viera TVs) and Motion JPEG (for editing and viewing on computers) with mono sound. SENSOR-DUST REMOVER: Because the GF1’s shutter (like those of all Micro Four Thirds System cameras) remains open when power is switched off, its sensor is exposed even more than sensors in D-SLRs each time you change lenses, so the camera’s effective built-in SSWF sensor-dust removal system is especially valuable to those who change lenses in the field. STANDOUT FEATURE: The GF1’s clean, flat design makes it easy to carry anywhere—ideal for getting shots in those tough-to-access outdoor locales.
Olympus E-P1 List Price: $799 (with 14-42mm zoom)
Olympus put a D-SLR-sized image sensor in a truly compact interchangeable-lens camera body and created a whole new class of camera in the process. Like previous Micro Four Thirds System cameras, the 12.3-megapixel E-P1 gets its small size by doing away with the traditional SLR mirror box and pentaprism, instead using its 3.0-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor for composing and manual focusing. But unlike those cameras, the E-P1 doesn’t incorporate an eye-level electronic viewfinder, thus reducing size even more. The E-P1 looks terrific and is loaded with features. (An optional optical finder that attaches to the camera’s accessory shoe is available.)
Like Olympus’ D-SLRs, the E-P1 provides sensor-shift image stabilization, which works with all lenses (handy when you don’t want to cart a tripod into rough country with this little camera) and effective Super Sonic Wave Filter sensor-dust reduction.
SIX ART FILTERS: The E-P1 features the same Art Filters as the E-620, but in the E-P1, they can be applied to RAW images and even movies. HD VIDEO: The E-P1 can shoot 720p HD video clips up to seven minutes long and SD clips up to 14 minutes long, with pro-quality stereo sound via built-in microphones. DIGITAL LEVELER: A digital leveler allows you to level the camera even when the horizon doesn’t appear in the frame. STANDOUT FEATURE: A truly compact interchangeable-lens camera with D-SLR image quality.