Visitors to this year's PMA have the chance to witness a defining moment in
the development of professional digital SLR photography. Between 2 and 5 March,
Olympus will unveil, for the first time ever, prototypes of the new Four Thirds
system digital SLR camera, lenses and accessories.
The Four Thirds system is a new open standard for digital SLR cameras with
interchangeable lenses that utilise a 4/3 inch image sensor. In addition to
facilitating the development of camera lens systems specifically designed to
maximise digital image sensor performance - without being bound by the design
conventions imposed by 35mm film camera SLR systems - the Four Thirds system
establishes a common standard for lens mounts, ensuring compatibility between
lenses and bodies even if they are produced by different manufacturers. Furthermore,
the Four Thirds system interchangeable lenses are much smaller and lighter than
35mm and APS SLR lens systems.
Olympus is currently developing a line-up of Four Thirds system bodies, interchangeable
lenses, and accessories that offer professional-quality ruggedness, performance
and system expandability.
The interchangeable lenses, developed and manufactured by Olympus, are exceptionally
bright and compact, and deliver high quality images that only digital lenses
can provide. The new Olympus lenses are (figures in parentheses indicate 35mm
film camera equivalent):
* 300mm, f2.8 (600mm)
* 14 - 54mm, f2.8 - f3.5 zoom (28 - 108mm)
* 50mm, f2.0 macro (100mm)
* 50 - 200mm, f2.8 - f3.5 zoom (100 - 400mm)
The camera prototype is sure to impress, with its design tailored to meet
the demands of all professional photographers. Its magnesium alloy body provides
the protection needed for use in the field and on other rugged assignments,
while the power battery holder enables firm and secure holding even when shooting
in portrait format. Flash connection is supported via a dedicated hot-shoe.
As the professional would expect, manual and automatic adjustment of the aperture,
shutter speed and focus is all possible.
The first Four Thirds prototypes will be revealed at this year's PMA in Las
Vegas. Prototype models will also be presented at CeBIT, in Hanover, Germany,
between 12 and 19 March, and at Photo Expo in the Tokyo Big Site, Japan, between
14 and 16 March.
Four Thirds system prototypes to be exhibited
* Camera body
* Four lenses
* External flash unit
* Power battery holder
Development background of the new standard
At present, there is no standard in the Digital SLR field. Manufacturers of
these camera systems have until now adopted the lens mount used in their own
respective 35mm or APS film SLR camera, so bodies and lenses from different
manufacturers are incompatible with one another. Also, to use these lenses,
manufacturers have increased the size of the image sensor. This means sensors
do not reach their full potential.
For example, unlike with film, the light needs to hit the sensor at a high
angle of incidence. If not, the periphery of the chip may receive insufficient
light, resulting in reduced colour definition, particularly when shooting with
wide-angle lenses. Furthermore, with such relatively large sensors, bigger and
heavier lenses are required to achieve the resolutions required by the micron
pitch of the chip's individual sensors.
With the Four Thirds system no compromise has been made. It is solely dedicated
to the needs of digital image capture and, as an open standard, it also paves
the way to cross-manufacturer lens interchangeability. The use of a 4/3-type
image sensor size has allowed the dimensions and weight of the lens to be reduced
considerably, enhancing handling and mobility. The advantage is particularly
clear to see in telephoto lenses. For example, a Four Thirds system 300mm telephoto
lens will offer performance equivalent to a 600mm lens on a 35mm film SLR camera.
And another benefit: it also impresses with great light gathering power.