Ex Die in Diem


Micro Four Thirds

I currently own a dSLR, and I’ve used it to take what I think of as some really nice pictures. The reason I went with an SLR was for the massive improvement in picture quality over a point and shoot or, given the modern world, mobile phone camera. There are a number of factors that help improve image quality when you step up to an SLR:

  • A bigger sensor
  • Better quality and interchangeable lenses
  • A proper eyepiece

A bigger sensor means that each pixel on the sensor “sees” more light in a given situation, so the signal to noise ratio in the final shot is higher. In practical terms, a photograph can thus look clearer and sharper when there’s lots of light around, and low-light, no-flash photography becomes a worthwhile activity.

The lens situation again affects the clarity of the photographs that can be taken, and interchangeable lenses mean that down the line you can upgrade your shooting experience by purchasing more expensive and higher quality lenses. Conversely, you can also upgrade the “body” of the camera without having to lose the lenses you know and love.

An eye-level viewfinder, especially a through-the-lens viewfinder like you find on an SLR, gives you a couple of advantages. Looking through it, you’re holding the camera much closer to your body, which steadies the shot. The view you have through an optical viewfinder is exactly the scene that will fall on the sensor, allowing more confident composition. Finally, the mirror that is used to allow you to see through the lens also facilitates one of the cleverest tricks of the SLR: phase detect autofocus. The details of this are somewhat complex, and explained better than I can elsewhere, but the net result is faster focus times and almost no shutter lag.

But if SLRs are so much better than point and shoot cameras, why would I be considering getting rid of mine? Size.

The last trick in my little list above involves a mirror that can swing down to let you see through the lens, and swing up to let the camera see through the lens. This adds not insignificant bulk to a camera, and that means that I’m a lot less inclined to carry it with me when I go out. Fortunately, there’s a potential solution to my problem.

Micro Four Thirds cameras have sensors that are a lot bigger than phones and point and shoots, and interchangeable lens systems, and they’re much smaller than SLRs. The sensors aren’t quite as big as SLRs, and neither is the selection of lenses, but neither of these problems presents as signifcant a stumbling block to me as the last: most of these cameras don’t have a built in eyepiece. It is possible to pick up a clip-on, electronic viewfinder for some models, though, and I may try to find one of those if I make the move.

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. To decide whether to buy a Micro Four Thirds, I’m putting my EOS 500D on probation: if I’m not taking it to more places and taking more photographs by the end of three weeks, I’m going to replace it with a much smaller mFT camera (probably a Panasonic GF1).

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