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What is a Micro 4/3 Camera

What is Micro 43 (MFT)
Lately it seems like there are new digital cameras announced every week with better performance, better design and more advanced features.

One of the systems that keeps growing in popularity is the Micro 4/3 (MFT or m4/3) system. So what does this Micro 4/3 mean exactly and how does it compare to other, more traditional systems like the DSLRs?
For exact technical explanations the Wikipedia page on Micro 4/3 is a good starting point, but what it basically boils down to is that MFT cameras have a smaller sensor and no mirror in between which has an influence on the flange focal distance with lenses. Still too technical? Just like on many other advanced cameras you can change lenses on MFT cameras. The big difference is that you can put pretty much ANY lens on your MFT camera with an appropriate adapter. This is a huge advantage because it means you can use lenses that you already own, or buy high quality vintage lenses for a very low price. Just to give you an example; some time ago I bought a suitcase filled with lenses on a flea market for $50,-. These were old lenses from back in the 80’s: wide angle lenses, zoom lenses, portrait lenses, all very high quality glass that is as good today as it was 30 years ago. Because the lenses were all made for the old Olympus OM camera I could order an OM to MFT adapter on eBay for around $20,- and have a professional range of lenses for a total of $70,-. 
Olympus E-PL1 with Olympus 50mm f1.8
Photo taken with an Olympus E-PL1 with a 1980 Olympus 50mm f1.8 lens


It sounds somewhat backwards to get excited about buying old stuff when you’re talking about new technology, but don’t be fooled. Well crafted glass is something that is timeless. In fact, many older lenses have a sturdier build quality because of metal casings as opposed to the now so popular plastic.
Panasonic GH2 with Voigtlander 25mm f0.95
Photo taken with a Panasonic DMC-GH2 with Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f0.95 lens

 
Obviously all this good news has to come at some price. First of all, the MFT sensor is smaller than for example the big ‘full frame’ 35 mm sensor, like the famous Canon 5D cameras have. Many professionals won’t touch anything else because of the quality and unique “full frame” look it can give photos but these cameras come at a different price and since so much progress has been made in image technology the quality of smaller sensors these days is impeccable. Another issue is that many old lenses don’t support auto focus. This means that using the old (cheaper) lenses won’t be practical if you make a lot of pictures in situation where you have to capture split-second events like in sports photography. Most new lenses obviously do have auto focus and older lenses with auto focus can generally be used with an adapter that supports auto focus. 
Panasonic DMC-GH2 with 14-42mm kit lens
Photo take with a Panasonic DMC-GH2 and 14-42mm kit lens 


Conclusion

There are many more pros and cons to list when comparing MFT cameras to DSLRs or compact cameras but one thing is very clear: if you’re excited about photography and want to learn and discover more than you would with a pocket compact camera but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars yet, then an MFT camera is a very good choice. You can get a basic Olympus E-PL1 camera body for $150,- these days and say for $100,- more you could get a couple of professional vintage lenses. For those $250,- you can learn all there is to know about lenses, professional camera settings, discover photography and take beautiful photos.

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