MFT: the rebel (image sensor) format!

(Save the sanity!)

With the uncertainty of Olympus and Panasonic involvement into the future development the Micro Four Third (MFT) image sensor format, what is my own reaction? In short, I simply decided to reconvert myself and buy a previous generation Panasonic Lumix G85, a good old MFT friend. Why? Because I am tired of all these unproductive debates about which image sensor format can be the most performing way of doing creative photography. And I am tired of small-minded attitudes that defend fiercely their own photo equipment manufacturer choices.

I am concerned about the photographer’s spirit that spend their energy to defend commercial enterprises instead of photographic artistic trends. Let be honest despite this materialist world, photography is still an art of expression. So my rebel attitude is to defend the marginal way of promoting compact traditional photo equipment over the big apples and oranges offered by the major manufacturers that you know already the names… and web sites!

I love MFT format because it is the real thing in term of compactness. I hate bazooka camera bodies and lenses which are not practical to bring with you, that are intruding and intimidating and, at the end, are heavy to carry, to operate and to handle in imaging post-treatment (with their inflated files). Small is (still) beautiful, don’t be misled by the marketers and their conscious or unconscious allies. To produce a large camera is easy but not very intelligent as for cars incidentally. To create a compact competent product is much cleverer.

So, in regard of the recent news regarding the future of MFT, I am not really happy. My line of defense is to encourage the ingeniously instead of the bigness and I do not care about the consequences on a long term since I don’t think the other major manufacturers care really about their fanatic customers. For the moment, Olympus and Panasonic are still in business and their camera and lens offering is still very pertinent and actual. What will be tomorrow, we don’t know for sure and many surprises can appear in the next few years.

I have never come back to the digital 24 X 36mm (ex-35mm film) format since the Nikon D700 which was already a monstrous photographic device coupled with big bazooka lenses. My point of view has been confirmed since this past decision. Not only that so call Full-Frame products are big sized products but they so much expensive that it is impossible to qualify them as affordable in any way, which is not the case for many good MFT products even if Olympus and Panasonic can also offer pricy items too.

I know that some reviewers have condemn the MFT format already and some have stayed silent about their past endorsement but at least some others seem to try to maintain the interest for this unique true compact camera system. I can only hope that reason will prevail over political choices.

Micro Four Third: a true compact camera system ideal!

With the departure of Olympus from the Imaging (camera) business and the lowering developing implication of Panasonic in that small image sensor format, it can be easily concluded that the image sensor Micro Four Third format days will be over in mid-term. But we have to not forget as it was a short but fabulous era with many good, innovate and creative camera products. In a way, the MFT (Micro Four Third) was a kind of equivalent of the mini 35mm film format for its digital time. Small camera bodies combined with small interchangeable lenses are the essence of the search of compactness.

At the beginning, the creation of the Four Third image sensor format, the ancestor of the MFT, was an industrial attempt to impose a new standard format and many manufacturers have subscribed to develop the concept further and produce interesting products. As an open standard, Fujifilm, Kodak, Leica, Olympus, Panasonic, Sanyo and Sigma initially agree to go ahead. But in 2008 Olympus and Panasonic decided to present the new Micro Four Third format that eliminate completely the use of a reflex mirror viewing system and present a mirrorless alternative. By doing this, the MFT have preceded the gradually obsolescence of the use of reflex optical viewfinders.

Because of the multi-entrepreneurship involved into the development of the MFT format, the new eco-system of cameras, lenses and accessories have grown at a relatively fast pace. Panasonic further develop very efficient hybrid photo-video models as Olympus was more oriented still photographic devices. Models such as the Panasonic GH4 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 represent successful both commercial and artistically products that got a tangible influence over these specialized markets.

As already mentioned, the beauty of the MFT eco-system was no doubt its compactness. In a way it is a pity that other manufacturers like Canon, Nikon or Sony have never consider seriously to push its technical development especially in regard of the gradual creation of new sensors. The absence of MFT sensor development interest have eventually doomed the MFT progress. Many wrongly proclaim that the photographic smartphone abilities have equal those of the MFT system. In virtue of optical physic law, it can’t be especially if you apply the same technical advancement both in hardware and software that are in use into the two comparing systems. Moreover, MFT cameras are traditionally designed as photographic (or video) tools first and it shows in their ergonomics and in their respective interfaces.

All indications are pointing that the MFT format will concentrate its future efforts into the Asian market and the videography field. Sure it is a deep lost for the photographers of the other hemisphere that are used to work with these competent, durable and versatile camera models and lenses. The choice for compact ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) system is now narrowed to very few manufacturers that are offering a more complete system such as Fujifilm in APS-C image sensor format.

Overtime, I had love to work with different MFT models such as the Olympus EP-3, OM-D EM-5, EM-5 Mark II, E-M1, E-M1 Mark II, Pen-F and the Panasonic GX-7, GX-85, GX-9 and G 85 and with many of the lenses from these two manufacturers. I found them inspiring, easy to bring with you, discrete and efficient photographic devices. The latest 20MP MFT image sensor version is giving high quality results despite the fact of its longer introducing age. The MFT format was the right answer to be able to offer a real « compact » digital photographic system. Nobody that had the opportunity to use more extensively the MFT system can deny its advantages on the field. However, we can easily attribute the unsuccessful industrial larger development of the MFT format to the political choices that have dictated many commercial decisions from the major manufacturers like Canon, Nikon or Sony. They have tried to maintain the interest for their obsolete D-SLR system as long as possible. In doing so, they simply dismissed the avenue of using a new image sensor standard, the MFT, in profit of a technical stagnation. Even them are paying the price today with clumsy, incomplete and expensive mirrorless new systems.

Progress is a summation of tries and errors before reaching a more mature and stable evolution. In digital photography, MFT have been (and still is) a perfect model to compactness and efficiency in traditional digital photography. I simply regret that Canon, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon or Sony didn’t try challenge Olympus and Panasonic in that respect as it has been the case during the time of the 35mm film analog era.

Full Frame is available in all camera formats

«  There is no such specific image captor format that can be proclaimed full frame or format ». 

This is a modern controversy that has been started with the introduction of the digital cameras. During the film era we use to call small, medium and large formats as a reference to the actual dimensions of the film.

Frame at work

With digital cameras this classification has been conveniently forgotten in favour of a more marketable categorization.  For technical, economical and practical reasons the necessity of using large or medium sizes of image captor have decline in favour of mini dimensions such as APS-C, DX, FX, M4/3, CX, etc.

Frame at door
There has been and still is a debate regarding the level of quality needed for an image to be accepted as an artistic or professional true accomplishment. We know that the quality of a final artistic or commercial product not only depend on technical data but is also related with the quality of composition, the choice of subject, the moment of expression and more as they apply in the final nature of the picture.

Frame gong
So you cannot dissociate the purpose of doing and diffusing an image with the level of quality it is generating. Moreover the exceptional pictures of the past are staying exceptional even after the big technologic advancements.
“Full frame” in my book refers at first to the full use of the picture taking frame. 
It was a technique that was popular during the film era especially with the medium and small formats by presenting the negative frame or part of it on the final print. .

Leaves on frame
So you can conclude that “Full frame” is in fact available in every existing or past photo captor formats which is including the medium or larger formats, 24 X 36 mm, 15 X 24 mm, M4/3, 1” and so on.

Frame me

We can imagine many artists using photography as a basic canvas that will be use as an expression tool as painters do. Digital photography is an art representation like others art forms of representation.

End of Frame.