In memoriam: Olympus brings down the curtain on the legacy Four Thirds system
It probably shouldn't be a surprise but it's still a little sad to see it in print: the latest catalogue from four-thirds.org states that production of Olympus's Zuiko Digital line of Four Thirds lenses has been discontinued.
It's been six and a half years since the launch of the last Four Thirds mount camera, so it's understandable that Olympus has decided to move on, but we thought we'd look back at Four Thirds: what it meant and where it led.
|The first Four Thirds camera: the Olympus E-1. Built around a 5MP Kodak CCD, the E-1 arrived around two years after Olympus first announced a collaboration with Kodak.|
Where it all started
In 1999, Olympus engineer Katsuhiro Takada selected the 4/3"-type sensor as being the optimal size to allow smaller cameras capable of high quality images. Olympus developed the lens mount and communication protocols and was joined by other makers including Kodak, Fujifilm and Panasonic. The Four Thirds system website was launched fourteen years ago tomorrow.
Four Thirds was the first ILC system specifically designed for digital. This not only meant a wholly new lens system, providing the focal lengths that make sense for the sensor size (at a time when most camera companies were making do with selling film lenses mounted on smaller sensors), but also adopting a policy of making telecentric designs, which project light straight onto the sensor, rather than at increasingly challenging angles, towards the edge of the sensor.
|Panasonic's first Four Thirds camera: the still beautiful DMC-L1.|
Unfortunately, the telecentric lens designs often ended up being relatively large, meaning that the system didn't end up being significantly smaller than APS-C cameras. Unfortunately, the decision to use 4/3"-type sensors also meant that the viewfinders in most of the models were even smaller than those that still plague most low-end APS-C DSLRs.
|My personal favorite. The Olympus E-620 was the Four Thirds camera that, to my mind, offered the best balance of size and capability.|
While the Four Thirds system is no longer with us, it's worth giving credit for the innovations it played host to. For a start, it was the first interchangeable lens system to offer live view. It wasn't the slickest of implementations: seemingly unsure whether live view was supposed to offer an immediate digital preview (with phase detection still available) or provide the precision of contrast detect AF and live view magnification, the E-330 offered both. And was duly given short shrift by DPReview founder Phil Askey in his review.
|It may be out of production, but the Olympus US website says the 90-250mm F2.8 is still in stock. It'll cost you $5999.99|
The system evolves
However, the most significant development to come out of Four Thirds, though, was its successor, Micro Four Thirds, the world's first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera system (indeed the system for which the term was coined). Micro Four Thirds persisted with the Four Thirds type sensor but by abandoning the mirror box (and the telecentric design philosophy) was able to fully deliver on the size benefits that had originally been promised.
Without a mirror to move out of the way, live view came into its own and a whole new class of camera was born.
Credit should be given to Olympus for working to provide cameras (specifically the E-M1s) that were designed to continue to give good performance for those users who'd bought the highest-end Four Thirds lenses.
Long live Four Thirds
The history of photography is full of defunct systems and obsolete mounts. Even though the curtain has come down on Four Thirds, you can still buy a camera that will make good use of its lenses. The king is dead...
Aug 12, 2017
Jul 18, 2017
Jul 8, 2017
Jul 7, 2017
|Al Fateh Grand Mosque by mallen1976|
from Your City - B&W Night Picture
|Beakable by Hobbyfotograaf|
|St Paul's - DT NYC by mollymcd|
from Modern - Old-Fashioned
The Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM is an understated jewel of a lens, and one that we've enjoyed on a variety of cameras since its release almost five years ago. Its relatively small size and image stabilization make it a versatile tool for a variety of photography - check out our sample gallery.
You don't need a fancy studio or tons of gear to capture the kind of classic product photography you see in magazines. In this video, Dustin Dolby shows you how to do it with just a couple of speedlights and some know-how.
The life-logging camera is trying to make a comeback. Say hello to FrontRow, a live-streaming enabled life-logging camera from Ubiquiti that hangs on a necklace like a pendant.
When a prospective client approaches you, don't just say "yes" right away. Here's a useful list of questions you should be asking before you decide to take the job and name your price.
Samsung just revealed a blazing-fast new Solid State Drive capable of data transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s.
DJI has developed a 'Local Data Mode' that lets pilots fly without being connected to the Internet. The mode should calm recent fears over data privacy and security when flying DJI drones.
After 1.7 million downloads on Apple computers since the launch in November 2015, Aurora HDR will be available for Windows PCs for the first time with the 2018 release.
The company behind the new Meyer Optik Goerlitz lens manufacturing business has formed a new brand to bring back the Biotar 75mm F1.5 that was made by Carl Zeiss Jena in the 1940s and 50s.
The updated Qualcomm Spectra system is a dual-camera setup that is capable of sensing depth and motion in real time.
A sizable swath of the United States will be treated to a total eclipse of the heart – er, sun – in just under a week. Here are a few excellent guides to help you photograph this rare occasion.
f11 Magazine—an ad-supported, free magazine for 'photographers and aficionados' that focused on photos rather than gear—is suspending publication due to financial troubles.
The Minolta MC Rokkor-X 40-80mm F2.8 is unlike any zoom lens you've probably ever seen. Instead of a helicoid, it uses a gearbox, and because of this it's still one of the sharpest zoom lenses out there.
If you're looking to switch to Sony, the company's new limited-time "α trade up" promotion can snag you up to $500 + trade-in value towards a brand new a9, a7 II, a7R II, or a7S II when you hand over your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
The Google Camera app exclusive to the company's own Pixel phone has been unofficially ported to other Android devices. If you're willing to take the risk of installing, you can now use features like HDR+ on the Galaxy S8, LG G6, OnePlus 5, and more.
49-year-old David Hilos is known by the Singapore photography community as the 'camera whisperer.' When a service center says a camera is beyond repair, Hilos can usually coax it back to life.
Photographer Ryan Kelly captured one of the most viral and graphic images of the horrifying events in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. This is the harrowing story behind that photograph.
Data storage manufacturer Synology has added a new, lower-cost NAS to its DiskStation j line that has a maximum capacity of 40TB, and which is aimed at home users and photography enthusiasts.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here it is: the $500 interchangeable lens camera is about to go the way of the $200 compact.
On April 16, 2016 disaster struck in Kumamoto in the form of an unprecedented 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Here is the public's first look at Sony's sensor factory during the quake, the resulting damage and the efforts to restore operations.
Last August, travel photographer and Resource Travel editor Michael Bonocore escaped to the island of Tahiti for a month of cool adventures and amazing photography.
Curious just how tough Nikon's KeyMission 360 action camera really is? This one got chewed on by a tiger for several minutes and recorded the whole thing.
The EOS 6D Mark II is essentially a full frame version of the EOS 80D. However, we weren't exactly bowled-over by it, when we reviewed it. Does that mean it's not worth the cost of upgrading? Let us walk you through the differences.
Hiker and amateur photographer Ben Bauermeister talks about his experience taking an Olympus PEN-F on an ultralight backpacking trip. When every ounce counts, adding 2.8lbs to your pack is a serious decision.
Sean Tucker tells the story behind these two portraits of the Himba people he captured for a personal project in Namibia.
Xiaomi's newest phablet boasts a monster battery and a sleek metal uni-body that's not typical of its mid-range class. It packs a decent camera too, but is let down by a flawed video mode and worse-than-average low light image quality.
If you want to speed up your Lightroom workflow, one of the best tools you can buy might be a wireless PlayStation controller. Photographer Ben Stewart shows you why in this neat video tutorial.
Renowned photographer Bill Frakes has been let go as a visiting professor at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln after a sexual harassment complaint filed against him was judged by the university to be credible.
On July 17th, NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover pointed its Navcam up at the sky to capture a rare sight: wispy, cirrus-like clouds floating across the Martian horizon.
Compared to the standard Phantom 3, the SE model offers a vision positioning system, 4K video and an improved video transmission range of up to 2.5 miles.
Photographers take great care in choosing the right gear for a trip. Why not make sure your iPhone is well equipped for photography too? These apps offer features a bit more advanced than the stock camera app.