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...
|Smile by Olymguy|
from Ultra Asian Indian Female Faces
|Space Shuttle Cockpit- by vbuhay|
from Aircraft Control Stick
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.
The collection will be officially launched during the Europeana Transcribathon Campus Berlin 2017 crowdsourcing event which will be held on 22 and 23 June at the Berlin State Library.
Light gives us some insight into the preparations for the launch of the pre-order shipments of its much anticipated L16 multi-lens camera.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has confirmed in a tweet that the second lens on the back of the OnePlus 5 uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor.
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday article, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.
Rangefinder magazine asked five professional portrait and wedding photographers about posting on Instagram; no surprise, they got five different answers.
This captivating stop motion film was created by stripping away one layer of wood at a time. It's hard to look away.
It will enable users to simulate the presence of the sun, moon and Milky Way and see how they interact with an area's topography.
Since its introduction in November last year Instagram's live streaming feature has been used by millions, but videos could not be archived for watching at a later stage. A new update has now added the capability.
CopyTrack's study also found that the second most-stolen image is a woman wearing painted jeans. That's apparently a thing.
Forget expensive lenses with fancy coatings and special lens elements – photographer Robin de Puy took these portraits using just a water drop for a lens.
Adobe reports a record quarterly revenue of $1.77 billion for the second quarter fiscal year 2017 ended June 2, 2017.
Zeiss says its new lens is particularly suited for portrait photography but also a good all-rounder and can be used in video applications.
We present to you the top photos from the Kennel Club's 2017 Dog Photographer of the Year photo contest – take a look at 10 of the award-winning puppers.
In case you were looking for any more inspiration to go fly one.
Following a couple of successful Kickstarter campaigns, Videre 35mm's creator has re-tooled the camera with sturdier components and a simpler user assembly process.