Of all of the technologies that adult producers are required to grasp with, advances in imaging systems are one of the fastest-changing; with modern DSLRs and small form factor video cameras reshaping and increasing expectations for photo and video quality.
One term that gets bandied about a lot lately is “Four Thirds,” but what exactly does that mean and where does it fit in the overall scheme of things? XBIZ set out to find out:
The Open Source-style Four Thirds system is an open standard for the design of lenses for use in digital SLR cameras with 4/3-type image sensors.
According to Four Thirds backer Olympus, the Open Source-style Four Thirds system is “an open standard for the design of lenses for use in digital SLR cameras with 4/3-type image sensors, including definitions of the suitable mount size, image circle and the interface between the lens and body.”
This allows the interoperability of cameras and lenses from different manufacturers.
Other supporters of the Four Thirds standard include Fuji, Kodak, Leica, Panasonic, Sanyo and Sigma.
Offering an image sensor twice the size of the 2/3” sensors found on many consumer level digital cameras, the Four Thirds cameras also make use of a 4:3 aspect ratio, as opposed to the more common 3:2 ratio of full frame 35mm film and other modern digital formats — such as the larger APS-C and APS-H formats found on some professional cameras — lenses for which are bigger, heavier and at the end of the day more costly.
This allows lenses that are designed for Four Thirds systems to take full advantage of the important imaging sensor’s performance capabilities, while also providing an ideal balance between cost, image quality improvement and system size reduction.
Some of what Four Thirds gives up to the larger digital formats includes its overall image quality and lowlight performance, which is still markedly improved from general consumer offers; making Four Thirds a perhaps “intermediate” level technology, that is still quite capable of producing stunning results.
A Micro Four Thirds standard is further minimizing hardware sizes, using the same sensor but doing away with the mirror and housing, improving live view systems while bringing higher quality and better features to smaller cameras.
If you’re in the market for a new camera system that will protect your lens investment from obsolescence, allowing you to use those same, super-fast lenses on still, video and DSLR cameras, while providing high quality imagery and a low carry weight, then take a closer look at the capabilities of the all important Four Thirds systems to see if one will work for you.