Nikon D100 original. Typical of many of the crops I’ve been making lately.

As I have been proofing my digital images over the past few days, both printed and unprinted, I’ve been struck by how many of them have been cropped to a square, or squarish, format.

In the past I have used 6 x 6 cameras quite a lot, but I don’t think that this had affected my recent cropping strategy. It’s more to do with becoming dissatisfied with the 3:2 aspect ratio of my Nikons, and tending to frame my subject within a less “elongated” shape.

This observation led me to think about digital cameras with 1:1 aspect ratios, and there are a number of them and whether I might consider buying one. This is purely hypothetical, as my budget for camera purchases is zero at the moment.

Keeping an open mind (except that it must have a proper viewfinder, preferably with a 100% view), I looked at the available models and two stood out, so far as body specifications are concerned – the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and the Panasonic GH3. Both have a 16MP sensor and a maximum 1:1 aspect ratio of 3456 x 3456 pixels (about 30 x 30cm at 300dpi), which is in the ballpark for many of my prints and more than enough for the web.

But the main reason to choose a micro four-thirds camera is the lens selection. I knew that as Micro four-thirds models the range of available lenses was wide. I simply hadn’t realised how wide. Olympus and Panasonic (Leica) optics of course, but Zeiss, Schneider, Sigma, Yashuhara, SLR Magic, Tokina,  Voigtlander, Tamron,  Big-Photo, as well as a no-name eBay tilt and shift special (probably an Optek). While Horseman make a version of its shift/tilt accessory for the format. Okay, it is a mix and match approach, but allied with the fact that the cameras will take just about any lens via an adapter – Canon, Leica, Nikon et al – it makes the two cameras very attractive.

Within that broad range there are a number of lenses which make the cameras very attractive, and as I have no money anyway I may as well go all the way. The Nokton f0.95 25mm and f1.1 50mm (via an adapter), the Olympus f2 150mm and the Olympus f2 12mm and oddly enough, the reportedly not very sharp, Tokina f6.3 300mm mirror lens.

Nikon F. Nikon f8 500mm mirror lens.

Despite the criticism of the donut rings in the out of focus areas and moderate sharpness, I am a fan of mirror lenses as the Nikon sample above shows.

Consider than the Tokina is a  compact (66mm long, 66mm diameter) in size, and moderate weight (330gm) for the  along with a closest focussing distance of 0.8m (approx 32″) for a 600mm equivalent. And for about $300, I can forgive lack of ultimate sharpness, donuts and moderate build quality given how often I’d actually use this lens.

Selecting which of the two bodies to go with the lenses depends upon whether the emphasis is to be on stills or video. I have no experience with Panasonic stills cameras at all, but I have used film OMs in the past so my leaning is towards the Olympus. The encouraging thing about all of this is the cost – the whole lot totals rather less than a Leica M9 body … and I know which I’d rather have.

Much of the detail about the mainstream Micro four-thirds lenses is on the website but for information on the others it is a matter of pottering around on the Net.

The Yashuhura Nano 5 is an extreme close-up (5X) lens and lighting system for Sony E mount as well as Micro four-third. Cost (direct sale) is $US469.50 plus shipping. Details at announced at Photokina 2012 that it was introducing a 15mm f4 shift lens for MFT with up to 5.3mm shift intended for architectural photography. Whether it eventuates who knows, but there is another shift lens available now – a MFT modified Photex Arax Russian lens – f2 50mm for about $350. goshotcameras have them on offer.

Samyang also showed a Fisheye at Photokina. There is also an f1.4 85mm lens from the same maker. At less than $300 it almost doesn’t matter how good or bad it is – it will prove useful for some photographers – but in fact various online reviewers have rated it as good value for money.

I guess the point I am making is that with the exception of Canon, and Nikon the four-thirds format offers a bigger lens choice than any of the other makers. In my view Sony has a fairly dismal selection of optics for its cameras, for example, while Pentax only scores because of the number of legacy lenses out in the real world.

When you look at Micro Four-Thirds like this it is easy to understand why so many manufacturers have opted to support the format, and why it has become so extensive, and why so many photographers are supporting it.



  1. Samyang is beyond just “good value for money” 🙂

  2. The Micro Four Thirds standard started with Olympus and Panasonic, so these companies are already onto their and fourth–and–fifth generation cameras, and they all use a universal lens mount so you can use a Panasonic lens with an Olympus body and vice versa. Our Editors’ Choice for high-end mirrorless compacts, the Olympus OM-D E-M5, is a Micro Four Thirds camera.

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