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micro 4/3 slr?
Old 02-21-2010   #1
jagarch
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micro 4/3 slr?

Is it possible for a manufacturer to make a micro 4/3'rds SLR?
I'm thinking something along the lines of the Pentax System 10 or the Olympus Pen F. These were small cameras with small frame sizes but actual mirrors and viewfinders.
Are they going with perceived popular demand for an electronic viewfinder, or does the micro 4/3rds system itself make a mirror impossible because of a design limitation?
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Old 02-21-2010   #2
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You mean like a Lumix DMC-G1?

There's not going to be a mirrored SLR in MFT. The whole point of MFT is a mirrorless system [1].
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Old 02-21-2010   #3
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The regular 4/3ds cameras are SLRs.
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Old 02-21-2010   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabelsound View Post
The regular 4/3ds cameras are SLRs.
Exactly! And the E420 really isn't a whole lot bigger than the EP-1 or 2. Plus it's cheaper.

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Old 02-21-2010   #5
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I understand what you guys are getting at. But maybe I should have said this,

Is it possible to make a digital camera the size of a Pentax 10 system or Olympus Pen F, with interchangable lenses, an actual mirror box and viewfinder (not an electronic viewfinder), and a small sensor size (equivalent to 110 or 35mm half frame)?

If it is possible, is it possible to do it with micro 4/3rds? Or would it have to be a system redesign because the flange distance is too short to mount the mirror and the electronics behind the lens? As electronics shrink and grow thinner, then would it be possible to stuff a mirror box in there?
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Old 02-21-2010   #6
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There is not enough room for a mirror. That's why they are smaller. As, "electronics shrink and grow thinner" technology will improve in other areas as well. This means improved EVF's as well. Having a mirror in your camera is a thing of the past which will soon be eliminated.
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Old 02-21-2010   #7
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Pe rhaps something like the E330 mirror system may work, but I don't think it would be better than an EVF because of the size it would have to be just to fit.
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Old 02-21-2010   #8
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All 4/3rd cameras have small viewfinders compared to other systems, but that doesn't make them any less effective in the right hands.
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Old 02-21-2010   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quietmouse View Post
There is not enough room for a mirror. That's why they are smaller. As, "electronics shrink and grow thinner" technology will improve in other areas as well. This means improved EVF's as well. Having a mirror in your camera is a thing of the past which will soon be eliminated.
This is a very interesting point. Following that logic, will pro SLRs switch to EVFs? There is plenty of room in a big camera for either a mirror or an EVF. If the EVF is an improvement on the mirror, why haven't pros been demanding EVFs in their SLRS?

The Pen F strikes me as a very usable size. I don't think that digital cameras have too many features to fit in that size camera. A camera like the Canon G10 has plenty of features and is smaller than a Pen F.

I haven't used a Pentax 110. But I have used lots of small cameras like the Olympus Pen D3 and the Rollei 35, and I don't see why an slr couldn't be very usable at that size.

I guess what I'm getting at is, what is the future for prosumer cameras for the next 15 years? Will SLR's stay the same size, limited by lenses and mounts based on 35mm sensor sizes? Will everyone go over to EVF's and little non-optical-viewfinder cameras? Isn't my idea somewhat in between these two extremes?
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Old 02-21-2010   #10
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Why bother?
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Old 02-21-2010   #11
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I think its interesting to note that the imaging area of m4/3 is the same as a film frame from the 110 film used in the pentax auto 110, 13x17mm. Obiviously, pentax managed to to put a mirror assembly (and an aperture mechanism) between _their_ lenses and the film. That is not to say that it could be done with (all or any) lenses complying to the m4/3 specs. I think a digital Auto 110 with a sensor of 4/3 size would be great fun, but probably not a commerically viable product.
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Old 02-21-2010   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jagarch View Post
I understand what you guys are getting at. But maybe I should have said this,

Is it possible to make a digital camera the size of a Pentax 10 system or Olympus Pen F, with interchangable lenses, an actual mirror box and viewfinder (not an electronic viewfinder), and a small sensor size (equivalent to 110 or 35mm half frame)?

If it is possible, is it possible to do it with micro 4/3rds? Or would it have to be a system redesign because the flange distance is too short to mount the mirror and the electronics behind the lens? As electronics shrink and grow thinner, then would it be possible to stuff a mirror box in there?
Yes, it is possible. They could use something like the rotating shutter that was in the analog PEN and a mirror system for viewing.

But it will be a cold day in hell before a camera like that is made, because of the tyranny of the masses. The fanboys and gadget dorks, who represent the vast majority of buyers, have decided that optical viewfinders are for luddites, old geezers and communists.

So, yes. It is perfectly feasible, but will probably never happen.
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Old 02-21-2010   #13
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Why bother?
Because EVF stink.
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Old 02-21-2010   #14
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Kirk Tuck just posted some interesting thoughts about the evolution of digital cameras and EVFs.
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Old 02-21-2010   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quietmouse View Post
There is not enough room for a mirror. ...
The mirror is NOT the issue. The issue is the focusing screen. This screen must have the same dimensions as the sensor, or slightly smaller if you are willing to accept less than 100% viewing accuracy. Fitting the focusing screen between the shutter assembly and the back side of the lens mount, with its accompanying electronic connections, is the issue.

At present, nothing along the lines of the Pentax 110 or Pen F, in terms of the ratio between image format and total camera size, is possible. In a short time we will likely see EVF cameras with only a rear LCD, no eyelevel EVF, that approach the Pen F's body-to-format ratio. It will likely be quite some time before the electronics shrink enough for eyelevel EVF cameras can reach that point. By the time electroinics shrink enough that that body-to-format ratio can be achieved with a bulky optical SLR VF system we will likely have eyelevel EVFs that be every bit as good, if not better.
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Old 02-22-2010   #16
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Originally Posted by Dwig View Post
At present, noting along the lines of the Pentax 110 or Pen F, in terms of the ratio between image format and total camera size, is possible. In a short time we will likely see EVF cameras with only a rear LCD, no eyelevel EVF, that approach the Pen F's body-to-format ratio. It will likely be quite some time before the electronics shrink enough for eyelevel EVF cameras can reach that point. By the time electroinics shrink enough that that body-to-format ratio can be achieved with a bulky optical SLR VF system we will likely have eyelevel EVFs that be every bit as good, if not better.
This is very informative.

It seems to me that in essence the EVF vs SLR debate is similar to the 60's SLR vs Rangefinder debate - striking the balance between smaller size and more robust features. But there was and is a market for an in-between size camera with professional controls, which is exactly why Pentax and Olympus came up with their small SLR designs. Aren't professionals interested in smaller, lighter cameras? When the Pen F came out, did people say, "It's too small to be usable"?

Maybe they overestimated the size of that market, and thus the discontinuation of those cameras.

So what you guys are saying is, it is possible to make a small, mirrored digital SLR, say 3/4 or even 1/2 of the size of a standard one. But it would entail an entirely new lens mount, a little bigger than micro 4/3rds.

Rather than develop this over the past couple years, olympus/sony/panasonic chose m4/3 which necessitates EVF with current electronics sizes. They were betting on the future. So we just have to sit back and wait for the better EVF.
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Old 02-22-2010   #17
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Because EVF stink.
Not for long, most likely.
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Old 02-22-2010   #18
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Originally Posted by mabelsound View Post
Not for long, most likely.
I had real apprehension about going to an EVF when I bought my G!. I have been using Leica Rangefinders and pro-level SLR's for many years. But I have to tell you that once i got over the idea that I was seeing an electronic image rather than an optical image, I find it has many advantages for a digital camera. These include a bright viewfinder, even in low light, the enlargement feature for accurate manual focusing, being able to see and easily compensate exposure (rather than having to chimp and reshoot) and also the quick review feature immediately after taking the shot. Also, menu changes can be made quickly with the eye still on the viewfinder. I have yet to open up the big LCD on the back of the camera -- it is not necessary in most situations. Sure, there can be a little lag in low light and I haven't tried it with action shots, but have been pleasantly surprised overall.
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Old 02-22-2010   #19
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An EVF behaves like a virtual SLR viewfinder, right? What you see is approximately through the lens?
Could an EVF be setup to behave like a virtual rangefinder, with an electronically generated split image in the center? For faster focusing?
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Old 02-22-2010   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jagarch View Post
An EVF behaves like a virtual SLR viewfinder, right? What you see is approximately through the lens?
Could an EVF be setup to behave like a virtual rangefinder, with an electronically generated split image in the center? For faster focusing?
You mean a real digital rangefinder?
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Old 02-22-2010   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jagarch View Post
An EVF behaves like a virtual SLR viewfinder, right? What you see is approximately through the lens?
Could an EVF be setup to behave like a virtual rangefinder, with an electronically generated split image in the center? For faster focusing?
Not approximately. Exactly.

Of course it would be technically possible. You needed a rangefinder-mechanism with a 2nd sensor that is coupled to the distance-scale of the lens. Then you could overlap the pictures of the 2nd sensor and the main sensor via software. I think the coupling mechanism would make it very expensive.
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Old 02-22-2010   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabelsound View Post
The regular 4/3ds cameras are SLRs.
That's just it, isn't it?
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Old 02-22-2010   #23
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Originally Posted by tom.w.bn View Post
Not approximately. Exactly.

Of course it would be technically possible. You needed a rangefinder-mechanism with a 2nd sensor that is coupled to the distance-scale of the lens. Then you could overlap the pictures of the 2nd sensor and the main sensor via software. I think the coupling mechanism would make it very expensive.
With the power of digital imaging, I am sure split screen focusing could be simulated, much as choices of grid patterns are available without having to change focusing screens like on a SLR. Would not be surprised to see this occur on a future model.
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Old 02-22-2010   #24
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Would we want to get any smaller??? - My G1 is small enough for me - in fact the buttons are too small and IMHO need a redesign - the layout on my D300 is far much better.

EVRs are improving but if you are used to a normal DSLR viewfinder they are still second rate.

M4/3 is popular for lots of reasons with the use of MF lenses being one, but their use, (MF lenses), with the current M4/3s becomes tiring after the novelty wears off.

M4/3 is still in it's infancy and a lot may, (will), happen in the next couple of years............but smallness can only go so far and I think that the current size of the EP-1 will be as small as it should get. I bought the G1, (versus Oly stuff), because of the swiveling LCD.....if M4/3 was my only system it would not be right for me unless it had such.

I would never buy a "serious" camera the size of a Pentax110 - if I wanted such there are some great P&Ss out there, (the Canon S90, for example), which probably produces an image quality similar to a 110 sized M4/3 if it could be made.....but I still need a viewfinder please.

Just my views
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Old 03-07-2010   #25
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Originally Posted by paragon View Post
I would never buy a "serious" camera the size of a Pentax110 - if I wanted such there are some great P&Ss out there, (the Canon S90, for example), which probably produces an image quality similar to a 110 sized M4/3 if it could be made.....but I still need a viewfinder please.

Just my views
At this juncture, it might be useful to post a reminder of relative sensor sizes. The S90 uses a 1/1.7" sensor. The jump in size from that to m4/3 is roughly the same as the jump from m4/3 to full frame. Note also that for practical purpuses, m4/3 is essentially the same as APS-C if you prefer 4:3 or 5:4 aspect ratios.


Edited to add: the image is posted from Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license.
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Old 03-07-2010   #26
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EVFs and LCDs are already brighter, larger, more accurate and more detailed than optical viewfinders. The main problem though is battery consumption.

I'm still waiting for Panasonic or Olympus to add distance and DOF scales onto the LCD/EVF, which is the sort of information you will probably never find in an optical viewfinder, for obvious reasons...
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Old 03-07-2010   #27
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Will somebody please answer me the following, is "mirror blackout" a probem with the EVF in the G1 ?.
As I see it this is the main disadvantage with the EVF, I am old enough to remember the breakthru when the instant return mirror slr finally killed the RF.
The EVF as on the G1 is just so much larger than the half frame DSLR and 4/3 that there is just no contest. I have in my camera cupboard a Nikon 5700, in its day with a nice sensor twice as large as a PS that had an early EVF that was great in outdoors bright sunlight BUT the non return blackout to me was a killer ( I know there were many other shortcomings but the blackout was #1 for me).
So is it only me ? or if not how is it possible to emulate the "instant return mirror". I will be going to my main city next week and intend to give the G1 a good workout in a camera store, maybe I worry too much, we will see.
Love to cut the weight down from my 2 Canon DSLR's and battery pack etc, to say nothing of using my RB67 with 180mm and prism VF hand held !!!

ron
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Old 03-07-2010   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acheyj View Post
Will somebody please answer me the following, is "mirror blackout" a probem with the EVF in the G1 ?.
As I see it this is the main disadvantage with the EVF, I am old enough to remember the breakthru when the instant return mirror slr finally killed the RF.
The EVF as on the G1 is just so much larger than the half frame DSLR and 4/3 that there is just no contest. I have in my camera cupboard a Nikon 5700, in its day with a nice sensor twice as large as a PS that had an early EVF that was great in outdoors bright sunlight BUT the non return blackout to me was a killer ( I know there were many other shortcomings but the blackout was #1 for me).
So is it only me ? or if not how is it possible to emulate the "instant return mirror". I will be going to my main city next week and intend to give the G1 a good workout in a camera store, maybe I worry too much, we will see.
Love to cut the weight down from my 2 Canon DSLR's and battery pack etc, to say nothing of using my RB67 with 180mm and prism VF hand held !!!

ron
I had not noticed or thought about this until you mentioned it. But I usually shoot with the preview hold feature enabled, which holds the shot in the EVF to chimp. A second tap on the shutter button clears it. When set to the multiple exposure mode, you can crank off an amazing number of shots and the EVF seems to be able to follow the action ok. But if you think this might be an issue, by all means, try one out in a camera store (if you can find one that has them -- none in our part of the world). My Canon DSLR has been gathering dust since I got the G! -- what a joy it is to carry and use.
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Old 03-20-2010   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry Lime View Post
Because EVF stink.

Hi Harry,

It is true that the clear cut image you get from a mirror camera dslr (or for this case slr too) is far superior that of the EVF built in within the Panasonic G1.

But with a mirror dslr you cannot enlarge the image x10, both for improving accuracy of AF lenses, and to meter distance with a MF lens.

Therefore, in terms of viewfinder only, given the choice of this EVF or a simple mirror viewfinder, I will ever choose the former since it is more versatil.

However had I a dslr and no intention to mount a manual focus lens, I would choose the mirror viewfinder type of camera.

Cheers,
Ruben
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Old 03-20-2010   #30
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Hi Ruben.
Good to see u again since our forays into the Kiev 4 shutter delights !. I too am interested in a light walkabout street shooter and very interested in the G1, I have a canon G11 but like the idea of a larger sensor (nearer to my DSLR's ). No one has yet really answered my concern re the equivalent of the instant return mirror and I dont really know if the Panasonic G1 emulates this, I assume it doesnt, more like the original EVF in the Nikon 5700. Interested in your take on this as you seem to have embraced the G1.
Anyway I have to fly to my city (Adelaide) tomorrow for a checkup on my hip replacment so hope give a G1 a really good workout in a camera store and see for myself, in all other respects the G1 really appeals to me based in part on your findings.

cheers

ron
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Old 03-20-2010   #31
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mirror box and viewfinder (not an electronic viewfinder), and a small sensor size (equivalent to 110 or 35mm half frame)?
First, the 12.1 sensor now used is almost exactly half frame, which is almost exactly the old 110 frame size. So, standard 4/3 has you covered right there.

Second, while the e420 is the smallest DSLR, the e620 is almost the same size and a somewhat more capable camera, and has the mirror box you desire.

Third, in order to downsize the body any further, both Panasonic, and Olympus proved that the mirror box and assembly had to be removed. That is consistent with the G1, GH1, the GF1, and the new G2/G10 from Panasonic, and with the Pen series E-P1, E-P2, E-PL1 and the coming professional level Pen.

Since both standard and Micro 4/3 use the same sensor, which is your "half frame or 110" frame size, that half of the equation exists and remains unchanged.

Olympus and Panasonic surely both knew how much whining, wailing and wrenching of hands would take place going away from the mirror box. That being the case, they surely would have developed an SLR for the micro mount. Clearly the goal to reduce size and distance from the lens to sensor precluded that possibility.

But, we all should be reminded that development continues and many things will be possible tomorrow that are not available today.

Like many, I also lie awake in my bed at night whining, and even sobbing at times, about things that do not yet exist. My efforts to go out and shoot with all the cameras I have acquired over the last 40 years are often put aside for my obsession and desire for the tools of the future. I just know they are out there and someone is working on them for my sake.
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Old 03-21-2010   #32
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Hi Ruben.
Good to see u again since our forays into the Kiev 4 shutter delights !. I too am interested in a light walkabout street shooter and very interested in the G1, I have a canon G11 but like the idea of a larger sensor (nearer to my DSLR's ). No one has yet really answered my concern re the equivalent of the instant return mirror and I dont really know if the Panasonic G1 emulates this, I assume it doesnt, more like the original EVF in the Nikon 5700. Interested in your take on this as you seem to have embraced the G1.
Anyway I have to fly to my city (Adelaide) tomorrow for a checkup on my hip replacment so hope give a G1 a really good workout in a camera store and see for myself, in all other respects the G1 really appeals to me based in part on your findings.

cheers

ron
Sorry, i wasn't clear in trying to answer this question. To me, the way the G1 operates seems to be pretty much identical to an SLR. There is a brief mirror-type black out. The black out may be a little longer, not sure, but it just seems like an SLR. Also, the shutter sound on the G1 is really cool to my ear. Sounds like a SLR firing. It is louder than a Leica of course but still not intrusive. But, as you note, try one out and see what you think.

Rob
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Old 03-21-2010   #33
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First, the 12.1 sensor now used is almost exactly half frame, which is almost exactly the old 110 frame size...
Not Correct

110 and "half frame" (aka "35mm Single Frame" or "35mm 1/2 Frame") are very different sizes. 4/3 format is very close to the 110 format. The largest of the "APS-C" digital format, the Nikon/Sony variant, is still smaller than 35mm 1/2 Frame.

110: 13x17, 21.4mm diagonal
4/3: 13x17.3, 21.6mm diagonal
Nikon DX: 15.8x23.6, 28.4mm diagonal
35mm 1/2 Frame: 18x24, 30mm diagonal
35mm Full Frame: 24x36, 43.3mm diagonal

For realworld comparisons, you must also taken into account two other factors when comparing different formats. One is that the aspect ratios vary. The common comparisons are by diagonal measure; this is what is used for the common "crop factor" comparisons. The size relationships change, though, when your comparisons are done with all formats cropped to some common aspect ratio, and the particular aspect ratio chosen changes the relationship.

The second realworld issue is that while digital images can be printed with almost no cropping of the image, film images are almost always cropped to some degree when printing. Even when the print's aspect ratio matches the film's, printing 35mm FF negatives rarely uses an area with a diagonal larger than 39-40mm. When printing from slides, the usable area is even less, approaching a area with a diagonal measure of 36-37mm.

In practice, 4/3rd is roughly the same size as 110 film images but some 10% larger than 110's common printable area. The largest so-called APS-c digital format is about the same size as the printable area of 35mm 1/2 frame.
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Old 03-21-2010   #34
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Sorry, i wasn't clear in trying to answer this question. To me, the way the G1 operates seems to be pretty much identical to an SLR. There is a brief mirror-type black out. The black out may be a little longer, not sure, but it just seems like an SLR. Also, the shutter sound on the G1 is really cool to my ear. Sounds like a SLR firing. It is louder than a Leica of course but still not intrusive. But, as you note, try one out and see what you think.

Rob
Many thanks Rob,
Yes thats the info I was after. Not real sure if I can source a G1 to try maybe a GH1. We shall see in the morning and I will report back.

ron
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Old 03-21-2010   #35
JoeV
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Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA
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The u4/3 cameras' viewfinders are TTL (electronically, rather than optically). Their shutters have to stay open while viewfinding; then when the shutter is released it actually has to fully close first, then fires the exposure, then reopens. This results in a short bit of image blackout. But my impression is that it's less intrusive than what I remember a flapping mirror in an SLR to be.

I have my G1 set to the 1 second preview mode, which seems to compensate for the momentary image blackout by offering the captured image for my brief review, immediately thereafter.

I suppose the only way to simulate a non-TTL camera like a rangefinder is with an optical viewfinder; but then you lose in tradeoff the exact focus and compositional accuracy of a TTL viewfinder. It seems both types have their limitations. Especially with AF lenses, it's nice to know where the focus patch is set to prior to shutter release; with an optical VF you're shooting blind, focus-wise. I like to use a medium-sized focus patch in the middle of the screen; I half-press the shutter to achieve focus on the main subject, then recompose and take the shot. You simply can't do this accurately on an AF camera without seeing a TTL image.

The problem with using one of these new cameras as a neo-rangefinder is that the new lenses don't have distance and DOF markings on their focus ring. So you can't shoot optically and zone focus, like in the film rangefinder days. So it's working cross-purposes to the camera's design to try and emulate a film rangefinder shooting mode, when its native TTL view with AF lenses, in actual practice, works fine for capturing elusive street-type images.

You could, however, adapt a legacy, MF lens to u4/3, add an accessory optical VF, and be able to zone focus, with the caveat that your angle of view is more telephoto, and the DOF markings have to be compensated for the difference in enlargement factor between u4/3 and FF film.

~Joe
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