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Think DSLR capabilities with a smaller camera body and interchangeable lenses. That’s the Micro 4/3 camera for you, an alternate to bulkier single lens reflex (SLR) cameras when you desire portability.

So, how did pioneers Olympus and Panasonic manage this feat? They simply did away with the mirror and pentaprism inside the digital camera body. With that out of the way, the camera size and focal length shrunk. Reduced focal length, in turn, meant the family of lenses designed for these Micro 4/3 standard cameras was also smaller. Further, the sensor size of the Micro 4/3, though, a little smaller than high-end DSLRs, is way bigger than the sensor you will find on compact digital and bridge cameras. But given the superior DSLR-like quality of the images taken with the Micro 4/3, and, based on all the Internet talk, many are pondering the merits of going completely mirror-less.

The Micro 4/3 cameras have interchangeable lenses especially designed for this range of cams but if you can also mount your old Canon or Nikon DSLR lenses onto them using an adaptor.

How is it different from a DSLR?

1) No mirror means no mirrored optical viewfinder on the Micro 4/3 camera. It has a digital viewfinder instead, “which makes them a bit slower to shoot than a DSLR,” writes Will Henry at Hub Pages. But remember, this is a work in progress. Others feel it makes shooting in the sun difficult and some of the digital viewfinders are found lacking in resolution.

2) The Micro 4/3 has a smaller sensor (diagonal 22.5 mm) than most DSLRs that use the APS – C and APS – H sensors. And smaller the sensor, the lower the image quality and depth of field possible compared to DSLRs.

Here’s what users are saying about images taken with the Micro 4/3 cameras:

“These new breed of cameras deliver in all areas, and for me, surpass other mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensors due to speed, dependability, usability, blazing AF, and very good ISO performance. Micro 4/3 is sort of a “sweet spot” because due to the smaller sensor we get that faster and more accurate AF performance. It seems that the larger the sensor, the slower the AF.” says Steve Huff at Stevehuffphoto.

“Low light performance: Inferior low-light performance. Because of the small sensor size these cameras have, they don’t support low-light situations quite as well as most DSLRs.  That isn’t to say they are terrible in low light, but that in general they aren’t as good.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend a Micro 4/3 for night photographers, but shooting indoors or in low light situations you’ll do just fine.” says Jim Harmer at Improve Photography

Blogger Andy Atmtx compares his Canon 6D with the Olympus E-PM2 M4/3 camera with pictures to make his point: How much better is the low light performance? Well on the Olympus E-PM2, my newest Pen camera, I’m generally satisfied up to ISO 3200. On the 6D, I feel fine using ISO 8,000 to ISO 10,000.

Freelance photographer Chas Elliot took his Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 with a 20 mm lens and here are some of the photographs he came back with.

Some of the top-end Micro 4/3 cameras?

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5
  • Leica M Typ 240
  • Samsung NX300
  • Olympus PEN E-P5
  • Sony Alpha NEX-7
  • Fujifilm X-E1

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