16 December 2015

why stop at ordinary Micro 4:3?

One of the main allures of the micro-4:3 systems is their compact size.  More typical sensors (36x24, 24x18) designed the mount and lens system to be the right size to fill their sensor but not go beyond.  The (17x13ish) Four Thirds sensor does the same but can scale down substantially more compared to either of those.  So small is a big deal for this system.  So that means smaller is even better then.. right?

Part of why it works is that a given lens' focal length means something different to a smaller sensor.  The 200mm lens that was a decent telephoto lens on film now yields a different scale on the smaller sensor.  My Pentax sees a 200mm lens as 300mme (mm effective) when the same shot is enlarged, and the still-smaller Four Thirds sensor would give an enlargement with 400mme.  So the same lens gives more telephoto punch on the micro4:3, or a 100mm lens can match the film-era 200mm when images are enlarged to the same print size.

Back in the film days 20mm was an exotic, absurdly-wide angle lens.  Now I'm about to receive a 7.5mm lens for the G7 (15mme) and it gets five-star ratings from several testing sites.  Technology has definitely changed how the imaging game is done!  I briefly owned an 8mm fisheye for Pentax; it was great fun but compared to this 7.5mm it's a big lens.  Designing for a smaller sensor has advantages at the wide end too, not just by using 150mm lenses to shoot 300mme images!

Even more tech has resulted in collapsible lens designs; bring a tiny lens along but "unscrew" it before shooting and it becomes a more typical size.  Pentax now has its  18-50mm RE kit lens that does this - but micro4:3 has been doing it for a while now.  My G7 came with a well-designed 14-42mm lens that does not collapse yet is still much smaller than their original version.
But wait, there's less!

For their smallest m4:3 cameras Panasonic designed the 12-32mm collapsing kit lens.  It's flat as a pancake in imsge-speak as the pancake-style prime lenses are about the size of this zoom when retracted.  Not only is it tiny but it has earned remarkable praise for what it can do.  Its 24-64mme range goes just enough wider than my 28-84mme kit lens to cover more situations, and many have claimed its images are really hard to beat by any kit lens from any manufacturer.

image via photographyblog
A silver copy of the 12-32mm is coming here soon.  I was outbid recently on a copy but immediately bid on another, and that one came through!

Review sites do point out a few shortcomings of the tiny zoom.  Most notably is that it cannot be focused manually!  That could be a problem, we shall see - but for most wide images the depth of field will be a larger focusing issue than the specific point in focus.  Stopping at 64mme could be an issue for me also, especially since the 7.5mm fisheye can take up any slack when the 14-42 won't do. And finally the 14-42 and 45-175 zooms take the same filter size, which is handy; however, a step ring can turn the 12-32 into a match and double as a minimal hood!

Comparing  images taken with the 12-32 and 14-42 will not be a huge priority to me, but if the baby retractable zoom is worthy it makes the micro4:3 kit just that much smaller.  And as is so often the case, small is a big deal: just ask anyone who chooses their cell phone for imaging!