QUESTION: I just heard about the new Micro 4/3 digital cameras. What are their pros and cons and should I buy one?
Ed: These cameras came on the scene around 2008 and are a derivative of the original 4/3 cameras but are smaller in size and weigh less. The main thrust of these cameras is to base the design on a sensor from the ground up which allows for a smaller body and smaller lenses. Some of the pros in addition to the size and weight are the use of interchangeable lenses and lens interchangeability among manufactures. The major camera manufacturers include Panasonic, Olympus and more recently, Nikon. Sony has entered this market with a different but competitive approach with their NEX line of cameras. Their latest entry is the NEX 5N soon to be followed by the NEX 7.
Another name for this family of cameras is ILC or Interchangeable Lens Cameras. These cameras appeal to the users who are looking for an alternative to the relatively heavier and bulkier DSLRs but do not want to give up interchangeable lenses. ILCs can weigh as little as 11 oz. but can approach 2 lbs. when a long zoom lens is attached.
Let’s take a look at the 4 major ILC camera features and the various compromises that they made. Remember, there is no perfect camera.
Olympus Pen E-PL3 – view finder is not included but can be purchased separately. This adds some bulk and $179 dollars to the price.
Nikon V1 – does not include built-in flash. Add-on flashes are available from $25 to $150.
Panasonic G3 – includes built-in flash, electronic view finder and an articulating LCD. These are great features but at the cost of some weight.
Sony NEX 5N – This camera has no built-in flash but there is one in the box that inserts into the camera top.
You can probably tell by now that after you add the accessories and a few lenses you still require a nice size camera bag and anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 to compete with a DSLR. You can travel light with a small fixed lens but you still may not have a pocket camera. So, for those who are looking for interchangeable lens at half the weight and smaller bodies, these ILCs may be for you. I chose a different path and went with the Panasonic FZ150 with a 25mm to 600mm zoom with a weight of 18.6 oz. No more collections of lenses for me. All mentioned cameras can be seen at www.dpreview.com.
Ed Schwartz is a member of the North Orange County Computer Club. To send in a question, go to edwardns.com and click the Contact Me menu. Archives of previous columns are also on the website.