RoadRUNNER Digital Rider

Goldilocks and the Micro Four-Thirds

Mar 14, 2012 View Comments by

Over the last couple of years a new class of cameras has emerged. Bigger and better than your typical point-and-shoot and smaller and lighter than a good DSLR, these so-called “Compact System Cameras” or CSCs (or MILC or Mirrorless, the industry hasn’t decided upon the definitive name quite yet) have long been on my radar. As the Digital Rider, I need high quality but also value small size. Could this new Goldilocks class of cameras be a good choice for motorcycle tourers? Last year I took the plunge to find out.

Panasonic and Olympus were the first to the market with their line of Micro Four-Thirds cameras. The name doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but they exemplify the CSC ethos, combining the rectangular shapes and electronic viewfinders of point-and-shoots with the interchangeable lenses and larger (but not quite as large) imaging sensors from DSLRs. First generation products were okay, but Panasonic with their Lumix line and Olympus with their Pen line have been working hard, and the results of the latest generation products are pretty impressive.┬áThe CSC format is proving so popular that Nikon, Fuji, Sony, Samsung, and Pentax have entered the field. Competition is heating up.

In good light, Micro Four-Thirds cameras can take photos that are nearly indistinguishable from all but the best, most expensive DSLRs. There are now numerous bodies and lenses to choose from; the smallest are about the size of a small can of tuna (the lens) attached to a deck of cards (the body) while the largest are still smaller than the smallest DSLRs. They lag behind DSLRs in low light situations and with moving objects, but the gap is closing with each generation, and is at the point where they are good enough for most casual shooters.

The litmus test was when I used Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds cameras and lenses on the recent Kansas barbecue tour. Overall, I found them “just right” for motorcycle touring photography. There were only a handful of situations where a DSLR would have been a better choice.

I’ll cover CSC cameras from other manufacturers in future posts, but in the meantime…

For more information about Panasonic cameras and lenses, click here.
For more information about Olympus cameras and lenses, click here.

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About the author

You know that little boy who stares at you, mouth agape, as you ride by? That was me, thirty-plus years ago. I merged two of my passions, motorcycles and photography, when I became a contributor to RoadRUNNER.