Olympus Four Thirds not going mirrorless… official

March 16, 2010

The Olympus Four Thirds camera range will continue to use mirror-type viewfinders despite speculation by a US product manager from Olympus that optical systems will be replaced by electronic viewfinders within the next two years.

Speaking to Amateur Photographer at the magazine?s offices in London, Toshiyuki Terada, manager of SLR planning for Olympus Tokyo, said there would be no size benefits in replacing optical viewfinder systems and that the current system of Four Thirds lenses are not designed for the contrast-detection AF systems EVF cameras use.

Terada was visiting AP following comments made to the magazine at the Photo Marketing Association show in the USA in February by US DSLR manager Richard Pelkowski. Pelkowski had said that he expected the Four Thirds system to be using a mirrorless viewfinder system within the next 24 months, as the quality of electronic viewfinders had improved so much. Pelkowski also said that switching from a traditional mirror SLR system would save space and weight in Four Thirds cameras, and would make the incorporation of HD video functions much easier.

Terada has told AP that Olympus has no plans to change to a mirrorless system for the Four Thirds system. He explained that while Four Thirds lenses can be used on Micro Four Thirds cameras, and can operate using the contrast-detection autofocus system, their speed performance is compromised by the fact they are designed to be used with phase-detection systems in SLR bodies with more powerful AF motors.

?To match the speed of the autofocus system of the current Four Thirds lenses on a body that uses a contrast-detection system would require lenses with a much smaller and lighter focusing group,? Terada explained. ?Also, it would mean that Four Thirds lenses would have to become wider as well as longer.?

While contrast-detections systems are improving, Terada said he couldn?t say when AF speed would match that of phase-detection systems when following a moving subject.

Olympus has been very keen to point out that the Four Thirds system is still current and will not be replaced by the Micro Four Thirds system, and Terada went to some lengths to ensure AP readers are assured of this fact. However, he was not able to give us any idea of when new Four Thirds bodies would become available, but did say that there are new models in the pipeline.

?It has been very important for us to spend time and resources establishing the Micro Four Thirds Pen cameras, and we have already launched three models, but we are planning to introduce new Four Thirds bodies in the future,? he told us.

A replacement for the top-end E-3 is being worked on, but Terada would not comment on when it, or any future Four Thirds model, might be introduced. When asked to reassure AP readers on the future of the Four Thirds system, he said there will be more bodies on which to ?enjoy the fantastic Four Thirds optics.?

Read the original interview with Richard Pelkowski here

Read AP’s previous statement on this story here

Read the previous Olympus official statement here

Read all Amateur Photographer’s Olympus stories here

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