Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Micro Four Thirds gets more support, Sony jumps in with its E-mount

In the course of less than a week, two major lens manufacturers have announced that they've joined the Micro Four Thirds System Standard Group founded by Panasonic and Olympus. Last week, Schneider-Kreuznach announced that it has joined the group and is working on compatible lenses, and this week, Carl Zeiss announced that it has also joined the group and will release compatible Zeiss HD Video lenses.

This is big news, especially for users (current and potential) of Panasonic's GH1 and GH2 mirrorless digital cameras, and its AG-AF100/101 camcorder. There have been adapters available for some time that enable a variety of third-party lenses to be used with Micro Four Thirds cameras and camcorders, but they don't support autofocusing and rarely support aperture control. In addition, these lenses usually operate at longer focal lengths than specified on the lenses because they're built for bigger sensors than Micro Four Thirds. The forthcoming lenses from Schneider-Kreuznach and Carl Zeiss will most likely support automation and will be designed specifically for the Micro Four Thirds sensor format.

These announcements may explain why Sony announced yesterday that it's making the specifications for its E mount, used in its NEX-family digital camcorders and camcorders, available for license. Today, Carl Zeiss, Tamron, Cosina and Sigma all announced that they would support Sony's E-mount. The population of third-party lenses for the two most popular mirrorless formats is about to get a lot bigger.

And now, we get to the speculative part: What will Canon and Nikon do? Both companies are widely expected to launch their own EVIL-style digital cameras soon. Will they use one of their existing mount designs, create their own new mounts, or license the Micro Four Thirds format or Sony's E-mount? We'll know in the next few months.
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