Enthusiast Photographer Perspective: Five Things That Need To Happen If Micro Four Thirds Is Hoping To Take Over The World

This blog is a commentary on the post linked below at Photofocus:
Five Things That Need To Happen If Micro Four Thirds Is Hoping To Take Over The World.
I read pretty much every post at PhotoFocus – topics range from industry news to photography tips to ideas on how to challenge yourself to shoot something new.  I’m a big fan of Scott Bourne and his team.  Scott’s post the other day about Micro Four Thirds (I’ll use MFT for the rest of the post) left me with a number of questions that all boiled down to “Why?”

Scott starts out saying he’s a huge fan of the format, but other than size and less fuss about vibration (MFT cameras don’t use a mirror like that moves during shooting like DSLRs do), why is MFT something I should consider switching to?

Don’t get me wrong – size matters.  When I’m traveling, the idea of getting high-quality photos from a much lighter kit than my DSLR requires is attractive.  For street and candid photography, it is a lot easier to be discreet and unnoticed, which is hard with a DSLR body and a 70-200 lens hanging around your neck.

But as I read Scott’s “Five things”, I’m struck by the question “Why” over and over.

  1. More Players: If there was a market, more players would emerge.
  2. Pro Support:  As Scott knows far better than I ever will, pros use what works.  I’ve seen several pros mention that they shoot MFT at least some of the time, but if it were superior for a pro, I think they’d be there already.  If there was opportunity or a core of pro shootsers, one of the manufacturers would offer pro support services (which is a set of services exclusive to pros – faster repair service, access to loaner equipment, special tech support, etc.).  While I do think there are “chicken or egg” problems for some markets, I just don’t think this is one of them
  3. Education: I’m a huge supporter of education, but it seems like this is another thing that is more of a “pull” than “push”.  Also, how much different is the MFT world?
  4. Spokespeople: MFT has a good one in Scott, and I know Trey Ratcliff from Stuck in Customs has said mirrorless is the future (but he’s still primarily shooting on a DSLR – see my thoughts on that here).
  5. More of everything: (equipment, accessories, etc.)  All I can say about this one is markets follow opportunity.

Why isn’t it more popular?  At the end of the day, there are always going to be niche markets.  If a platform like MFT were compelling enough, the products would be on the shelf.  There is a constant stream of cameras that come to the marketplace looking for the right combination of features.  At the end of the day, I think there are things that are keeping the MFT platform solidly in the niche segment, mainly centered around price (MFT isn’t less expensive than DSLR) and performance.  Comparing the Nikon D5200 against two poplular MFT cameras – the Sony NEX-7 and the Olympus OM-D shows both of these cameras as more expsensive, offering fewer lens options (hence Scott’s point above) and short on specs like ISO performance and dynamic range.  Nikon’s V1 didn’t compare well, either.  They are a LOT lighter, shoot higher FPS, have higher boost ISO, etc., but those are “niche-specs” for me.  I’m also wondering if the format is capable of delivering the shallow depth of field/bokeh that is such a part of the creative process in some photographs.

So other than performance-for-the-size, I’m not seeing a reason why I should consider switching – any comments or experiences are welcome!

Scott Bourne of PhotoFocus Reviews Ona Union Street

The Ona Union Street Messenger - Available in three great-looking colors. (from the Ona website)

The Ona Union Street Messenger – Available in three great-looking colors. (from the Ona website)

If you’re not familiar with Scott Bourne and PhotoFocus, it is a very useful blog to subscribe to.  Scott and his guest bloggers are almost always short, direct, to-the-point and really useful to Enthusiast Photographers of all stripes.

Today brought a familiar topic – the Ona Union Street bag, and Scott’s conclusions were familiar, too.  Check it out:


Apple opens a door with iBooks

A sample of one of Apple's templates from their website

In my post-CES haze (my feet have almost forgiven me), I missed an interesting announcement from Apple about iBooks.  Luckily, Scott Bourne (who was also at CES, but is veteran-savvy… :)) is awake and aware, and posted an article about it on his site: A New Way For Photographers To Self-Publish.

This is a really interesting play from Apple, and there are significant implications for schools, publishers and small authors.  Google, Amazon and others are paying attention, to be sure.  Scanning through the materials, there will likely be a whole ecosystem of content providers (stuff to put in books like movies, photos and more), companies who publish books, affiliates (people who will promote the books, even down to blogs like this one) and, of course, the people who write the content itself.

This ecosystem is only likely to expand, too.  In the next ten years, the meaning of the word “book” is going to change as much as the words “album” or “phone” have in the last ten.  It isn’t unexpected – it is the obvious evolution of what Kindle started and the capabilities a tablet offers.  Apple, Amazon and Google are going to fight it out in this space.

For photographers, publishing collections, “How To” books and more will get easier than ever before.  I’m not sure how Amazon and Google are playing in this game, but they surely will.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft in the mix, either.  It is one thing to publish the book, but finding it is the trick.  It will be interesting to see if the Search guys (Google and Microsoft) and stronger than the Point of Sale guys (Apple via iTunes book store) and Amazon (via…well…Amazon).  Guys with very established content like Scott Kelby, Trey Ratcliff, Bryan Peterson, Thom Hogan and even our buddy Scott Bourne will have some very interesting opportunities and decisions.

For me, I own Scott Kelby’s books in Kindle form.  Honestly, I wish I had it in book form, too.  There are some things I like just fine in electronic form, but for really engaged reading, I like a physical book.  For something like Scott’s book, I;d love to have both – I’ll be scanning through it today on my ThinkPad tablet during my daughter’s ice-skating lesson for tips on indoor flash techniques… 😉

What are your thoughts on where this is all going?  Do you like a “real” book or are you going e-book?

Lytro Light Field Camera – See the Unseen

I didn’t get to see it, but Scott Bourne of Photofocus.com did.

He put a few thouhts on his Flickr stream and he’s actually on the Lytro front page.  It looks like cool technology, and I’m guessing it will evolve into something interesting over the next several years…

Back to my CES write-ups…