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You are hereHome > Articles > Leica Enters the Four Thirds Standard

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Leica Enters the Four Thirds Standard

In the August issue of LFI (Leica Fotografie International), Holger Sparr writes [in an article titled, The Four Thirds Beat] about Leica's entry into the Four Thirds Standard with the introduction of the Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph (together with the Panasonic Lumic DMC-L1 DSLR) and how this digital standard fits into Leica's product portfolio.

There is an interesting discussion of why the 4/3 Standard imposes a relatively large distance between lens-seating surface and image plane [to ensure minimal vignetting in the wide-angle area]; the rather broad bayonet opening forcing a retro-focus design [to ensure a near tele-centric light path, with light rays impacting on the sensor as perpendicularly as possible]; and whether, in retrospect, Olympus should not have urged sensor manufacturers to produce sensors that tolerate a few degrees more diagonal light rays.

There is an acknowledgement that the smaller exposure format did not produce the hoped-for significant size and weight advantages over compact 35mm digital SLRs, and that may be a big reason why other DSLR manufacturers have been reticent to jump onto the 4/3 bandwagon.

Why then did Leica commit to the 4/3 Standard?

Leica's participation into the 4/3 Systems is to provide a solution for beginners. Where the R and M sytems target an exclusive and demanding audience who will not tolerate quality tradeoffs for lower price [implying that the Digital M will be produced using the highest standards and indeed be able to proudly bear the legendary M badge], the 4/3 Systems provides Leica an opportunity to make its products available to a more wide audience at reasonable prices, "especially considering that the cost-intensive hand manufacturing in Germany is bypassed. Even so, the quality will correspond to what customers expect from Leica."

The Digital M will most probably have a crop factor of 1.33.

For the Digital M, Leica does not intend to introduce lenses tailored to its smaller sensor format -- thus making us wonder if this leaves open a distinct possibility to move the Digital M to a full size 35 mm image sensor in the future.

The Digital M will have manual -- not auto -- focus.

The advantages the 4/3 Systems has brought to Leica lenses -- with its image stabilizer, autofocus, and larger depth of field -- could make it "a practical alternative within the Leica programme for reportage and action photography."

"Whether, when and in which form Leica will deliver their own Four Thirds camera has not yet been voiced concretely."

Now Leica lenses can be directly compared with competitors'. And Leica is banking on the fact that the high quality of its lenses will attract more photographers to the 4/3 Standard -- and to their 4/3 lenses. Tune in to Photokina to know which lenses are in the pipeline.

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