Olympus has quietly announced the end of the Four Thirds System in a product catalog listing the current lenses available for M4/3 cameras.

The announcement appears in small print Page 23 of the catalog, which is available here http://www.four-thirds.org/en/common/pdf/catalog2017_en.pdf, and reads: Production of all ZUIKO DIGITAL Four Thirds lenses has been discontinued. This is a logical decision since neither Olympus nor Panasonic, the primary manufacturers of Four Thirds equipment, has released any cameras since 2010. Both companies have moved solidly into the Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) System, thanks to technological developments that have allowed innovations that benefit photographers.


 The first Four Thirds System camera: the Olympus E-1. (Source: Olympus.)

When the system was launched at Photokina 2012, it featured a smaller sensor that enabled the production of smaller, lighter cameras and lenses than existing DSLRs. Built around a 5-megapixel CCD sensor, the Olympus E-1 ““ the first  camera released ““ introduced the  ‘Supersonic Wave Filter’  dust reduction system and telecentric lens designs but was reliant on a reflex mirror viewfinder; just like existing DSLRs.

The second innovation was Live View capabilities on the camera’s monitor screen. This was introduced in the E-330. Before long, manufacturers realised that the video signal used for live viewing could also be used for recording movie clips. Olympus wasn’t the first with that innovation; the Nikon D90 claimed the prize in 2008. However, Olympus was the first to combine dust control, live view and built-in  image stabilisation  in a single camera: the E-510, which was unveiled in September 2010.


 Panasonic’s first Four Thirds camera, the DMC-L1. (Source: Panasonic.)

Panasonic took a different route, announcing its first Four Thirds camera, the DMC-L1 in February 2006. This rangefinder-style camera featured the same Live View and SSWF dust-removal capabilities as the E-330. Subsequent cameras released by Panasonic alternated between rangefinder and SLR body styles until Olympus and Panasonic jointly announced the development of the Micro Four Thirds System in 2008 and Panasonic launched the first camera in the system, the Lumix DMC-G1, in October of that year. It was followed in April 2009 by the DMC-GH1, the first model capable of HD video recording. The first Olympus model, the PEN E-P1, was shipped in July 2009.

Subsequent cameras released by Olympus and Panasonic have continued to develop imaging capabilities, with Olympus focusing a little more of making small and light cameras with superior imaging performance and Panasonic extending the cameras’ video capabilities. With their latest models we see innovations in both directions that give M4/3 cameras capabilities that leave the latest DSLRs marking time.


 Panasonic’s soon-to-be-released Lumix DC-GH5 camera introduces new 6K Photo modes and professional 4K video capabilities. (Source: Panasonic.)
 Panasonic takes the lead in video,  successively introducing 4K recording and 4K Photo modes across its camera range and extending into 6K Photo modes with the new DC-GH5 camera. Olympus has also moved to support 4K video at a professional level in its recently-released OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera and both companies have developed a comprehensive suite of lenses for the M4/3 system.


The latest Olympus model, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II combines high-level stills capabilities with pro-level 4K movie recording. (Source: Olympus.)
 The addition of lenses from third-party manufacturers like Sigma, Voigtlander, Tamron and Kenko Tokina has further extended the lens options until users of M4/3 cameras are as well catered for (and in places better served) in their choice of optics as users of the major DSLR brands.

Companies specialising in video equipment, like Blackmagic Design, SVS-VISTEK and JVCKenwood are also developing products for the M4/3 system. Currently, more than 50 camera models use the M4/3 mount and more than 100 lenses are available, so the system looks set for a bright future.