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2011.03.28

Shortly after Neocamera’s review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2, questions of how much bulk can be saved with Micro Four-Thirds  compared to a DSLR system became much more frequent. Both Micro Four-Thirds and DSLR cameras vary in size, but people are most interested in comparing compact SLDs like the Olympus E-PL2 and small cropped-sensor DSLRs like Canon Rebel T3.

Compact SLDs themselves show about a 25% savings in weight and 70% in volume compared to small DSLRs. Just as with laptops, saving space is more important than saving weight.  While this already shows a good advantage towards Micro Four-Thirds, the bulk of a camera system is usually made up of lenses. Among cropped-sensor DSLRs, for example, it is very common for a single lens to be heavier than the camera. Add several more lenses and the relative weight of the camera becomes less significant.

While the original Four-Thirds system had trouble providing significant savings in bulk, the Micro Four-Thirds system fairs much better.  A look at Olympus’ Micro Zuiko lens line-up shows this. All the lenses there are light and amazingly compact. While some DSLR makers provide  very small lenses too, such as the Pentax DA 40mm F2.8 Limited, those are few and far in-between.

As a total system, Micro Zuiko lenses provide a range of focal-lengths from 9 to 300mm, equivalent to 18-600mm in 35mm terms, in a volume comparable to two juice bottles. This feat is unmatched by any set of DSLR-compatible lenses.

It takes 3 lenses to cover this range, the M.Zuiko 9-18mm F4-5.6, 14-150mm F4-5.6 and 75-300mm F/4.8-6.7. These 3 lenses weigh 865g together with a combined volume of 841ml.

DSLRs with a cropped sensor need lenses covering the 12 to 400mm range to provide the same angle-of-view range. There are certainly various options, with differences in aperture or holes in the range, but to cover the same range, the lightest DSLR lenses are the Tamron 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5, Tamron 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 and the Tokina 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6. Together these weigh 1824g with a volume of 1552ml. Brand name equivalents are heavier with Sony generally providing the lightest options for zoom lenses.

Between these Micro Four-Thirds and Cropped-DSLR sets of lenses, the DSLR lenses use up almost twice the volume and more than twice the weight. This clearly shows that the Micro Four-Thirds system is living up to its defining factor.

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