I am an unabashed fan of the Micro Four Thirds format. I sold all my DLSR gear and am using MFT gear for just about everything. As a professional photographer, I am probably stretching it a bit by shooting only MFT, and here are five things that the Micro Four Thirds format needs to change the conversation, dethrone Nikon and Canon, and eliminate the notion that you need a DSLR for professional work.
1. More Players
Four Thirds (which led later to Micro Four Thirds) came about just seven years ago. The original members of the Four Thirds consortium were Fuji, Kodak, Leica, Olympus, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sigma. There were early rumors Nikon would sign on but they didn’t formalize those plans based on the research available to me. Since the advent of Micro Four Thirds, (2008) Fuji, Leica, Sanyo have essentially dropped out of the game and Kodak only recently announced a new MFT camera. Sigma has only produced a single MFT lens. Olympus and Panasonic are responsible for the vast majority of MFT gear. This limitation works against the MFT format. One more major player could change the playing field forever. Nikon is notorious for being difficult to work with. Canon is bigger and less likely to feel threatened by opening up its technology to MFT. But even if it were some other company (Sony likely to get involved since they own a big piece of Olympus now) got involved, it would matter. And it has to happen in my opinion for MFT to really dominate.
2. Pro Support
Canon has Canon Professional Service, Nikon has Nikon Professional Service and MFT makers – nothing. If you are a professional you need access to quick repair turn around. You need access to gear loans. You need the ability to test new gear. Currently, sending an Olympus camera for repair can take four to six weeks. How do I know? It happened to me. If the MFT camera makers want more pro uptake, which is essential to bring the consumer buyers on board, then they need to offer pro support. It’s a major failing that can easily be addressed. Canon started charging for CPS. Olympus and Panasonic could offer the same service and if they are concerned about cost, just charge money like Canon does. I’d rather have quick, reliable turnaround on repairs and know I can count on my gear being available when I need it than keep a few hundred dollars in my pocket.
The manufacturers need to invest in more education and photographers who use and support the Micro Four Thirds format need to jump in and help. I am doing my part. My pal Rich Harrington and I are working on training for Micro Four Thirds systems. There are one or two books, but there needs to be more. New photographers especially will need help making the switch and without the proper educational materials out there, the system will have a harder time gaining market share.
Canon has the Explorers of Light. Nikon has a less in-your-face system of Nikon mentors. Olympus has just a few people representing its products but ALL the MFT makers of lens and/or bodies need to work with high-profile photographers and other thought leaders in the field to get better representation. Because the mindset (right or wrong) of most new photographers is “Gee that guy made that picture with that camera so I could too.” Without the prominent voices in photography singing the praises of MFT gear, it will take longer than it should to gain MFT acceptability.
MFT just needs more. More of everything. More lenses, more fast glass, more accessories, more tours & workshops, more fixed aperture zooms, more bodies, more manufactures (as mentioned above) more, more, more. This format is in my opinion, a real common sense choice for lots of photographers. But the MFT market penetration is not nearly what it could or should be, because the manufacturers have been timid to really commit to the MFT format. Olympus and Panasonic are starting to ramp up here and I applaud them both for it. But we still need more of everything. When that happens, you’ll start to see even the cool kids shooting MFT.