Glossary of mFT terms
Camera maker Olympus and sensor manufacturer Kodak created the Four Thirds standard as a means of providing an imaging system that was designed from the ground up for digital photography. In particular, tele-centric lens design was intended to explicitly accommodate the requirements of digital sensors for orthogonal light reception. Other objectives were interoperability within the open standard, as well as light weight and compact equipment size.
As a side effect of the launch of the FT-system in 2003, a whole new set of terms and acronyms was born. Then in 2008 when Panasonic released the G1 as the first Micro Four Thirds camera, the system-specific terminology became even more complex, so that it now ranges from Anti-Shock to ZERO-Coating. The listings and explanations below aim to cut through this jargon and help users to better understand and appreciate their camera and lens system.
If you think that there is an important entry missing, please let me know. And if you can already provide a tentative definition, that would be even better. Just drop me a note by email and I will add the new term to the listing. Thanks in advance for your help!
- 2x2 Control Dial:
- 43rumors.com is a website dedicated to reporting news on Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras, lenses and accessories. It started out in March 2009 with the aim of collecting information on FT and MFT system equipment from official and inofficial internet sources. In particular, 43rumors relies on a network of collaborators to publish information on new products before these are formally released. Rumors are rated according to the past track record and credibility of the sources on a five-point scale from "probably fake" to "almost certainly true". 43rumors also reports on web-based reviews of cameras and lenses, as well as on commercial promotions and deals. The site is operated by Andrea Pizzini, an Italian-born film maker, photographer and digital camera enthusiast, who lives near Antwerp/Belgium. The site depends on affiliate commissions and banner advertisements for its income, but is not associated with any photographic equipment manufacturer. Over time, 43rumors has grown into one of the most popular photography news sites on the web, with an audience (according to estimates by similarweb.com) of more than 1.2 million user sessions per month.
- 4K Photo:
- 4K Photo is an operating mode on selected Panasonic mFT cameras that lets photographers extract single frames with a resolution of 8 MP from 4K recordings. 4K Photo is different from simply grabbing a simple image from video footing by making it possible to select a still image-friendly aspect ratio, choosing aperture and shutter speed values optimized for still capture, and providing full EXIF information for the individual image. The operating mode is particularly useful for capturing the "decisive moment" of fast-moving subjects.
- 6K Photo:
- Similar to 4K Photo, 6K photo makes it possible to extract still image frames from high resolution video footage. The operating mode was introduced by Panasonic in 2017 with the GH5. 6K Photo frames have a resolution of about 18 megapixel.
- Body-cap lens:
- Body-cap lenses are thin, low prices lenses, first released by Olympus in 2012 in the form of the 15mm f/8 (and later joined by the 9mm f/8 Fisheye). They are supposed to replace a body cap, while making quick snapshots possible. The body-cap lenses have a fixed aperture, are manual focus only, and do not communicate with the camera in any way. Their optical design is simpler than that of other mFT lenses, and Olympus refrained from providing them with the M.Zuiko designation.
- Conversion lens:
- Conversion lenses have been released by Olympus and Panasonic as low-cost alternatives to their interchangeable lens lineup. These light-weight lens supplements attach to the front end of the standard camera lens via the filter thread and make it possible to achieve fisheye effects or enhance the wide-angle, tele-photo, or macro photography capability of the standard lens. Olympus and Panasonic have been promoting their conversion lenses particularly in relation to their 14-42mm kit zooms, but the add-on lenses can also be used with some other optics.
- Decoration ring:
- Decoration rings are available as accessories for certain Olympus mFT lenses. They attach to the lens via the bayonets of the lens hood or tripod mount adapter, when the latter are not in use. Decoration rings provide a smoother appearance to the lens and, in some cases, make it possible to add a color accent. Moreover, decoration rings that cover the studs of the tripod mount adapter, such as the Olympus DR-66, can help to avoid irritation when shooting hand-held.
- DFD – Depth from Defocus:
- Depth from Defocus is a Panasonic-technology, first introduced in the GH4, to improve autofocus tracking of moving subjects. DFD calculates the direction and the amount to move the focus lens based on two images captured with different depth of field in connection with knowledge of the bokeh characteristics of the attached lens. This information makes it possible to jump to the new focus point in a single movement, instead of the gradual and slower "trial and error" method of standard contrast-detect AF systems. However, the technology only works with Panasonic lenses, as DFD is not part of the Four Thirds standard.
- DMC – Digital Media Camera:
- DMC is an abbreviation that Panasonic uses as part of its product code for all Lumix cameras. Apart from stating that the camera uses digital storage media, the acronym does not carry any technical or differentiating meaning. Other consumer products from Panasonic, such as televisions or electric shavers, also carry a "family acronym" in their product name.
- Dual IS (Image Stabilization):
- Dual-IS is a handshake correction system introduced by Panasonic with the Lumix GX8 that combines lens-based OIS technology with sensor-shift, body-based stabilization. According to Panasonic, their O.I.S. lenses correct for two axes of motion, while their sensor shift mechanism compensates for four. The combination of the two systems yields stabilization across all five axes of motion. Panasonic claims that Dual-IS on the GX8 is 3.5x better at wide-angle and 1.5x better at telephoto compared with the stabilization provided in the GX7. Most lenses with Mega-OIS or Power-OIS that were released prior to the GX8 can be updated to support the Dual-IS functionality via firmware (the exceptions are the 14-45mm, 45-200mm, and 100-300mm). An improved version (Dual IS 2) was introduced with the Panasonic G80/G85. It combines in-body stabilization across five axis with two axis of stabilization provided by Lumix OIS lenses. Selected lenses can by upgraded via firmware to take advantage of the more effective hand-shake correction of Dual-IS 2.
- Dual VCM (Voice Coil Motor):
- Dual-VCM is a focusing system introduced by Olympus with its 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO zoom. It is based on the separation of the focusing lens elements into two VCM groups that are simultaneously controlled by their own linear-drive motor to produce extremely quick, quiet, and precise focusing. Voice coil motor systems are based on rectilinear motion, with the coil being the only moving part. This makes it possible to achieve high-speed autofocus and accurate positioning with virtually no sound. Dual VCM represents an evolution of the Movie and Still Compatible mechanism in earlier Olympus lenses.
- Equivalent focal length:
- Equivalent focal length is a measure that indicates the corresponding angle of view of a lens and sensor size combination, expressed in terms of the traditional 35mm film format. A given lens mounted on a camera with a small sensor will generate a narrower angle of view than the same lens used in combination with a full frame 35mm format camera. Hence, in order to get a similar angle of view, the photographer has to use different focal lengths on small sensor and full frame sensor cameras. The diagonal of the Four Thirds sensor is half as long as the diagonal of a full frame 35mm sensor, giving rise to a format factor or 2. The equivalent focal length of a (m)FT lens, thus, is half as long as a given full frame lens in order to yield the same angle of view. For example, a 25mm lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera has the same angle of view as a 50mm lens on full frame. A secondary dimension of equivalence concerns depth of field. As its equivalent focal length is shorter, mFT provides deeper DOF. Equivalent depth of field can be calculated by multiplying the aperture value used on a small sensor camera by the format factor. For example, a 1.4/25mm lens on mFT is equivalent in both focal length and DOF to a 2.8/50mm lens on 35mm full frame.
- ESP – Electro Selective Patterns:
- ESP is a Olympus-specific metering method that meters the brightness of the center and the surrounding areas separately. In recent cameras, ESP meters exposure in more than 300 areas of the frame and optimizes exposure accordingly. For example, metering gives priority to any faces that are being detected. Olympus recommends the use of ESP for general use.
- Evolt is a marketing designation for non-professional DSLR cameras that was used by Olympus in North America up to 2007. The E-410 and E-510 were the last cameras marketed as EVOLTs. There had been three EVOLTs earlier (E-330, E-500, E-300), bringing the total to five (the E-400 was only sold in Europe).
- FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology):
- FAST is a Olympus autofocus tracking system introduced with the PEN E-P3. The FAST chip reads image data off a large number of separate focus points spread over nearly the entire sensor. This is achieved at a speed of 240 frames-per-second, which leads to shortened image blackout in the viewfinder and enables photographers to better track fast action.
- Focus Stop Buttons:
- FP-TTL – Focal Plane-Through The Lens:
- FP-TTL is an Olympus flash mode that makes it possible to use flash at high shutter speed, notably for fill-in portraits in bright sunlight. The flash fires multiple pulses in coordination with the movement of the shutter, such that the entire focal plane gets illuminated, even as the shutter speed exceeds the camera's sync speed. Similar features at other manufacturers are often labeled as High Speed Synchronization.
- FT – Four Thirds:
- Four-thirds.org is the official website of the Four Thirds consortium. The site is maintained by Olympus, but also features information on products from other consortium members, such as Blackmagicdesign, Cosina, Kowa, Panasonic, Sigma, and Tamron. The content on four-thirds.org includes information on the history of the system, catalogs of past and present cameras and lenses, and a matching tool that makes it possible to visualize different camera and lens combinations.
- Gradation is a function available in Olympus camera menus to affect the brightness and contrast of the processed image. By choosing a particular setting, the photographer can create or reinforce a certain mood in an image. The gradation tool can be activated either before a shot or ex-post during in-camera raw editing.
- HD Video Support:
- HD Video Support is a feature of many Panasonic mFT lenses implying quick and quiet autofocus operation and smooth aperture change during movie recording. As a result, continuous AF tracking is available during video capture, no operating noise is being picked up on the audio track, and no sudden jumps in exposure occur when the aperture changes. Similar to the MSC mechanism in Olympus lenses, Lumix optics with HD Video Support use an inner focus, direct-drive, linear motor for focusing action.
- Hidden menus are sections of camera memory that contain information for Olympus and Panasonic service personnel, such as errors that the camera's operating system has encountered. One piece of very useful information that the hidden menus reveal is the number of shutter actuations the camera has performed so far. Separate instructions on how to access this shutter count information are available for Four Thirds, Olympus mFT and Panasonic mFT cameras. More information on how to interpret the hidden menus is contained in the camera's service manual (see, for example, the respective Panasonic pdf downloads).
- HG – High Grade:
- High Grade is a designation of a dust and splash proof series of Olympus FT lenses aimed at enthusiast photographers. The set comprises 6 zooms and 4 prime lenses. The 2.8-4/12-60mm, 2.8-3.5/50-200mm and the 2/50mm Macro were particularly appreciated by FT-shooters for their very good imaging performance, while being relatively compact and accessibly priced. At times, these three HG optics were referred to as the "Holy Trinity of Four Thirds". – In some countries, the lens series was called "Pro Grade" instead of HG.
- Hybrid-OIS (Optical Image Stabilization):
- Hybrid-OIS is a system to reduce the adverse consequences of camera shake during movie recording, introduced by Panasonic initially in some of its camcorders and then also in its cameras (first in the Lumix GX8). Hybrid-OIS provides video stabilization across all five axis of movement. This 5-axis stabilization is achieved by combining lens-based OIS, which can adjust for movement along up to four axis (horizontal, vertical, yaw and pitch), with electronic stabilization, which in the case of Hybrid-OIS corrects for movement around the lens axis ("roll").
- IBIS – In-Body Image Stabilization:
- Imager AF:
- Imager AF is an autofocus technology that uses the imaging sensor to achieve focus with Olympus mFT cameras and lenses. It is also available in Olympus FT cameras and lenses released since 2008. The Imager AF technology uses contrast detection to secure focus.
- Jitter problem:
- Jittering has been observed by several users when shooting video handheld with selected Panasonic lenses using OIS. Apparently, the image stabilization system generates micro vibrations that can become annoying distractions in movie footage (see this Youtube video, for example). The 14-140mm II and, to a lesser extent, the 35-100mm seem to be affected. The jitter issue is limited to video, though, and does not cause any problems during still photography.
- Joint Update Service:
- The Joint Update Service for lens firmware is a common project of Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, and Tamron. This initiative lets photographers use any FT or mFT camera to update their lens by connecting to the internet and downloading the latest firmware. Hence, it is not necessary to have a camera from the same manufacturer as the lens to update the lens-firmware.
- Eastman Kodak was a founding member of the Four Thirds consortium and in 2003 supplied the sensor for the first FT camera, the Olympus E-1. Kodak had been one of the pioneers of digital imaging and its E-1 sensor was highly appreciated for its truthful color rendition. However, the company was slow to adjust to the rapid decline in its core film business and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The Kodak brand name for digital cameras was subsequently licenced to JK Imaging. The latter joined the Micro Four Thirds System Standard Group, and in January 2013 launched its first MFT-camera, the Kodak Pixpro S1.
- L-Fn button:
- Leica D/DG:
- Lumix is the brand name used by Panasonic for its cameras and lenses. The company claims that the term Lumix is derived from a combination of "luminance" and "mix", with the latter referring to the joining of Leica's optical know-how with Panasonic's expertise in electronics. This collaboration is said to have created a quality in imaging that none of the partners could have achieved on their own.
- M.ZD – Micro Zuiko Digital:
- M.ZD is the designation of Olympus Micro Four Thirds-lenses. The company categorizes its optics into three series: M.Zuiko (standard) is a set of lenses that features compact and lightweight construction, M.Zuiko Premium consists of an array of fast, elegantly designed primes, and M.Zuiko PRO is a range of weathersealed, fixed maximum aperture lenses dedicated to professionals.
- Mega-OIS (Optical Image Stabilization):
- Mega-OIS is a lens-based system to reduce the adverse impacts of camera shake, used by Panasonic and Leica in some FT and mFT lenses. The feature was introduced with the very first FT lens from Panasonic, the Panasonic-Leica 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5. In practice, Mega-OIS provides a stabilization benefit of about one stop, so that an image that could be taken blur-free at 1/15 sec without stabilization, could be taken at 1/8 sec if Mega-OIS is turned on. The subsequently released Power-OIS system is more effective, particularly at low shake frequencies.
- mFT (or m43) – Micro-Four-Thirds:
- MSC – Movie and Still Compatible:
- NSC – Nano surface coating:
- Nano surface coating is a coating technology used by Panasonic on newer mFT lenses to reduce ghosting and flare. It consists of an extra-low refractive index coating with nano-sized structure. Panasonic claims a dramatic reduction in reflections across the entire visual light range.
- OM-D is the designation of Olympus mFT cameras with an integrated, centrally-located viewfinder. The design of the OM-D cameras with a large, angular viewfinder housing makes reference to the company's analog OM Series, which started with the OM-1 back in 1973. Three lines of OM-D's have been launched that differ in features and size: The (relatively) large E-M1 is weathersealed and features a sensor with phase-detect pixels, so that it can autofocus legacy FT lenses as quickly as an FT camera. The mid-level E-M5 is equally sealed against dust and moisture, but relies exclusively on contrast-detection for autofocus. Finally, the compact E-M10 also uses contract-detect autofocus, but does not feature any weathersealing.
- PEN is the brand name for Olympus rangefinder-style mFT cameras, reminiscent of the half-format cameras marketed by the company from 1959 to the early 1980s. The PENs feature a stylish metal finish for their small-sized bodies. In addition to the main line of E-P cameras, Olympus also released a E-PL (PEN Lite) range and a E-PM (PEN Mini) series, which are more compact and have a simplified interface without control dials.
- Pixel mapping:
- Pixel mapping is an Olympus function to ignore dead or stuck pixels. When a user launches the pixel mapping function through the camera's menu, a firmware algorithm searches for individual photodiodes that are dead (always black) or stuck (always white). If such pixels are found, an interpolation procedure explores the pixels around the dead or stuck pixel, maps their locations, and inserts estimates for the data the malfunctioning pixel should be delivering.
- Post Focus:
- Post Focus is a feature on selected 4K-capable cameras from Panasonic that lets photographers chose the point of focus after an image has been taken. Post Focus makes use of Panasonic's DFD technology, while shooting sequences of 4K-video at 30p. The feature works by continually adjusting the focus point in each of the 4K frames. The photographer can then ex-post select the area on the image that should be in focus, and the camera will compare the frames it captured before putting forward the one in which that chosen area is best-defined.
- Power-OIS (Optical Image Stabilization):
- Pro Capture:
- Pro Capture is a shooting mode introduced by Olympus with the OMD E-M1 ii. It is designed to grab the decisive moment in fast moving action, such as taking a picture of an arrow piercing through a row of water-filled balloons. When in Pro Capture mode, the camera will continuously buffer full resolution images once the shutter button is half pressed, and on full shutter release will save the image taken plus the 14 previous consecutive frames.
- Quick-AF is a function on selected Panasonic cameras that speeds up the focusing process. With the Quick-AF mode enabled, the camera acquires focus on the object in front of the lens even without the photographer half-pressing the shutter button. Hence, the object is always in focus and the camera is ready to take the shot when the decisive moment arrives. On the downside, Quick-AF runs down the battery faster, as the camera is permanently re-focusing.
- Roadmaps of upcoming lens releases have been used by both Olympus and Panasonic during the early stages of the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds systems. These outlines of future lens releases played a critical role in informing early adopters of the path of development for the lens catalog. Being new mounts without any fully compatible legacy lenses, the roadmaps helped to re-assure users that a broad selection of optics would become available in the near term and that it was, thus, worthwhile to buy into the system.
- SCP – Super Control Panel:
- The Super Control Panel is an easy access grid that makes it possible to quickly change core settings on Olympus cameras. It is displayed by default on the camera’s panel display when using the viewfinder to preview the image for shooting, but can be customized to also show when using live view shooting. The Super Control Panel provides one touch access to functions like ISO, white balance, metering, sequential shooting, self timer, and focus mode.
- SG – Standard Grade:
- Standard Grade is the designation of an Olympus FT lens series developed for cost-performance and portability. Many of the lenses in this series were sold as part of camera/lens-kits. This includes the ZD 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and ZD 40-150mm f/4-5.6 lenses, which at the time of their launch were the world's smallest and lightest DSLR zooms for their respective focal length range. Unlike the HG and SHG optics, SG lenses are not weathersealed.
- SHG – Super High Grade:
- Shutter Shock:
- Shutter Shock is image blur caused by shutter vibration in mirrorless cameras. At certain shutter speeds – typically 1/20s to 1/200s – the movement of the shutter causes the camera body to vibrate, which leads to image degradation. The problem can be avoided by using the electronic shutter (if available) or the 0 sec Anti-Shock mode on newer Olympus cameras.
- Simulated Optical Viewfinder (S-OVF):
- SSWF – Supersonic Wave Filter:
- SWD – Supersonic Wave Drive:
- SWD is a fast and quiet autofocus motor used in some Olympus lenses. SWD uses an electric motor powered by ultrasonic vibration. The technology is similar to Panasonic's XSM autofocus system. Olympus claimed in 2007 that the new ZD 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD lens then provided the world's fastest autofocus speed when mounted on an E-3.
- Tatsuno Quality:
- Tatsuno Quality is a quality standard for Olympus lenses named after the plant where the lens standards are conceived and formulated. Tatsuno is a city of about 20,000 inhabitants in the Nagano prefecture. This region, which is about 3 hours by car from Tokio, has a long tradition of precision engineering.
- Tele-centric Lens:
- TruePic is the designation of the image processing engine used by Olympus in FT and mFT cameras. This digital system processor translates the information from the Bayer sensor into a color picture and performs noise reduction and image sharpening. Subsequent versions of the engine have offered improved imaging fidelity and operating speed. Panasonic cameras use the Venus engine.
- The Digital Camera Updater is a freeware for Mac or PC that is used to update the firmware of Olympus cameras, lenses and accessories or to add display languages. It is available as a standalone application or integrated into the Olympus Viewer package. The Updater supports all FT and mFT cameras, except for the Olympus E-1.
- Venus is the name of the image processing engine used by Panasonic in its Lumix cameras. Similar to Olympus' TruePic, this set of microchips processes the signal from the imaging sensor to generate the colored image, reduce noise, and sharpen the final image. Over time, progressively better performing versions have been implemented in FT and mFT cameras.
- Wrotniak.net is a website that publishes news, information and reviews of Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras, lenses, and accessories. The focus of the site, which is maintained by Andrej Wrotniak, is on Olympus equipment. Wrotniak.net is particularly well known for its camera cheat sheets that guide Olympus users through the often complex camera menus and explain the various configuration parameters.
- X-lens is the designation of a series of Panasonic mFT premium lenses that feature power-OIS, nano surface coating, and special-glass lens elements. The group comprises the constant aperture f/2.8 zooms (12-35mm and 35-100mm), as well as the two 14-24mm and 45-175mm powerzooms. All X-lenses are suitable for High-Definition video recording.
- XSM – Extra Silent Motor:
- XSM is the designation of fast and quiet autofocus motors used in some Panasonic lenses, notably the Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph. OIS. Similar to SWD, XSM is based on supersonic oscillation. In addition to silent and seamless operation, the technology also provides high responsiveness, accuracy and focusing stability.
- Yi Technologies is a China-based imaging company that started out by producing action cameras. In 2016, Yi launched a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera based around the m4/3 mount, the Yi M1. The camera presented a noteworthy innovation by relying on a user interface that is almost entirely touchscreen-based.
- ZERO – Zuiko Extra-Low Reflection Optical coating:
- ZERO is the designation of the coating technology used on recent Olympus lenses. The ZERO coating is an application of thin layers of material on lens surfaces in order to reduce ghosting and flaring, and thus to obtain more contrast-rich and color-accurate images. Also, the coating improves scratch resistance and lens durability.
- ZD – Zuiko Digital:
Micro Four Thirds has been developing rapidly with the regular release of new cameras and lenses. Information on upcoming lenses can be found on the Olympus roadmap and the Panasonic roadmap. Also, did you ever wonder how many shots your mFT camera has already taken? Find out on the Olympus shutter count and the Panasonic shutter count pages.