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At the recent Photokina show, Olympus debuted their first micro four-thirds concept camera. The camera has a retro rangefinder look... but without the rangefinder. One thing is certain, Olympus has decided to take a very different approach than their micro four-thirds partner, Panasonic.
Panasonic's G1 four-thirds camera looks like a (very) slightly miniaturized SLR - including the familiar "hump" - though there's no prism or mirror there. Olympus opted for more of a point-and-shoot style, which takes better advantage of the format's possibilities.
Micro four-thirds uses the same size sensor - 18mm x 13.5 mm - used in many digital SLRs. But the use of an LCD viewscreen allows manufacturers to eliminate the bulk of the mirror and prism - theoretically allowing for much smaller camera with similar capabilities.
But I couldn't help but think that someone has already done this... only much, much better.
That someone is Leica, and the much, much better is the M8, Leica's digital rangefinder.
The M8 is nearly as small as the Olympus concept camera - less than an inch longer, a half-inch higher and just 15/100 inch thicker. The M8 features interchangable lenses, just like micro four-thirds. And without the mirror, the Leica is whisper quiet.
But the M8 features a 10.3 MP sensor that's literally twice as large (18mm x 27mm) as the micro four-thirds standard. And that means more vibrant colors, better detail and less noise. And, being a rangefinder, the M8 sports an optical viewfinder. It's not through-the-lens, but optical beats LCD every time.
And, of course, it's a Leica - which means access to arguably the best lenses and accessories in the world.
The only drawback? With a list price of $5,995, the Leica is out of reach for most photographers.