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Wednesday, 06 July 2016


Why don't we just use a better name for the format? I've been an advocate of Mirrorless 4/3. After all, there is nothing micro about the format as many sensors are much smaller and the differentiation between 4/3 and Micro 4/3 is the lack of a mirror box, thus allowing smaller lenses with a shorter lens-to-sensor distance as well as smaller camera bodies. The sensor is exactly the same size. Those who care to use M4/3 or most of the other nomenclature could continue, if desired.

In the long run, the abbreviation always wins, so 'micro' already looks a trifle archaic (though that's no bad thing, and entirely consonant with the decades of wisdom which TOP embodies...).

I prefer M4/3, if only to prevent confusion, as M43 is to me a slightly outsize version of the ubiquitous M42 mount, and 'm' is a long accepted abbreviation for milli-.

My comment would be that the alternative to RAW is JPEG and to maintain consistency in names for this menu item choice, the use of of all caps might be appropriate.

One more reason for me to stick with FF and APS-C cameras.

This post makes me wonder how people who favor some of the more obscure permutations of Micro 4/3rds (See? There's yet another one.) ever find what they're looking for when they type it into a search field.


I'm curious. Both Panasonic and Olympus use "Micro Four Thirds." Why didn't you adopt their usage?

But m43 is just so much quicker to type. Like when you use "Canikon" to refer to Canon and Nikon.

"..It makes zero sense as an abbreviation for Micro Fourth-Thirds.."

Er ..that's the trouble with writing about typos, house-styles, etc: you set yourself up to trip over!

All the best..

I like your in-house style for the term. The one I see most often is "MFT" ubt being the age I am it brings to mine the old ads with LSMFT (Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco). That brings up another problem. Our penchant for acronyms means that now even the accepted accronyms have multiple meanings and depend on the context for the correct meaning.

The official registered brand name for this standard is Micro Four Thirds. The abbreviation is MFT. A strange thing is that Panasonic and Olympus are hardly using it. Maybe after all they consider it as a marketing mistake.

It is best to stick to the original brand names. If you don't refer to the brand but to the size then it would be micro 4/3 instead of Micro 4/3 with a capital M. You don't write medium format or half frame with caps either. Ergo it should be full frame too, not Full Frame, because that's not an official name or a brand.

You could write a similar article about 1", 1 inch, 1-inch, One Inch, one inch too.

I just discovered that the Micro Four Thirds sensor size refers to 4/3” in the same mysterious way one inch sensor refers to 1”.

I deal with the same issues frequently but not everyday. In scientific notation the letter Mu stands for micron, I believe. Maybe someone just eliminated the "n?" My constant companions in trying to be correct in my writing are The Associated Press Stylebook and The Elements of Style. Both are really useful, and I'm sure are well-known to you. I think you do a good job of navigating through a constantly changing universe of acceptable jargon and usage. Now if I only had a resource to keep me from being incorrect when I speak I'd be even happier. Sorry for not italicizing the publication names; I couldn't figure out how to do it in the comment box.

A great read about the 'old' New Yorker is James Thurber's book "My Years With Ross."

If Depth of Field (otherwise known as DOF) will be "D-o-F," can we expect that The Online Photographer (otherwise known as TOP) will new be abbreviated as "T-O-P?" ;-)

Acronyms are not always bad things.

Take care,


I propose µ..../... to honor a long tradition of ungoogleable brand names.

TOP is your blog, Mike, and you can write micro IV/IIIrds anyway that pleases you. And, say, isn't almost time for the "Camera of the Month" column?

I always thought RAW was appropriate. It is a generic representation of all the different unprocessed data names that are out there and they are all capitalized; CR2, NEF, ARW, PEF, DNG, etc.

2 cents.
Or would that be two cents?

OMG, thanks for this! "µ4.3" gives me a headache from all the eye-rolling it makes me do. And OLP makes no sense because the "L" in "online" begins a syllable, not a word. (Otherwise, why not "OLPTGP?")

'Mu' is of course the famous koan, the puzzle given to an aspirant meditator in one school of Zen. Does it mean 'micro'? Only the enlightened can tell us.

And of course in this very post you find the single quotation marks of standard British style. [What? In my post? Where? —Ed.] Should they be doubled? Ask the Enlightened One.

I don't think this post was too long. "House style" is a good thing. It can make understanding the content of any writing on the internet a bit easier. Since my own spelling is frequently tortured when I see assemblages of letters that I can't find in the OED I tend to get nervous and start skipping over entire paragraphs and I love reading long form "content", even on my bad laptop screen.

This may be a rather wacky, left-field sort of idea, but have you considered contacting Panasonic or Olympus on the subject? They came up with the system and may have a preferred contraction for the name.

Not to be pedantic, well, not too much,
"µ4.3" is wrong.

Four thirds is 1.3333...., so
"µ1.33" would be accurate, at least to three significant figures.

Come to think about it, there's nothing Micro about the micro 4/3 format. It should have been the mirrorless 4/3!! The format started life as a DSLR format other than the FF and APSC from Olympus. It was considered too small a format when compared with the conventional DSLRs, and the consortium (Oly/Pany) skipped the mirror and started the whole "mirrorless" revolution. They called it Micro 4/3 because the flange distance is shorter so they can develop cameras that are smaller -- the format is still the same, so in a sense, for describing the format, there is nothing "micro", it's the same 4/3.
And don't get me started with the whole mirrorless nonsense. Is the Sony A99 a mirrorless or a DSLR? Never mind......

Nothing in photography throws me for a loop more than when someone types 'MFT'. In my head it means Medium FormaT and I just can't seem to stop myself thinking that, thus making the ensuing comment about depth of field or weight tremendously confusing.


The Minnesota Science-Fiction Society, Inc., has a formal policy that there is no officially preferred abbreviation; and hence people use MNSTF, MN-STF, Minn-StF, and all sorts of other variants, still today more than 40 years after our founding. (It's pronounced "Minn Stiff", which is easy.)

It's the only case I know of officially rejecting a house style for your own name.

Oh, the "t"? The abbreviation, but not the name, is based on an old proto-name for the genre that Hugo Gernsback tried to promulgate very early (1915-1926): "scientifiction". (That's "scientific" and "fiction" crammed together so far as the letters overlap.)

(Our domain name is mnstf.org; I tried to register several variants, to preserve the convention, but this was when there was only one registrar, and before they even charged money by several years, and they turned down the longer variant. I suppose we could pick it up now, but everybody is used to the shorter one.)

I'm perfectly happy with m43, raw, apsc..though APSC is OK since it is an initialism, DOF, MFD(Minimum Focus Distance), MaxFD, etc. No need for extra keystrokes.

What I find very annoying is the convention of writing aperture values without slashes. "F5.6" is less meaningful (and uglier and harder to read, in my opinion) than "f/5.6". The slash communicates clearly (to anyone who paid attention in math class) that the aperture value is a ratio, and thus why the aperture at f/5.6 is larger than it is at f/11.

In fact, "F5.6" means the opposite of f/5.6. Focal length times 5.6. Grr.


Not to be trollish, but why abbreviate depth of field? More to the point, why the hyphens? And, if it need be abbreviated to avoid driving the reader or editor nuts when used repeatedly, why not just DOF?

Having mentioned The New York Times, I'll chip in with NYT not using Dr. for PhDs but using it for MDs and, wait for it, divinity doctorates as in Dr. Dobson of Focus on Family fame.

The most talented, sadly departed 😢, and dearly missed by many: Prince, had for a period of time, dropped the use of his name and adopted an icon: Love Symbol #2 to denote who he is.

The Micro Four-Thirds System (MFT) (Wikipedia nomenclature) has their own Trademarked icon too.

How totally cool it would be to use that icon as a glyph, much in the same way as we liberally use emoticons. No need for words, letters, or numbers and it worked for the ancient Egyptians. 😄

Well, there's also this: www.mu-43.com

The early Olympi and Lumi had that funny looking glyph, underscored by the word "micro"

I prefer M43 because it's short, and the M could mean mirrorless.

Roger that, I'll 4/3 go along with it ............

Agree. Language matters; words matter; when we use different words to mean the same think we confuse everyone (of course, using the same word to mean different things can be worse). The use of RAW has always bothered me, although I confess not Raw. But I'm happy to immediately adopt raw for all of my usage.

Of course the only real dispute is whether it should be written ‘4E-6/3’ or ‘$\frac{4\times10^{-6}}{3}$’. Some engineering publications claim ‘1.33E-6’ is close enough, and physicists, of course, work in units so that it's 1.

I'm happy I don't write about photography as part of work and therefore do not need to adhere to a style guide, so I can use micro four-thirds, mft, micro 4/3, m4/3, or μ4/3 as the mood takes me.

But I should mention the four-thirds.org site uses "Micro Four Thirds" (note: no hyphen), while the logo uses MICRO Four Thirds. :)

Two decades of technical writing and adhering to corporate style guides has left its mark...

I like this. There aren't many unnecessary words asking to be omitted from it. As somebody who spends time writing and editing I am interested in this sort of stuff. Care to share your TOP style guide?

Nikon has always named their "macro" lenses as "micro" which could be considered technically more correct but it depends on your perspective. Are you looking at something through the lens that is very small or is the lens making it appear very big?

I'm happy to use Micro 4/3 for several reasons. The numbers refers to a ratio (of the sides of the sensor), therefore 4/3 would seem to me the correct format. Micro however has nothing micro about it. It is being used to simply mean small - not very, very, very small as it should - and therefore, not having the literal meaning, could to me be validly abbreviated using the µ symbol not for its value but for its meaning. Being a proper noun makes capitalisation relevant though, so Micro 4/3 it is.

Since everyone is using tablets and phones for posting these days, I suggest the emoticon ♏️ or ♍️ for micro four thirds 😉

On the subject of raw files, do you know that Nikon and Fuji have both got it wrong?

Unbelievable, I know. But let me tell you that in the menus on Nikon and Fuji cameras, it says RAW (not raw).

Camera makers - what do they know, eh?

[You miss the point. The idea of "house style" is that all of the decisions are made in-house and company-wide so that everybody at the publication can conform to what everybody else is doing, and so create consistency. It often relates to what's believed to be proper and accepted, but, as the examples I gave make clear, not always. As long as Nikon and Fuji use "RAW" consistently, then it conforms to their style.

Style rules can be odd. I worked at one magazine which had some peculiar rules. One was that widows had to be a minimum of two words--absolutely, without exception. A widow of "...it's I." was acceptable, whereas a widow of "...antidisestablishmentarianism" would need an additional word on the widowed line. Which made no sense, but there it was. Another was that any American town name had to be followed by the state name using the traditional abbreviation set off with commas rather than the two-letter Postal code. Thus you could never say "the train pulled in to Hartford at dusk." It had to be "The train pulled in to Hartford, Conn., at dusk." And never, ever "The train pulled into Hartford CT at dusk."

It's the consistency of the usage that makes it a style point, not the usage itself.


...anybody remember the camera magazines when they always referred to anything associated with 35mm as "Miniature"?

I also realized the other day, while trading posts with a camera collector, that old 110 film format is virtually the same size as Micro 4/3rd's format! Just saying...

This reminds me of the first time I came across Fifth Third Bank. I thought it was a joke.

@Bob Cook

μ => Micro-

A micron is also a micrometer and is properly abbreviated as μm. Nanometers, though, aren't nanons.

m is milli-
M is mega-

so I'm surmising that's why they went to the greek lower-case mu (μ) for micro.

"Micro 4/3"

Thank you. Every time I see M43 used online, I wonder why people are talking about old M43 lenses. Even more so because they could be using those lenses on a Micro 4/3 body with an adapter.

I develop documents for IBM for a living and we are not supposed to use "/" to bring together two words or concepts. The reason provided by my editors is that non-English readers do not know how to interpret the forward slash.
Just food for thought

I get it for punctuationn. But when it veers into the territory where everyone says 'dog', it would be an odd publication that chose something else. No?

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