Photographers can expect to see ?dramatically? smaller and lighter interchangeable lens camera systems as Olympus and Panasonic announce the Micro Four Thirds System standard.

Recognising future growth in the digital SLR market the firms aim to win over compact camera users who find DSLRS ?big, heavy and difficult to operate?.

When compared to the existing Four Thirds System, the Micro Four Thirds standard is claimed to halve the distance between the imaging sensor and lens mount and enable the outer diameter of the lens mount to be reduced by 6mm.

The size of the imaging sensor remains the same as that featured in Four Thirds cameras.

The system’s slimmer dimensions have been made possible, we understand, by removing the mirror box.

There is no optical viewfinder. Photographers will be able to compose their shots in Live View, using the camera’s LCD monitor or electronic viewfinder.

At the same time the system enables the number of electrical contacts in the lens mount to be boosted from ?9 to 11?, according to the companies. This aims to allow support for ?new features and increased functionality in the future?.

There is no word yet as to when we can expect to see Micro Four Thirds System cameras and lenses in the shops.

However, the announcement is perhaps timely ahead of next month?s Photokina trade show in Cologne, Germany.

In a statement the companies confirm that they will continue to make Four Thirds System products.

It will be possible to mount existing Four Thirds lenses on Micro Four Thirds System bodies, via an adapter.

It is understood that Micro Four Thirds System products will also feature a movie mode.

Micro Four Thirds