Cowabunga! Kowa joins Micro Four Thirds group, announces three bright prime lenses


posted Friday, February 21, 2014 at 8:30 PM EDT


During the CP+ tradeshow, an announcement from the Four Thirds group -- the body behind the Micro Four Thirds camera standard -- slipped under the radar, but it promises good things for mirrorless shooters. Three new companies have thrown their weight behind the Micro Four Thirds standard, taking the total up to 22 supporting companies.

The new companies planning Micro Four Thirds products include Kenko Professional Imaging, Tomytec and Kowa Optical Products. Kenko Professional Imaging is a pro photo/video products manufacturer and distributor, and a division of existing Four Thirds partner Kenko Tokina. Tomytec manufactures Borg telescopes, as well as a variety of lens adapters and extension tubes. Perhaps the most interesting of the three, though, is Kowa Optical Products.

Once a manufacturer of SLR film cameras and lenses from the mid 1950s to the late 70s, Kowa's last camera was 1974's Super 66. From then, the focus shifted to binoculars, spotting scopes and telescopes, although the company did experiment with an unusual spotting scope digital camera in 2003.

Kowa's three new Prominar lenses for Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Now, Kowa is back with three new lenses for Micro Four Thirds cameras. All are primes, offering retro designs and bright maximum apertures. And all three are also entirely manual, with mechanical rings for aperture and manual focus control. Their designs, says Kowa, combine aspheric elements and low-dispersion glass to tame distortion.

Of the three, the widest is the Kowa Prominar 8.5mm F2.8 MFT, yielding a 35mm-equivalent 17mm coverage after accounting for the focal length crop of a Micro Four Thirds body. With a maximum aperture of f/2.8, this lens is said to focus to 0.2 meters (~8 inches), and to have 0.12% distortion. Sitting in the middle in terms of focal length is the Kowa Prominar 12mm f/1.8 MFT, an even brighter 24mm-equivalent, f/1.8 optic that also focuses to 0.2 meters and has 0.59% distortion. And finally, there's the Kowa Prominar 25mm f/1.8 MFT, with a 50mm-equivalent focal length and f/1.8 aperture, 0.25m (~10 inch) focusing distance, and -0.57% distortion.

Pricing and availability for the new lenses hasn't been disclosed, but Kowa pledges to ship its new offerings this summer. More details -- for Japanese speakers, at least -- can be found on the Kowa website.