Dear OM-D, Please sell me a lens firmware update!

balazs

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Dear OM-D, Please sell me a firmware update that brings Sync IS to the new O100-400 lens!

I am sure that the O100-400 lens was designed, spec’ed and priced very carefully considering various alternatives, OM-D and not OM-D. The lens had to be priced near the PL100-400 for obvious reasons. This anchored the possible MSRP around $1500-$1800. However, OM-D also had to be sure they didn’t accidentally make the lens too good because that could have hurt PRO lens sales. The variable aperture makes it a non-starter for most pros, but in the age of AI-based noise reduction, lens speed is less critical than it was just a few years ago. So, how could OM-D guarantee that this lens won’t cannibalize any sales of the venerable O300Pro, which costs substantially more? Well, other than aperture, limiting IS capabilities is the most surefire way to ensure a clear differentiation between the two.

I believe the given explanation about how sync IS could not "fit" in this lens because of weight and size constraints is just a cover-up story - OM-D does not want to admit that this is about product positioning / pricing constraints and not about technological/hardware limitations. That’s fine, all companies do that, both the positioning-driven product functionality control and the lack of transparency about that. No problem with that, really. I don’t think this lens could have been any better positioned in terms of price and functionality, considering all the above factors.

Sync IS is one of the crown jewels of OM-D, one of the few unique differentiators they have, of course they carefully consider when to deploy it. Just like more and more elements of “computational photography”, Sync IS is a most likely software capability - I am sure it is implemented smartly enough that to be the case. That does not make it any less valuable, quite the opposite.

I am pretty sure OM-D could collect a bunch of extra revenue of the best kind - software sales, i.e. no unit cost - by selling a firmware update that enables Sync IS with the O100-400. I would buy such an update for up to $500 and I am sure many other owners of the lens would do the same.

This way the O100-400 can still successfully compete as a enthusiast super telephoto zoom with the PL100-400 (and other non-u4/3 alternatives) at its current price point and also realize an extra $500 in margin from those customers who want to use this lens handheld and want to get the most out of it.

The O100-400 lens with Sync IS at $1500+$500 would become a clear and obvious choice for OM-D users over the reference alternative - maybe even a reason to upgrade to - yet it is not a realistic alternative for professional users of PRO products - PRO lenses just provide better colors and contrast, something that better IS won’t help with.

Establishing a precedent of selling software features to existing customers could be a valuable precedent for the future where users of OM-D cameras might buy “apps” for their cameras for enhanced functionality, first OM-D apps only.

What do you think about OM-D selling software goods to enhance their products?
 

balazs

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More on the specifics of my findings with the O100-400. I tested this lens and the O300PRO in various shooting conditions, on tripod and handheld. After endless hours of pixel peeping, my conclusions are:
  • The O100-400 is a very high resolution lens across its entire zoom range. The amount of detail/information at 400mm is very close to that of the O300PRO (at 300mm of course) when both are used in optimal conditions: mounted on a tripod, delayed anti-shock exposures.
  • Pictures with the O300PRO are clearly superior in terms of contrast and color fidelity, but these are easier to address in post than lack of detail would be.
  • Most surprisingly: when handheld, the O100-400 performs worse when Lens IS and IBIS are both enabled as opposed to with Lens IS only, even at exposures as short as 1/1000s! The unsynchronized micro-motions of the IBIS working against the lens IS for a fraction of a millisecond create a very small but consistently present motion blur in the image, which results in loss of detail, compared to IBIS disabled and all other conditions the same. This difference is only visible at 100% but after cropping even just a bit, it is easy to get to 100% on a 4K display.
  • The above hypothesis based on “laboratory conditions” has been confirmed by my keeper rate and especially by the resolution/sharpness of the best (handheld) shots over two days of using the O100-400, day 1 with IBIS on, day 2 with IBIS off in otherwise similar conditions and subjects.
 

retiredfromlife

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Dont like the idea, but i hope they oneday do give the lens dual IS as i think the Panasonic combo is more usefull because of the dual IS.
I also think it more likely product seperation than a limitation of the hardware. Of course I am only guessing, but hoping as well.
 

ibd

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Most surprisingly: when handheld, the O100-400 performs worse when Lens IS and IBIS are both enabled as opposed to with Lens IS only, even at exposures as short as 1/1000s! [...] This difference is only visible at 100% but after cropping even just a bit, it is easy to get to 100% on a 4K display.
That's very interesting! Could you post some 100%-crops so we can see how much the difference is?
 

Darmok N Jalad

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What you are describing sounds a lot like many modern games today, especially on mobile. Many games are now cheap and/or "free to play", but they offer micro-transactions to progress or to have the competitive edge. In such environments, you end up paying way more to play that game than you would have normally--it's death by a thousand cuts. I don't think the smaller companies could afford to start this. If Sony or Canon kicked this off, then people would grumble, but they might tolerate it. If OM-D started it, people would just walk away. They'd have to make for some really compelling improvements.
 

balazs

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Don't give them ideas like that 😷

It used to be bad enough buying a PC then having to buy an operating system to take full advantage of the features.
Would you prefer a world where OM-D is gone in a year or one where they find a business model that helps them sustain their business and bring us new products every year? Of course at the end of the day, we are going to pay for it and since OM-D won't be the dominant player, they need to charge more per unit sold one way or another to cover fixed costs.
 

RichardC

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Would you prefer a world where OM-D is gone in a year or one where they find a business model that helps them sustain their business and bring us new products every year? Of course at the end of the day, we are going to pay for it and since OM-D won't be the dominant player, they need to charge more per unit sold one way or another to cover fixed costs.

Neither of us know how much they are making per unit at the moment.

The people behind OM-D do not appear to be mugs though, and they are selling 100-400mm lenses faster than they can make them just now.
 

RAH

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I think the added capability of sync IS could be possible as a paid upgrade, but for about $250, not $500. I'd be tempted by that (of course I'm tempted by any gear that appears to be worth the cost! ;) ). It would be kind of like buying a 1.4x TC.
 

balazs

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That's very interesting! Could you post some 100%-crops so we can see how much the difference is?
Absolutely, just did not want to make the original post too long. All of the pictures below are cropped SOOC JPEGs.

O100-400 @ 400mm, 1/1000s, handheld with lens IS on and IBIS on Auto:
_5092988-400-IBIS-ON.JPG
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(Unfortunately, this was saved at a lower ISO, so looks underexposed. I did process the raw file and boosted it to the same levels as the shot below, but wanted to show the effect with SOOC files. Just focus on the golden ears of the toy, the 1EV difference is not masking any detail there.)

O100-400 @ 400mm, 1/1000s, handheld with lens IS on and IBIS OFF:
_5092991-400-IBIS-OFF.JPG
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balazs

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BTW, a few images showing how good the O100-400 is when IS is not at play.

For reference, a tripod-mounted shot with the O300PRO at 5.6, probably as good as it gets:
_5092978-O100-400-300mm-100pc.JPG
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Now the same with the O100-400 at 300mm:
_5092978-O100-400-300mm-100pc.JPG
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And another pair of images to evaluate the performance at 400mm
Reference: above O300PRO reference image scaled up to 133%:
_5092973-300PRO-tripod-133pc.JPG
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And the same with the O100-400 at 400mm:
_5092979-O100-400-400mm-tripod.JPG
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Bottom line, the lens is great, IS is crippled.
 

RAH

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Interesting report. I am wondering, however, about your use of S-IS-Auto. This is the very unfortunate (IMHO) option Oly makes the default. For regular shooting, S-IS-1 is really the better option. It is described as "Image stabilization applies to motion on all axes." Maybe you deliberately used Auto instead, which is fine if that's what you think would work best (it is described as "Image stabilization applies to motion on all axes. If panning motion is detected, the camera will automatically suspend image stabilization on that axis."), but can you confirm that for us. :) Otherwise I think that another try would be very helpful, using IS-1.
 

Robstar1963

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I can almost guarantee that there would be widespread uproar if OMDigital Solutions started charging for software upgrades for lenses or any other equipment in a similar vein to complaints about Olympus not including Lens Hoods on some lenses and supplying them as accessories. I certainly do not see this as a way forward
Further to this I suspect that the limitation on IS functionality is due to hardware limitations
 

ibd

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BTW, a few images showing how good the O100-400 is when IS is not at play.

[snip]

Bottom line, the lens is great, IS is crippled.
Thanks a lot for these samples! The difference seems small. I will have to do my own tests with this. I'm still waiting for the lens to be shipped -- availability is still extremely limited around here.
 

doady

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You seriously think that 100-400mm F5-6.3 has full IS capability, but instead of advertising it and trying to attract buyers they are intentionally hiding it and even disabling it? Come on.
 

balazs

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You seriously think that 100-400mm F5-6.3 has full IS capability, but instead of advertising it and trying to attract buyers they are intentionally hiding it and even disabling it? Come on.
You seriously think if OM-D sold the 100-400 with Sync IS at the same price (cannot price it much higher because of PL100-400 with dual IS) that would not impact sales of the 300PRO, which impact would result in more loss in margin then what the increased volume in a lower cost item can bring in? We would have an alternative that has more range, same weatherproofing, very similar sharpness and same IS capabilities but costs about half. Would not help the prospects of the premium PRO lens.

We have to catch up with the reality that the differentiators are in software in almost every realm of our world and software is priced and sold very differently because of the zero marginal cost. Some people are still trying to fit physical good rules to marketing software.

I am curious those of you who think that synchronizing existing IBIS and existing Lens IS interventions is NOT a pure software communication/intervention problem and rather it requires specialized hardware, what do you base that theory on? The lack of sync IS in this particular lens can be fully explained with product positioning and market realities, so I don't think we need to call for the extra variable of "hardware magic required", but you might know something about the lens we don't - in that case, please tell us more.
 

Robstar1963

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You seriously think if OM-D sold the 100-400 with Sync IS at the same price (cannot price it much higher because of PL100-400 with dual IS) that would not impact sales of the 300PRO, which impact would result in more loss in margin then what the increased volume in a lower cost item can bring in? We would have an alternative that has more range, same weatherproofing, very similar sharpness and same IS capabilities but costs about half. Would not help the prospects of the premium PRO lens.

We have to catch up with the reality that the differentiators are in software in almost every realm of our world and software is priced and sold very differently because of the zero marginal cost. Some people are still trying to fit physical good rules to marketing software.

I am curious those of you who think that synchronizing existing IBIS and existing Lens IS interventions is NOT a pure software communication/intervention problem and rather it requires specialized hardware, what do you base that theory on? The lack of sync IS in this particular lens can be fully explained with product positioning and market realities, so I don't think we need to call for the extra variable of "hardware magic required", but you might know something about the lens we don't - in that case, please tell us more.
And what do you base your theory and assertions on - nothing more than assumptions !
 

PakkyT

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I am curious those of you who think that synchronizing existing IBIS and existing Lens IS interventions is NOT a pure software communication/intervention problem and rather it requires specialized hardware, what do you base that theory on?

I would base that theory on that the lens does not have all the actuators and supporting sensors for all possible axis of movement if they were not intended to be used. A system like that is always custom or requires a lot of customization of hardware, algorithms, and such to move a lens element in that complicated of a fashion. Do you think Oly spent a year (or whatever the development time of that lens was) developing all that technology, algorithms, and software on a true SYNC-IS system for that lens to then simply turn the switch to off on some of those axis of movement?

Just like earlier Oly bodies only had two axis of motion and later even when some of the upper models were getting 5, do you really think the lower end bodies with only 3 were just crippled 5-axis IBIS? I suppose you think i5 processors in computers are all really a software crippled i7? Or a four cylinder car is just missing 4 spark plug for the other 4 cylinders? :rolleyes:
 

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