Food for thought: general direction of m4/3 and competing with big sensors

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by noohoggin1, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. noohoggin1

    noohoggin1 Instagram: @tomnguyenstudio

    May 21, 2012
    Now with the bigger APS-C cameras (and now full frame with Sony) starting to shrink their bodies to almost-pocketable levels (not to mention real compacts increasing their sensor size), how does micro 4/3rds stay competitive in the mirrorless market?

    When they started a few years ago, it seemed that they were emphasizing the smaller size compared to the big boys to help appeal to a broader market. Now that the bigger sensors are starting to horn in on what was once thought to be m43 territory, where does that leave it now?

    My thoughts:
    Go even SMALLER (thinner?). :)  If a bigger sensor can do it, there's no reason that a micro 4/3rds sensor can't go even smaller. Of course, the micro 4/3rds lens mount will ultimately limit how small one can go.

    The mass market/techie crowd still seems to overall love "smaller and smaller," and this may be a direction that Panny/Oly (more likely Oly, since Panny seems to be going opposite direction these days) should consider to make themselves stand out again.

    As a disclaimer, I'm not one to fuss about buttons and "handling"; whatever the body, I will make it work. :smile: But I wouldn't mind a "truly" pocketable, capable camera (who would?). In fact, to me, just going thinner is a bigger pocketable advantage.

  2. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    APS-C Systems remain larger (lenses!) with only minimal additional appeal in terms if DOF control and almost none in terms if image quality, in my opinion. Cost and tracking AF are the only place they have a real advantage. Full frame compacts will remain niche until/unless cost drops significantly (and considering lenses, I doubt anything below 1500-1800 for Sony RX1 style prices). A good FF autofocus interchangeable lens system may appear but will always be larger, heavier and more expensive than an MFT system.

    How long will the system continue? It's going pretty strong in Asian markets and gaining traction elsewhere, so a while yet. I'm not too worried - end of the day, they're just tools. If these disappear, others will be there to take their place.
  3. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    I agree. Unfortunately, true miniaturization seems to be Sony's forte and not Panasonic/Olympus's. Maybe Sony's stake in Olympus will help them along in that regard. As much as I love both my m43 cameras, I'd love them even more if they were smaller.

    And I'm like you: I can adapt to a camera of almost any size if it's intelligently designed, and value small size over lots of "controls". I know there are many m43 users who have opposite priorities, but I also think there are many people like us.
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I think ultimately Micro 4/3 will bring out even smaller options, but even now there is a significant size advantage for MFTs. Take the Oly 45mm or 75mm primes for example and compare them to current 60mm or 100mm lenses for APS-C or 90mm or 150mm lenses for 35mm. When the day comes that Sony makes a 60mm NEX lens approaching the size of the Oly 45, Olympus may bring one out that is half that size and therefore truly pocketable.

    The great size equalizer is collapsible/extending lens design, but some of us prefer lenses that don't collapse/extend. My main pocket combo is a Panasonic 14/2.5 on an E-PM2, and while some of the newer fixed-lens APS-C cameras get down that small (Coolpix A, Ricoh GR), they use a collapsible lens which is not my preference.
  5. noohoggin1

    noohoggin1 Instagram: @tomnguyenstudio

    May 21, 2012
    I appreciate all your thoughts thus far.

    The funny thing is, once there was a time when I hated that Oly and Panny were going smaller. Next thing I know, I've jumped into it and encourage it. Weird how priorities change over time; who's to say I won't prefer bigger down the line?
  6. slothead

    slothead Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 14, 2012
    Frederick, MD
    The sensor size will dictate the minimum size based on the current lens design required to cover the sensor unless someone come out with a lens innovation. So, perhaps the next evolution of technology modernization will be in lens miniaturization.
  7. xdayv

    xdayv Color Blind

    Aug 26, 2011
    Tacloban City, Philippines
    I'll chime in my thoughts (take them as grain of salt).

    I think what Micro 4/3s should do...

    1. Better synergy between Panasonic and Olympus, unify the lens roadmap, share R&D for the Micro 4/3s system. Coop-etition.

    2. Better performing sensors that can perform competitively at high-ISO (6400, 12800 and beyond) and better dynamic range.

    3. Concentrate on prime lenses (especially on the extreme ends - UWA and telephoto).

    4. Share marketing strategies (and costs) to strenghten the whole Micro 4/3s system, not just on a specific brand basis.

    5. Improve AFC performance and reliability.
  8. Iansky

    Iansky Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    The Cotswolds, UK
    I think if we look at the positive changes in the Mu43 system since its inception we will realise just how far it has evolved.

    When I look back at images from my GF1 that were incredible from a camera that size then look at the improvements in the GX1 over the GF1 sensor/handling wise we can see a direct correlation between size/build/IQ and the ever improving output.

    The fact that the likes of Sony, Canon, Nikon and others are trying to reduce size demonstrates the success of the Mu43 footprint and its success in the market as more people forsake DSLR's for Mu43 size cameras even in the professional market.

    there are a number of pro photogs including Damian McGillcuddy (recently signed up in a partenership with Olympus) he shoots exclsuively with the OMD cameras and produces some stunning images up to 20x30" that are incredible and justify the use of MU43 for pro work.

    The partnership of Olympus & Sony I am sure will deliver an ever increasing IQ capability that many will wish to emulate and it has been proven that the current OMD sensor can equate to that of many APS-C sensors IQ wise as well as some full frame sensors in certain circumstances.

    If the MU43 family can improve AFC / tracking to make it on par to DSLR and enhance current EVF ( such as match Sony EVF) then I think we will see a continued growth in this market as I think the big boys are currently dipping their toes in the water to see the take up whereas Mu43 is fast becoming establsihed as the small, quality inter changeable format that offers a lot for a sensible price.

    Time will tell and I would not be surprised to see a new top end Olympus camera arrive later this year with much more Sony innovation on board.
  9. noohoggin1

    noohoggin1 Instagram: @tomnguyenstudio

    May 21, 2012
    Perhaps Slothead is right in that new miniaturization of lenses might be an interesting direction.

    I'm not disputing the fantastic progress that Micro 4/3rds has made thus far. Also, I'm overall quite satisfied about the current quality of equipment that Oly and Panny have put out.

    As far as gradual improvements in the expected areas (sensor image quality, autofocus, etc.), we can also expect these gradual improvements in competitors as well. That's why I ask, "Where else (or HOW) can Olympus/Panasonic separate themselves from the pack again?" And that's where I (my opinion only) believe they should play up the "size" game again.

    This issue pops into my head from time to time--and although I'm not fearful of micro 4/3rds succumbing in the future (hell I sold off my Canon DSLR rig for it), the fact that they are David compared to CaNikon's Goliath (not to mention other competitors like Fuji, Sony, etc.) should raise this awareness every once in a while to stay grounded and competitive.
  10. arad85

    arad85 Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 16, 2012
  11. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    Yeah, lenses are where 4/3 has a real advantage, especially on the long end. And there has been some really good progress in shrinking down the lenses since the format first came out, as well as keeping quality high. The recent announcement of the new 14-140 from Panasonic is a good example.

    If they can improve autofocus, it will make 4/3 really attractive to sports and wildlife photographers.

  12. giCe

    giCe Mu-43 Rookie

    Jan 27, 2013
    In addition to the smaller lens size. I think m43 system also has an advantage in part due to its non-proprietary nature and opening up doors for other companies to develop new lens/bodiee/etc for the system.

    I probably wouldn't want a camera much smaller than what is currently available.

    in the short term though, 4/3 can make leaps by improving continuous AF and maximizing sensor size performance. Until then, my 5d3 still has a place in my collection :) 
  13. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Diffractive optics will change everything ... soon, I hope.
  14. bengtb

    bengtb Mu-43 Rookie

    Jan 7, 2013
    I would like it if Oly/Pana made an X100(S) kind of a camera, but with m43 lenses. Today I have an OM-D and often I find the EVF a little slow when waking up.
  15. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    I do fuss about buttons and "handling". I'm not sure why that is in quotations, as it is not an imaginary issue, but real and of primary important to some of us. I love the E-M5 because I can shoot it manually with no trouble; I don't have to push then dial then push again to change my setting. The Pens I had prior to it, while I liked them a lot, were fiddly for changing shutter speeds, using the dial in the back, which I never liked. The E-PM1 gave great results, but was even more fiddly, so I don't have it anymore. Even exposure compensation on it did not have a dedicated button (push button, push arrow, push button again). All of these are personal preferences, and I made the E-P2, which I loved, work for me for a number of years. But if going smaller takes away buttons with access to direct control, I'm not interested. I keep praying the the next version of the E-M5 won't mess with its direct controls and give in to the smaller is better at any cost in functionality crowd. I'm quite content to carry a compact when I need the ultimate in portability.
  16. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    I think a fast-ish normal zoom priced at or under $400 is increasingly necessary to stay competitive. There are ~ 17-50/2.8 options available for DSLR shooters at very reasonable prices. We are lacking that. You can either spend $1000+ on Panny's 12-35/2.8 offering or shoot a slow zoom.

    Maybe Tamron will ride to the rescue on this?

    With regard to size driving m4/3s, I guess if you can improve upon the 14/2.5 + E-PM2 combo (better IQ; a bit thinner) you can provide a compelling option for people buying the new Ricoh or Nikon 28mm FLCs. Or a compact 17mm option to go after the X100 buyers.
  17. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    m4/3 will move forward because it is now a true system with lenses and accessories specifically matched to the cameras. No APSC system has that currently, not even Canilokny. If you want a 50mm equiv then onany of the DSLRs you use a lens designed for 35mm and sized for 35mm. Same for 70-200 and all the primes, APSC DSLRs still rely on 35mm lenses regardless of how small Canon can make a body with average AF and no weathersealing.

    Of the mirrorless options m4/3 has a far superior system. The sadly neglected Samsungs are next with Sony a distant and lost third. Fuji at least have a clear direction and are making lenses to match m4/3 optically. But they've chosen to target the middle/top end of the market (I think wisely) at this stage.

    So until someone in APSC "gets it" (or in Samsungs case "markets it") there's only two real small format systems. 35mm and m4/3. I think it's more likely that the APSC sensor will develop more "Merrill" style cameras where matched lenses to the sensor can produce stunning images in tiny packages (with other significant advantages such as no sensor dust etc) and bottom end SLRs. The true systems will be 35mm and m4/3 where each can present clear and distinct advantages over the other, making them both viable.

  18. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    Whoever launches a full frame mirrorless system that combines contrast detection and phase detection autofocus system and priced reasonably wins.

    Because APS-C is not the answer.

    Until then I'm happy with the compromise of m4/3.
  19. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Full Frame prices will drop - it's just a matter of when.
    Entry level APS-C DSLRs used to be $900-1000 USD......Not anymore.
  20. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    The "danger" (IMHO) is the big 3 doing the following:
    1) Dropping their APS-C line entirely
    2) Initiating affordable/professional medium format digital systems
    3) Lowering full frame system prices to APS-C/NEX/MFT prices

    Thus full frame becomes the new standard and medium format becomes the professional line.
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