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How could Olympus diversify with m4/3?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by OzRay, Aug 2, 2014.

  1. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Taking a different approach to the thread on a rumoured Olympus FF, which I think is a silly idea (as really is medium format), I posed an idea that Olympus could diversify in a number of ways to increase the versatility and maybe desirability of m4/3s. So what could Olympus do to maximise on what they already have with m4/3 and do something different, yet complimentary?

    The first thing that comes to mind is a 4K video camera that takes full advantage of their existing technology of IBIS, lenses etc. I'm talking about a pure video camera similar the BMPCC and BMCC, but with full AF, exposure, etc. Take out all the still photography elements and make it simply a high quality video camera with a full 4/3 sensor and 4K capable. One version could be based on an E-P5 form-factor and the other perhaps on something like this, but with greater features (which I'm certain they could replicate and which would reflect existing high end video cameras) and that could complement their existing high end sound recorders :

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Secondly, maybe they could take a leaf out of the Leica manual and produce a pure B&W sensor body, but clearly at a price that is way less than what Leica charge. A pure B&W sensor would have advantages over B&W conversion and, provided in a compact body camera, could be the street/documentary photographer's delight.

    Any other ideas?
  2. ahinesdesign

    ahinesdesign Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 6, 2011
    NC, USA
    Panasonic has leveraged m4/3 in a dedicated video camera in the past with their AF100, although its a bit outdated these days at 1080 max resolution, and just plain outgunned by the GH4; the AF100 is also priced far from the consumer market.

    A video-only or video/stills camcorder-style hybrid with m4/3 mount and sensor would probably do ok if priced competitively, so long as its not handicapped by poor codecs and limited I/O jacks. Coupled with Oly's 5-axis IBIS to such a cam would really shake up (smooth out?) the consumer camcorder market!

    If they insist on drawing from past designs, MF isn't too far removed from many camcorders on the market.

    Sony tried something similar with their NEX E-mount camcorders.... wonder how those are selling?
  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I realise that Olympus doesn't have much experience in video (as far as I'm aware), but what if they worked with Blackmagic to produce even a replacement for the BMPCC with a m4/3 sensor? Blackmagic must already be part of the 4/3s Consortium, being able to use the active m4/3 mount. With Olympus experience in camera and lens design, and Blackmagic experience in video, that could be a very powerful combination. They'd be better off with that, than tongue in cheek suggestions of rebadged Sony A7 cameras.
  4. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
    Three random ideas -

    I'd say trying a m43 sensor in an xz-1/2 replacement - something like the original Pens or SP/RC rangefinders. Go head to head with Sonys super-compacts. The 14-42 and 12-32 pancakes put a lot of bang into a tiny package - likely even smaller without worry about making it interchangeable.

    Software could also be huge - I still think Olympus could get a head-start by porting their interface to an Android (or similar; I'm OS agnostic) OS and publishing a plug-in API for developers and camera-tweakers. Hide Android itself from shooters - you just want a mini-app store eco-system for camera plugins and make these plug-ins easily accessible via SCP or similar. If your dev community is good these could be ported to other phones - instant new revenue stream. The tight hardware coupling would still make it advantageous to goto Oly hardware & lenses first.

    Get the optics division to cut a deal with a mobile phone company - get a Zuiko onto an iPhone (or Nokia Lumia). Nothing to do with m43's but it'd be another low-overhead revenue stream.
  5. GBarrington

    GBarrington Mu-43 Top Veteran

    It isn't clear to me that Olympus needs to diversify. I think Olympus, as a camera company, has always seen itself as a sort of a quirky boutique provider of cameras that just aren't like other cameras. It has seemed that way as far back as I can remember, and photographically, my memory extends to 1963 or so. They seem to thrive (relatively speaking) when stay true to that vision, and not so well when they try to be a "me too" camera manufacturer.

    An excellent example is 4/3s. the whole idea sort of struggled to gain traction and respectability when they were producing VERY good, but nothing special, DSLRs. Then they decided that mirrorless was the way to go, The camera bodies changed, the lens mount changed, and the name changed by adding a symbol that few people had on their computer keyboards, but none of the stuff that was uniquely fourthirds in nature changed, and all of a sudden, 4/3s took on a respectability it never had before.

    I think the difference was that they finally took their original idea to its logical conclusions, and their interesting idea took on a practical reason for existing. I think Olympus just needs to be the 'oddball think differently' company it has always been. The good stuff will happen naturally if they do.
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  6. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    My personal view is that Olympus's imaging business will be absorbed by Sony as soon as Olympus finally closes its compact camera operation which could well be within the year.

    Actually Olympus's camera operation has incredibly low value added - principally Sony sensors. Epsom EVF, Nidec Copal shutter etc. Clearly they have considerably expertise in lenses (as well as I assume patents tied to IBIS.) To me it makes sense for Olympus to make lenses for Sony's E-mount whose lens range is pretty inadequate. In cameras themselves, Sony clearly has a competitive advantage in both sensors and in having a reasonably universal mount - APSC and FF.

    Really there isnt much more to a camera than a sensor and a lens - pretty much everything else is just add-ons.
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  7. Fri13

    Fri13 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 30, 2014
    By my opinion it would be required to be done by other features than video. Just update video to 25fps and 720p 60-120 fps and thats enough for video.

    Then start using the accessory port and dock port for attachements like one for interval photography, bring a GPS unit, bring a reflex sight etc. The both ports are very little used for anything. For video guys bring a larger display around 7".

    All kind things could be developed if wanted?

    What can physically be brought to photography cameras? Software is a another thing what could be improved with features like live compose!
  8. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I totally agree.... This is the complete view following the financial scandal. Reading that doesn't spark much confidence that Olympus is any position to branch out on "new ventures" at this time.

  9. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I guess 4k video is the current hot thing, but I'd be surprised if the market is really all that sizable. Plus it's going to be hard to sell people on the idea of a high-end Olympus m4/3 video camera when the video in all of their products to date has been distinctly below average.

    That could definitely get some interest if they package it in a good functional retro design. Like an E-P5 with a rationalized control setup. As a practical matter though, native B&W is pretty pointless though - you gain a little in noise, and lose a lot in terms of post-processing (can't adjust the balance of the various color channels).

    IMO, the way to broaden m4/3 appeal is with better sensors (largely out of their control), more high end lenses (largely in their control) and class-leading autofocus. The general photography market is shrinking, so there's only so much that they can do though.
  10. Fri13

    Fri13 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 30, 2014
    Show the video from previous models to avarage video camera users and they don't see what you are whining about (not You!).
    Then show E-M1 video to common professionals and they look at you (not You!) and ask are you serious? As they dont see such problems what many say Panasonic has as benefit.

    It is hard to find a professional who really would accept any DSLR or m4/3 Panasonic over their top dog cameras for what they have paid couple houses.

    Just saying it is like people whining they see pixels in prints size of a 4,6x3,4 meters when they look it from 2m range and pixel is 1mm size.

    How many has a top end TV at their home capable to play their video? Have they calibrates their TV/Projector as well in last couple weeks? Do they watch their videos in color calibrated room?

    If they are so serious about quality that they complain from E-M1 video, they can't be using even GH4 or hacked GH2....

    4k is nice marketing word. To get benefits from it, you need about 55-100" TV and how many has space for such size TV? How many is willing to pay ~$10k for such TV?
    Sure cropping is one but... Is there really others for video?
  11. m4/3boy

    m4/3boy Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 21, 2013
    The B&W sensor body idea sounds intriguing but I would prefer to see that produced with a FF sensor in a rangefinder style body similar to the GX7 with an articulated EVF and possibly a fully articulated LCD - and with no video at all.

    Unfortunately that kind of camera would be a niche product and not likely to generate large sales numbers. Perhaps someway to feature native IR and to control color sensitivity of the sensor. Setup configuration via computer would be a plus as well. Setups could be created and saved and downloaded to the camera. Hopefully the possibility of storing multiple configurations would be possible also.
  12. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    My thoughts on the video is mainly driven by how well, apparently, the BMPCC has been received. Working with Blackmagic could result in something outstanding, Blackmagic certainly has the imprimatur in the video world.

    A purely B&W camera would be a bit of whimsy, but if not difficult to implement, would perhaps bring new people into the fold, those who would otherwise not consider Olympus.

    Olympus already has agreements with Sony for lens technology transfer, exactly what that means hasn't been fully revealed. I also suspect that moving the camera division into the imaging division could be a way of protecting the camera component, I don't think it's something Olympus would willingly give away. It may not be profitable, but it's what most of the world (not into medical and science etc) sees as the soul of Olympus.
  13. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    A FF version would require new lenses and significant development, using an existing body would require relatively minor modifications, as everything is there already. Of course it would require the use of filters and the like, just like in the old days (unless they could be provided electronically). Sales would most likely be low, but as I suggested, when you look at all the B&W conversions going on, for those that like street/documentary photography, a relatively inexpensive (compared to the Leica Monochrom) B&W camera could have some degree of success.
  14. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team Subscribing Member

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I don't think diversification is right al all. Oly (and Pany) have invested vast amounts into u43 and they need it to succeed. The good news is that despite often quoted doom-mongerers, the tide on mirrorless is beginning to turn. The one remaining impediment is CAF performance and if Oly have any sense they'll address this as a top priority. Get this right and the appeal of u43 makes sense. It's still the mirrorless system with the widest and highest quality lens range available . Throw in some sensor upgrades (lower noise at low ISO) and deliver on the longer lenses already announced and I think they are well positioned.
  15. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I don't mean diversification with the intent to move to unrelated activities, but diversifying what can be done with existing m4/3's imaging technology. If all you rely on is one major product line or one major customer, it can put you in an invidious position if the market goes sour. Of course Olympus has many different interests, but I'm talking about how you could apply the existing technology in novel ways, to bring in new customers and get them to understand what m4/3 can offer in a broader capacity.
  16. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    There is an awful lot of tech talk on this site - yes we all like the latest tech. But being a company at the forefront of the latest tech isnt a license to print money - in fact it is usually a financial black hole. Take flat screen TVs for instance. Sony and Panasonic have been making them for 20 years and it nearly bankrupted both companies. And flat screen sales only took off when the cost of a flat screen TV actually fell to the price of a normal TV.

    Those people suggesting that Oly should diversify into 4k video should consider a few things. First, Oly knows the square root of very little about video cameras - this is not a good start if you want to make money. Second I dont really see enormous demand for 4k. If I look at video, I see the real growth coming from say Go Pro cameras - just ask your children. Yes 4k will eventually take off presumably when it is a common standard part of a smartphone. I am willing to bet that half the people suggesting that Oly should seriously get into 4k video, dont make much use of their existing video button. Afterall if you were genuinely interested in high end video you wouldnt be interested in an Oly in the first place.

    Corporate graveyards are littered with companies that wished to push the technology envelope. You know pretty much everyone with a crop sensor camera 'thinks' about buying a FF camera and pretty much everyone who owns a FF camera 'thinks' about moving to a smaller crop sensor camera. And the reality is probably that for each M43 user who moves to full frame there is a FF user moving to a crop sensor and probably a M43 user moving to the likes of a Sony RX100. And while as a consumer, we are perfectly entitled to be schizophrenic about our consumer choices, you cant be like that in the corporate world.

    The cold reality is one has to wonder what Olympus is doing still being in the camera business at all. The pure digital camera business is being massively eroded at the lower end by smartphones and is seeing massive price erosion at the top end. Having 4.5% global market share of a pretty ****ty business isnt much fun. Chances are that Oly's camera business will lose money until it is sold and if they leave it long enough before selling it, there wont be a buyer when they want to sell. All the camera companies were slow in linking up to smartphone companies, to the extent that I doubt a smartphone company wishes to link to a camera company now because they bring so little to the table.
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  17. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    You really have to ask what is Oly's M43 imaging technology. When it comes to cameras, I would say that it pretty much amounts to 'IBIS' and nothing else. They also clearly know a lot about making lenses. Now that suggests to me that if they want a successful business, they should be licensing their IBIS technology to other camera companies and making lenses for other mounts. You know Sony have brought a FF mirrorless camera. I dont think they have sold that many and I imagine it is losing them a fortune. I cant help but think that Zeiss on the other hand is on a nice little earner providing the lenses. I even the like the fact that Sony has to sell its FF mirrorless cheap because Zeiss likes to charge so much for its lenses.
  18. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    I've been hearing about the death of Olympus for so long it makes me yawn. Not to mention the death of the entire 4/3 idea. Olympus is in the camera business because it continues to make very, very good cameras.

    For me -- and many other people -- the E-M5 is a whole lot more than IBIS, which is nice but not the reason I bought the camera. It is the camera I had waited for that no one else came close to making. It fits my hand like a glove and is ergonomically everything I wanted. If it had no image stabilization at all, it would still be my primary shooter.

    Most people's crystal balls are murky with self-satisfied prejudice and questionable assumptions.
  19. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    That's why I'm suggesting staying within the technology that Olympus understands and has at hand, but considering some variations to that existing technology.

    Olympus already has video in their cameras, and has had it for some time, but not all that effectively implemented. Whether 4K is necessary or not, is not the right question (it's not necessary for me), but it's where things are headed and it's going to be a standard in all cameras at some point. I mean, 4K is coming to mobile phones, so if a high end camera doesn't have 4K, it'll be relegated to old, undesirable, technology. And while Olympus doesn't have a good handle on video, others do, but Olympus can build the cameras and lenses.

    I'm also not a fan of still/video hybrid cameras, I would much prefer to have a dedicated video camera, with everything optimised for video. But I'd also like to be able to use my existing 4/3 lenses in such a camera and be able to utilise their actual FOV. The BMPCC won't allow that, even though it has an active m43/ mount.

    As for why Olympus is still making cameras; it may not be making a profit, but it clearly isn't making massive losses, such that even the most diehard within Olympus has to admit that it's a walking dead. We also don't know what benefits the camera division provides in other areas, such as technology agreements with Sony and others. The knowledge within the camera side can be very valuable and once you get rid of that, you lose the knowledge forever. That has happened to many companies over the years, much to their regret. Then there is the potential for tax benefits by having a loss making component, this is not unheard of in the corporate world.

    I'm not sure how reliable this is, but it reflects the Japanese market (give up the camera market when they are doing so well in Japan?):

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  20. cbreiland

    cbreiland New to Mu-43

    Aug 1, 2014
    I'd like to see a weathersealed fixed lens 20mm 1.4 m43 body with ultrafast AF.

    A black and white sensor would have to be much better than current offerings to

    4k means much better 1080p from downsampling. 4k TV's will get cheaper. There are a lot of monitors/laptops with resolution greater than 1080p now. Working with BM would be a great move for Oly.
    • Like Like x 1
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