Interview of Aki Murata, Chief Operating Officer of OM Digital Solutions (OMDS).

pake

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BSI enables faster read outs as well, but not the same sort of jump as stacked designs do. A 1/500 readout with current tech would need stacked design, BSI would be a far smaller but easier improvement to implement
I think the sensor tech from Sony A1 could be what is needed to decrease the total exposure time to desired levels on m4/3 (as the tech is already there). But I bet those wouldn't come cheap. But then again... Cheap parts isn't what Olympus needs to gain more market ground. They need top of the line parts and features.
 

mawz

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I think the sensor tech from Sony A1 could be what is needed to decrease the total exposure time to desired levels on m4/3 (as the tech is already there). But I bet those wouldn't come cheap. But then again... Cheap parts isn't what Olympus needs to gain more market ground. They need top of the line parts and features.

I think it depends on what's coming next.

Stacked sensor tech would be amazing, but that's what should be going into the E-M1X.2 to really make it more than an overclocked E-M1.3. With enough horsepower, an E-M1X.2 could be a real game changer and make some of the gimmick modes (like 60fps) into really useful modes, plus greatly improving the performance of the multishot modes (which is what landscape guys like myself are after, I want multishot mostly for improved DR/noise, but the extra resolution is nice too).

Getting enough processor into the body does require a bigger power and storage budget, but I think Oly could certainly do so if they go for an EN-EL18-style battery in the grip and internal M.2 storage options, combined with a high-end ARM SoC like a Snapdragon 8xx or 8xxx series. Somebody really needs to think outside the box on camera processing and Oly is better than anyone else at that. Current camera SoC's are all extremely low power devices, both in terms of power draw and in terms of horsepower, compared to phone/tablet chips. This was the right choice 10 years ago, it's not necessarily so anymore.

BSI tech for the rest of the line. The E-M1.4 and E-M5.4 should have an unstacked BSI version of the sensor which should boost performance over the old version in all regards, including readout, but at a lower cost. Since Stacked sensors basically require BSI, it could be two versions of the same sensor (much as say the A9/II stacked sensor is a variant of the A7III BSI sensor).
 

JonSnih

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BSI tech for the rest of the line. The E-M1.4 and E-M5.4 should have an unstacked BSI version of the sensor which should boost performance over the old version in all regards, including readout, but at a lower cost. Since Stacked sensors basically require BSI, it could be two versions of the same sensor (much as say the A9/II stacked sensor is a variant of the A7III BSI sensor).
OM/Olympus needs a volume to achieve return on investments, or at least to reach a break even point. Otherwise they will go belly up again - as they did under Olympus Corp. Thus we will see such sensor in more camera bodies. Also they will follow at least 3year product cycle with the aim to reuse as many parts as possible.
 

mawz

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OM/Olympus needs a volume to achieve return on investments, or at least to reach a break even point. Otherwise they will go belly up again - as they did under Olympus Corp. Thus we will see such sensor in more camera bodies. Also they will follow at least 3year product cycle with the aim to reuse as many parts as possible.

agreed, that’s why any sensor updates need to be 1-2 variants of the same design

this is one reason I was critical about the E-M10.4, I thought that there was no justification for using a second sensor variant solely on a low-end body.

the E-M1X.2 can carry enough margin to support a variant sensor, nothing else in the lineup can
 

RS86

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this is one reason I was critical about the E-M10.4, I thought that there was no justification for using a second sensor variant solely on a low-end body.
But wasn't that sensor the same as in PEN-F earlier? Why not use that to get the megapixel jump plus a little more in performance, rather than give the new sensor to the cheap camera line? It was just reusing the old tech.
 

mawz

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But wasn't that sensor the same as in PEN-F earlier? Why not use that to get the megapixel jump plus a little more in performance, rather than give the new sensor to the cheap camera line? It was just reusing the old tech.

Yes, and they shouldn't have done so with the Pen-F either, but there was more volume back then to cover things (but I'd be surprised if Oly didn't take a net costing hit by having 3 different sensors in use across their lineup).

Sensor costs to the manufacturer are directly related to quantity ordered.

If you sell 250,000 cameras a year with a single sensor, that sensor will almost assuredly cost you less per sensor than selling 150,000 with that sensor and 100,000 with a second sensor, even if the second sensor is cheaper per unit. That's because the discounts for more volume can quickly exceed the cost difference of the sensor itself.

Look at Nikon, which is well on its way to eliminating sensor sprawl in their APS-C line (down from 3-4 sensors to two now, with the older non-PDAF 20.9MP sensor expected to go away this year) or Fuji, who aggressively tries to keep on a single sensor across each mount (note the X-A7 and X-T200 are not produced by Fuji, so the 3rd party making them eats sensor costs rather than Fuji).

With the E-M1X, the price per body is enough larger than the other cameras that a high-cost/low quantity sensor's cost can be readily buried in that high margin body. High margin pro bodies are the one place where normal sensor economics don't work, because there's so much margin in them (albeit that margin has to cover all the NRE of those low-volume bodies, so sharing bits with high-volume bodies pays off where possible)

The E-M10.4 is a low-margin body by design. I find it hard to believe that OMDS is getting real savings by ordering a nominally cheaper sensor for that body in smaller quantities rather than spreading their costs by buying 1 sensor variant and spreading it across their entire volume. One costing challenge OMDS is stuck with is that they buy sensors in relatively small quantities and the sensor designs are spread across a smaller market as m43's volume is much smaller, which leads to more expensive sensors in general (smaller orders as well as no external market). The only other company of note in the same boat is Leica with some of their FF sensors (the ones not shared with Panasonic) and they have a lot more working margin available to deal with sensor costs.

Note it is possible that OMDS is sitting on a stock of sensors due to buying a large quantity in one shot, then using stock as needed. It's also possible that Olympus committed to a certain quantity of each sensor in the past and OMDS is using the E-M10.4 to work through that commitment since the Pen-F did not sell in particularly large quantities.
 

BDR-529

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Note it is possible that OMDS is sitting on a stock of sensors due to buying a large quantity in one shot, then using stock as needed. It's also possible that Olympus committed to a certain quantity of each sensor in the past and OMDS is using the E-M10.4 to work through that commitment since the Pen-F did not sell in particularly large quantities.

Olympus not only made nearly $1B loss with their camera unit during last decade but they also made a staggering writedown of over $400M when it was transferred to JIP.

It's an industry practice that when small volume customer like Olympus signs a contract with a giant like Sony for IMX270 (which is a custom version of basic Sony IMX269 silicon with Oly PDAF cells), they must commit to a total lifetime purchase of at least X sensors at $Y per unit. The sole customer for IMX270 is Olympus so manufacturer must make sure it's profitable for them no matter what happens to customers sales.

Standard covenant covers transfer of ownership which means that Olympus proper was forced to either pay a penalty or top up Camera Unit sensor stock to X, hand the whole warehouse to JIP and write it down in their own books.
 

mawz

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Olympus not only made nearly $1B loss with their camera unit during last decade but they also made a staggering writedown of over $400M when it was transferred to JIP.

It's an industry practice that when small volume customer like Olympus signs a contract with a giant like Sony for IMX270 (which is a custom version of basic Sony IMX269 silicon with Oly PDAF cells), they must commit to a total lifetime purchase of at least X sensors at $Y per unit. The sole customer for IMX270 is Olympus so manufacturer must make sure it's profitable for them no matter what happens to customers sales.

Standard covenant covers transfer of ownership which means that Olympus proper was forced to either pay a penalty or top up Camera Unit sensor stock to X, hand the whole warehouse to JIP and write it down in their own books.

What I'm speculating is that Oly was stuck with a commitment to IMX269 as well, because it's the only reason I can think of that they would use it in the E-M10.4 over the IMX270 since they are committed to the IMX270 buy already. Its possible they did (remember, there's only a couple customers for the stock IMX269 as well)

I wouldn't be surprised if the contract was transferred from Oly to JIP/OMDS rather than a top-up, but only because JIP is already heavily obligated to Sony for other business lines (Sony still owns a chunk of the Viao business along with all the Viao trademarks, and that's JIP's primary business), but most likely you're right that the buy was executed and the stock handed over to JIP (probably the same for TruePic silicon). This actually may leave OMDS in a better place at this moment because sitting on too much stock of their core components insulates them from the current fab capacity issues plaguing everybody else right now. Nikon and Sony are both having supply issues for core components (LCD's for Sony, Expeed Processors for Nikon, based on current reports)
 

BDR-529

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(remember, there's only a couple customers for the stock IMX269 as well)
I have reason to believe that IMX269 which was the publicly available version of this sensor trio from the very beginning has a lot of customers in surveillance, industrial and even drone applications.

For example DJI did release a m4/3 drone camera in 2016 and the maximum burst of 20 DNG stills is exactly the active area of IMX269 sensor (5280*3956) but nowadays it could also be the IMX272 which was the panny-specific version that became publicly available last year.

https://www.dji.com/fi/zenmuse-x5s

It's even compatible with following panny and olympus lenses:
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm/2.0
  • DJI MFT 15mm/1.7 ASPH
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm/1.8
  • Panasonic Lumix 15mm/1.7
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm/1.8
  • Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm/3.5-5.6 HD
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm/1.8
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm/4.0-5.6
Apparently Panny didn't bother extending their exclusivity deal for IMX272 but olympus variant IMX270 contains their proprietary PDAF photosites which pretty much guarantees that OMDS will remain as the sole customer.
 

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