Is Olympus going in the wrong direction?

DeeJayK

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I think that even in pure telephoto reach terms, FF has some potential ways of evening the field a little including simply using APSC lenses (since some of these FF mounts have both) in crop mode for smaller size and more reach, if they wanted to they could even make a m43 crop from the sensor with a button push and sell m43 sized lenses…if demand is there they will likely go down that path…what if Sony makes such a lens, what will Olympus do, how will they respond…hopefully they are pondering these questions.
This post got me thinking. My first question is why someone would buy a FF camera and then throw away 3/4 of the sensor in order to use m43 sized lenses.

But say such a market develops. Why wouldn't/ couldn't OMDS jump in and simply adapt their existing m43 lens designs to Canon or Sony mirrorless bodies. That would certainly be cheaper than designing new optics from scratch, right? In this scenario OMDS would survive by essentially turning itself into Sigma.

As it is, OMDS doesn't control their sensor development, having outsourced that to Sony or Panasonic, two competitors who have little incentive to build cutting edge sensors for a competitor. And Olympus's historical strength has been lens design.

I could imagine a future path that sees them focusing only on lens development. As a m43 user and Olympus fan I'd be sad to see that happen, but it does have some logic to it.

- K
 

Leolab

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This post got me thinking. My first question is why someone would buy a FF camera and then throw away 3/4 of the sensor in order to use m43 sized lenses.
This is the same argument that many folks who walk into stores struggle with...with todays FF cameras being similar in size to m43, with IBIS, good VFs, similar weight, similar price BUT with a 4x bigger sensor with higher MPs, most people ask themselves why they would buy the m43 kit when it throws away 3/4 of the sensor vs the FF kit.

In practice the 43 sensor is simply a crop of the FF sensor, so some day soon FF will be able to do everything we currently hold dear about m43 if they choose to do so. They can make the same size lenses as m43 just cropping the sensor, BUT they also have the flexibility of using full sensor for higher resolution, they can do High-Res mode today with oodles of MP, they can and are starting to have a great choice of very small primes, they also have the option of larger faster primes if low DOF is required/desired. Some FF bodies today are even too small to be ergonomic.

If Sony chooses to focus on small m43 lenses that use the crop from the FF body for size and weight I would certainly be interested for exactly the same reasons I would be interested in the same thing for my m43 kit.

I struggle to see one single thing that Olympus does today that cannot be done with FF, whether they (Sony, Canon...) choose to do that is another thing entirely, but we have seen how rapidly the FF mfrs have adopted technology that Olympus had first in mirrorless, things that we believed would be long-term competitive advantages and drove us to choose m43, including IBIS, smaller kit...In some areas the competition has passed Olympus by notably AF and VFs being larger, better and higher res...I hope OMDS has a cogent strategy to stabilize the business in light of what seems some aggressive competition.
 

Leolab

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I could imagine a future path that sees them focusing only on lens development. As a m43 user and Olympus fan I'd be sad to see that happen, but it does have some logic to it.
If OMDS can't see a path as a m43 camera maker, then why not join the FF fray with something that differentiates them from the competition, there are some untapped markets in FF space that they can take advantage of.

I would be VERY interested if Oly ported their 'small, professional' philosophy to the FF space...I suspect many others in this forum would also dive in.
 

pake

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Problem with that is m43 becomes diffraction limited much earlier than 35mm. It is reasonable to make a FF lens that starts at f5.6 in order to make it small since diffraction won't start to effect the photos until you get up around f/12-ish so you have over two stops of headroom. With m43 if you start at f5.6 and diffraction is said to start to show f6-ish, then you are basically starting right up against that and the lens will only drop in image quality as you stop down from wide open.

This is of course "in theory". In reality the effects of diffraction probably only becomes noticeable at even smaller apertures to most people depending on the subject and the tolerance of the observer of the image for quality. But still, the fact remains that m43 can not be downsized very much in aperture compared to FF in order to shrink a lens size without compromising image quality.
And you (and everyone else who brings up the diffraction "issue") are forgetting that with full frame you need to stop down to get the similar photo/DOF than with m4/3. So you'll end up in (more or less) the same diffraction zone with the full frame even though m4/3 enters that zone earlier.
 
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DeeJayK

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If OMDS can't see a path as a m43 camera maker, then why not join the FF fray with something that differentiates them from the competition, there are some untapped markets in FF space that they can take advantage of.

I would be VERY interested if Oly ported their 'small, professional' philosophy to the FF space...I suspect many others in this forum would also dive in.
Except that unless they develop their own sensor or partner with a sensor supplier which is not a direct competitor in the ILC space (not sure one exists), then they'll still be limited in the same way they are today.

Building out a full suite of FF lenses for a new proprietary mount would take a lot of capital, which I doubt they have. It makes more sense to me, if I were running OMDS to lean into my core competency in designing and building great lenses, than trying to compete with the big boys (who likely have deeper pockets) on their own turf.

I'm not advocating this approach or hoping it comes to pass, just thinking about what makes financial sense for OMDS.

- K
 

Leolab

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Except that unless they develop their own sensor or partner with a sensor supplier which is not a direct competitor in the ILC space (not sure one exists), then they'll still be limited in the same way they are today.

Building out a full suite of FF lenses for a new proprietary mount would take a lot of capital, which I doubt they have. It makes more sense to me, if I were running OMDS to lean into my core competency in designing and building great lenses, than trying to compete with the big boys (who likely have deeper pockets) on their own turf.

I'm not advocating this approach or hoping it comes to pass, just thinking about what makes financial sense for OMDS.

- K
They could just buy Sony sensors, seems like everybody else is as well including Nikon, Sigma?, Leica? maybe Panny for FF?, or work with Panny

I would not recommend that they go after a new mount but join the L-Mount alliance like Panasonic did. A lot of the know how related to AF protocols and the like is likely open to those that join. I agree that lenses should be the calling card/differentiator vs the other FF competitors and i actually think that there is most room for innovation/differentiation there.

I think that whatever makes sense from a financial perspective overall for OMDS will strengthen their long-term commitment to m43...we may see them get distracted with some FF lenses at the expense of m43 short term to flesh out the offerings but successful they will have the $, resources and leverage to make m43 more profitable for them if they have a larger revenue base over which to defray the fixed costs of running the company/maintaining lens capability centers...
 

Brownie

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This post got me thinking. My first question is why someone would buy a FF camera and then throw away 3/4 of the sensor in order to use m43 sized lenses.

But say such a market develops. Why wouldn't/ couldn't OMDS jump in and simply adapt their existing m43 lens designs to Canon or Sony mirrorless bodies. That would certainly be cheaper than designing new optics from scratch, right? In this scenario OMDS would survive by essentially turning itself into Sigma.

As it is, OMDS doesn't control their sensor development, having outsourced that to Sony or Panasonic, two competitors who have little incentive to build cutting edge sensors for a competitor. And Olympus's historical strength has been lens design.

I could imagine a future path that sees them focusing only on lens development. As a m43 user and Olympus fan I'd be sad to see that happen, but it does have some logic to it.

- K
It's closer to half, or just a little under. A 24MP sensor become 11.8, the 61MP sensor ends up at 28, I think. If the new A7 IV comes in at the expected 30MP, a cropped sensor shot would probably be around 14MP.

And one of the main reasons from a marketing standpoint is that it allows people with E-Mount APS-C lenses to use them on their new FF cameras while they remortgage the house for new FF lenses...
 

PakkyT

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If Sony chooses to focus on small m43 lenses that use the crop from the FF body for size and weight I would certainly be interested for exactly the same reasons I would be interested in the same thing for my m43 kit.
If you don't mind getting only 1/4 the pixels as you would get with a dedicated m43 sensor, which might be fine for some.

If OMDS can't see a path as a m43 camera maker, then why not join the FF fray with something that differentiates them from the competition, there are some untapped markets in FF space that they can take advantage of.

I would be VERY interested if Oly ported their 'small, professional' philosophy to the FF space...I suspect many others in this forum would also dive in.
I say pull a "Sigma". Keep the m43 as your house brand of cameras and lenses then design, manufacturer, and sell lenses for all the other mounts as well (APC and FF). Why try to compete with your own FF camera when you can simply sell excellent lenses to the owners of the other brands' FF and APC cameras.

If OMDS ever tried to go with a FF system, I am sure a lot of us would give it a look, but I suspect many of us would not buy it simply because it is OMDS. OMDS would have to do something (lower price, better functionality/features, etc.) that makes the new entry intriguing. Simply being the same as the rest of the herd won't work especially if with a proprietary mount and the chance they go out of business leaving a dead system both being possibilities.


And you (and everyone else who brings up the diffraction "issue") are forgetting that with full frame you need to stop down to get the similar photo/DOF than with m4/3.
I don't need to stop down anything. Similar to what? If I am out with my FF f5.6 lens then I am going to shoot it however I want to a get photo I am happy with. I certainly am not going to sit there and go "hmmm, how can I make this shot look like f5.6 on m43". That's just a silly argument.
 

Leolab

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If you don't mind getting only 1/4 the pixels as you would get with a dedicated m43 sensor, which might be fine for some.
Today's FF sensors can easily be had at 42-60+MP, so it would not be 1/4 the MP of todays m43...FF sensors are 3.9x the area of m43, so a 60MP FF sensor cropped to m43 would mean ~16MP, yes less than the top end current m43 offerings of 20MP, but not 4 times less
 
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I live in the Arctic and am able to view and photograph amazing wildlife and cultural activities. A colleague of mine and permanent resident of the North has a second career documenting and archiving through photography Inuit art and cultural artifacts for top-tier museums, galleries, archives, art dealers, and similar. This includes official Government of Canada documentation for various agencies and native organizations. She is in demand across the Arctic in these activities, but, referring back tot he wildlife, she also takes a lot of natural world photos. She shoots Nikon FF exclusively. D850 and abundant glass and very recently a Z7II.

Her FF work with the full DR and large sensor IQ is a necessity in her field. Other than medium format, there are no exceptions. It is now the standard, especially resolution, and for faithfully capturing visible artworks only the best sensors with full DR capable of archival processing are accepted. These are institutional and peer review standards. There is no alternative to the larger sensors now. That's why FF has captured pretty much the entire "pro" market.

It's a different matter for her wildlife images where she dutifully hauls her 400mm out into the field alongside my 40-150/2.8 Pro with MC-14. That's her US$13k lens against mine $1500k kit. And my E-M1X in relative terms costs less than her D850. Mine has superior video (by far). My kit is 15% $$ hers for the same FL and and I am far, far more mobile, which when following kit foxes or a caribou herds or beluga whale pods is beneficial.

Can my m43 sensor deliver pro quality? Not really. Not after photoshop and massive pixel adjustments that pros rely on for commercial success or meeting institutional standards. But SOOC I am so close it makes little difference compared to the convenience and cost. I am far above the smartphone crowd and far below her price points. No, m43 cannot compete on absolute pro level IQ. It's an impediment to the sensor and that's OK. It makes up for it in mobility and price (up to a point...the value proposition gets iffy at the normal to wide angle products) and other features like IBIS and video. Did I say video? They FF shooters here ask for my video output, and I am just an amateur aiming a camera at a herd of 10k caribou! My E-M1X with IBIS and/or my 5k Gorillapod is so versatile at getting the shot it's worth it.

Is there a large enough market for the m43 format without the "pro" subsidy dispersed across profit lines? Hard to say. As a second system? Sure. As a primary system for the adventurous? That's me. It's ideal. Can Olympus OMDS survive without a pro market? Not sure. Will the f/1.2 primes make up the difference? Hard no. Can't make up the sensor deficit, not even close. So the f/4 zooms are a terrific offering for the system and excel at telephoto imaging and video.
 
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You can't even define what "pro quality" is, let alone declare something not meeting your imagined standard. It is a made up, non qualifiable term. But tell me, what defines this "pro quality" to which you speak?
That which is accepted by those who pay for imaging works or for institutional purposes. I see many professional photographers here and they don't use m43 because its not accepted by their profession as a de facto standard. My colleague who photographs fine art, textiles, sculptures, archaeology, etc.requires the highest quality available by which her peers and the institutions she works with also use. If that's a 40MP FF sensor system with full-on dynamic range identified in colour accuracy and profiles for archival or reproduction purposes, then that's the working standard. Can m43 meet that? No. It cannot. That's by design. It's a compromise of the small sensor and the market position of the m43 alliance. It's an advantage larger sensors enjoy in the professional realm and that's an unequivocal fact when discussing with professional photographers. This woman's prints are in the Canadian archives (in the thousands documenting Inuit artifacts and art), at least 4 museums, dozens of galleries, and somewhere in the UK with QE2. You don't get to that status by compromising your equipment.

That said, when we were out photographing wildlife, she was lugging and I was there and back again before she'd even got her tripod set up (in a cloud of mosquitoes). And my video was superior. Were her FF shots superior in IQ? Yes. That's the sensor at work. Can't help that. Larger sensor = more data. She took $15k of gear to my $3k of gear. She was in a truck and got less far onto the tundra than I could on an ATV. Will her sensor-level IQ get her into magazines and for ad display? Yes. That's what her kit does and and is designed for and why the pros pay those $$$. That's the system, the market, the expectation. She's a pro. She uses pro equipment designed for her purpose and accepted by the editors and archivists she contracts with. Once the bar gets set in any profession, that's where it stays. For stills, m43 doesn't deliver in many, many professional settings. Video is another matter.
 

lucanus81

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That which is accepted by those who pay for imaging works or for institutional purposes. I see many professional photographers here and they don't use m43 because its not accepted by their profession as a de facto standard.
I shoot families and do some studio work and my customers are really happy. Often they buy some large print (30x45cm) and they are extremely happy with the end result. Does it mean m43 can be used in any photography field? Of course not and you mentioned a couple of them. I’d also add that for product photography “more MP is better”
 
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I shoot families and do some studio work and my customers are really happy. Often they buy some large print (30x45cm) and they are extremely happy with the end result. Does it mean m43 can be used in any photography field? Of course not and you mentioned a couple of them. I’d also add that for product photography “more MO is better”
Interestingly I was on a helicopter flight above the Arctic Circle outside a town called Naujaat on my way with a geology crew exploring a kimberlite mining claim (I work as a government regulator for land use).The helicopter had some older Nikon and Canon decals plastered inside and a sign saying to stow camera gear in a module under the seats. I asked the geologists what gear they used and they pulled out iPhones!

Apparently it's cheaper to set up a cellphone relay at their work camp and then just use phone GPS and cameras to do the work. It also allows normal (well...satellite relay) internet access both personal and biz. Their company used to spend $100k every 5 years on camera gear and now, almost nil. They have a dozen top-tier Nikons sitting on shelves in their HQ down south, unused since smartphone cameras became ubiquitous and allowed very easy logging, uploading, and app interfacing. With the DSLRs they had to coordinate images with Garmin GPSs. Now the smartphones do it all built into the OS.

I didn't take my Olympus kit on that flight because I needed to travel very light for a day trip on someone else's dime. Then we saw a herd of muskox and I regretted it (and later flew over them). But it just shows how the "pro" realm has moved away from dedicated cameras that were once normalized in the field. The convenience of the smartphone and its connectivity, standard recharging, long battery life, no fussy SD cards, and the fact they are pocketable which is a form of protection outweighing even "pro" camera gear durability, really reveals why the industry has struggled. These geologists say that smartphones have replaced dedicated cameras in almost all their work. In the Arctic winter, they are prospecting in Latin America, and the same story.
 
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That which is accepted by those who pay for imaging works or for institutional purposes. I see many professional photographers here and they don't use m43 because its not accepted by their profession as a de facto standard. My colleague who photographs fine art, textiles, sculptures, archaeology, etc.requires the highest quality available by which her peers and the institutions she works with also use. If that's a 40MP FF sensor system with full-on dynamic range identified in colour accuracy and profiles for archival or reproduction purposes, then that's the working standard. Can m43 meet that? No. It cannot. That's by design. It's a compromise of the small sensor and the market position of the m43 alliance. It's an advantage larger sensors enjoy in the professional realm and that's an unequivocal fact when discussing with professional photographers. This woman's prints are in the Canadian archives (in the thousands documenting Inuit artifacts and art), at least 4 museums, dozens of galleries, and somewhere in the UK with QE2. You don't get to that status by compromising your equipment.
Compared to Phase One or MF systems in general FF certainly is a compromise for that kind of work.
 

PeeBee

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Why do I have the impression this thread became a “why FF is better than m43”?

Because they always do.

I haven't read the entire thread, it's too long, but I'm sure it's a repeat of what I've read so many times before. Every format has it's compromises, and it's up to each individual to decide what works for them. For me, the sensor benefits of FF are less compelling than the telephoto benefits of M43. I just hope there's enough like minded users out there for M43 to succeed and flourish, but if it doesn't, my current kit should keep working for some time, by which time the options may be completely different.
 

Stanga

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Whilst most people comment on the sensor, very little attention is paid to the glassware. I have come to notice that the Olympus 150-400mm has a fantastic vivid colour punch. And that is based on viewing images from numerous lucky owners posted on a number of forums. Even taking into account that some of them were probably subject to some post processing, the overall impression is that the lens is on a different level than I had come to accept from a m43 lens.
 

PeeBee

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When on a bush walk I like to take a pack big enough to fit the camera bag into if the weather goes bad. The bigger holster makes that a lot harder.

So that means I am looking at bags again as the holster size 20 has some spare room. Does this bag quest ever end :doh:

I keep a folded pedal bin liner in a pocket of my camera bags in case I get caught in heavy rain. It takes up little space and adds virtually no weight.
 

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