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Olympus E-M5 Sensor is (Allegedly) 'Completely New'

Discussion in 'Micro 4/3 News and Rumors' started by Amin Sabet, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    There's been a lot of speculation about the sensor in the news Olympus E-M5. Some have stated that it's the GH2 sensor, while others say it's the G3/GX1 sensor. Still others claim it's a Sony sensor.

    Here's the answer from Olympus representatives during a Q&A today on the GetOlympus Facebook page:





    Until someone from Olympus can verify the specifics, such as who manufactures the sensor and exactly what is different about the design/architecture, or such differences are verified by DxOmark testing, I'll remain skeptical that this is in fact a new sensor.

    There's nearly an hour left to get in your questions: Get Olympus - Wall | Facebook

    I just asked mine:


    Update: I didn't get any answer for my question. Let me explain where I'm coming from with this line of questioning:

    In my opinion, other than the multi-aspect ratio nature of the GH2 sensor, the differences between the G3 and GH2 sensors are a curiosity with almost no practical consequence to the still photographer. It's true that the GH2 files seem to have a tiny bit less shadow noise at base ISO, whereas the G3 files seem to be a tiny bit better at very high ISO, but for all practical purposes they are the same. If the EM-5 has the sensor from either of those two cameras, then it has an excellent sensor. If it truly has a new sensor, then so long as the new sensor can match the performance of those other two, I will be completely satisfied.

    Where it gets silly is when a camera manufacturer tells the sensor manufacturer to replace one weak AA filter with another weak AA filter and then call the sensor a "completely new design". I'm pretty sure we've seen this before with Nikon and Sony sensors, and we've definitely seen it before with Olympus and Panasonic sensors. There's no reason for them to tell us that it's a new sensor just for us to find out a few months later from DxOmark that the claims were "marketing speak".

    I'm a believer in DxOmark. On many occasions, I've found that their results are revealing, and occasionally I find them to be useful from a practical standpoint. On the other hand, their results are often misunderstood and taken out of context. Small differences in DxOmark results are interpreted to be of practical consequence when they simply are not. For example, I've seen many times the claim that the GH1 has a better sensor than the GH2, a claim which no doubt is derived from the DxOmark results. On the other hand, I've yet to see a single person who switch from the GH1 to the GH2 have any disappointment in the image quality of the latter camera.

    Even "large" differences in DxOmark scores can have relatively subtle practical consequences, as I demonstrated in a dynamic range comparison between GH2 and Pentax K5 files.

    The bottom line here is that I actually don't care whether the E-M5 uses a "new" sensor; however, I think the manufacturers and their marketing representatives ought to be forthright with their answers to our questions about the technology.
    • Like Like x 11
  2. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    It's a newly "tweaked" sensor. Yes Amin, your favorite word!! ;) 
  3. mister_roboto

    mister_roboto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Seattle, WA, USA
    So... it's the "new" as in "new", or "new" as in "Olympus New?"
    • Like Like x 4
  4. Bizzarrini

    Bizzarrini Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 26, 2011
    The Netherlands
    I thought the dpreview specs indicated they are using a LiveMOS sensor, which means Panasonic right?
  5. mister_roboto

    mister_roboto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Seattle, WA, USA
  6. When I buy a second-hand camera, it is new to me...

    I'm not bothered if it is "only" the G3 sensor in there, I just don't like the "tell them only what they need to know" corporate speak.
    • Like Like x 2
  7. mister_roboto

    mister_roboto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Seattle, WA, USA
    Heh, I've been flipping through the facebook questions and answers and saw this one:

    Get Olympus: I'm curious, why is everybody so hung up on who manufactures the image sensor???

    If it has the Panasonic sensor- I would like it just fine, it's a great sensor.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Spuff

    Spuff Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 5, 2010
    Berkshire, UK.
    For me it would be of interest if is a truly new sensor because one would presume that there is scope to make a 'better' sensor than any previously made. If it was the same as an existing sensor then it couldn't be better. But if it is new there is the chance that it is truly better than any previous Olypan mirrorless one. I don't suppose though that whatever this sensor, good though I trust it is, that it is a quantum leap forward from the Panasonic one.
  9. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I can't imagine it being anything other than the Panasonic 16MP G3/GX1 sensor.

    I do think that Olympus modified it a bit - such as increasing the readout speed to 240fps during C-AF.

    Does it warrant being called "new"? Even though it probably has the same high ISO/dynamic range performance as the sensors in the G3/GX1? Dunno... What if the improved C-AF is truly much better as Olympus claims (on par with Nikon 1 series)?
  10. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
    Funny thing is, Mr. & Mrs. Olympus along with Jesus Christ Himself could announce this as a new sensor, and the trolls will still denounce it.
    • Like Like x 4
  11. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    I share your frustration Amin. It would not put me off investigating the new camera if they were to announce that it is a Panasonic sensor, and that they have made some changes to meet their goals. What matters in the end is the output quality, and Olympus should be proud of their record in getting the best from sensors.

    I think if it was truly a new sensor, meaning not the G3 or GH2 sensor, then Olympus would be making a much greater noise about it's performance. As it is, they appear confident it will outperform the EP3, which means it will good enough for many, many users.

    For my own purposes, I sense that this is a very good camera, with relatively good output. By relative, I mean that it will likely be the best current M43 camera in terms of end quality, at least for some settings. It seems (and I am estimating from the info available) that it will perform a little better than the GH2. My own wish is for better DR and overall performance at lower ISOs, not higher. Disappointing for me, but that doesn't mean it's not a great camera for others.
  12. Jorge Ledesma

    Jorge Ledesma Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 27, 2011
    I'm with you, same here, it will be new to me, I just refuse to pre-order then have it loose a huge % value 6months down the line.
  13. BarefootPilgrim

    BarefootPilgrim Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    Westchester, IL
    :confused: :confused:  :rolleyes: 

    Why should we really care who manufacturers the sensor as long as it delivers the image quality we want to get from it? And if it lives up to even half the hype, it looks like it'll be better than anything else in the m-43 marketplace.

    Only way to find out if that's true, however, is to wait a few more weeks until someone shows what it can do (or not do).
    • Like Like x 1
  14. OPSSam

    OPSSam Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 18, 2010
    Well I'm sure Olympus hasn't been researching and developing anything new for the past few years. Just putting cameras together with parts they have lying around. No innovation. They accidentally created Fast AF. And they can in fact design a sensor that is fabricated by a sub-contractor. Lest we forget some of the original E-system CCDs came from Kodak.

    I don't care if the sensor was made by Sony or Panasonic or anyone else as long as it delivers the goods at 16MP.
  15. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I don't think anyone actually cares who makes the sensor, honestly. I think what they care about is that it improves, and the perception is that Pana gives Oly access to the dregs, and so people have been calling for a new mfg, who would give Oly a newer, better sensor. Not saying this could happen or is even close to true, but that's the thought. So, people are asking "who makes the sensor" to mean "is this a Panny sensor with just a faster read-out, OR could it be a new mfg who could make a sensor that's even better than Pannys"

    End of the day, I don't think there's brand loyalty to the sensor maker, it's just a proxy for hoping for something leaps and bounds better and not just slightly better.
  16. bongestrella

    bongestrella Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 2, 2011
    Mechanicsburg, PA
    Geez, couldn't Olympus be more vague on that sensor. At this point it's pretty clear they didn't make the sensor themselves but outsourced and tweaked it. I starting to think that this is a marketing strategy to keep us all intrigued/interested.
  17. panda9

    panda9 New to Mu-43

    May 5, 2010
    Bay Area, California
    I've pre-ordered one. Although I shoot year-round, I have a clear "shooting season" from April through October where I'm out every weekend taking photos. I want the body here in time for me to practice with it before my "shooting season" starts.

    I could wait for six months to save some money, but then I'd be missing six months of shooting. Ordering it now may cost me $200 more, but if I divide that into six months, I'm basically renting the camera for $35 a month.
  18. betamax

    betamax Mu-43 Regular

    May 7, 2011
    NSW, Australia
    That, and the comment about a 1/3 improvement.

    1/3 what??? 1/3 stop? 33%? I like 33%. Particularly in the DR department. I think 1/3 stop ISO performance is about the same as a 33% improvement - or around ISO 650. Wheareas going from 10EV to 11EV is only one stop? Hence a 33% improvement in DR would be very sweet indeed :wink:
  19. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    *caugh* bs *caugh*.

    I'm with Amin. I'll believe it when I see it.
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