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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sensor Made by Sony!

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

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
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    According to a Yahoo Japan news story translated by a DPReview forum member (link), Olympus President Hiroyuki Sasa revealed in an interview that the sensor for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was made by Sony! The story was also picked up by DC Watch Japan (translation).

    This is big news for the Micro Four Thirds system for a few reasons:

    1) Sony has been making the best sensors around for at least a couple of years now, a fact that Mr. Sasa apparently endorsed during the interview. Sony has been happy to sell these sensors to Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, and others. Now apparently Olympus users get to enjoy the benefits as well.

    2) Panasonic, up until now the supplier of sensors for all Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras, wasn't sharing all their best sensors with Olympus. Recall that when asked why the excellent GH2 sensor wasn't featured in the Olympus E-5 DSLR, Panasonic Senior Product Manager Sven Dabelstein had the following to say (source):

    3) Unless they are also going to buy sensors from Sony, there is now pressure for Panasonic to improve their sensor designs in order for their cameras to remain as competitive as possible with Olympus cameras.

    4) If Sony can supply sensors to Olympus at a lower price point than Panasonic, it's possible that we'll see the OM-D sensor in the upcoming "entry level" Pens, ie E-PM2.

    I can't really see any downside to this news as far as we consumers are concerned. Anyone see a problem?

    Source: Yahoo Japan via 1001 Noisy Cameras

    Edit: discussion of this story already underway in our forums: https://www.mu-43.com/f42/omd-em5-sensor-made-sony-28867/
    • Like Like x 7
  2. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    Albuquerque, NM
    Mike Barber
    Now if Sony could "teach" focus peaking and their awesome panorama mode to Olympus m43 would be perfect.
  3. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    So I was a fool to think that Sony sensors didn't support high speed CDAF, as the Sony sensor powered cameras were either PDAF or slow CDAF; now glad to see Panasonic is under the pressure. I believe Sony is also keeping their best to "develop differentiated products with unique technologies"
  4. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Seeing as focus peaking is one of the significant features if the NEX system I would be surprised to see it come to m43 anytime soon.
  5. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    Albuquerque, NM
    Mike Barber
    I absolutely agree, but it hasn't stopped Ricoh and some others from using it. Of course Sony is going to keep some of their own good stuff....I was more talking fantasy/wishes than anything else. Focus peaking is not essential to using manual focus on m43 or adapted lenses. However, it makes using them a sheer joy.
  6. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    NEX kind of sucks at fast AF, but the Sony compact cameras are blazing fast compared to competitors. I think it might be a lens problem in the NEX lineup.
  7. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    You're right focus peaking really makes using manual focus fun. I think using Sony sensors is smart move by Olympus...I wonder if this also means that Sony will invest in Olympus as well. I wonder if that also means Sony finally gets some decent native lenses. So much to think about.
  8. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Those Sony native lenses for NEX are pretty blah. I love the NEX for using with legacy glass but have zero interest in strapping on any of their native lenses. The only native lens that looks interesting is the Zeiss at $1K (and if Schneider-Kreuznach decides to do lenses for the NEX those will be mighty spendy as well).

    I'll stick with my Hexanons and Super Takumars thank you.
  9. viztyger

    viztyger Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 16, 2009
    Low Volume = Minimal Iterations?

    The E-M5 sensor doesn't seem to be based on any current APS-C sensor from Sony; it has an even smaller pixel pitch than the 24 MP sensor in the NEX-7 (266 pixels/mm versus 255 pixels/mm). So Sony has designed a unique sensor for what has to be a relatively low volume customer. It's certainly low volume in comparison to the APS-C sensors Sony produces for its own cameras, as well as Nikon, Ricoh/Pentax and Fuji.

    So I would expect fewer iterations of the Somy 4/3 sensor due to the relatively low volume and therefore higher development costs per unit. Not that Olympus used a lot of new and improved sensors in successive generations of PEN models (whatever the reason). This contrasts with Panasonic, who to date have used 4 different 4/3 sensors in their Lumix G cameras. I'm expecting a 5th one to be used in the upcoming GH3. Let's hope that sensor can compete with the image quality from the Sony sensor in the E-M5.
  10. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    We aren't really sure what cameras this or derivative sensors will be used in the furure. What if Sony comes out with a 26.5Mp APS-C sensor for the NEX-9? Also, how do we know what the actual order volume from Olympus actually was? OM-Ds sell like hot cakes and will continue to do so for some time, new Pens are coming by the end of 2012, and we have reason to believe they shall also use this basic sensor (perhaps with some different auxiliary parts, such as AA filter, etc).

    What I'm trying to say is, there is no rational reason to assume this is a kind of bespoke, and therefore seriously expensive, sensor.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. viztyger

    viztyger Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 16, 2009
    I agree, we certainly don't know anything about the actual order volumes. I was making the assumption that Sony's APS-C sensors are made in substantially larger volumes since they are used in multiple cameras from various manufacturers. For exmple, Sony's 16MP APS-C has had, and is having, a good run, being used in Sony NEX, SLT and DSLR cameras as well as Nikon DSLRs, a Ricoh GXR module as well as various Pentax models. Unless we start to see Panasonic using Sony sensors, I was assuming that the production run for Sony's 4/3 sensor would be much lower since it would only be used in successive PEN and OM models. But that's not based on hard facts.

  12. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    You are right, of course, Sony existing APS-C are produced in much larger quantities, to the point of costing "almost nothing" (sic!) by now. Assuming economies of scale, the sensor in the OM-D (or/and technology therein) should be used in a variety of future cameras, even from Sony. Time for speculation:

    • I think Sony would come out with an "almost :43:" sensor size camera at some point. In the same sense as Canon with their soon to be released mirrorless and the previous G1X. It may be a compact or a ILC.
    • More on this, there are rumors of Nikon having something similar in the pipeline. Could it be they will be using the same tech?
    • It is more than probable that Olympus shall get a smaller (RX100 size?) sensor from Sony for their future compacts.
  13. G.Sal

    G.Sal Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 4, 2011
    The Philippines
    This only made me wonder if Sony has plans joining the micro four thirds.
  14. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    Or... Olympus could make a couple lenses for NEX. :eek: 
  15. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, USA
    Maybe the OM-D sensor will be used in the upcoming Canon MILC? :wink:
  16. Jorge Ledesma

    Jorge Ledesma Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 27, 2011
    Whatever the future holds I'm sure will be better than what we have now. I can see this technology trickling down to the Pen line up and upping the ante on Panasonic to come up with something really special. In the end, we all benefit from this and we'll have lower cost cameras as well. I can see a new E-PL6 debuting with this sensor relatively soon.

    Remember when the E-PL2 came 9 ( someone correct me if I'm wrong please ) months after the E-PL1 came into the market. So, it seems Olympus is not afraid to jump the gun and let their product line evolve as the technology becomes readily accessible. In the latter example, changing a few things and making the camera ergonomically better.
  17. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    "...there is now pressure for Panasonic to improve their sensor designs in order for their cameras to remain as competitive as possible with Olympus cameras."
    :2thumbs: Gotta love competition to make things better!

    "I can't really see any downside to this news as far as we consumers are concerned. Anyone see a problem?"

    I potentially see difficulty if the makers delay release of a camera because production of the sensor is delayed merely to make it better just to BE better at the time in order to say it is better than the competitor's product. This could artificially pump-up the final product cost of the new camera and inflate those on the used market. This is a price control mechanism that doesn't need to occur.

    Conversely, I don't propose releasing the product if it is sub-standard just to release it. As consumers, we don't need to wast our hard-earned wages on inadequacy.

    Japanese manufacturing practices are very likely to be the most efficient and neither the extremes that I just described should completely manifest.
  18. Ninja

    Ninja Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 30, 2010
    No! There is ZERO Percent chance of this. Canon have their own sensor design teams and production facilities. Whatever sensor Canon may place in that body, it will be a Canon sensor, not Sony.

    That said, it is good that Sony is supplying the sensor for Olympus. Sony have the ability to produce sensors at competitive prices and supply them in adequate quantities for Olympus no matter how much their sales may grow.

    Nikon has a collaborative relationship with Sony. There are rather few pure Sony sensors in Nikon cameras. Nikon's design team works with Sony in some respects and reworks Sony designs in some other ways which ordinarily results in the Nikon sensor outperforming the similar Sony sensor when it comes to high ISO noise. Nikon have occasionally sources a sensor elsewhere, but, for the most part, Sony and Nikon have a rather close relationship.

    Not to sound too gloomy, but it remains to be seen whether Olympus' camera division will survive. I hope it will. If so, Olympus may develop a relationship with Sony similar to Nikon's.

    In any event, competition is good.

    [Edit] P.S. It is generally thought that APS-C sensors cost around $45-$50. I have not heard any figures for m4/3 sensors, but they should most certainly cost less than this both because of the size and the percentage of yields (per wafer) which generally rise the smaller the sensor.

    Sony have plans to dramatically expand their market share of sensor production and have invested nearly $1B in new facilities to accomplish this so we may only have seen the beginning of this.
  19. Stebailey

    Stebailey New to Mu-43

    Apr 24, 2012
    Just my two cents:
    I've had the GH2 for some time and have used it regularly at ISO 3200 and 6400, so I'm aware of its noise characteristics. After a bit of pixel peaking at all the review sites after the OM's release, I see only a slight difference at those ISO's with the GH2. The real difference would be with the quality of JPG processing, an Olympus advantage, as well as in body stabilization for the use of fast primes.
    If you usually shoot RAW, however, the Panasonic GH2 is not a massively qualitative step down. Additionally, Panasonic's video capability is a bit better integrated. Current price differences put the Panasonic at an advantage as well.
    So, if the evolution of the Panasonic continues as it has over the years, they should soon have a chip or processing tweak that bridges that slight gap with Olympus.
  20. Ninja

    Ninja Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 30, 2010
    What you observe is very true. Virtually all camera manufacturers have, somewhat belatedly, realized that image processing has a very great deal to do with IQ as well as noise reduction and have placed new emphasis on both the ASIC chips and the firmware used to process the captured image.

    Panasonic undoubtedly have some new sensors ready for release in the near term and it would be unusual if they were not better than their predecessors. The GH-2 has been popular for its video capability and its pricing is certainly more competitive than the OM-D E-M5 in several respects. The IBIS of the E-M5 appears to be quite good and rumors have it that Panasonic have been exploring the possibility of incorporating IBIS in future products which would allow them to have more competitively priced lenses by deleting the in-the-lens IS...and would benefit users wanting to use "legacy" glass w/o IS.

    If Panasonic should be able to deliver the "global" (electronic) shutter with the new sensor in the GH3 the OM-D will have a formidable competitor.

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