1. Reminder: Please use our affiliate links for holiday shopping!

Pen Pro to have an Olympus designed sensor?

Discussion in 'Micro 4/3 News and Rumors' started by flash, May 8, 2011.

  1. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    43rumours.com has posted an article citing a source that says the Pen Pro will have a sensor designed by Olympus and possibly manufactured by Panasonic. Most of the micro four thirds websites have picked up and run with this.

    I have to ask, what’s wrong with the sensor in the GH2? It’s been reviewed overwhelmingly positively and it already exists, therefore lowing production costs. I know that until now Panasonic and Olympus haven’t agreed on licensing for the multi-aspect ratio sensors in Olympus cameras, but unless Olympus have something else up their sleeve I can’t see why they’d go for a unique designed sensor. That's an expensive exercise. Additionally it’s been rumoured that the sensor in the G3 etc.. will have a single aspect 16MP sensor. So Olympus have a choice without having to design their own one.

    The only reason I can see Olympus designing their own sensor is if they want to share it between a Pen “Pro” and an upcoming 4/3 body (E6 anyone?). If a 16MP multi-aspect sensor went into an E series body I reckon it could save the 4/3 format. Stick in a EVF and you’ve got a Sony killer.

    So. Should Olympus design their own sensor? Or should they licence the one from the GH-2? And if they do make their own, should they put it into both a Pen “Pro” and an E series camera? Or should the let the E-series die?

    My vote would be for both. A Pro Pen for the size and convenience and an E series to make the most of those sweet, sweet E series lenses.

    (via 43rumours.com)

    Gordon
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. ZDP-189

    ZDP-189 New to Mu-43

    3
    May 2, 2011
    Hong Kong
    It's good that camera companies should have more input into their sensors, otherwise we will just end up with bodies that differ mostly in external appearance, menu system and in-camera post processing.

    Think of the cameras that most interesting and unique images and you've probably picked a custom sensor, like the Foveon X3, Fujifilm EXR or the Kodak FF sensor in the M9.

    It's not generally economically practical though so I admire Olympus' effort.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Gillymaru

    Gillymaru Mu-43 Veteran

    I think Olympus should put the best sensor possible in their cameras. I guess we will have to wait and see exactly how it compares with Panasonics offerings to see if they have made the right choice.
    As long as the system keeps improving and remains competitive with what the other manufacturers are doing I will be happy.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    From what I gather this is pretty much what happens now. It is also what worries me. The sensor in the Olympus E-620 was apparently the same as in the Panasonic G1. For me the G1 out performed the E-620 by quite some way.

    I also much prefer the results from, what is apparently the same sensor, in the Panasonic m4/3 cameras apart from the GH1/2, to the Olympus version in the Pens.

    I see the results from the Panasonics as slightly sharper and less noisy. So whatever it is that Olympus add, I'm not sure its going to be what I want. I speak as someone who just bought 4 Olympus cameras and promptly sold 3 of them again!

    Having just started using a Fuji X100 its possible to see just what a small sensor can do. I've recently compared results from that camera to an E-620 and under certain circumstances the results from the X100 at ISO 1600 are cleaner than the E-620 at ISO 200!!

    If there is to be a "Pen Pro" then as a "Pro" the thing I want first and foremost is great image quality at something other than base ISO. I'm perfectly happy with what I get from my GH2 and the inclusion of that sensor, plus the way Panasonic set it up, in any future Olympus camera , would be fine for me.

    A Pentax rep. commented on how they had done virtually nothing to the Sony sensor in the K-5 and look at the rave reviews that camera got. Its my personal taste of course but I've always preferred how Panasonic set up a sensor to how Olympus do it.

    I've always thought Olympus have the best camera designers of any manufacturer and are also right up there with their lenses but that they have constantly let themselves down with the sensor performance in their cameras.

    To me the ultimate m4/3 or 4/3 camera for that matter is Olympus on the outside, Panasonic on the inside. I just hope Olympus stick to what they do well and leave what they don't to those who do, as a "Pen Pro" would be top of my shopping list.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  5. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    While it is wonderful to wish, I dont think many if any of us here fully understand the technicalities of sensor design or indeed the business of camera manufacturing.

    I read somewhere that Olympus and Panasonic had an agreement relating to the supply of sensors which was to expire earlier this year. Presumably that was something that was hammered out either early in the days of the 4/3 spec, or more likely when the micro4/3 spec was drawn up, and was a way of comitting both side to the whole project.

    I am sure the Olympus bean counters will have looked long and hard at the implications of developing their own sensor - whatever that implies in terms of design and manufacturing.

    My guess would be that if they are developing their own sensor then it will be used across their entire product line eventually. They would probably be looking at a 3 - 5 year ife cycle

    Maybe they are going to use this as an opportunity to start with a clean sheet, given their experience with the 4/3 format, developments in sensor technology and with the processing power that is now available.

    I don't know what is possible at this time, but surely a sensor with a global shutter - eg no mechanical shutter might be the kind of thing they might want to persue, giving them the abilty to produce smaller and maybe more cost effective cameras.

    All this is just my idle sunday morning thoughts - but I will sign off on this thought - Much as we like to think that the cameras manufacturers make cameras just for us, the truth is that they ultimately make cameras to make money.


    K
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Northumberland
    I feel it would be a shame if Olympus didn't make at least another model with the evolved e-pL1/E-5 sensor and processing ... before diving into a new sensor entirely.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. squeegee

    squeegee Mu-43 Veteran

    403
    Jan 26, 2010
    I think people should take the word "design" with a grain of salt. Design could mean an assortment of different things. I think I read some where the fuji x100 sensor is a "tweaked" sony sensor. Does that mean fuji designed their own sensor?

    It's entirely possible for olympus to just ask for the GH2 sensor technology in 12mp ... to hold the line on their statement of 12mp being enough... That would probably much cheaper than designing something from scratch and asking panasonic to build it.

    I'm assuming sensor design is like pretty much every other thing on earth... a trade off of options and cost and benefits. When they say design, they may just be a change of tradeoffs in existing panasonic technologies (like a lower mp count for a higher DR or lower noise). It doesn't necessarily mean olympus has to do actual sensor research. It might just be market research and their take on what will sell better.

    I for one, would opt for a lower MP sensor than what panasonic looks like their doing which is competing with sony for MP count still. Maybe if we're really luck, olympus will have removable sensor cartridges so people who want a high MP can order a 24mp sensor while those of us who only view photos online can order the 8mp version in an otherwise identical camera.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    While thats undoubtedly true, we know a thing or two about buying and using them, and letting manufacturers know what we're looking for, and what we think of what they have produced so far, is never a bad idea.

    Well yes again, but in order for them to make money, we have to buy these cameras. So manufacturers CAN be said to make cameras for us, and the closer they get to giving most of us most of what we want, at a price we want to pay, then the more successful they will be.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  9. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Absolutely agree that we should feedback to Olympus what we are looking for - but I think often we the consumers don't really see the business the way the camera manufacturers do. In particular It is difficult get our heads around the numbers that Olympus work to in order to make their business decisions

    Doing some quick back of the envelope calculations I have tried to work out just how many cameras Olympus may make. My figures maybe a bit out, but I think they are in the right order of magnitude

    The sales for the Olympus imaging Division las year was 1.7 billion dollars - now this presumably covers everything from compacts through to SHG lenses, but if we take an Average Swelling price of 500 dollars, then we see that probably making 3 million cameras and lenses a year.

    The membership here is 5000 members, though the active membership seems to be much less than that. We obviously represent a part of Olympus's market, but only a small part of the bigger picture

    cheers
    K
     
    • Like Like x 2
  10. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    While I would agree with that, its the kind of membership of forums like this that I think has an impact greater than its actual size. Members here would tend to buy more cameras, and upgrade and change more often. We would buy more lenses, plus take more account of what else is available. We would also be more inclined to express opinions and be the source of advice for other consumers.

    To that extent I believe that we "punch above our weight". Certainly if I was in marketing for a camera manufacturer I would take notice of sites like this because I would see it as "opinion forming". That may be a grandiose description of what goes on here, but to a certain extent its true.

    Whether they take any notice of what they see here depends as you rightly indicate on economics, the state of R & D and many other things that we are unaware of.

    Some examples. Both Olympus and Panasonic have made noises about photographers wanting fast primes, and are looking to produce something in that direction. They are also aware of the use of alternative and legacy lenses. This is shaped by magazines, review sites and yes, forums like this.

    Amin started a campaign here to get Voigtlander to come into m4/3, and I contributed to that in a much smaller way by writing to them myself. We'll never know whether that made a difference but now they are in a situation that they can't make enough of a very specialist, pretty expensive lens to satisfy demand.

    These are "enthusiast" agendas, and not generated by people wandering into Argos or similar saying I'm looking for a new camera. This pro/advanced amateur/hobbyist/enthusiast (whatever way you choose to describe it) market may not be numerically the largest by any stretch of the imagination, but I've always believed that manufacturers take it seriously because of the knock on effect it has.

    Photography and camera choice is one of those areas like fashion that can be shaped and pushed by a few. You only have to look at some of the YouTube campaigns. I'm really not trying to exaggerate the influence of forums like this, but once you start looking at it in combination with other sites and the linking that goes on between them, things get much more coverage than you think. Plus the difference between people commenting and reading something is huge. I get virtually no comments on my blog but my google stats tell me there are 1000's of page hits per day. Hopefully they are not all spiders and robots!!

    A while ago I got a copy of the UK magazine Professional Photographer, which because I get it on subscription comes early. There was a piece on the Leica S2. I thought whats this? I checked the internet - nothing. OK I thought I'll scan the page,which I did, put it on flickr and put a short comment on Dpreview. A few hours later I'd had 115,000 hits and the scanned page (complete with a bit missing which my scanner missed) was everywhere, everyone had the same "exclusive". Leica were accused of deliberately "leaking" this and had to deny it. I was stunned, deleted the image and kept my head down. Ever since that day I've never underestimated just what a few chance remarks on a forum can lead to.



     
    • Like Like x 2
  11. SRHEdD

    SRHEdD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    967
    Feb 24, 2011
    Viera, Florida USA
    Steve
    As long as the camera/sensor retains that old Oly-JPEG "pop" I don't really care where the parts come from. Sorry to be a troll on this one, but I trust that Oly will have their fingers in it either way.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Maybe image sensors are a little different, but it is rare for computer chip plants to make more than one chip. Everything in the fab has to be optimized to do just one thing. Usually, they have to build a whole new fab for a new line of chips.

    So, with that in mind, even if Olympus does "design" a new chip (and the comments above about what does "design" mean are well made), they will have to contract with someone to make it, and most likely, in a fab that already exists, so there will be quite a lot (namely pixel count) that I doubt they will be able to influence without HUGE cost impacts.

    Now, this does bring up the idea of Olympus essentially buying continued operation at a fab that would be shut down because of the ongoing march of MP's, and making incremental improvement, at a chip level, to one of the current 12MP sensors ...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Listening to the customer can be a two edged sword.

    Famously in the late 1950's Ford performed extensive market research and produced the car they thought their customers wanted. Unfortunately by the time the Ford Edsel reached the market, a variety of things had changed in the business and it was a major flop.

    On the other side there is a company like Apple, who don't do overt market research, but do have a strong vision of where they want to go and deliver products that in many cases the customers never even realised they wanted :)

    In my 10 years at Apple, at many customer facing events, I had many customers coming up and telling me what 'Apple should do'

    Strangely nobody ever suggested the iPod, the iPhone or the iPad.


    There is saying in ice hockey which says you should skate towards where the puck will be , not to where it is.

    In the 60's and 70s Olympus definitely had a strong vision and a corporate desire to innovate and lead - and that gave us the original Pen and more successfully the OM.

    It would be nice to think that maybe Oympus are trying to recapture that spirit, and that by working on their own sensor that they are once again skating towards where the puck will be


    K
     
    • Like Like x 1
  14. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    Things are somewhat different now. The need for market research is somewhat changed by the almost constant flow of people all over the world, saying in no uncertain terms what they would like and what they would not. Whether this can be deciphered and translated into sales is the tricky part, but then market research isn't without its inconsistencies and innacuracies either.

    Also Apple have not always got it right, I well remember the dire days of the mid-1990's and the "clones" and the Newton. It took a fair bit of work to get them back from a pretty dire position.

    There are also many cases of going your own way and getting it completely wrong, the Sinclair C5 and Harley-Davidson perfume (yes it did exist - you're not seeing things!) being obvious examples.

    I'm a huge fan of Olympus, I always have been. I've loved their cameras ever since the OM-4Ti. I think they have made some of the nicest cameras ever, and despite my reservations about sensors I always seem to have had a PEN around since they appeared. In many ways I get more excited about an upcoming Olympus than I do a Panasonic camera, because with the latter I pretty much get what I expect, but Olympus are always likely to spring a surprise.

    I just repeat again that I believe that they should do what they are good at and not try to be like Canon, with everything in house. Fuji have shown what can be done by responding to a real "enthusiast" demand for retro married to technology and Olympus are surely in the best position to go with that sensibility.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  15. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    There is a danger in listening to what a customer would like as opposed to identifying what a customer needs and then trying to deliver the best solution to that need.

    Its the whole features/benefits argument - the thinking goes is that people buy the benefit not the feature.

    Apple pre the return of Jobs was a mess as the company tried to chase as many different customers with many different models.

    Jobs wasn't immune to mistakes - the Cube being a prime example, but he did focus the company on producing machines like the iMac that served the customers needs.

    Even there he didn't get it right first time round - they didn't come with CD burners - until he realised that a big use of CD burners was to burn Mp3's, which of course led to him trying to understand that customer need - which in course led to itunes, the iPod and the iTunes music store.

    The camera industry at the moment seems to be very feature driven with everyone locked into a megapixel/high ISO race.

    I doubt if Apple will ever get back into the camera business - think the iphone is as far as they will go, but I would love to see some of their thinking applied to the digital camera, particularly in the way that the photographer interacts with the camera.

    death to endless menus and randomly scattered buttons!!!!

    cheers

    K


    interesting times
     
    • Like Like x 2
  16. scotth

    scotth Mu-43 Regular

    95
    Feb 3, 2011
    Michigan
    It is an interesting rumour, but I have a difficult time believing it is true for two big reasons. The level of investment required would be substantial, and I do not think Olympus has the technical expertise required in house. Those are some big hurdles to get over, and it makes it tough for me to believe that Olympus is going to make their own sensor.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium

    Think the point I am trying to make is that unless you have intimate knowledge of either sensor development or the inner workings of a multi billion dollar business, then speculating that something would be too expensive or too difficult is somewhat pointless.

    Olympus imaging represents only 15% of Olympus Corporations turnover - the largest chunk being medical equipment

    http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/ir/brief/pdf/n110210aE_n.pdf

    If internally they make a business case for designing/making their own sensor, then they will acquire the expertise if they don't have it already.

    The only dark cloud is the fact that the imaging division haven't been delivering the sales and profits - whether this is down to bad products or bad management/vision is difficult to tell from the outside

    It is fun to speculate and wish for wonderous things, but it is sometimes to take a step back and look at the broader picture

    cheers

    K
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    Must admit the notion of a company identifying my "needs" strikes me as a bit creepy and big brother. Since I make my living as a photographer, I "need" a camera. Other than that its a question of choices surely. The choices I make are sometimes related to need but not always. I don't need good design and aethetics but I often prefer it. I've never been immune to buying something because I like the look of it.

    You do make him sound a bit like Mystic Meg! And again isn't "need" a little strong? Isn't this more about what customers want or ideally would like to see? Apple did cash in because of the changes in how people listen to and acquire music. Whether they saw that coming, helped it on its way or were just in the right place at the right time is open to speculation.

    The "If its got more knobs its better" philosophy is a feature of virtually eveything these days. While I personally prefer a much simpler approach, particularly with cameras, I'm sure I'm not typical.

    A big Amen to that.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  19. gekopaca

    gekopaca Mu-43 Regular

    58
    Mar 2, 2010
    I don't care about E serie.
    If Oly make his own sensor it could be a better choice than use the GH2 one, because it's a sensor for both video and photo.
    Oly could produce a specialized photo sensor, with less pixels (10 or 12MP) to improve high iso and dynamic range.
    Actually, IMHO the future of Pen pro serie is the photo prosumer market. It's a good way to be different from Pana's G serie.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. scotth

    scotth Mu-43 Regular

    95
    Feb 3, 2011
    Michigan
    It is mostly speculation on my part, but then this whole thread is speculation.

    Ultimately it is going to be a business decision, and if Olympus can put together a business case that makes the return on investment worthwhile, they will do it.

    To me, it seems like a lot of investment, and I struggle to see how the payback will be there given the relatively low volumes we are talking about.

    I guess time will tell.
     
    • Like Like x 2