Sony is killing it, what's the next move from Panasonic/Olympus?

DeeJayK

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When you consider Canon only came out with a full frame sensor body with 16MP resolution in 2004 (EOS-1Ds Mk.II) and it cost $8K, we're doing quite well in sensor technology advances. The E-M5 came out 8 years later with 16MP in a sensor 1/4 the area and a camera body 1/8 the cost. I'd say sensor technology is advancing at a rapid pace.
Digital sensor technology doesn't seem to be quite tracking Moore's Law over the past decade or so, but it's not been that far off. This makes sense in that sensor performance is closely tied to semiconductor improvement. That said, I do feel that the rate of improvement may be starting to level off as we approach the "good enough" asymptote.
 

Carbonman

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Digital sensor technology doesn't seem to be quite tracking Moore's Law over the past decade or so, but it's not been that far off. This makes sense in that sensor performance is closely tied to semiconductor improvement. That said, I do feel that the rate of improvement may be starting to level off as we approach the "good enough" asymptote.
Yes, if we were willing to spend $8K for the next E-M1, it could have a sensor with twice the performance as what's currently on the camera market. However, who's going to spend that much when imaging technology is already as you said, "good enough". The technical capability is there but the reject rate in the sensor manufacturing process would be high.
I remember when Compact Discs first came out; the reject rate was enormous. Now they can print BluRays with their much smaller dot size at a retail selling price of under $10 !
 
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bikerhiker

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When you consider Canon only came out with a full frame sensor body with 16MP resolution in 2004 (EOS-1Ds Mk.II) and it cost $8K, we're doing quite well in sensor technology advances. The E-M5 came out 8 years later with 16MP in a sensor 1/4 the area and a camera body 1/8 the cost. I'd say sensor technology is advancing at a rapid pace.
Not as rapid as the cellphone camera sensors. As I had said earlier, smartphones are now in their 4th generation or even 5th; seemingly the A7RII is starting to use technology that has been on camera phones awhile ago. If you can scale up the recent camera phone sensor, you'll have a better sensor than what you have now. Why is it taking so long to scale up as Olympus was asking Sony when the E-M5 II was introduced? One possible answer is that, there is no ROI on camera sales. It's a declining business. Camera stores are closing and the strong ones are starting to struggle. If you continue to let this laggard of sensor development to flounder; sooner or later the smartphones will be in the position to provide resolution, DR and noise free images rival that of a $300 to $600 cameras, which will surely decimate what sales left from the $300 to $600 which compromised 90% of total camera sales. Remember that a $600 to $800 phones are subsidized by yearly plans. Cameras don't get subsidized. The purpose getting a better camera is take photos and video better than what a phone could do and currently it somewhat do. But if the phone sensors keep getting better and supersede even the low and mid end DSLR, then Sony, Olympus, Canon and Nikon will be forced to become niche players which they are starting to become. $3000 or $8000 cameras may be the norm. Are you willing to cough up that much dough to keep up with the Joneses? For others, AT&T and Verizon or Bell, Telus and Rogers will be providing a lending hand subsidizing a new phone every 2 yrs or whatever.
 
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kevinparis

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bikerhiker

have to agree that the smartphone with a more than decent camera, that is effectively free, has disrupted the traditional camera market.. if the iphone alone can sell 70 million devices in a 3 month period and the camera in there satisfies a large percentage of users with their photographic needs, then that is a concern to any camera makers who's business model was based around having a high volume low profit business given a respectability by a more 'professional' product.

It is an interesting question that if the smartphone grabs enough of the photography market, then will the traditional camera makers have to go down the Leica route and market themselves on heritage?

I believe there is still clear ground between what a smartphone can do and a 'proper' camera can achieve, both in technical abilities and in sheer usability... photography with an iphone is absolute hell to me... its a terrible user experience.

I hope and believe that there will always people who want to be photographers and don't just want to take pictures. I am sure the guys at canon, nikon, sony et al are trying to work out those numbers now and 10 years down the line

K
 

bikerhiker

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kevinparis,

I have to agree with you that taking photos with a phone, while ok, is still not my cup of tea. But most of us are born taking photos with a traditional brownie box, film TLR and then SLR/DSLR and finally mirrorless because it still feels like a camera. The new millennials were born taking photos with their first camera being a smartphone with apps. Photography with an iPhone is an absolute JOY for them. Look at Flickr.. Number 1 camera used? iPhone.. I've seen young kids thumb type on their phones just as fast as I can keyboard type on a traditional keyboard. Thumb typing is a terrible experience for me, because I've been trained and used a traditional full sized keyboard all my life..

This is the problem. I've been in a few camera trade shows and most of these boneheads are still drinking cool aids. They insist and assumed that millennials must need a traditional camera to take great photos. But isn't this EGO talking?!? It's like telling the Chinese to stop eating rice with chopsticks and use a spoon and fork. It's like telling the kids to stop thumb typing and buy a traditional bluetooth keyboard, connect and type properly. But is it? Or is it because we were traditionally trained using old devices and we feel obligated to enforce our ideals upon the younger generation?

What does any traditional camera have over an iPhone right now? Image quality and lens selection. Everything else the iPhone or Android does better. Apps and connectivity and internet. You can edit, post and show on the fly with a phone. With a traditional camera, you need to have a computer to download the images first.

The guys at Canon and Nikon are stuck. On the one end, Sony is showing what current tech can do with full frame mirrorless. I personally don't think Canon and Nikon can do any better. If they could, they would have produced their own secret weapon long ago. At $3200, the A7R II is a premium product. On the other end, if Canon or Nikon ever produce a mirrorless cam of their own, it will surely be more expensive than Sony. That's the wrong direction I think. Every year passes by, smartphones will keep eating away market share and Sony would have marched on with their Sony A9 or 3rd generation full frame bodies while Canon and Nikon be on their first.
 
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lenshoarder

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I don't want to derail but I think the GH3 uses a similar sensor to the E-M5-sensor-lineup : which produces good stuff but is overlooked.
It uses a similar sensor, not the same sensor. The EM5 uses a Sony sensor. The GH3 uses a Panasonic sensor. It was similar so people speculated early on that it was the same Sony sensor. Especially since Panasonic was as tight lipped about it as Olympus. Then the Olympus President said it is a Sony sensor.

But I don't think Panasonic has said one way or another. People keep speculating, including the reviews. Here in one review they say it's a Sony sensor.

"Correction: this is a Sony made sensor. The same one in the OMD"

http://www.thephoblographer.com/2013/07/01/review-panasonic-gh3

Here the following month, another reviewer says it's a Panasonic sensor.

"Although Panasonic has developed a new Live MOS image sensor for the Lumix GH3 compact system camera"

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-gh3/panasonic-gh3A.HTM

I haven't heard anything definitive either by admission or by teardown. Have you?
 

lenshoarder

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Olympus is NOT a Sony division, not effectively one either, and both have stated that there is no technology sharing.
It's clear that they have shared technology. At least unidirectionally. That's not speculation. That's fact. Straight out of the Olympus President's mouth. A series of Olympus cameras use Sony sensors. More than simply plopping down a part, Sony had to instruct Olympus on how to spin up a chipset to use it. That's technology sharing.

The Olympus President said as much about technology sharing when they announced that Sony was taking a stake in Olympus.

"Olympus President, Hiroyuki Sasa's statement explains 'In the field of digital cameras, we will seek to achieve collaboration in a manner that further improves the competitiveness of the two companies.'"

Also, as reported in a story about a follow on joint Sony/Olympus partnership. They talked about the technology sharing.

"The two companies have already created a separate medical joint-venture to apply Sony's technologies to products based around Olympus's success in the endoscope market. The original deal also included Sony gaining lens and optical know-how from Olympus, and supplying Olympus cameras with sensors."

http://www.dpreview.com/articles/0808672282/sony-sells-half-of-its-olympus-stake
 
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lenshoarder

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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-01/sony-agrees-to-halve-its-stake-in-olympus-with-sale-to-jpmorgan

Ummm... just because somebody owns 5% of your company doesn't mean "you're effectively a division of their company". How Olympus performs has absolutely no bearing on Sony's business performance (other than what profits or losses are made on that 5%).
I didn't know about that. Thanks for that link. I was speaking from the perspective of the relationship before that. As you can see from that article, Sony was around 10-11% of Olympus making it the largest shareholder. Precisely 11.5% when they took their stake. More than that, the second largest shareholder was Softbank. I guess they've moved back up to number 1. Sony and Softbank have a close relationship. Together they controlled almost a quarter of Olympus. Which in a company the size and structure of Olympus, pretty much gave them control.

As for Olympus having no bearing on Sony's business performance, other than the PL on that 5%. That's not true. Olympus uses Sony sensors. Thus for every camera they sell that does, Sony makes money. Also, there is Sony Olympus Medical Solutions. Ironically that was announced pretty much at the same time that Sony sold half their Olympus shares to JPM.

I wonder if Sony taking the BCN award in mirrorless for 2015 had anything to do with it. Maybe Sony decided it no longer needed to hedge. I think they have a corporate memory from losing previous format wars.
 
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lenshoarder

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the price I am seeing for the a72r is that it is still a 3000 dollar body..

legacy lenses on an A7 are still way bigger than their equivalents on m43... if you are saying otherwise you are kidding yourself.. I have a fine selection of legacy lenses.. and while they can produce some interesting looks..the user experience compared to native m43 is chalk and cheese

K
It seems that you aren't aware that Sony sells more than one FF body. Here's one for a bit under $1000.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1008114-REG/sony_ilce7_b_a7_mirrorless_digital_camera.html

As for sizes of legacy lenses versus M43. I say "They really aren't that big" and you say they are "way bigger". Those statements are subjective. I leave it up for people to decide for themselves. I rummaged through a drawer and picked these out and took some quick snaps. Bear with me, I know you probably are quite familiar with all these lenses since you have a fine legacy lens collection. But I'm posting this for others to see for themselves.

First up, some zooms. The Panasonic 14-42mm versus a Minolta AF 35-105 and a Sigma AF 28-200mm.

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


A series of Minolta AF primes versus a Panasonic 12-32mm. I wish I had a 20mm prime to compare them with but I don't. The 12-32mm is my stand-in. The 20mm is a little bigger.

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A couple of MF primes compared to the 12-32mm. The Panasonic 20mm prime is about the same size as these MF primes.

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At lastly, for the DIY amongst you. A Minotar 35mm compared to the 12-32mm. This I actually took off my window sill. I put it there about 3 years ago. I really should get around to mounting it. Others that have already used it on e-mount say it's exceptional especially considering it's size. One person said it's as good as the Sigma 30mm but it's full frame.

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Sure you can find some massive FF lenses. You can also find some massive M43 lenses. All in all though, I say that FF lenses aren't really that big compared to M43.
 

lenshoarder

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Not as rapid as the cellphone camera sensors. As I had said earlier, smartphones are now in their 4th generation or even 5th; seemingly the A7RII is starting to use technology that has been on camera phones awhile ago. If you can scale up the recent camera phone sensor, you'll have a better sensor than what you have now. Why is it taking so long to scale up as Olympus was asking Sony when the E-M5 II was introduced? One possible answer is that, there is no ROI on camera sales. It's a declining business. Camera stores are closing and the strong ones are starting to struggle. If you continue to let this laggard of sensor development to flounder; sooner or later the smartphones will be in the position to provide resolution, DR and noise free images rival that of a $300 to $600 cameras, which will surely decimate what sales left from the $300 to $600 which compromised 90% of total camera sales. Remember that a $600 to $800 phones are subsidized by yearly plans. Cameras don't get subsidized. The purpose getting a better camera is take photos and video better than what a phone could do and currently it somewhat do. But if the phone sensors keep getting better and supersede even the low and mid end DSLR, then Sony, Olympus, Canon and Nikon will be forced to become niche players which they are starting to become. $3000 or $8000 cameras may be the norm. Are you willing to cough up that much dough to keep up with the Joneses? For others, AT&T and Verizon or Bell, Telus and Rogers will be providing a lending hand subsidizing a new phone every 2 yrs or whatever.
ROI has nothing to do with it. It has nothing to do with declining camera sales. It's just a fact of life. On silicon, it's much easier to do make small things than it is to make big things. It's about yield. It's the same reason that a bigger size TV costs more than a smaller size TV. It's just not that it has so much more raw materials. It's the yield you get on a piece of silicon. Making sensors is akin to you typing something on a keyboard. How long can you go before you make a mistake? The better you get a typing the longer that becomes. Making sensors is exactly the same. Initially the process isn't very good. So all they can do is make small chips well enough because there are too many imperfections to make a bigger chip. As the process improves they have less and less errors and can make bigger and bigger chips. That's why small sensors like in phones will always be ahead on the technology curve than bigger sensors like in mirrorless cameras. So it's not economics that regulate the speed of adoption, it's technology development.

One last thing. The era of phone subsidization is coming to an end. The major carriers are moving away from that and seeking different models. The MNVOs already have. BYOP is the hot new thing.
 

T N Args

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Buying your sensors from Sony doesn't meant that you become "effectively a division of Sony". Nor does it mean you are "sharing technologies or technology development with Sony". It just means you are a customer who buys Sony products. Just like how Olympus bought a sensor from Panasonic for the E-M1. You have to work closely with Panasonic to make their sensor work well with your software and hardware in your camera. You have to collaborate. That's all. I'm not getting carried away about expecting the latest newest Sony technologies flying into Olympus cameras straight away. More likely the Olympus camera division could go the way of Minolta's.
 

Ulfric M Douglas

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It uses a similar sensor, not the same sensor. ...
...I haven't heard anything definitive either by admission or by teardown. Have you?
It is very easy to check.
The E-M5's sensor is a certain width : slightly narrower than all other previous 4/3rds sensors
and using the same lens on two comparative bodies yeilds photos with a certain field of view.
Easy test but not many people know that.
 

bikerhiker

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ROI has nothing to do with it. It has nothing to do with declining camera sales. It's just a fact of life. On silicon, it's much easier to do make small things than it is to make big things. It's about yield. It's the same reason that a bigger size TV costs more than a smaller size TV. It's just not that it has so much more raw materials. It's the yield you get on a piece of silicon. Making sensors is akin to you typing something on a keyboard. How long can you go before you make a mistake? The better you get a typing the longer that becomes. Making sensors is exactly the same. Initially the process isn't very good. So all they can do is make small chips well enough because there are too many imperfections to make a bigger chip. As the process improves they have less and less errors and can make bigger and bigger chips. That's why small sensors like in phones will always be ahead on the technology curve than bigger sensors like in mirrorless cameras. So it's not economics that regulate the speed of adoption, it's technology development.

One last thing. The era of phone subsidization is coming to an end. The major carriers are moving away from that and seeking different models. The MNVOs already have. BYOP is the hot new thing.
You need sales to encourage product development. If you look even at the medium format cameras in the old film days where we have no sensors, the AF technology or lack of with medium format bodies were far less advanced than their 35mm SLR counterpart because there are simply more sales happening with 35mm. More sales = more development and hence better ROI. The reason Sony is on a yearly development schedule is because they are seeing sales gain in a declining camera market. Even Sony's sales chart shows that. So I'm not sure where you see camera sales aren't declining. So far, Sony has been ticking the right boxes. I agree with the yield on chips. That's why full frame cameras are not going to be as cheap as smaller sensor cams because of the cost of making the sensor. Having said that, the progress on smaller sensor cameras, the bulk of most camera sales from all makers haven't much improved monumentally either. And people are looking for those monumental gains; not small short hyped up gains. In order for those $300 to $600 cameras to survive, it must always be ahead of the phone sensor curve. It has to, but so far, it has not. The phone is catching up.
The problem with this I see is that, eventually most of the camera makers will turn into niche players like Leica does. But how many Leica-ish companies can the market support? Maybe Canon, Nikon, Sony and Leica; but that's 4 players. If you look at computers today, there are only 2 major players. Apple and PC, where just 2 decades earlier, you had Commodore, Atari, Ti, Osbourne, Wang etc... I just don't want to see Olympus be sidelined like Atari did many years back. Lots of innovation, but in the end, only the strongest and fittest survive.
 

eteless

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The problem with this I see is that, eventually most of the camera makers will turn into niche players like Leica does. But how many Leica-ish companies can the market support? Maybe Canon, Nikon, Sony and Leica; but that's 4 players. If you look at computers today, there are only 2 major players. Apple and PC, where just 2 decades earlier, you had Commodore, Atari, Ti, Osbourne, Wang etc... I just don't want to see Olympus be sidelined like Atari did many years back. Lots of innovation, but in the end, only the strongest and fittest survive.
Apple and PC? I would assume you're not talking about hardware as both now share common Intel architecture (rather than powerpc etc) for which there's hundreds of different vendors all making different hardware...

Software wise it's naive to think either Apple could exist without windows (evidenced by most apple stores using windows based POS systems), let alone removing the Linux backbone of almost all enterprise...

Also ignoring the use of dedicated networking hardware which none of the above function without, it's like having a camera with no lenses. (Said networking hardware also makes up the backbone for things such as telecommunications)
 

lenshoarder

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Buying your sensors from Sony doesn't meant that you become "effectively a division of Sony". Nor does it mean you are "sharing technologies or technology development with Sony". It just means you are a customer who buys Sony products. Just like how Olympus bought a sensor from Panasonic for the E-M1. You have to work closely with Panasonic to make their sensor work well with your software and hardware in your camera. You have to collaborate. That's all. I'm not getting carried away about expecting the latest newest Sony technologies flying into Olympus cameras straight away. More likely the Olympus camera division could go the way of Minolta's.
As I already spelled out in my other post, it's much more than Olympus buying sensors from Sony.
 

lenshoarder

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You need sales to encourage product development.
While that is quite true, that's not what's holding back development of sensors. They are already going as fast as they possibly can. The technology they use to make these sensors isn't isolated. It's leveraged off the broader silicon chip industry. So as the fabrication technology advances there, they can use those advances to make better sensors. How many phones, tablets, TVs, laptops, desktops and cameras are sold? It's a huge industry with plenty of funding. That's not the problem. It just takes time to develop new things. From personal experience, no amount of money can make someone be more creative. It happens when it happens. One of the funniest things that has ever happened to me at work was when management tried to implement Total Quality Management on us in the research division. They actually had it scheduled out when we would be "brilliant".
 

lenshoarder

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It is very easy to check.
The E-M5's sensor is a certain width : slightly narrower than all other previous 4/3rds sensors
and using the same lens on two comparative bodies yeilds photos with a certain field of view.
Easy test but not many people know that.
That's not definitive. People aren't considering another possibility. It would explain how the chip can be exactly the same size and even DXO the same. Sony and Aptina have a cross licensing agreement. So it can walk like a Sony sensor. It can quack like a Sony sensor. That doesn't mean it's a Sony sensor. People often speculate that Nikon uses Sony sensors. They point out all the same similarities as people have for the GH3 sensor. Yet Nikon has denied a particular camera uses a Sony sensor. It could have been a Sony sensor clone made by Aptina.

What would settle it once and for all is either an admission from Panasonic or a teardown for the part number.
 

GFFPhoto

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That's not definitive. People aren't considering another possibility. It would explain how the chip can be exactly the same size and even DXO the same. Sony and Aptina have a cross licensing agreement. So it can walk like a Sony sensor. It can quack like a Sony sensor. That doesn't mean it's a Sony sensor. People often speculate that Nikon uses Sony sensors. They point out all the same similarities as people have for the GH3 sensor. Yet Nikon has denied a particular camera uses a Sony sensor. It could have been a Sony sensor clone made by Aptina.

What would settle it once and for all is either an admission from Panasonic or a teardown for the part number.
I remember it being settled by looking at the actual sensor that yes the GH3 uses a Sony sensor. I'm not going to try and find the article I read a couple years ago... But if you still have doubts, email LensRentals and ask. They open cameras and lenses up regularly.
 

lenshoarder

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I remember it being settled by looking at the actual sensor that yes the GH3 uses a Sony sensor. I'm not going to try and find the article I read a couple years ago... But if you still have doubts, email LensRentals and ask. They open cameras and lenses up regularly.
I couldn't find anything about anyone actually looking up the sensor. There's just a lot of speculation. Lensrentals does teardown a lot of things, but from what I can find the GH3 hasn't been amongst them. I'm kind of surprised no one has torn one down. People teardown pretty much anything these days.
 

GFFPhoto

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I couldn't find anything about anyone actually looking up the sensor. There's just a lot of speculation. Lensrentals does teardown a lot of things, but from what I can find the GH3 hasn't been amongst them. I'm kind of surprised no one has torn one down. People teardown pretty much anything these days.
Like I said, I remember seeing an article where it was confirmed by looking at the actual sensor, and when I suggest you email LensRentals its because they have likely been inside one, even if they didn't write a blog article about it.
 

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