Sustainability of µ4/3 long term....

tkbslc

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Arguably Pentax was in worse shape. Even though the company itself is gone, the brand, lenses, and bodies are still being produced.
Yeah, I can't think of a single digital segment that Pentax was doing very well in and they still found very good buyers for their camera division. First Tokina and then Ricoh.
 

Vinpocetine

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I feel like it (and APS, which was mostly a point and shoot sized film prior to digital) is a stopgap for a time period where 35mm was only found in the expensive (leica) and somewhat expensive and bulky (Canikon).

Pulling out my crystal ball, cell phones and ultra compacts will be satisfied with the IQ in 1" or less sized sensors (for lens size reasons), and the enthusiast / pro market will continue to want to use the glass/style/overall look they used for the past 100 years with 35mm and medium format sized sensors. I don't see where 4/3 and APS-C fit in the mix, apart from perhaps some niche long telephoto work. Maybe 4/3 can duke it out with APS for that market, but I feel like APS has a heck of a lead there. Anything under about 150mm (FF equiv) can have very manageable lens sizes on a 35mm film/sensor size.

The Sony A7 series is the bellwether, you can buy an A7 new for less then $1000 now, and stick just about any 35mm lens ever designed on it. In a few years I wouldn't be surprised to see a 35mm sensor in an X100 sized body for <$500, and in a few years, I wouldn't be surprised to see if they work out some of the design quirks for adapting legacy lenses, there was an article on sonyalpharumors today with a sony patent addressing corner issues.

Yes, I realize that you're never going to get a 35mm sensor in a GM1 sized body or a 35mm sensor and 24-70 lens in an LX7 sized body, but are either of those huge hits, or are they niche products? It seems to me that amongst the enthusiasts, the high end body sizes are reaching up to a territory where they have to compete with larger sensors anyway, for ergonomic reasons (EM-1 and GH4 come to mind).
 
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emorgan451

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You bought into the Samsung NX system and you're worried about m43?
As a fire sale as my first ever camera. In 2010 $400 for camera and lens with a APSC sensor was worth the risk. It made me love photography so I can't knock it too bad. I realized it wasn't the system for me to drop almost $2k in though... Lol
 

jnewell

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I would also say "Don't worry, just enjoy it now."
In my opinion, this is the only sane approach. It is not possible to accurately predict which format will be around in five years, nor is it possible to predict which manufacturers will survive the current turmoil. Use it, use it well, fret not.
 

scott rawson

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One thing I have noticed is the resale value of all m4/3 gear...lenses and bodies is secondhand priced dropped dramatically..with gas buying and selling price,s on gear a lot lower than 12 month ago!...hang on to your gear and use what you have...otherwise it is a costly pastime.
 

carlosfm

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Photography products are not designed and built like they used to be. I'm not sure who apart from maybe Leica still does it like before. Olympus tried to do that with their 4/3 lenses, and though technically extremely good, business-wise it seems a bit questionable in hindsight. Everything fully native in just about every system is now an electronic gadget, rather than a mechanical/optical masterpiece. IMO buying the latest camera gear as a financial investment doesn't make sense, in the same way that buying a flash new car as a financial investment doesn't make sense. Either be prepared for the depreciation hit, or buy used. Once you've got it, get the most utility value out of it that you can.
Fully agree and subscribe every word!:thumbup:
I never thought of replacing my Canon T90 + FD lenses (also bought used relatively cheap, in the autofocus era) until digital cameras started having acceptable quality and the disappearing of film was irreversible.
I bought my Canon G1 used, for 70 Euros. And a few weeks ago a used (but new, unused, part of a kit) Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II lens. This is the new Pana kit lens, and it is really nice.
This, along with all my adapted Canon FD lenses and some eventual native m4/3 lens that I add to my collection, will have to last for many years.
Unless the G1 stops working, of course... and in that case, I will then track another used m4/3 camera.
 

pdk42

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I feel like it (and APS, which was mostly a point and shoot sized film prior to digital) is a stopgap for a time period where 35mm was only found in the expensive (leica) and somewhat expensive and bulky (Canikon).

Pulling out my crystal ball, cell phones and ultra compacts will be satisfied with the IQ in 1" or less sized sensors (for lens size reasons), and the enthusiast / pro market will continue to want to use the glass/style/overall look they used for the past 100 years with 35mm and medium format sized sensors. I don't see where 4/3 and APS-C fit in the mix, apart from perhaps some niche long telephoto work. Maybe 4/3 can duke it out with APS for that market, but I feel like APS has a heck of a lead there. Anything under about 150mm (FF equiv) can have very manageable lens sizes on a 35mm film/sensor size.

The Sony A7 series is the bellwether, you can buy an A7 new for less then $1000 now, and stick just about any 35mm lens ever designed on it. In a few years I wouldn't be surprised to see a 35mm sensor in an X100 sized body for <$500, and in a few years, I wouldn't be surprised to see if they work out some of the design quirks for adapting legacy lenses, there was an article on sonyalpharumors today with a sony patent addressing corner issues.

Yes, I realize that you're never going to get a 35mm sensor in a GM1 sized body or a 35mm sensor and 24-70 lens in an LX7 sized body, but are either of those huge hits, or are they niche products? It seems to me that amongst the enthusiasts, the high end body sizes are reaching up to a territory where they have to compete with larger sensors anyway, for ergonomic reasons (EM-1 and GH4 come to mind).
I can see where you're going, but I really don't agree with the conclusion. IQ from m43 is way more than adequate for serious work and the lens ecosystem is broad, of high quality and compact. APSC is in a different boat. The range of native "crop" lenses is narrower than m43 and if you put FF lenses on APSC bodies there's no size benefit at all to FF. There'll always be a place for FF but there's also place for a more compact yet high quality system and I think m43 is better positioned than APSC there. Maybe systems like Fuji which offer some special sauce will survive, but I can see the APSC bodies from Canikon etc falling by the wayside.
 

GBarrington

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One thing I have noticed is the resale value of all m4/3 gear...lenses and bodies is secondhand priced dropped dramatically..with gas buying and selling price,s on gear a lot lower than 12 month ago!...hang on to your gear and use what you have...otherwise it is a costly pastime.
I can't remember a time when photography wasn't a costly pastime!

But to be fair, I think it is less costly now, overall. When I was in my 20s, film was between $3 and $8 US a roll (12-36 exposures), color processing could easily cost between $8-$15 depending on the print options) and 'enlargement' prints could cost between $3 to $20 US.

Quality enthusiast cameras cost between $300 - $1000. New Leicas would run around $3000. True those bodies lasted longer, but when the average moderately well educated young man's pre tax salary was $275 a month (women less, I would imagine) the relative costs were much higher than they are today. As a new enlistee in the US Air Force, where I got REALLY serious about photography, I earned $75 a month!

Personally, I like the current situation better than then. New technology is always coming out, and the lenses are significantly better (even kit lenses) thanks to not only computer based design but to automated construction; and even though I am now retired, I can still afford a new camera or lens every so often if I budget for it. I don't think retirees of the 1960s simply did photography unless they were wealthy.
 

Turbofrog

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I feel like it (and APS, which was mostly a point and shoot sized film prior to digital) is a stopgap for a time period where 35mm was only found in the expensive (leica) and somewhat expensive and bulky (Canikon).

Pulling out my crystal ball, cell phones and ultra compacts will be satisfied with the IQ in 1" or less sized sensors (for lens size reasons), and the enthusiast / pro market will continue to want to use the glass/style/overall look they used for the past 100 years with 35mm and medium format sized sensors. I don't see where 4/3 and APS-C fit in the mix, apart from perhaps some niche long telephoto work. Maybe 4/3 can duke it out with APS for that market, but I feel like APS has a heck of a lead there. Anything under about 150mm (FF equiv) can have very manageable lens sizes on a 35mm film/sensor size.

The Sony A7 series is the bellwether, you can buy an A7 new for less then $1000 now, and stick just about any 35mm lens ever designed on it. In a few years I wouldn't be surprised to see a 35mm sensor in an X100 sized body for <$500, and in a few years, I wouldn't be surprised to see if they work out some of the design quirks for adapting legacy lenses, there was an article on sonyalpharumors today with a sony patent addressing corner issues.

Yes, I realize that you're never going to get a 35mm sensor in a GM1 sized body or a 35mm sensor and 24-70 lens in an LX7 sized body, but are either of those huge hits, or are they niche products? It seems to me that amongst the enthusiasts, the high end body sizes are reaching up to a territory where they have to compete with larger sensors anyway, for ergonomic reasons (EM-1 and GH4 come to mind).
It seems to me that technology and the march of progress are on M4/3's side, not against it.

As you say, sensors and image quality will continue to improve. Already, M4/3 vastly exceeds the image quality that was ever capable with 35mm film. Even medium format film, I shoot it because I enjoy the experience and the feel of the images, not because I can get a noticeably better quality in any way (at least not without a huge amount of work compared to the effortlessly amazing results I get out of digital generally, and M4/3 in particular). M4/3 already matches the real world image quality that was expected of pros when the switch to digital happened en masse - it is comparable to results available from a FF camera 10 years ago, like the 1Ds Mk II.

The question is, how good is good enough? For decades, professionals saw Medium Format as the starting place to get "acceptable" images. 35mm is considered "small format" for a reason. But it was more compact, more versatile, and easier to use than Medium Format, and certainly much easier than Large Format. Eventually, advances in film and lens quality meant that 35mm film was now "good enough" for pros, and the overwhelming choice of enthusiasts and amateurs.

I hope you can see where the analogy is going. Full frame digital is always going to cost more than M4/3, and it will always have better image quality. The same equation was true of medium format. But eventually the smaller format became "good enough." M4/3 represents a sufficiently large break in format and philosophy from FF incumbents that it can provide substantive advantages in terms of form factor, and always will, thanks to physics. Sony can continue to cut the price of its E-mount sensors and lenses - though I don't think they will if they want to maintain a profit - but if they're going to provide any real world image quality advantage, they will, by definition, be larger and heavier. And that image quality advantage will become harder and harder to see in the future. Already, most people hardly bother to take their DSLR with them rather than their 16MP smartphone if they're shooting casually because the quality is "good enough" during the day. It's only during low light that the differences really make themselves clear.

Not that I think those larger formats will go away (though I see APS-C as the middle child with most of the disadvantages of larger formats and fewer of the advantages of smaller formats...basically the worst of both worlds). There will always be a small group of people who are willing to pay for ultimate image quality. But all that to say, I don't think M4/3 will be going away any time soon either...
 

amphibulous

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I'm not sure people understand all the engineering issues here...

The big one is lens cost. The bigger a lens element, the greater the grinding cost - it's probably at least relative to the area of the element, but the volume of the blank may be better for highly curved elements. (The basic cost of grinding anything is the time taken removing material.) So grinding elements for sensors bigger than m43 is more expensive. If you compare the cost of the Panny 14-140 with a Nikon FF zoom of the same range and sharpness then you're looking at a factor of about 2.5.

So, given that good lenses are expensive and critical, the smallest sensor format with good enough quality is the likely eventual winner. That's already m43.

The next issue to consider is sensor stabilization; again the same logic applies - smaller sensors can be better stabilized.

Then add to that the Panasonic-Fuji 20-stop sensor. DR is *the* critical issue in image quality now that everyone has +12MP and reasonable noise; this sensor is a huge advantage.

There really isn't anything to worry about here. The DSLR market is collapsing and Canon and Nikon have left it too late to jump ship - at least unless they have a stealthworks 20-stop sensor of their own.
 

amphibulous

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Full frame digital is always going to cost more than M4/3, and it will always have better image quality.
I disagree. IQ depends on a lot of factors other than sensor size. Even if you scale up budgets then a larger sensor is harder to stabilize, for example. And its advantages in DR (if you assume equal technology) are irrelevant once you go past about 15 stops. Ditto the noise reduction and any enlargement advantage for the light and print sizes most people care about. A smaller sensor really may get you better IQ. (There are also issues about shutter vibration and rolling shutter - smaller sensors can do much better here.)

The future is the 20 stop sensor, better IBIS, variable Bayer filtering like the RX1r ii's, and shutters that move out of the way quickly enough so that you don't get rolling shutter effects in video. At some point an all-electronic shutter will probably come along that can end the need for a mechanical.
 

demiro

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I really think that m4/3s can top APS-C in the short term, and FF, with its ever-dropping price of entry, is on "our" side in that fight, as it is squeezing down on APS-C like never before. I think 1" sensors are more of a long term threat, as I imagine they will be delivering better and better IQ in a smaller package.

As others have said, it's all about what is "good enough". I think audio is a decent comparison. After many years of manufacturers trying to produce gear that delivered better sound, the baseline was set for digital file size for MP3s and most everyone gladly accepted it because of the value they place on convenience.

We'll likely always have niche options, as the hard core enthusiasts will pay more for better quality, but that is generally not what moves the needle.
 

amphibulous

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I think audio is a decent comparison. After many years of manufacturers trying to produce gear that delivered better sound, the baseline was set for digital file size for MP3s and most everyone gladly accepted it because of the value they place on convenience.

We'll likely always have niche options, as the hard core enthusiasts will pay more for better quality, but that is generally not what moves the needle.
Actually that's a terrible analogy. Because

1. Producing custom "high end" audio gear in small numbers is cheap. This is partly such gear doesn't have to be small, rugged, or do complex things fast. But mostly because...

2. Many high end audio freaks are gullible idiots and spend money on stuff that has only placebo value. Real audio engineers laugh their heads off at these people, and blind testing almost invariably shows they've wasted money. The only parts of a system worth spending big money on are speakers and headphones and room treatment - for the rest, a $30 Sansa Clip playing 320 mp3s is already past the sq limit of human hearing in blind tests.

...Producing a custom sensor requires tens of millions of dollars; it isn't comparable to charging people $2000 for $100 worth of standard components soldered on to a board. Or $10 of cable for $300 or a $500 "power conditioner" that is really a few resistors. You need serious research, money to pay for re-configuring the chip fab line, and big minimum production runs. Leica show the limits of what can be done here: you need customers willing to pay huge premiums for non-existent to marginal performance gains and a very big friend willing to share expertise and sourcing in solid state physics, chip fab, sourcing tiny motors, etc.
 

WT21

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I really think that m4/3s can top APS-C in the short term, and FF, with its ever-dropping price of entry, is on "our" side in that fight, as it is squeezing down on APS-C like never before. I think 1" sensors are more of a long term threat, as I imagine they will be delivering better and better IQ in a smaller package.
I am out of APS-C for this reason. I have a FF (shallow DOF, DR), m43 (all-arounder, travel, small kit) and a 1" sensor (super travel and deep DOF). To me, this is analogous to a 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm lens set up. It's the trinity of camera sensor sizes!
 

Amin Sabet

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So far, many of the smallest autofocus lenses for full frame and APS-C are still kind of big. For example, here are some of the smaller "short teles" available for MFT, APS-C, and full frame mirrorless:

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

Untitled by Amin Sabet, on Flickr

Could Sony release a small 90mm f/2.8 non-macro, or a very small 90/4? Could Fuij do a small 56/2 or very small 56/2.8? Yes and yes, but they haven't done it yet. Granted, Sony has the 50/1.8 for APS-C E-mount, but that's shorter than I'd like, and they are putting most of their resources behind full frame.
 
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Turbofrog

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Yes, Sony is being strongly pulled in two entirely different directions with their FE cameras. On the one hand, pros (or "pros," anyway) are demanding ever larger and faster lenses to exactly replicate their FF DSLR kits. On the other hand, those who are interested in mirrorless for size and weight savings will find scant options in the existing system, unless they are interested in using manual focus lenses only.

From my perspective, I think the idea of an f2.8 zoom on a full-frame camera is a bit antiquated. It made sense for run-and-gun photography with film cameras, or when ISO 3200 was the limit you'd want to use on your 1Ds II or original 5D...but now, with usable ISO 12800? It just seems like the wrong tool for the job. If you need a 1+ kg f2.8 zoom on your A7 series, you should probably just carry two bodies with an f1.8 or f2 prime lens on both bodies, and you'll enjoy less weight and better quality, to boot.

I think it would interesting for Sony to populate a line of tiny, high quality f2.8 or f3.5 prime lenses and high-grade 3.5-5.6 zooms to highlight how small the system can be and the image quality benefits that still exist at low ISOs, specifically dynamic range and resolution. For many photographers, the lenses are regularly being stopped down to f5.6 or f8 anyway in day-to-day shooting just to get enough depth-of-field...
 
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demiro

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Actually that's a terrible analogy. Because

1. Producing custom "high end" audio gear in small numbers is cheap. This is partly such gear doesn't have to be small, rugged, or do complex things fast. But mostly because...

2. Many high end audio freaks are gullible idiots and spend money on stuff that has only placebo value. Real audio engineers laugh their heads off at these people, and blind testing almost invariably shows they've wasted money. The only parts of a system worth spending big money on are speakers and headphones and room treatment - for the rest, a $30 Sansa Clip playing 320 mp3s is already past the sq limit of human hearing in blind tests.

...Producing a custom sensor requires tens of millions of dollars; it isn't comparable to charging people $2000 for $100 worth of standard components soldered on to a board. Or $10 of cable for $300 or a $500 "power conditioner" that is really a few resistors. You need serious research, money to pay for re-configuring the chip fab line, and big minimum production runs. Leica show the limits of what can be done here: you need customers willing to pay huge premiums for non-existent to marginal performance gains and a very big friend willing to share expertise and sourcing in solid state physics, chip fab, sourcing tiny motors, etc.
I agree with you about the benefits of spending big bucks on lots of audio components, but it doesn't really matter. It's about perceived value to the consumer. Not about what self-appointed internet experts believe.
 

amphibulous

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I think 1" sensors are more of a long term threat
That's less likely than you'd think. In a lot of ways sensors are very near maximum feasible performance already, eg
I agree with you about the benefits of spending big bucks on lots of audio components, but it doesn't really matter. It's about perceived value to the consumer. Not about what self-appointed internet experts believe.
No, it's about production lines and small production overhead. You can make a pointless $2000 amp on a soldering station using standard components, but you can't do this with a modern camera. You need factories and chip fabs and labs. Most of the hi fi market is accessible to anyone who wants to play; the camera market requires tens of millions in start-up capital.
 

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