Sustainability of µ4/3 long term....

tkbslc

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What sucks for FF mirrorless is that they are kind of damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they make slow, small lenses, then people complain that they are squandering the benefit of the larger sensor. If they make pro grade fast lenses, then everyone says the lenses are so big they might as well shoot Nikon. It's very hard for them to find a happy medium. Most of their high end FF zooms are f4, and still aren't tiny.

To be honest, much of the above could be said of APS-C mirrorless, too, especially as you cross normal focal lengths. Compare the Fujifilm 90mm f2 vs the Olympus 75mm f1.8 for example.

I honestly see the ever improving high end compact as the biggest threat to m4/3. Once you've decided you favor small size and are OK with a small-ish sensor, then why not an RX100 iV or a LX100? Or an FZ1000 if you need zoom?
 

amphibulous

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Because an RX100 has horrible dynamic range at high ISO due to the small sensor - which means that it won't do something like, oh, shoot streets well in UK winter light, not just that it isn't good for motorsports and baseball games. And LX100 has the problem every large sensor collapsing lens non-ILC seems to have - dust. Plus you can't switch to other lenses, obviously. The FZ1000 will have a DR problem too, is my guess.

Also: an LX100 sensor is NOT small! It's actually 4/3?
 

tkbslc

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Because an RX100 has horrible dynamic range at high ISO due to the small sensor - which means that it won't do something like, oh, shoot streets well in UK winter light, not just that it isn't good for motorsports and baseball games. And LX100 has the problem every large sensor collapsing lens non-ILC seems to have - dust. Plus you can't switch to other lenses, obviously. The FZ1000 will have a DR problem too, is my guess.

Also: an LX100 sensor is NOT small! It's actually 4/3?
It was more of a rhetorical question to make a point, but thanks for the sarcastic rebuttal.

Most of your assumptions above are false, however.
 

demiro

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That's less likely than you'd think. In a lot of ways sensors are very near maximum feasible performance already, eg


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.
If you'd care to explain why 1" sensors are close to being maxed I'd out be curious to hear it.

I'm not suggesting that 20 companies are going to make niche cameras in the future, but rather that some current companies may end up just supplying to a niche market. My point about audio was the consumers have accepted "less" for more convenience. Production costs have zero to do with my point. But please, keep banging on that drum.
 

amphibulous

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Also, people might want to play with this:

Image comparison: Digital Photography Review

- If you want to know how something really looks, switch to low ISO on the Sigma. But note how the LX100 and GM1/GX7 etc look a lot more like the D800 shots and RX1R shots than they do the ones from the RX100. Then the A7 and the Sigma (at least at low ISO) are in a class of their own. (But obviously the lens used for test shots will have a big effect.)
 

amphibulous

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If you'd care to explain why 1" sensors are close to being maxed I'd out be curious to hear it.
More specifically, sensors from the current base technology. You could get an improvement from switching to new materials, but current sensors - just like LEDs for flashlights - are running very close to the maximum efficiency dictated by the underlying physics.

I'm not suggesting that 20 companies are going to make niche cameras in the future, but rather that some current companies may end up just supplying to a niche market.
I didn't think that you were suggesting 20 companies. I was pointing out that only ONE company - Leica - is really surviving in this niche. Thanks to unique brand heritage and an alliance with a huge Japanese corporation. And that there are very good reasons why boutique companies can't set up production lines and make well-differentiated cameras on their own - because it takes huge amounts of capital.

My point about audio was the consumers have accepted "less" for more convenience.
Again, they haven't. That mp3 sounds worse than vinyl is something believed only those too silly to check blind listening tests.

Production costs have zero to do with my point.
This is correct: that point is independently wrong. However, your argument also failed on other grounds, even if you don't understand them.
 

stratokaster

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Really, this topic has been beaten to death already.

I think Micro 4/3 has better chances of surviving than any other mirrorless standard except Sony E.

Samsung NX is already dead.

Nikon 1 is between a rock and a hard place. It looked kinda bad when it was introduced, but in 2015 it looks ridiculous: image quality now is not better than in 2011, at the same time Micro 4/3 and even fixed-lens compact cameras have made great progress in every department.

Fujifilm X-series are great cameras and Fujifilm seems really committed to their vision... for now. The company itself is in better health than Panasonic or Olympus, but their camera division is also losing money.

I don't know about Olympus, but Panasonic clearly sees Micro 4/3 as important for their professional video / broadcast division (which is not losing money, by the way). Their pro camcorders basically use the same technology as their Micro 4/3 cameras. This instills some confidence that they will not just abandon their customers and discontinue their Micro 4/3 lineup. They even restarted their own sensor development because they want to be the first company on the market truly ready for 8K video.

Of course some may argue that with increasing availability of full frame mirrorless Micro 4/3 is going to become irrelevant. This is not the case, because all things considered, a usable Sony A7 system is not meaningfully smaller or lighter than a DSLR setup. So Micro 4/3 still has the best combination of image quality and portability of all mirrorless systems out there. PL Nocticron notwithstanding ;-)
 

bikerhiker

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Sustainability of any product on a long term basis is based on 3 things.
1, Price
2, Performance
3, Convenience

1, In order for any product to continue selling year over year, pricing the product within a market segment is very important. And that market segment has always been the <$1000 buying crowd throughout the history of photography with cost adjusted basis factored in. And as you can see it clearly that m43 exploits on this notion by offering a lot of models based on the "SAME" sensor size and resolution. The G7, GH4, GM5, LX100, E-M5 II, E-P5, GX-8, E-M1, E-PL7 and E-M10 II all based on variations of the 16MP sensor at different price points! Fuji has only 4 models at the most (X-T1, X-T10, X-E2 and X-100T). Sony has 3 APS cameras, but only one worthy mention which is the A6000. And their full frame offerings -- just 3 but these 3 are not in the $1000 ranges. Nikon and Canon are also experimenting and defying nature laws by up-pricing their products as premium. The last time manufacturers did that were during the medium format days when the European makers were fighting against the Japanese DSLR makers for dominance. Well, guess who won and who lost? Seemed like history is about to repeat again sad to say..

2, Performance.. And this has to do with lenses. A lot of people talk about fantastic dynamic range, noise performance and tonal depth of full frames and APS-C sensors. These specifications are potentials to provide good image quality. But camera bodies and sensors are seldomly able to make pictures on their own. You need a lens to take a photo. And in order to do that, you need to have a sharp fast lens to begin with.
Why sharp? Well because if it's very sharp to begin with, then you rarely need to sharpen the image. Excessive sharpening of an image introduce more noise. A slow lens can starve the body of more light and thus have to operate at a higher ISO than a faster lens. The beauty of the m43 system is in the choices of good quality prime and zoom lenses that are both fast and sharp.

3, Convenience. And this has to do with portability. A typical m43 kit of both FAST and SHARP prime and zoom lenses of the same speed and calibre are almost always smaller than a comparable APS-C or Full Frame bodies. Now some people will use the argument that you could buy a slower zoom lens like a 24-70 f/4 and achieve a smaller form factor and then augment that with a 1 stop higher ISO to achieve an equivalent shutter speed that you could get if you are to shoot @ f/2.8. But again, you are "NOT" realizing the maximum potential of a full frame body unless you shoot with a lens that maximizes that potential.
Why am I leading to portability and convenience as being very important for survival? Again, history had shown time and time again that photograph devices continue to shrink. We began with plates, then film and now memory cards and thus becoming more easier and more convenient to produce photographs.

Otherwise, it's like driving a Ferrari Testarossa in the middle of New York rush hour or even in the middle of rush hour in London. No matter how much horsepower you've got under the hood of your Ferrari, you could never take it to its fullest potential as say driving it in Germany's Autobahn or in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Having said that, the m43 system had made some fantastic strides; offering fast or faster primes and zooms in all popular focal lengths. It is becoming very close to complete. Whereas the Sony E-Mount is not, but it seemed it is catching up.

Those that didn't meet all 3 had all went dead or taken over! Contax, Mamiya, Exakta, Rollei and all.
 

demiro

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This is correct: that point is independently wrong. However, your argument also failed on other grounds, even if you don't understand them.
What you think you know and what I understand intersect exactly at the point where I really don't give a damn. Thanks for all of your insight though. You obviously are an internet scholar of the highest regard.

Now excuse me while I go listen to my vinyl powered by my hand-built tube amp with my $1000 cables. Luckily I haven't checked the blind listening tests, just the deaf ones.
 

amphibulous

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...The idea that an independent boutique camera company developing its own technology can survive gets even crazier when you look at Leica in depth. Eg the Q was developed so that Leica could claim to make its own compact instead of re-branding and this interview is a "friendly" but it's clear that the Q is really re-badged Japanese components:

Meet the Designers Behind the Leica Q (Typ 116)

Naturally, our first thought went to the sensor: is it produced by Sony or is it the same as the one in the M (Typ 240)? The latter seems more likely, since both cameras share a 24 Mpx resolution. Peter Kruschewski replied laconically to our question: "No, it's neither a Sony sensor (like in the X range) nor a CMOSIS/STMicro sensor (like in the M). For the moment, we'd rather keep the information to ourselves, but we can say that the Q's sensor has been exclusively developed for us by our industrial partner, so it won't be found in any other manufacturers' products. [...] And no, there's no low-pass filter."

...Panasonic's influence is seen at every level: the autofocus, the video system, the OIS optical stabilization (which Leica recommends deactivating to get the best from the German-assembled lens) and even the battery. If you dig around, you'll find the Japanese firm has contributed to all kinds of things: for example, the Maestro II processor—or rather the processor derived from the Maestro II—is provided by SocioNext Inc., which has taken over Fujitsu's semiconductor business. Founded in 2015, SocioNext is 40% owned by Fujitsu, 40% by the Development Bank of Japan and 20% by... Panasonic. This Maestro processor is based on Fujitsu's Mibeault architecture, as are Nikon's Expeed processors.

The sensor inside the Leica Q Typ 116 is most likely produced by TowerJazz - an Israeli semiconductor manufacturer with tight relations to Panasonic | Leica News & Rumors

"I join a camera & lens review talk group in China, there is a guy who have been working in Sony semiconductor told us Leica Q`s structure & looking is designed by Leica, its electronic system came from Panasonic, the Summilux lens was designed by Konica Minolta and produced by Panasonic. The CMOS is designed by Tower-Jazz Panasonic an new Israeli semiconductor company with 49% Panasonic share, and the foundry is STMicroelectronics same foundry with Leica M 240."


...And TowerJazz virtually IS Panasonic - they own 49% of the stock and are the main "customer".

So even when you can charge insane prices for a camera because you have fanboys who makes Apple groupies look frugal, you still can NOT afford to develop deep technology yourself. Leica is a re-brander of Japanese technology. It's existence, even with customers willing to pay 200-500% more than they should for a camera, depends on it adding glamour to Panasonic products so that it can get technology in return.

Another way of thinking sensibly about this is that at the moment Olympus isn't selling enough cameras to be profitable. There just isn't room to manufacture genuinely innovative products at the boutique level. VC's will put up big money for tech they think might make it into smartphones like Lytro, but these businesses are not boutique - they're meant for fast growth to enormous size of quick tech sales, not to maintain a business at Leica levels for decades.
 

bikerhiker

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Leica was the only company that had lasted for so long where other Europeans had either left the market or got bought out. And they managed to keep the niche with its branding. Leica is like the Ferrari or Rolls Royce of cameras. People know that. Currently, China is a very big market for Leica and many of the photographers are extremely talented; skillset wise would blow away some of our best in North America and Europe and some of them use Leicas. So yes, Leica does not really need to design a camera though and it can keep its prices because there are rich people who can afford and are willing to pay. Think China.

There are companies who specialized in designing cameras for Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and all. You don't think that these companies do all the in-house designs do you? NOPE. There are shops set up in China, Taiwan, India, Indonesia and of course Japan who design cameras with provided specs from the major makers. These companies provide an extremely cost effective measure for many of these camera companies. It's been happening since the dawn of autofocus cameras or the fall of the film cameras too! It first started with point and shoots film then digital, then bridge cameras and now all the way to a full fledged DSLR or mirrorless body like the Leica SL in partnership with Panasonic. It simply makes business economic sense. It doesn't mean Leica can't design the digital guts. You are not giving Leica the full credit that it deserves. Leica has some of its best highly paid engineers and technicians who has a vast span experience over decades in color technology and other intricate aspects of what makes a Leica camera great. Unfortunately, if you are to use these forces to build the camera with German labour prices and resources; I'm afraid it's going to cost much more than $10,000.
You see. We are so spoiled by Made in China goods or Made in Taiwan goods. Why are electronic goods no longer assembled and made in North America? Because of the cost of labour. It's expensive and we the consumer aren't willing to pay for the increase regardless how patriotic our mouth said. In the end, it's your wallet that votes the purchase.

In the last 2 quarters, Olympus made a profit in their camera sales. I tend to believe Olympus MORE than other makers who would flood the back channels (grey market) to prop up their sales so they can make the quarterly finals look good for their shareholders. Since Olympus had been through the accounting scandals, they really can't cheat anymore because they are more scrutinized by both their shareholders and the market; whatever they achieve thus far is nothing short of commendable. And they are reducing their SG&A which is also good news.

Moving forward though, there are a number of things why it favours Olympus.
1, They are keeping their camera costs within the $1000 mark.
(This has traditionally been the sweet spot for the consumer upgrade market)
2, They are expanding their lens line.
(Lenses, not bodies, are where makers make their profits). Bodies are easily replaced. But lenses are not and have longer staying power.
3, They are offering innovation. Sony is also doing it too. Take note that Nikon and Canon had not had any major innovations other than the introduction of their D600 and D800. Everything else is refinements not innovation.
4, Panasonic re-participation in developing new m43 sensors and the organic sensor development. I heard some form of announcement will be made in the spring of 2016.
5, Panasonic's drive to make 8K video production ready for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. That's about 5 years away. As you know that in order to get 8k video, you need a sensor that is capable of 33MP stills; which means that 33MP or even 36MP stills with m43 sensor is not as impossible as it seemed. This probably has to do with their co-announcement of their organic sensor development as well.
6, m43 sensor has a good way to go towards. Why?
It's because current m43 sensors resolution are not as high as compared to that offered by their full frame counterparts and can be improved. These improvements will benefit also the cell phone industry as well because of the cost return scenario. But with higher megapixel full frame sensors; the cost will be even higher noting that it is more expensive to make full frame than it is to make smaller sensors which makes cost return an upstream challenge. So if you are to make a 36MP m43 and upscale it into a 144MP full frame sensor, then who will buy it?!? As you know, going 50MP or higher is only good for extreme cropping and printing big; both are favourable towards the pro-end. But even the professionals aren't making the same kind of money they used to and are not upgrading as often. A new sensor will also benefit from the latest design technologies. So in order for full frame sensors to match, the same upscale sensors will need to be made. But if the cost return is not economical and is not made, then full frame cameras will be stuck with older technology. In the end, smaller sensors would catch up with the technology or even exceed the larger format.
This was the reason why you had such fantastic development with autofocus and longer lenses and VR technology available ONLY first with film SLR bodies and then DSLR, but the same advancements did not end up fully with medium format bodies. Medium format bodies did not inherit the same sophisticated AF systems that 35mm and full frame bodies did. I suspect that moving forward, this will be the case with full frame sensor bodies.

There will always be people who will buy a Ferrari, a Porsche and a Rolls Royce. But these people are few are far in between. More likely, people buy a Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, Honda or even a Ford. Why? Because they are practical and affordable. Sooner or later; all these bleeding edge technology will become affordable to the masses. Take a look at my Olympus E-P5; it's better than the first generation EOS 1dsMk II which costed $5000 + when it was new.
 
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Jonathan F/2

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Honestly I think M43 and Nikon/Canon are the only systems worth investing in. M43 despite it's sensor size is just the best small system for travel and for general shooting. I've tried Fuji and Sony (E and FE) systems and I still ended up going back to M43. For me Fuji is just too big and expensive that I'd rather just invest in a FF DSLR and I'm not convinced by Sony's FF offerings. The bodies are great, but the overall support system just isn't there and seeing how Sony just pushed the APS-C E mount to the back burner speaks volumes of how Sony handles their camera business.
 

bikerhiker

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Honestly I think M43 and Nikon/Canon are the only systems worth investing in. M43 despite it's sensor size is just the best small system for travel and for general shooting. I've tried Fuji and Sony (E and FE) systems and I still ended up going back to M43. For me Fuji is just too big and expensive that I'd rather just invest in a FF DSLR and I'm not convinced by Sony's FF offerings. The bodies are great, but the overall support system just isn't there and seeing how Sony just pushed the APS-C E mount to the back burner speaks volumes of how Sony handles their camera business.
I agree that eventually people tend to invest in systems that have a good lens line. Old habits tend to die hard.

I am noticing Sony and to a certain extent Nikon and Canon are charging higher prices and expecting users to upgrade yearly. Well at least, that's the theme Sony is setting itself up. Not sure how that's going to play out though, but Sony is marketing their cameras like the computer business where you buy the computer, then add a monitor of a different brand, external hard drives and printers made by other different brands. They seemed to believe that photographers will simply upgrade the body year over year like computer people do. I suppose it makes sense. With smart adapters from Metabones, Kipon and others, soon you have both a Canon EF and Nikon G adapters that provide almost close to native AF performance so you can shoot with your Nikon and Canon lenses. I just don't see how Sony is going to manage that expecting people to upgrade $2000+ cameras every year either. Time will tell.
 
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