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Time for a fixed-lens m4/3 camera?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by dhazeghi, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I just saw the (leaked) specs for Sony's new RX100 compact camera. Basically, it's a camera with a 1" sensor (half 4/3 sized) and a 29-105 (eq.) zoom in a camera slightly larger than Canon's S100 and slightly smaller than Olympus's XZ-1.

    The smallest m4/3 kit is the Panasonic GF3/14-42X. Now suppose they were to integrate the lens (or a similar one) into the body and do away with the lens mount. This should allow for a much thinner combo - the GF3/14-42 kit is nearly 2x thicker than the Sony. Like other compacts, the fixed lens also means that they could do away with the focal plane shutter in the body, replacing it with one in the lens.

    Such a camera would
    • be significantly more pocketable than any existing m4/3 kit due to reduced thickness
    • be almost silent in shooting (in-lens shutter)
    • offer a much larger sensor than the Sony compact, with associated DR and noise benefits
    • be significantly smaller than any other large-sensor compacts that have a zoom (currently the Canon G1X and Ricoh GXR A16/24-85)
    • have the possibility of an EVF (unlike the Sony, or Canon G1X)
    • have state-of-the-art dust protection (unlike Olympus and Panasonic's current high-end compacts)

    To me, this seems like a winning combination. Many DSLR users have been looking for a good compact to supplement their kit. The G1X attracted a lot of heads, but was let down by its excessive size and slow performance. Traditional compacts like Olympus's XZ-1 and Panasonic's LX5 are handicapped by their small sensors. The Sony approach seems like a good compromise, but an m4/3-based option would have substantial advantages.


  2. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 7, 2010
    I like the idea, but it really comes down to size I think. Needs to be "pocketable", which is defined a bit differently by each of us. The Canon S100 is about my limit, though maybe the Sony will stretch that a bit.

    OTOH, I'd be curious what can be packed in to a Fuji X10-sized body, which is about 15% wider and higher and twice as deep as the S100. If the camera is pocketable then I'd like it to be big enough to have some ergonomic upside, external controls, built in VF, etc.
  3. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    I would be concerned with cannibalizing your own market..both Oly and Pana would lose sales on the XZ1 and LX5..and you would get some people looking at the m43 system to buy that camera, depriving them on additional lens sales.
  4. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    I have a fixed lens m4/3--my E-P1 with the 20mm lens which never comes off.

    However, a m4/3 fixed lens camera would not be smaller than what is already available. Having a larger sensor than a compact. There is a geometric relationship to sensor size, focal length, and lens size that is not easily broken. Between the lens shutters also require space and focal plane shutters don't take up that much room.
  5. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    Why? Do you work for Panasonic or Olympus? If you are just a photographer, what would it matter?
  6. zettapixel

    zettapixel Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 12, 2010
    - be significantly more pocketable than any existing m4/3 kit due to reduced thickness
    - offer a much larger sensor than the Sony compact, with associated DR and noise benefits

    It's true, but it doesn't necessarily mean it would be more pocketable than G1X or RX100. This 20mm from lens to sensor are not going anywhere...
    Also, 14-42X, for instance, is slower than high end P&S lenses and this is a size/performance tradeoff. For example, RX100 probably takes advantage of a smaller sensor to make a compact fast lens. And it's probably the same reason G1X is not that small.

    In the end it would really depend on how small they can make it and what kind of lens it would have and what features they can squeeze in. I bet it would be a viable camera, and may compete with Sony/Canon if Oly can do it right. They did well with XZ1...
  7. zettapixel

    zettapixel Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 12, 2010
    What it could do is use available space for a retractable zoom lens optimized for its body. It probably can be designed to be smaller than E-P1+20/1.7, depending on lens specs...
  8. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    I don't buy this -- look at the Canon G1X. Fixed folding optics give you a lot of opportunity to collapse the camera size.
  9. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Careful now - you can apply this statement to pretty much every thread here...:smile:
  10. tanngrisnir3

    tanngrisnir3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 18, 2011
    While the LX5 is an amazing little camera for it's size (I own one) it's getting outdated vis a vis it's competitors.

    And LX7 with a much better sensor and hopefully an f1.8 lens would be VERY interesting to me.
  11. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 7, 2010
    Definitely a concern, but it always better to cannibalize your own sales rather then havinge someone else take them from you.
  12. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    True, everybody has different-sized pockets. To me the difference between 60mm thick (GF3x) and 36mm (RX100) is between something that will only fit in a coat pocket, and something that will fit into anything but a tight pants pocket. Whereas the gap between 36mm and 27mm (S100) is much less significant.

    Well the Fuji is larger than the NEX-7, so that would definitely leave place for a VF and external controls.

    I doubt that. Those looking for a kit to server as DSLR backup are mostly not looking to change lenses in the first place (and those who do will have to buy into an ILC format in any case). Moreover, the price on high-end compacts is better than on low-end ILCs, and a larger sensor lets them push the price up further (witness the G1X).

    All true, and yet here we are with a camera that is smaller than Olympus's XZ-1 despite having a sensor that is 2x larger and an almost equal lens range. Are you certain that there remain no further possibilities for reduction with the GF3x kit? It seems to me that losing the mount and having the lens retract into the body ought to save a decent amount of space, and the other dimensions are similar in size as is.

    I don't think there's any reason that the sensor-lens distance has to remain 20mm - they can design new optics that can be placed closer if need be. It's simply an upper bound. The RX100's lens is not fast enough at the long end to negate the m4/3 sensor-size advantage (wide end it is). The G1X is so larger for several reasons, among them are the flip screen (adds to thickness), OVF (adds to height) and grip (only necessary due to the weight of the camera). If it is as pocketable as the RX100, that's more than good enough I think.


  13. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    If I were a person who actually had some impact on this hypothetical discussion rather than a speculative forum post, this would be my logic. :rolleyes: 
  14. I think that such a camera would make the most sense if it featured a collapsible zoom lens since that is where the most space saving can be made relative to an interchangable lens. Since this question was last posed we've seen the release of the Canon G1X was has set the bar EXTREMELY high for what you can achieve with a collapsible zoom lens on a large sensor, the only real consequence on that camera being the excessive minimum focusing distance. Given that the G1X lens has a 4x zoom, is sharp across all focal lengths and a range of apertures, and is mostly free of some of the nastier abberations found in various m4/3 zooms it would seem to be a price worth paying.

    The overall size of the G1X (apart from the depth) shouldn't be taken be taken as represenative of how small a fixed-lens zoom camera should be since the G1X was designed to be a G-series and have a body with some of the best ergonomics of any advanced compact camera. If Canon release a shrunken down version similar to how the S100 is a shrunken G12 it would be much smaller.

    I would expect any fixed-lens Olympus or Panasonic camera using a Micro 4/3 sensor to feature a similarly high quality lens since there would be no option to change it for something better.
  15. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Well, at $650 we're certainly in uncharted territory. Olympus and Panasonic should consider themselves on notice - compact sensors are expected to be larger. 20MP is also fairly impressive. If it's using the same technology as the 16MP Sony sensor, it could well be as good as the current 16MP m4/3.

    In either case, it's good competition for Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and the others who would have an enthusiast compact.

    Sony DSC RX100 Hands-on Preview: Digital Photography Review

  16. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    I don't know if it's a good idea, sure it gains the compactness and some other advantages, but Canon, Nikon are the ones to use such cameras to fight back mirrorless, Sony has the APS-C fixed lens camera years ago, there's no reason for P&O to sacrifice lens interchangeability for m43 system, which is not a huge complex system at all.

    I mean, they can produce the camera like that, but that's absolutely non-m43, will be an upgrade to the LX series.
  17. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    "The sensor in the RX100 is the same 1" format that Nikon uses in its 1-System. It is considerably smaller than those used in most interchangeable lens cameras but it significantly larger than those used in most enthusiast compacts." - dpreview

    I think this is a funny statement as it points out the obvious... that sensor and design are proportional to the size of camera. i dont think a mft camera minus a the lens mount will net a camera that is any more pocketable than the current EPM1. As someone mentioned, there are physical relationships here that cannot be easily over come. For one the space between the rear element and the sensor itself in our MFT cameras is pretty small. To further reduce the size would require... well.. the obvious... the shrinking of the sensor and corresponding simplification of the optic. The correlation made to the G1x is actually proving this point counter to the post I am quoting. The G1x is equipped with a bigger sensor than its previous G cousins BUT the lens itself is larger and no longer collapses completely into the body like the G12 before it. The G1x is taller, wider, but more importantly, about twice the depth of the G12 because the larger optic required to accomodate the larger sensor simply physically cannot be collapsed into the camera. This has nothing to do with maintaining consistent ergonomics in the line. Www.camerasize.com and see for yourself. A "S" equivalent of the GX1 would have the same problem.... larger sensor requires a larger optic. I wouldnt be surprised if the design of these collapsable optics in these fixed lens cameras are super simple... probably around three elements max. Case in point, the super fast but simple optics found in Cmount with a smaller image circle.

    I think an EPM1 equipped with an electronic zoom lens with a very simple optical design would net the smallest package approaching the size of letsay a Panasonic LX5-7.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Sensor size is the biggest thing allowing significantly more compact cameras - the Fuji, the G1X are both actually fairly huge. Bigger than it looks on the web, where most mu43 cams are smaller. Honestly, Sony's only slightly one-upping Panasonic and Oly in the premium compact market, and it remains to be seen whether a 20 megapixel sensor with that pixel pitch will really be able to deliver.
  19. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Sony engineers love to cramp pixels on their sensors. Even my Sony Experia S mobile phone has 12MP stuffed in its tiny sensor, which makes the pictures totally noisy regardless of light conditions. I would be happy if they use the same 10MP sensor as the Nikon 1, or 12MP max. Having said that, I am a sucker for compact camera with large sensor and fast zoom, and currently none of the offerings fit the bill. The G1X, obviously has the largest sensor of all, but it is rather bulky and heavy, and the lens is not fast. The XZ-1 has the fastest maximum aperture range of f/1.8-2.5, which is the primary reason I got one to replace my Canon S90. However, the sensor is rather outdated. The new Sony seems to have struck the best balance between camera size, sensor size, and aperture speed. However, the $650 price tag is steep. Balancing all the limits and constrains, I would much rather invest in an XZ-2, hopefully with a slightly larger sensor, with improved DR. YMMV, of course...
  20. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    That's the point though. They will obviously be making an update to the LX5 and XZ-1. Why not one-up Sony by using a larger sensor which they already have lots of experience with, assuming (see below) that the size can be kept reasonably close?

    Obviously there are limits, but are there any indications that current m4/3 lenses have reached those limits? Before yesterday, the largest sensor you could get in a camera with size similar to the XZ-1 was 1/1.6".

    What we do know is that an m4/3 camera with interchangeable zoom lens can be made 60mm thick. I don't think it's a huge stretch to think that with some creativity, they could get it down below 45mm. There is after all 20mm+ of unused space inside the camera right now.

    I don't know about all Sony sensors, but they certainly have their share of low noise ones as well. Their 16MP APS-C and 36MP FF sensors are among the cleanest available.

    Unless Sony did something badly wrong, the DR of their 1" sensor will be significantly higher than the DR of any 1/1.6" or 2/3" sensor of the sort seen in current high-end compact cameras. Unless by slightly larger, you mean an XZ-2 should have a 1"+ sensor?


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