What are your thoughts on the idea of a "modular" m4/3 system?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by With_Eyes_Unclouded, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:
    Most possibly a silly idea (I've been known to be embarrassingly silly from time to time, see HLD-6 thread :tongue:) but I'd like to read your thoughts on that.

    It came up on the discussion about the GH3, it being "too large for :43:" and all that:


    Would you think a concept like that would be proposed as a good compromise over the "size vs function" argument? For example, a lot of people use a heavier, larger camera for their "more serious" work but also have a second smaller camera when size/weight is a consideration. There always have been a strife for the secondary camera having inferior IQ or performance, not to mention having to deal with two different interfaces.
  2. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Real Name:
    Promit Roy
    While it sounds good, in practice modular designs are not particularly well integrated. Compare an E-P3 with the EVF to the EM5, let alone a GX1 with the LVF to the G3. The Ricoh GXR shows signs of these awkward issues too. The more modular you are, the more of a hackjob things turn into. The antithesis is the Apple approach of accepting effectively no modular anything, which gives us arguably the sleekest designs.
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  3. htc

    htc Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 11, 2011
    Real Name:
    While the modular approach sounds good, I prefer solid and sleek Apple approach. Probably best way to stay on the edge of progress... :cool:
  4. rnagoda

    rnagoda Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 12, 2012
    Pittsburgh, PA
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    I dunno. I'm one of those like you mention who shoots with a full frame for more serious stuff and a micro 4/3 camera for travel, general walk-around and whatnot, and I think the idea of a modular camera wouldn't serve me as well as having the two cameras. I also think that the cost of such a system would wipe out any convenience gains since the add-on bits for these type of things are always grotesquely expensive. The only way I could see it working is if it was universal, like the micro 4/3 standard itself, so that a panasonic viewfinder would definitely fit an olympus body, etc.. That might at least help keep the costs down.
  5. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    If I could afford a modular cameras like the MF/LF digital set, then yeah sounds great. I also know those cameras can be a major Pain In The...

    In general there seems to be alot of generations of technology issues and conversion blah blah blahs... wires. cables. $400 converter plates.. You know, issues.
  6. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    I think it makes sense in the case of the grip - it's an obvious candidate for modularization and there's no real disadvantage. But what else can you separate? If you want better controls, you usually need a larger body to accommodate them. I'm not sure how that can be separated out cleanly.
  7. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:
    I'm not sure either, you'll need pretty huge talent in industrial design to pull this off perfectly. But, to be fair, I had grip-like attachements in mind too.

    Up to this day, grips served mainly to extend battery power and provide duplicates of on-body controls for easier access. Perhaps an idea would be to extend this philosophy in providing extra utility. As I mentioned, perhaps having a second memory card, ports or dedicated controls not present on body.

    The question is, I suppose, apart from comfort of use (e.g. a proper grip) what differentiates the "basic" camera system vs the "full fledged" example, for most people? I'm asking people using big DSLRs and smaller :43: cameras: everything else being equal (IQ, performance, AF, etc), what would make you pick up the larger camera and why?
  8. Zariell

    Zariell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 28, 2012
    Bountiful, UT
    Personally I chose the m4/3 format because of its size and lighter weight. In my situation that is a godsend.

    What I would like to see in a modular system, is a interchangeable sensor. Think how nice it would be if instead of buying a whole new camera, you could just pay and switch out to another sensor. Also would open up a market for after the fact mods, like an infra red sensor, or a b&w sensor, etc.
  9. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    I don't think that's necessarily true, if the camera is designed to be modular from the start. The Pens and GX1 really aren't. They're designed as small cameras designed with the rear LCD as the primary viewing mode, and the EVF is really more of an afterthought. If you look at traditional MF cameras, like Hasselblad, the various 6x4.5 format cameras, and other similar cameras you'll see a much more integrated design that's still quite flexible. The 6x4.5 cameras, in particular, handled very well with an external grip and eye-level viewfinder attached.

    It should be possible to design a system that allowed modular replacement of viewfinders, rear LCDs, grips, and possibly even sensor modules (I'm not thinking of Ricoh's kludgy GXR). It probably would look and handle quite differently than today's film-camera look-alike designs, though, and camera buyers seem to be pretty conservative when it comes to design.

    And I'm not sure that m43 is the right system for this approach. I think it would be difficult to make a truly modular system that isn't even larger than the GH3. But a pro-oriented FF camera with Sony's 36MP sensor, designed along the lines of a Mamiya 645, could be intriguing. It could offer flexible configurations to optimize it for studio vs. field use, as one example. And if the sensor were integrated into a removable back, you could even choose between a high resolution sensor, a lower resolution back with larger photosites optimized for low light work, and a monochrome sensor. Maybe even a Foveon sensor.

    Just like MF film cameras, though, it would likely be bulky and expensive.
  10. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Isn't the E-M5 already modular? :rolleyes:
  11. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    But that's the rub, isn't it. All else isn't equal.

    But if we assume that the GH7, or EM-8, do offer performance which in all respects matches FF DLSRs, or even the best APS-C DSLRs, I can only think of a couple of reasons: For working PJs, a more rugged build and more and better organized external controls. Even the GH3 doesn't offer the control capabilities of a D4 or 1Dx. And, for some uses, shallower DOF. Although I suppose m43 could come out with a bunch of f1.0 or faster lenses, it doesn't seem very likely. Some people will always prefer OVFs, too, I suspect.

    I also think a camera that can match the performance of something like a 1Dx (10 fps, super fast C-AF, shooting capacity, etc.), would be even bigger than a GH3.
  12. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    My thought exactly.

    We have a modular system as it is. The only real question is whether the modularity we have agrees with the modularity you want. What would you ask for if you wanted greater modularity?

    Sensor replaceability might be nice, so you could upgrade to the latest sensor while keeping the same body, something like the interchangeable digital backs available for some medium format cameras, but that would probably change the form factor for the camera considerably.

    Apart from that, what? I can get a vertical viewfinder by mounting my VF-2 on my E-M5 if I don't want to use the tilt screen. I can change lenses, change the grip, tack on a remote release with or without intervalometer, add a tripod or other support. What else is there?

    Really, the interchangeable digital backs that some medium format cameras have is about the only level of interchangeability we don't have that I can think of and it's not something I really want when the price of a second body for M43 is in the price range we currently have. In fact, I have 2 M43 digital backs with my E-M5 and E-P3.
  13. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:
    You mean me, personally? Or what people in general would ask for?

    So, twofold answer. I sincerelly don't have problems with my shooting using the E-M5. True, I had to become accustomed to the interface (but had used a E-PL2 for several months and e.g. the menus were familiar to me). I also had to get used to some buttons being smaller or in unfamiliar positions. Adding the grip only improved handling in some specific situations (i.e. event shooting). If I'd had to push it, I'd say add a couple more user assignable control buttons to both vertical and horizontal grips.

    But my reasoning about opening this thread was that (a) a number of people seem to favor a larger body with extended functionality and ergonomics and (b) all of us recognise that one of the major merits for :43: is reduced size/weight. Modularity might be an answer to this dilemma. I'm not saying that :43: isn't a highly flexible system already, it certainly is.
  14. carpandean

    carpandean Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 29, 2010
    Western NY
    I've been a big proponent of modular designs in :43: since I got the Asashi grip for my GF1. It takes a very compact design, well suited for small lenses like the P20/1.7, P14/2.5 and P14-42X, and converts to a sturdy platform for larger lenses like the P14-140mm. I'm certain that the E-M5's grip offers a similar advantage.

    I almost started a similar thread to this one with an example of the Nikon F/F2/F3/etc. In particular, the modular viewfinder:


    If Olympus could make a slide-off "pentaprism" (style) EVF housing that would look integral when attached (as opposed to the ugly add-on EVFs that Pens and GF/GX cameras use), and then a flat top version with, perhaps, just a hot shoe that could be used when a truly compact package is desired. Not sure if it would be cost effective - as others have mentioned, two cameras might be cheaper - but it would be pretty neat.
  15. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Real Name:
    I believe the OP spoke of a modular concept in terms of a "pro" camera. If we accept different levels within :43: then a pro version with options for Modula backs, battery grips, separate VF or detachable screens, etc. would be a possibility. It may not make financial sense for the average user but could be a possibility for pros. I actually had a battery grip and cable release for my 40D - not sure I needed the grip. Options are good IMHO. :cool: