what's the future of m4/3?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by mesmerized, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012

    I do realize that this question might have been posted a number of times but with the E-P5 and GX-7 cameras I think it's a good moment to ponder a bit over the future of micro 4/3 system. Someone on this forum has said recently that m4/4 reminds him of a very well-constructed engine which doesn't have much space for improvement anymore. Another user has said that OMD E-M5 has saved m4/3 system from going into oblivion. What's your opinion? And just out of curiosity... Do you think Olympus will ever introduce a mirrorless camera with the APS-C sensor? I suppose it'd be like shooting oneself in the foot as far as keeping the m4/3 alive is concerned.

  2. Richella

    Richella The Wandering Scotsman

    Aug 21, 2011
    Kuala Lumpur
    I'm no expert but for me the advantage of the M43 format, and even the Nikon 1 format, is that they allow for much much smaller high quality lenses than the full frame and APSC formats. This is the true weight saving advantage. I'm sure with the advances in sensor technology that we will continue to see higher quality, smaller sensors all the time. I certainly hope so. I have no desire to go back to larger lenses.

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 mobile app
  3. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    For anybody who holds out the idea that Olympus will go to APS-C or indeed even FF should go to this site

    Four Thirds

    and read the whitepapers and benefits of sections.

    When Olympus moved to digital ILC cameras more than 10 years ago, they had no legacy AF lenses to accomodate, so really sat down with a blank piece of paper.

    The whole 4/3 and micro4/3 ethos of small cameras and small high quality lenses comes out of their decisions at that time...I think it is highly unlikely given their current situation that they would abandon all they have done over the last 10 years.

  4. Darren Bonner

    Darren Bonner Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 1, 2013
    Poole UK
    Well Panasonic have got a new sensor in the GX7, so expect G7, GF7 and GH5 in the near future. There is a new Panasonic Leica 42.5mm lens and a rumoured 150mm f/2.8 coming soon. They have already updated the P20, P14-42 and P14-140 lenses. Panasonic are also rumoured to be working with Fuji on developing an even better sensor, that is supposed to be launched around this time next year. I can see Panasonic being dedicated to M4/3rds for the next few years.
    It will be interesting to see what Olympus will do next, they do have a history of being innovative. The OMD saved Olympus more than it saved M4/3 and they did the right thing in putting the same sensor into the EPL5 and EPM2 and priced it right too. Sales of the EP5 will take a hit because of the GX7 being launched so soon after it had come onto the market. It is a fine camera in it's own right and may have to be discounted to sell. There is a strong rumour about the next OMD being launched soon and also a Hybrid 4/3rds and M4/3rd as well. I do not know what lenses they will launch next, a 25mm f/1.8 or a couple of fast zooms perhaps. I'm certain Olympus will stick with M4/3 and not go APS-C because of the range of cameras they have built and the lenses too. I doubt Olympus could afford the R&D to go APS-C. What I have noticed Olympus have a loyal band of followers that should keep their camera business steady.
    Hopefully next year Kodak will enter into the M4/3rds market, maybe towards the budget end of the market. This could also be good news for Olympus and Panasonic as their buyers might want to expand their kit and buy their lenses and in future buy one or more of their camera bodies. Also a couple of video camera manufacturers use the M4/3rd sensor and lens mount.
    The system will continue to grow and improve for the time being. Last year it was the OMD that made the biggest splash in the M4/3rds world, this year it could be Panasonic's turn with the GX7, but let's wait and see if there is a new OMD coming out and how they both perfom.
  5. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    I don't know why anyone would say that there's little room for improvement in m43. Sensor technologies continue to evolve, and with the Oly / Sony and Panasonic / Fuji partnerships we can expect to continue to see improvements for the foreseeable future.

    The best m43 sensors are already very close in performance to APS-C camera sensors. And while it's true that APS sensors will continue to improve, at some point it doesn't really matter. If an m43 camera provides 14 stops of DR and low-noise performance at ISO 6400, few people would notice the improvement of an APS sensor that's one stop better in each category.

    As far as other technologies, if anything it's traditional DSLRs that have little room to improve. These are mature technologies. OVFs haven't really changed in a couple of decades. Same with mirror assemblies, shutters, focusing systems, etc. MILCs, OTOH, are developing rapidly, with each new generation offering improved AF, better EVFs, faster shutters, and other improvements. The best MILCs offer faster and more accurate S-AF, and if on-chip PDAF technologies mature they'll catch up, and maybe surpass, DSLRS in CDAF, too.

    If any technology is approaching a dead-end, I think it's APS-C DSLRs. M43 will, soon, offer IQ that is indistinguishable for most purposes from APS cameras (I'd say the OMD and GH3 already equal or exceed Canon's APS bodies), and performance to match. The only thing likely to keep that technology alive for a significant length of time is CaNikon's entrenched hold on the market, and consumers' reluctance to step away from the comfort of that known commodity. Oh, and the nearly total lack of marketing on the part of Olympus, Panasonic, and Fuji. At least in the US, most consumers probably don't even know Panasonic makes cameras, and the only Oly's you see in most retail outlets are P&S cameras, most of which will completely disappear by the end of the decade.
  6. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    The reports of m4/3's death are greatly exaggerated?
  7. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    While I agree 100% that the odds of Olympus (or Panasonic) switching sensor sizes is basically nil, that site is a cautionary reminder that the many supposed advantages of 4/3 were not sufficient either to make 4/3 a commercial success, or to keep Olympus and Panasonic actively developing it. I certainly hope m4/3 does not end up in the same position.

    To the original question, while it is true that smaller sensors have inherently less headroom than larger ones, sensor quality is not now, nor has it ever been, the primary factor dictating success or failure. Sales and distribution are far more critical. The lack of a coherent marketing message and the non-presence of Olympus and Panasonic at most retail locations in the US is far more worrying to me than the sensor differences, which for most people are becoming less and less relevant as quality of all sensors has improved.

    If you want to go by the car analogy, m4/3 is like a car with an inline 4 cylinder engine and FF is like a V8. Yes, the V8 has more power and is technically faster. But outside of a racetrack, you're going to be hard-pressed to appreciate the advantages between a 300 hp I4 and a 500 hp V8.
  8. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    Actually, if you owned a gas station, you could easily appreciate the benefits that you obtained from 500 hp V8 engines.
  9. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Well ah...
    When was the last time we saw a Four Thirds body or lens from both Panasonic & Olympus :confused:
  10. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    What would be the point in that? APS-C has hardly any advantages over 4/3 and many disadvantages. 4/3 is basically APS-C built more efficiently with less excess waste.

    A Full Frame sensor on the other hand, would give us many advantages we don't have with our current system. I would like to see them make a 4:3 or better yet 5:4 aspect version of Full Frame, making the Full Frame format more efficient and with less waste, in a similar fashion as what they did with APS-C. They could even make it 6:6 to take it to the utmost of efficiency, but that would make it less comfortable for those who are used to dealing with print stock. If done in 4:3 with a good sized sensor, it would be more comfortable for Medium Format users to downsize. Lenses could be built much more efficiently with a sensor that's squarer and not so wide, better matching the image CIRCLE which lenses produce. Image circles are not oblong, and I never understood the purpose of making our sensors and film planes double-wide. We don't have print stock which is that wide, and the wider we make our sensor the more we have to overbuild our lenses with no purpose or advantage to our images (and if we don't overbuild the lenses, then the wide sensor ends up becoming a hindrance and degrades our quality, particularly in the form of vignetting and poor resolution anywhere but the very center of the image).

    A new sensor with the same height as Full Frame but a 4:3 aspect ratio would make the most sense for a larger-sensored version of m4/3. Full Frame and SLR lenses could still be adapted to it the same as they are to m4/3, but we would get more out of the lenses. APS-C is simply wasteful.
  11. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    think my point was that Olympus long ago decided on the 4/3 sensor size...believing it to be the best way forward to offer high quality at a small size - something that has always been a core value of the Olympus way.

    The micro 4/3 standard is continuation and a refinement of that thinking, taking into account lessons learned from 4/3 and advances in technology.

    Was 4/3 a success?... Well it didn't overtake Canon or Nikon... but we will never know if that was the objective. Success doesn't always equate to market domination... and we have no idea how much of the market they wanted/needed to grab to to call the exercise a sucess

    I am sure the plan originally was to capture a more pro section of the emerging digital market, hence all the very fine and expensive long and fast lenses available at launch or soon after.

    For whatever reason this part of the plan did not pan out, but like any smart company they learned the lessons, and tried again with the micro4/3

    At the end of the day micro 4/3 will live or die not on Olympus/Panasonic's ability to develop better cameras/lens - though they undoubtedly will - but on their ability to market the advantages of their blend of size and quality.

    truth is the majority of cameras available today are way more capable than the vast majority of the targeted customers.. but then again that has been the the case of the camera market for a long time

  12. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Fundamentally I believe they were correct. The problem is that they didn't have the TECHNOLOGY to put their better design in the forefront. The Panasonic sensors held back the potential of the 4/3 system, while APS-C manufacturers like Sony, Canon, and Nikon jumped on that and took advantage of it by claiming it is because of the "smaller sensor" when in fact their design was sound but their sensor technology was far behind.

    Now that we have the Sony manufactured sensor in the new Olys and Pannys, we are seeing that they are more than competitive with APS-C sensors and size had nothing to do with it. The excess size of the APS-C sensor was all on the ends and largely wasteful. However, After all these years of rumor mills and Sony marketing (I mention Sony in particular because of the way they pushed their NEX cameras as being superior due to the "50% larger sensor size") the public has been too brainwashed to notice that the excess size had little to do with the image quality, as evidenced by a simple change in manufacturer.

    People raved about the OM-D sensor as if it was some sort of great leap in technology, as if it had to exceed APS-C in order to compete. It's not better technology than Sony puts in their own cameras. Why would Sony give their best to somebody else? It's just another sensor made by the same manufacturer who leads the market for APS-C sensors, and that's why it produces the same quality. It's not better, it's the same. The design of the system was always able to produce the same quality but with less excess and less engineering of the lenses, but it needed the same sensor technology to be truly equivalent.

    Of course, I've been saying this same thing since long before m4/3 came to be (when we only had 4/3) but it wasn't until now that we actually have physical evidence to back that up. But for most of the brainwashed masses, it's too late. It's definitely too late for 4/3 to compete with the other DSLRs unless they really start pushing new bodies in that area, but m4/3 has so much uniqueness and special advantages that I think it stands a good chance of opening people's eyes.
  13. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I think this ignores the original key technical assumptions underlying 4/3.

    Remember that in 2001-2002, high-end DSLRs (which is who they were targeting) used APS-C sensors.

    Likewise, at that time 3-4MP was normal, and nobody could imagine hitting above 20MP. The original 4/3 lenses boasted they would be capable of working on 20MP, as that was considered the upper conceivable bound of sensor resolution.

    They were fundamentally wrong on both accounts. Larger sensors got far cheaper and better than had been anticipated, and resolution did not peak at 10 or 12MP as seemed reasonable at the time.

    What Olympus doesn't seem to have learned at all is that without sales and distribution, a good product isn't enough. It's not simply a matter of marketing. If people can't see your product, they're going to be less inclined to try it.

    They've also rather stupidly chosen to downplay their other big advantage with m4/3 - that it's a real system. There are an enormous number of different lenses and accessories from Panasonic and others that are compatible*, but you wouldn't know that from their marketing. In the meantime, Fuji and Sony are steadily expanded their lineup. Of course, it would also help if they ensured that the lenses really were 100% compatible instead of suffering from a variety of annoying quirks.
  14. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    I don't understand this doom and gloom attitude. Perhaps people's expectations need adjusting? Comparing a very young format like m4/3 to the established Canon/Nikon seems silly to me. Imagine Panasonic/Olympus decided to start a car company, then people say it's doomed because it's not outselling Ford or Toyota immediately.

    To me Micro Four Thirds is successful and I see it just hitting it's stride. In just four short years a brand new format has grown into a very robust system, with continuous advancements in camera bodies and lenses. The fact that m4/3 survived this long and continues to grow is a good indication of it's future. Compare to other mirrorless systems m4/3 is far more successful. Just my 2 cents.
  15. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    Caimi caimiphotography.com
    I went to one of only two dedicated camera shops in St. Louis, Mo this morning to buy a new camera bag. I brought my Mu43 cameras and lenses for fit.

    This is a "serious" camera shop with knowledgeable photographers at the sales counter. They have no Mu43 products.

    The other shop is just as "serious" a camera shop and they have a couple of Oly's (EM5 and EPL5) but no Panasonic. And they have the worst selection of Mu43 lenses imaginable. ( OLY 75-300 and 45mm)

    Mu43 advertising in the US is practically non-existent and the stores most likely to sell Mu43 to enthusiasts don't carry Mu43. Outside of maybe New York and Chicago, I image you could detonate a nuclear weapon and not hit a Mu43 camera in most dedicated camera shops in the US. If this situation remains, how can anyone expect Mu43 to improve in the US market?

    It is as if Olympus and Panasonic are relying mostly on word of mouth and dumb luck for sales in the USA. Their marketing meetings must consist of the whole team closing their eyes and thinking happy thoughts in order to increase sales.
  16. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    I don't have a "doom and gloom" attitude personally but....

    - The Four Thirds owner's plight still resonates in the back of my head
    - It appears to me that NEX & Fuji are thinking more outside of the box or more innovatively than Micro Four Thirds now. NEX appears to include a FF mirrorless system while Fuji with their organic sensor, split image manual focus, and hybrid viewfinder techs are definitely going their own way.
    - It also appears like the NEX & Fuji prices are going down too...

    Anywhoo....Off to shoot my son's basketball game later on this afternoon :smile:
  17. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Well, I believe it was me and I was merely being sarcastic about folks jumping around and proclaiming every new camera the greatest thing since Daguerre invented photography. I think Micro 4/3 is fine as it is. The smaller sensor creates some limitations, but it also creates some advantages — such as smaller size of lenses. A fine tool for many purposes.
  18. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Plus both Panasonic and Olympus are losing money on mirrorless, and compared to last year, sales are down markedly. That's not in itself a sign of 'doom', but it doesn't suggest that things are nearly as healthy as we had thought.
  19. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    ^^^ I think these small independent stores are in a tough spot. Obviously Canon/Nikon sells. But keeping inventory of m4/3 products in your store is a gamble since they probably don't move nearly as well. Therefore no product in store leads to no public awareness, and no public awareness leads to no product in stores. Vicious cycle.

    In any case, it's not these camera shops that's going to help bring awareness. Get them in Target and people will notice.
  20. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    My local brick n' mortar stores maintains a pretty good supply of Olympus products (I've purchased quite a bit my stuff from them). But they dropped Panasonic because their products were too hard to get.