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  #46  
Old 9th March 2011
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

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It's unfortunate that Micro Four Thirds is being regarded as a replacement for Four Thirds. In an ideal world they would continue side by side as they are actually complimentary, although certainly overlapping.
Ian
I agree. When micro 4/3rd was first introduced, Olympus said basically the same. They are different products aimed at different segments of the market. I have no problem with the Pen's driving Olympus R&D and then this trickling down to their DSLR's, the E5 being a case in point.

Then, for reasons which aren't clear, the message from Olympus changed, the E5 is probably their last DSLR and there will be no more 4/3rd lenses. So now we're left with a one size fit's all strategy that has left an awful lot of Olympus's existing DSLR users rather less than happy. There has always been whining about cameras on internet forums and I've always tried to avoid this, but recent Olympus statements are a really bad move on their part.

There's an interesting article by Thom Hogan on his website about what camera's are aimed at what section of the market. See:

http://www.bythom.com/

Although he's primarily a Nikon user he also uses micro 4/3rd. The relevance of this to the current discussion is that he expects Nikon to move into the mirrorless market but he doesn't expect this to lead to the demise of either Nikon's DX or FX DSLR's.

So why does Olympus? Either Olympus is being really visionary or they are making a monumental mistake. Certainly, earlier Olympus innovations such as dust busters, live view and moveable LCD's have now been taken up by the other main players: dust busters and live view particularly.

However, it's a shame that Olympus haven't been able to match the other players innovations namely less noise at higher ISO and wider dynamic range. The performance of the E5 in this regard is certainly better than seen in the E3, E620 or E30 but still, arguably, it is not as good as, say, the Pentax K5.

Note I'm not saying the E5 is a bad camera, just commenting that on basis of the DxOMark scores (which are bore out by other reviews), that the Pentax K5 has a wider dynamic range and is better at higher ISO than the E5.

I get noise in some circumstances at ISO 400 with my E30 and really, I would like better. Having made the investment I am going to continue with my E30 and lenses. However, if I were buying from scratch now, I'd read the reviews and I wouldn't buy Olympus: firstly because other cameras get better reviews and secondly because Olympus has said 4/3rds is effectively dead. I certainly wouldn't buy micro 4/3rd's either. I not the only person who thinks like this, and this is bad news for Olympus.

Maybe, Olympus thinks it will pick up enough sales of micro 4/3rd's that it won't matter it if loses a few legacy E series customers. That certainly is the message it is projecting.
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  #47  
Old 9th March 2011
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

Off the top of my head, the Pentax K5 has a Sony sensor. There is no doubt that Sony's sensors are exceptional. Panasonic has special sensors that are only used in the GH1 and GH2, and I must admit I was disappointed that the E-5 didn't get this class of sensor. The key to the improved quality of the GH1/GH2 sensor is the use of on-sensor A/D conversion. On all other Panasonic Four Thirds sensors (including Micro Four Thirds) the A/D is done off-sensor and the extremely low voltages from the photosites need to be amplified and the shifted from the sensor to the A/D converter. And this introduces more noise than if the A/D was local on the sensor. If you have more noise, your signal to noise ratio and so your usable dynamic range suffers. Olympus has improved the circuitry, and this is shown in the E-5, but it would be noticeably better with the GH2 sensor, even though it's a 16MP part.

The problem for Olympus is that they have only every had a small DSLR market share. Nikon and Canon have 85% of the DSLR market. They have no vested interest in eroding their own dominant shares by producing mirrorless cameras.

The Four Thirds short telephoto macro lens (probably a 90mm) that has been on the Four Thirds road map for a while is not cancelled according to my sources. There is no promise that it will appear but at the moment it's status is 'in the pipeline' rather like the E-5 was this time last year.

The logical future for Olympus is to develop Micro Four Thirds for DSLR-style fans like many of us here, and the compact and easier to use Pen models we already have.

The technical fact is that Four Thirds lenses are not optimal for the shorter flange/back distance offered by Micro Four Thirds. So if Olympus is switching entirely to Micro Four Thirds there is little point in investing further in new Four Thirds lenses.

But! And it's a big 'but' - Four Thirds lenses do work on Pens. AF improvements do need to be made to embrace some of the older models and Micro Four Thirds lenses work better in this respect, but the optical excellence we all know and love from Four Thirds is entirely usable on Micro Four Thirds.

What we really need is a Micro Four Thirds body (which I won't call a Pen) that is designed to work optimally with both Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds lenses and in a form factor that is not constrained by the design goals of the Pen (ease of use, and very small and light).

And the Micro Four Thirds m.Zuiko lens range will have to developed to include high performance, hopefully dust and moisture resistant, lenses like the Pro and Top Pro lenses we are already familiar with.

That's what I'm waiting for.

Ian

PS Incidentally, while I'm a huge fan of DxO and their DxOMark initiative (we use DxO test tools ourselves), I find it puzzling that their sensor tests haven't shown an improvement in the Panasonic sensors, apart from the GH1/GH2, because we have all seen improvements in real world use. I have raised this with my contacts at DxO although no conclusion has yet been reached.
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  #48  
Old 9th March 2011
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

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Care to enlighten us? What else is there that has a much larger sensor than a compact that is cheaper and smaller and lighter than a Micro Four Thirds camera? Maybe one of the Sigma DP series? Marginally cheaper, but no interchangeable lenses and a lot less features. Something like a Pen is not a pocket camera and I don't think anyone is claiming that, but the reduction in weight and bulk compared to even a small DSLR is radical.

Ian
I'd take the XZ-1 as an alternative to my E-3 rather than a Pen.
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  #49  
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

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Where has this suggestion that there is some sort of contract with Panasonic over the supply of sensors and that it's expired?

I put this to Olympus' Toshi Terada and he knew nothing of the suggestion.

Panasonic sensors are manufactured by their semiconductor division, which is completely separate from Panasonic's Lumix camera division. It's in Panasonic's interests to sell sensors to Olympus, not restrict their supply to Lumix.

And size? If the size is changed, it would mean a new system would have to be developed and if you think that's going to happen any time soon, then I'm sure you will be sorely disappointed.

Ian
This is what I was told by one of the Oly reps at the NEC. By larger, I meant in MP not physically.
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  #50  
Old 9th March 2011
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

Here Here! My worry is that, if they don't make an announcement soon, they will lose ground to Panasonic in m4/3, and others in the generic mirrorless camera class.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
But! And it's a big 'but' - Four Thirds lenses do work on Pens. AF improvements do need to be made to embrace some of the older models and Micro Four Thirds lenses work better in this respect, but the optical excellence we all know and love from Four Thirds is entirely usable on Micro Four Thirds.

What we really need is a Micro Four Thirds body (which I won't call a Pen) that is designed to work optimally with both Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds lenses and in a form factor that is not constrained by the design goals of the Pen (ease of use, and very small and light).

And the Micro Four Thirds m.Zuiko lens range will have to developed to include high performance, hopefully dust and moisture resistant, lenses like the Pro and Top Pro lenses we are already familiar with.

That's what I'm waiting for.

Ian
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  #51  
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

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Off the top of my head, the Pentax K5 has a Sony sensor. There is no doubt that Sony's sensors are exceptional. Panasonic has special sensors that are only used in the GH1 and GH2, and I must admit I was disappointed that the E-5 didn't get this class of sensor. The key to the improved quality of the GH1/GH2 sensor is the use of on-sensor A/D conversion. On all other Panasonic Four Thirds sensors (including Micro Four Thirds) the A/D is done off-sensor and the extremely low voltages from the photosites need to be amplified and the shifted from the sensor to the A/D converter. And this introduces more noise than if the A/D was local on the sensor. If you have more noise, your signal to noise ratio and so your usable dynamic range suffers. Olympus has improved the circuitry, and this is shown in the E-5, but it would be noticeably better with the GH2 sensor, even though it's a 16MP part.

And:


And the Micro Four Thirds m.Zuiko lens range will have to developed to include high performance, hopefully dust and moisture resistant, lenses like the Pro and Top Pro lenses we are already familiar with.

That's what I'm waiting for.
But wouldn't the Panasonic 16 MP Sensor be defraction limited from F5.6 compared to F8 for the current 12 MP Sensor? When I read this on your DP Now article I wondered whether it meant that 12 MP was the effective limit in size for 4/3rd sensors? Or is there a way around this technically as there is not much point in buying a camera with more mega pixels on the sensor if the image is soft after F5.6.

I think designing a body that is optimised for both 4/3rds and micro 4/3rd lenses is a big ask. Certainly, and if the EVF was better than a optical viewfinder then that would satisfy critics of Olympus's current strategy. However, that's another big Ask. But, given that this is at least three years away, that's along time to make do with what lenses you've already got. I would like a 50-200 mm f2.8-3.5 SWD, and EC14 converter and a Sigma 60 mm 1.4. However, there is no way I am going to buy them not knowing whether they are compatible with Olympus's plans. Just working on a micro 4/3rds is not enough. I would want the optical performance I get now.

Maybe I'm misinformed, but I also don't see great optics as really being part of micro 4/3rd's. From what I've read, the optics are OK but the on-board processing engine does an awful of optical correction when making JPEGS. I don't know how this works with raw.
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  #52  
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

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This is what I was told by one of the Oly reps at the NEC. By larger, I meant in MP not physically.
I think they are only repeating stuff from rumour sites.

I'm sure that Olympus is free to source sensors from whoever they like, but nobody else currently offers a Four Thirds format sensor.

Ian
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  #53  
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

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But wouldn't the Panasonic 16 MP Sensor be defraction limited from F5.6 compared to F8 for the current 12 MP Sensor? When I read this on your DP Now article I wondered whether it meant that 12 MP was the effective limit in size for 4/3rd sensors? Or is there a way around this technically as there is not much point in buying a camera with more mega pixels on the sensor if the image is soft after F5.6.

I think designing a body that is optimised for both 4/3rds and micro 4/3rd lenses is a big ask. Certainly, and if the EVF was better than a optical viewfinder then that would satisfy critics of Olympus's current strategy. However, that's another big Ask. But, given that this is at least three years away, that's along time to make do with what lenses you've already got. I would like a 50-200 mm f2.8-3.5 SWD, and EC14 converter and a Sigma 60 mm 1.4. However, there is no way I am going to buy them not knowing whether they are compatible with Olympus's plans. Just working on a micro 4/3rds is not enough. I would want the optical performance I get now.

Maybe I'm misinformed, but I also don't see great optics as really being part of micro 4/3rd's. From what I've read, the optics are OK but the on-board processing engine does an awful of optical correction when making JPEGS. I don't know how this works with raw.
Three years? Who said that?! My personal prediction is 18 months. Photokina 2012 maybe.

There is probably a fraction of a stop in difference concerning diffraction limiting. Not much. And of course diffraction limiting only gradually erodes resolution, so if you start with more, lose a little and you still have more than a lower resolution sensor, up to a point.

RAW is RAW - no corrections are made to the RAW data. Panasonic does a lot of corrections to its JPEGs, but Olympus do a lot less.

A Canon user on the DPNow forum was asking about options for travel zooms and I did a quick poll of tests of 10x-11x super zooms (28-280 equivalent focal lengths) and there isn't a great deal of choice for a decent Canon-fit lens, even Canon's own EF-S example, and yet the m.Zuiko 14-150, which is tiny, rates really well.

Even the original 14-42 kit lens is a good performer, optically. Panasonic's 7-14 is a very good performer. I'm seeing impressive results from both the new Panasonic 100-300 and the m.Zuiko 75-300. The only lens that has disappointed me so far is the 17mm pancake, but then I wasn't a great fan of the 25mm Four Thirds pancake either.

There is nothing in theory that should mean Micro Four Thirds will naturally be inferior to Four Thirds lenses, in fact wide angle lenses should be better.

Ian
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Re: Olympus presence at Focus on Imaging

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Three years? Who said that?! My personal prediction is 18 months. Photokina 2012 maybe.

Ian
Sorry, I don't know where I read that, I'm know I read it somewhere: it's certainly a figure that sticks in my mind for some reason. Maybe I'm paying too much attention to rumour sites!.

I would hope that by late next year that Olympus would show us a pro spec body with an EVF that is as good or better than an OVF: but that really depends on by what margin the EVF is judged. My view of current technology is that they are miles off. I know others think otherwise. Really, for their strategy to be a success they need to launch a model that carries everyone with them and that is what worries me. I fear that they will come up with something that is still a compromise compared to an OVF: by which I mean it will offer improved functionality but optically won't be as good. I really hope I'm wrong on this.
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