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Will Olympus crush Panasonic now Sony are backing them?

Discussion in 'Micro Four Thirds Forum' started by norman shearer, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. norman shearer

    norman shearer SC Veteran

    Rumour is the OMD is using a Sony sensor. Why would Sony provide a sensor of that size unless it had plans afoot to enter that arena with its own cameras? Okay it has a big stake in Olympus now but surely this sensor was being developed before they acquired the large stake in Olympus. Olympus and Panasonic co-existed quite well with neither manufacturer totally dominating in either performance or sales. Now Sony is behind Olympus are we set to see a price war that is the beginning of the end for Panasonic (with regard to mft, not the company as a whole).

    I think in the past Olympus cameras have been priced a little high compared to Panasonic and that price differential was crucial to Panasonic sales. Now Sony is behind Olympus maybe that price differential will gradually narrow leaving Panasonic in a tricky position. Can their sensors compete? Can ois best ibis? Can Panasonic acquire focus peaking or match it with their own tech?

    I'm glad Sony is behind Olympus and hope that means Olympus will continue on for many years to come. Yet Panasonic started the mft race with the G1 and have produced some wonderful cameras and lenses so I fear for them. Can Panasonic and Sony happily co-exist? Is there any need or desire for a Sony branded mft camera or will they be happy to hide behind the Olympus name?

    On a different note. I've seen high iso shots from the OMD and they are remarkably clean at high iso. They appear to be as good or possibly better than those from my APS-C Sony 5N. To me this is remarkable and also illogical. How can the margin of difference be so narrow? It's like a Mini out-dragging a Ferrari. My 5N files marginally outperform those of my full frame Canon 5D files but I can understand that because the time gap between the Canon 5D sensor and the Sony 5N
    sensor is long and new tech progression advances pretty fast. Yet APS-C and Full Frame sensor tech is moving on too now so you would expect the differences to more or less remain constant. Unless the investment and therefore research in sensor tech is no longer equal?

    I realise this post is full of speculation and no-one can predict the future but we all try and do it to a degree. No-one wants to end up with a camera dodo!
     
  2. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder SC Veteran

    383
    Mar 7, 2012
    The deal for Sony to have the largest stake in Olympus didn't happen overnight. It took about a year to finalize. I don't think it would take Sony that much time at all to spin up sensor. Especially when that sensor is so derivative of their existing designs. It's also not a rumor. The President of Olympus himself has confirmed it.

    I do agree that Panasonic is currently the odd man out.
     
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  3. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia SC Veteran

    242
    Nov 10, 2010
    Los Angeles
    Sensor tech fundamentally improves over time, so it doesn't surprise me that the OMD can be close or equal to the 5N- the OMD sensor is newer and the difference in size between M43 and APSC is not that big. I have a 5N and completely agree that its sensor is absolutely fantastic.

    Sony has been supplying sensors large and small for various cameras for a long time.

    As far as Panasonic vs. Olympus, I think with only 2 M43 body makers there is room for each. Pricing is important, but more important is smart design. I don't think Sony investing in Olympus necessarily means Olympus can cut prices a lot, the fundamental economics of making cameras does not change with Sony's involvement.

    I doubt Sony will ever make a M43 body because they have invested heavily in the NEX line, both bodies and lenses. It doesn't seem practical at all for them to introduce M43 gear- what's the differentiation except slightly smaller sensor? The larger sensor is one of their big differentiating points in creating the NEX line, so no need to muddy it. They have expanded beyond NEX with cameras such as the RX100 and the new full frame camera.
     
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  4. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder SC Veteran

    383
    Mar 7, 2012
    I also don't think Sony will sell Sony branded M43 cameras. IMO, they will sell Olympus branded M43 gear and take the NEX line upmarket.
     
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  5. norman shearer

    norman shearer SC Veteran

    Well if they knocked up the sensor so quick then I look forward to their next edition! Do Panasonic make their own sensors? I can't keep up. I know Ricoh and Nikon use Sony sensors but the Fuji cams used to be rehashed Nikon bodies so are they Sony sensors too?
     
  6. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    Sony has been selling 1/1.7" type sensors for years without making a camera with that size sensor themselves, so I don't expect them to enter m43.

    There've been rumours of a full frame NEX for ages, and IIRC a full frame sensor would just-about fit the Sony E mount. If Sony is taking their CSC line to a different sensor size, I'd expect a larger sensor rather than a smaller one, particularly now that they have the RX100 and presumably other compacts with the same sensor size.

    As for Panasonic, weren't there rumours of the GH3 also using a Sony sensor? I certainly hope that Panasonic and Olympus will both stay in the m43 game, I think the fact that their customers can switch to the other's product line without rendering their previous investments in bodies or lenses useless, is a great motivator to keep pushing!
     
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  7. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder SC Veteran

    383
    Mar 7, 2012
    Panasonic used to make it's own sensors. Which gave it a big hammer over Olympus since Olympus was beholding to it for sensors. Now... I think it's kind of unclear. When asked a few months ago whether the GH3 sensor is a Panasonic sensor, the Panasonic execs said "no comment". People that have ripped apart the GH3 sensor say it bears a lot of resemblence to Sony sensors.

    Nikon used to use Sony sensors but of late they have started making some of their own.
     
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  8. dixeyk

    dixeyk Guest

    I think the sensor in the E-M5 is very good but it's still not quite up to the level of the APS-C sensor used in the NEX (which is a few years old now). I suspect we'll see Sony update the NEX sensors at se point and improve them s well. It makes sense, Sony is going to reserve the best tech for their cameras. Based on the images I have seen from the GH3 so far I wouldn't be at all surprised if Panasonic is also buying Sony sensors. As to whether Olympus will CRUSH Panasonic...I don't think you can boil it down to just sensors. It's nice to see Panasonic and Olympus have more modern sensors (the old ones were feeling a bit long in the tooth) but, I think there is a lot more to a camera than the sensor. Personally, I have never found Olympus cameras to be all that interesting (including the E-M5) as I don't care for their UI and their controls. They have always struck me as counterintuitive in the way they operate where Panasonic cameras have typically felt very comfortable and familiar (I have had a number of each). As good as the E-M5's sensor is it unlikely I would ever consider buying one. That said, I know folks that LOVE their Olympus cameras so I think there is space for both as each caters to different sorts of wants and needs.
     
  9. norman shearer

    norman shearer SC Veteran

    Good first point and I suppose that indicates development costs for new size sensors are not that big.

    A FF NEX would be the dogs gonads but aren't E-mount lenses designed for APS-C sensors? They could be used on smaller sensors without loss of quality but go the other way and you introduce heavy vignetting and distortion etc?

    You could be right about the Panasonic GH3 sensor. It makes sense for Sony to supply it knowing they will always maintain a lead time in this regard and therefore keep Panasonic in their place..
     
  10. norman shearer

    norman shearer SC Veteran

    Yes quite right, there is a lot more to a camera than its sensor but I do think the sensor above all else defines a camera. It's like the engine of a car. I've yet to use an Olympus digital so don't really know what I'd make of the UI. I've never been overly impressed with Panasonic's ooc colours though and this often lead me down the b&w path as a result. Olympus seem to be up there with Fuji and Nikon regarding colour accuracy. With my J1 I find it so nice not having to do hardly any post work on the colours.

    The Panasonic sensor was certainly showing its age. I had the GH2 and when I moved to the Sony 5N I was blown away. This is from the perspective of a manual focus lens user though - the 5N just seemed to make all my legacy glass look good.
     
  11. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    Yes, to my knowledge all of the current E mount lenses are built to cover only an APSC sized sensor, but the E-mount NEX VG900 video camera has a full frame sensor. Right now you can either use it with an E-mount lens and use only an APSC-sized crop, or use it with an adapter and one of Sony's full frame lenses. But it would make sense for Sony to produce E-mount lenses that support an FF sensor in the future... which would also make a full frame, E-mount stills camera that much more likely.
     
  12. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    As good as the Sony 16MP APS-C sensor is for clean images at high ISOs, the E-M5 is a great example of a system-based approach. I don't think that the sensor is quite as efficient as that in the 5N, but to be honest it doesn't need to be. Not only does it have a good range of lenses that you can buy right now (as opposed to maybe sometime in the future), but it also has one of the best image stabilisation systems yet developed which means that ALL of those large aperture prime lenses are stabilised because it is built into the body. It also has the advantage of using a smaller sensor (yes, I did say that right). A larger sensor can be limited by too-small a depth-of-field when shot at large apertures, which means that it is more likely to have to be stopped down and therefore require a higher ISO setting.

    It was actually an interesting observation after buying a NEX-5N to try, that it wasn't a better camera for me in low light scenarios than the E-M5.
     
  13. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    For a non-traditional camera company, Panasonic has actually proven to be a very, very good lens manufacturer. They were also the ones that dragged contrast-detect AF kicking and screaming out of slow-focusing compacts and being the first to really make it competitive with phase-detect DSLRs.
     
  14. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. SC All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    Olympus really had to turn to someone other than Panasonic for their sensors. Panasonic was keeping them a generation behind, not willing to sell them the 16MP the company had in its own models. I understand wanting to keep your competition behind you if they depend on you for a crucial part, but Olympus really could knot keep depending on Panasonic for last year's old news. My guess is that the conversations between Sony and Olympus about Sony providing the the sensors for the E-M5 and the following generation of Pens predates Sony's interest in Olympus. It may, indeed, have made the subsequent business moves more sensible.
     
  15. dixeyk

    dixeyk Guest

    I agree totally...Panasonic and Olympus (both together and separately) have a an ecosystem of bodies and lenses that is really hard to beat. In fact Sony can't compete with them on that level. Like anything however there are things that systems do well and other things they do less well. For someone like me NEX is the bees knees because I LOVE using old MF glass and it happens that for a variety of reasons the NEX does it better than m43 (at least for my specific needs).
     
  16. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder SC Veteran

    383
    Mar 7, 2012
    My guess is that the relationship between Olympus and Panasonic long soured before Sony came into the picture. The rumors for a while were that Panasonic was going to be Olympus's white knight. Instead Panasonic eventually said they were not interested in Olympus and Sony came into the picture. My impression is that there is bad blood between Panasonic and Olympus now.
     
  17. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    ^^ And that's the thing. No one system (or even brand within a system in the case Oly and Panny) has yet to and probably never will be capable of being everything to everyone, and system strengths and weaknesses will shift over time. I'm even fairly sure that a year or two ago I was reading threads predicting that Panasonic would steamroller over Olympus...
     
  18. asterinex

    asterinex SC Regular

    111
    Oct 23, 2012
    Antwerp, Belgium
    It is in the interest of Olympus to keep Panasonic in the business. Only one will get a hard time to keep the 4/3 system alive. They need eachother.
     
  19. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    To answer the original question: no. Worst case scenario, Panasonic uses Sony sensors until it can bring it's own up to speed. To be honest, I don't think they are that far behind. Olympus just evened the playing filed a bit by finding another sensor source. Some folks prefer the Panasonic DSLR style bodies and, as has been pointed out, Panasonic has proven very good at making lenses.
     
  20. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder SC Veteran

    383
    Mar 7, 2012
    They've been making lenses for a long time. So has Sony. Just for products that most consumers are not familiar with. I remember Panasonic MII video recorders from the '80s. They were trying to challenge the dominant player in the broadcast video field. That dominant player was/is Sony. Many people are surprised that companies like Panasonic and Sony are such players in photography today. They associate them with rice makers and walkmans. I wonder why it took them so long to leverage their video know how.