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Thursday, 11 March 2021

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I hope not. I was out the other day with my Panasonic G9 and a 100-300 (so 200-600 equivalent) lens, trying to get some shots of some peregrine falcons high up on a warehouse. At the same time there was a guy with a FF Nikon and a 600mm lens: camera and lens together were enormous, and heavy. m43 gives me a decent interchangeable lens camera that can take such pictures without threatening muscular or skeletal injury. That's a niche worth preserving.

I agree that Micro 4/3 is "the smallest sensor size before quality begins to suffer noticeably." The issue is no that consumers are irrational though. The market is dominated by two types of consumers, the smartphone users who are entirely happy with compact camera quality output, and pro and enthusiastic users who don't mind the size and weight of 35mm or APSC cameras. The segment in the middle, those who are extremely sensitive to size and are ok with m43 quality output, is not large enough to sustain sales of m43 cameras. So, every player is playing rationally. The m43 manufacturers share some blame that they don't relentlessly miniaturize the system, but rather making those giant pro-sized bodies and lenses trying to compete head-to-head with FF and APSC. As a result, m43 really doesn't have a noticeable size advantage compared with, say, Fujifilm.

I'd prefer Micro 4/3, but the format seems to have been effectively abandoned. Olympus has poor price:performance ratios compared to Fuji, especially, but also Sony's APS-C cameras, and Panasonic still has poor autofocus.

Both have suffered from being late to market. The Olympus EM5 III was a few years late and, again, poorly priced compared to an a6500 or X-T30. Where's the Panasonic GH6? Meanwhile, the Panasonic G90/G95 had poor autofocus for the price and also used a small crop for video.

Confession: my most recent gear change was irrational. While I do still shoot M43, I succumbed recently to the pull of a high megapixel “full frame” camera. Why? So, I could print big landscape prints, of course. What’s irrational: I’ve never—not once—in nearly 20 years of photography printed larger than 24”x36”—and that about 5 times total. And the kicker—4 out of 5 of those were shot with the original Canon 5D, which while admittedly “full frame” is only 12mp. Those large prints from ‘only’ 12mp look great (and I think I have high standards). Those same shots with a 20mp m43 camera and appropriate lenses would look just as fantastic, if not better, in a much smaller and portable package and because of stabilization without the need for a tripod, too. Oh well. (Another confession: I like pixel-peeping, and the high megapixel “full frame” camera does have an advantage there). I do hope m43 hangs around, even if the market is smaller. An Olympus E-M5III with the (comparatively) tiny 12-45MM F4 is a fantastic travel/walk-about setup. 5.6 and be there! (5.6? I want more depth of field usually, not less—another advantage of m43; and to some degree it negates the ‘noise penalty’ since I can use a smaller physical aperture and lower ISO).

Micro 4/3 may not be Olympus's problem. Olympus may have sold better if they did not have the most confusing menu system ever encountered on any camera system.

An intricate post, about which I have a few thoughts:

I don't think many people ever thought capital markets were rational in exactly the way you're putting it. They're rational in the long term, and the tulip fiasco is an example of that; a delusion corrected. In the short term, anything can happen, as the current GameStop struggle so well illustrates, and which I find amusing.

I don't know what to think about the Olympus camera division. I happen to live across the street from a friend who is revamping a large company; he was brought in to be executive chairman for that very purpose. Funds are usually run by brutally realistic people who don't buy companies to lose money. Perhaps parts of Olympus could be pieced out to other companies, and the fund could make a buck that way, but since Olympus-style equipment does not seem to me to be readily adapted to (say) FF -- that is, it's designed to a particular function -- that would seem problematic. Perhaps Olympus had desirable real estate or some kind of advanced software capability that would be valuable? I guess we'll find out, but it seems possible that something photographic will emerge. I may be dreaming.

I'm in Midland, Texas, today, traveling to do research for a novel. An iPhone is completely incapable of performing that simple task -- i.e. well-exposed photos taken from a car seat with a 200mm lens, detailed wide angle shots, etc. M4/3 is perfect for that. M4/3 is also the perfect news photography camera -- no news outlet, paper or digital, can currently use the full quality of M4/3, but the flexibility of the system is far beyond what you get with iPhones. The big threat to M4/3, IMHO, is the shrinking size of FF systems, although FF is still stuck with big clunky lenses. If Nikon, Canon, et al would take a look at those Pentax lenses one of your commenters recently detailed, that, combined with the small mirrorless FF cameras, could be the end of M4/3.

It has never been clear to me that you can get the cost of sensors that are enough better than the nominal "full frame" 35mm devices to be low enough to get people to jump off of those platforms. Those 35mm-sized chips have an incredible amount of R&D investment behind them, and unlike with film where the "image quality" pretty much scales linearly with film size it's not at all clear that just making the chips bigger really buys you all that much except theoretically.

In other words, the pictures might be better, but the cost to get there is probably more than normal people would pay. And you also inevitably give up certain system aspects of the Canon/Nikon/Sony lines like lenses, autofocus, and so on.

As for m4/3rds ... I have used those cameras for about 10 years now but will probably be switching back to some other mirrorless line now that Olympus has moved on.

These days I'm pretty happy with the iPhone has a day to day camera ... so the big machines are mostly around for non-normal perspectives (wide, or long) and the ability to rent a 500-600mm lens for the next solar eclipse or trip to Africa (hah). For that I think heading back to Nikon will work fine.

I see differentiation coming more from ergonomics and other features than sensor size. I have a full frame camera I hardly use at this point. I think you might too? I'm fine with apsc right now (Fuji). I take out my nice Apple phone mostly to check social media, text people, take a snap of something to show the guy at the hardware store, and this past summer to automatically identify wild plants (works amazingly well). I don't take it out to make many nice photos, even though I know it can, because it's just not a very fun process. The camera market is shrinking not so much because phone cameras are awesome, but because so many people got into photography who were not really that into it after a year or so. There are tons of budget dslrs with the kit lens still attached and the batteries drained in closets right now. They might also have a dusty guitar in the corner they never play any more as well, as I do, but I don't think my iPhone killed the guitar market because it can be used to create music.

My current kit consist of my iPhone, a Sony RX100vi and an Olympus OMD E-M5iii with a variety of lenses. I've decided to stick with Olympus, shown by my recent upgrade to the E-M5iii and a new 75-300mm lens.

Most important to me is a compact kit, whatever it is. I do mostly travel photography with landscapes and wildlife thrown in along the way. I don't want to lug around a big camera with a backpack or trolly full of lenses and other gear. The Sony and Olympus gear is great for what I do, compact but full featured.

The current phones are impressive. Their one big limitation is telephoto reach, which is important to me. Olympus seemed to target that telephoto market with its last offerings, the new E-M1 cameras and the rather remarkable new 150-400mm zoom and with its use of AI for bird capture, especially birds in flight. But that's probably not enough to counter the enthusiast market's move to full frame.

I agree with Mike that for what I do the IQ of Micro 4/3 is sufficient, so I'm hoping to be able to just stick with what I have, barring failures of some sort. My phone and cameras all deliver about the same IQ in most uses and for the way I view my photos, on a screen.

It's hard to predict what the future holds. But I wouldn't be surprised to see many of the buyers of full frame gear once again looking for something smaller as the new wears off (and they age).

To me, the three OMD E-M5s I've had are almost the perfect cameras. Large enough to enjoy like my SLRs of old, but small enough not to be a burden. And with much greater photographic capabilities than I.

If they just hadn’t settled on Micro as the term to differentiate the new product from the older 4/3rds cameras the timeline might have stretched well into the future. Labeling your camera as different because of its “micro” sensor doesn’t play all that well. Besides, anybody knows that 4/3rds is bigger than 3/3rds and bigger is better, right?

I havve gone mostly to m4/3. OK, I still have my D3 aand some lenses, as i fine the relults frome the D3 to be very very very good, but I'm old, at least ten years ahead of you, and can't schlepp heavy camera equipment around. I started out with a Panasonic GF3 that was on sale for jaut a couple of hundred dollars with a deent lens, and found thre was good news and bad. For me, the good news was it was the very essence of portability, and the bad news was the lack of an EVF, requiring me to hold the camera at arm's length. I think that if we hadn't been forced to do that for so long, we would never have needed any of the schemes of stabiliation. I moved on to a Panazonic GX7, an ergonomic home run, but when I was shooting for a living, I learned ways of holding a camera that made it posssible to hand hold a quite slow wpeeds. As someone that had shot with Oly OM cameras and lenses for many years, Igot the M5ii, and ugh. An absolute ergonomic disaster, The menus are written in a language unfamiliar to any know earthling. I keep trying to give it a chance, but it never fails to frustrate. The rumor sites seem to think that Panasonic will have some big announcements soon, so don't count out m4/3. Oly willl be deaad soon if they don't get some new engineers to bring up the new versions of the bodies, and a new sensor, the old sensors are getting older by the minute.

The thing that disturbs me most is that you are moving dangerously into Tony Northrup territory.

I’m no expert, but I have the feeling that the MFT sensor still makes a lot of sense for video. If Olympus indeed completely fails, I hope someone will at least adopt its ergonomics.

Oh gosh Mike; I could more firmly agree with you on m4/3s. I have a Panasonic Gx9 with Oly's lovely 12-40 f2.8 as my "travel camera" kit. Yet it is frustrating to work with its raw files which are more than a stop behind contemporaneous Nikon D5500 consumer-grade APS-C files . . . and the Nikon kit weighs about the same too. (It is a pity about the D5500's ghastly dark-mine-shaft OVF however.)

A huge problem was that m4/3 sensor development basically stopped in 2016; for example the Oly pro body you reference suffers from 2016-era sensor too. The problem was the sales volume of both Panny and Oly was not sufficient to swing development of a new generation sensor. "Yes" compared to film or earlier generation digital m4/3 sensors are fine; compared to contemporary ones they are two generations behind and fall apart above ISO 1600.

If you are going to invest in -- and incur the bother of carrying -- a camera separate from your cell phone you really want the best image files you can get. As you say, m4/3 image files are not "bad" but they not only fail that test, they have been falling further behind for at least the past five years.

Mike, I read this post with great interest as I've been an Olympus user since the first OMD cameras arrived around 2012. For me, these cameras worked in a way that most others didn't. Due to arthritis, I needed the lighter weight and IBIS to even hold the camera. I loved the Olympus colors. But, very, very reluctantly, I'm afraid I have admit you are right.

As my ability to hold cameras slowly continues to decrease, I've been looking for ways to decrease the weight on my current main set up of an OMD EM-5ii and the wonderful 12-40mm F2.8 lens. Decided to trade in my 12-40mm lens for the somewhat lighter and slower 12-45 F4 lens. That might buy me another year or two.

Also looking at the Fuji X100V which is about half the weight but with no IBIS and a non-compatibility with the DxO software. Nothing is easy.

Mike:

Well, I've been all around on sensor sizes. I did a LOT of work with a miniature sensor (1/1.7) Ricoh GX-100. In fact, a big chunk of my portfolio is from that camera. I also used a 1" Sony RX-10 for a while - loved the lens and the versatility of the camera, but found it a bit too big. I've used both APS-C and Micro 4/3rds and found little real difference in IQ. Presently, I have an iPhone 12 and a Micro 4/3rds rig ( a Panasonic GX-9 with the 20mm and a Leica/Panasonic 12-60 - and the latter has sat mostly unused as Covid eliminated travel and local events. This year past, the iPhone has seen the most use.

I don't mind being labeled a contrarian with respect to digital photography and I find I am using "mini" sensor cameras (1/1.7 & 1/2.3) more than ever before. Great for grab & go (no different than taking my phone) and I find the EVFs to be essential.
I've never been comfortable handling my phone for photography (it's slipped more than once) and I've accepted that I need zoom lenses for most of my outings.
Also, I use one on a tripod frequently with off-camera lighting and the fine-tuning of image parameters gives me comparable flexibility to what I get with my DSLRs (and I can work with the same image editors).
For me, it's about the ease of handling and the complementary nature of the tools.

Several months ago, after suffering a personal tragedy, my brother started driving around town at night and taking pictures of things with his middling smartphone and posting them on Instagram. It was very good for his soul and, as a bonus, he started to post some pretty good pictures and started to really enjoy it and started to talk about getting himself a "real camera" with decent lenses, etc. I offered to help and started to talk about what might work for him and ran into the problem that, since he had never used anything more than a 5-year-old digicam, we didn't know what he would like.

So, I lent him my E-M1 mk.3 and a handful of lenses to let him get used to the form-factor and also to see what lenses he might like (normal zoom, wide zoom, 35mm-equivalent, etc.). The good news is, after a month of shooting with it, he loves the camera! He's forming an opinion about what lenses work for him. He loves the image stabilization. He's playing around with built-in ND filters, and more.

The problem now is, he loves THAT camera!! He's already done some homework about whether an EM-5 has enough of the features he wants and how much the kit would be with the lens he likes and now I'm having to say, "Wait, not THAT camera!" I had expected that we'd march down to the local camera shop and look at a Fuji and a couple of their lenses and so I'm having to try to explain to him that a supposedly big famous camera company he's heard about all his life (Olympus) is probably not here for much longer and we should spend a couple grand on cameras from a company that makes film (Fuji) or maybe one that makes DVD players (Sony) or even possibly the one that made his first cassette deck (Panasonic).

I'm sort-of chuckling to myself that the experiment to see if he would take to an up-to-date SLR form-factor worked a little too well and now I'm having walk it back a little bit. It *is* a bit of a topsy-turvy world right now.

Victrix causa deis placuit, sed victa Catoni.
I got myself an OM-D EM 5 Mark 3 in December with the tiny 12-45 pro zoom. In the meantime, I have added the 8 mm fisheye and the 75 mm tele.
I can carry the camera and the zoom on the racing bicycle and for jogging. Try this with a larger format! I enjoy the stuff immensely. The zoom doubles for a macro, by the way ...

I had originally chosen the Olympus EPL-1 as my first digital camera after using Minoltas for many years, was it's size. My hands are small and it fit very nicely. The lens folded in flat and could fit in a purse, which made it convenient to have with me all the time. Now, I'm finding that my cell phone (a basic Pixel) is much better than the camera and I spend most of the time with it. The phone just can't take closeup shots of birds though. My 300mm lens stopped working and I have been considering a full-sized camera setup just to shoot birds. Would love something as light as the micro 4/3 camera.

With both the new affordable 100-400 and Pro 150-400 Olympus lenses selling way better than expected, maybe there’s life in the m4/3 format yet.
Panasonic has released a specialist camera in the format last year and the GH6 looks like arriving, plus it seems the mount overall is still selling well in Japan.
The new, flashy full-frame bodies are getting the publicity, but they aren’t exactly affordable, and if that’s all that’s available many people wanting to try a real camera after catching the photography bug won’t bother.
An aging population, the high weight and prices of the lenses... I changed to m4/3 from Canon because the gear is affordable, light and good enough.

You continue to miss the ways cell phone cameras are least adequate—any sort of fast-moving subject, especially in low light.

Cell phone cameras are inadequate for action pictures of kittens and children (they work fine for posed pictures, and one thing we're seeing is a swing towards posed pictures away from action pictures). They're completely hopeless for sports events, including children's sports events, both because those can't be posed and because they happen far away (you need longer lenses).

And...these are the core family snapshot requirements. These are the things that got a significant percentage of parents to buy an SLR instead of just using their Instamatic.

Micro 4/3 is my sweet-spot format: the quality of the sensors is good enough for the kind of shooting I do (travel, family, events); the camera, lenses and accessories are manageable sizes and weights; the camera has the buttons and knobs I need to quickly get to the shooting modes I use, plus the camera takes the picture when I press the shutter release. I'll miss my last Lumix when it bites the dust, and hope that APS-C is still around when that happens.

And then there's Pentax and large format film. Sadly. Did I mention that my cameras are Olympus M4/3, Pentax, and large format film? I'm sure that says something about me, although I'm not entirely sure what that would be.

As a contrarian with a love of underdogs, it was probably inevitable I'd turn to MFT just as its star was eclipsed. Since my Pentax system seems too ordinary and mainstream, you know? So now I'm messing around with a GX8 and the Leica 12-60, plus a few other compact lenses. Compact is the key word here- that combination is two pounds lighter than my K-1 with 28-105, a comparable lens.

Both of these give excellent IQ at reasonable enlargements, though the Panasonic lags a couple stops in dynamic range. I've been cropping most of my Pentax photos down to this format, so the 24 mp K-3 barely delivers more sensor data than the GX8. Which raises the question of adequacy. What am I trying to do with my camera? Capturing maximum information? I'm not working in photo-surveillance. The stakes are low. My goal is to make some art with this little, that's all. Do the photos look good to me, filling my large iMac? Yes they do, and that's good enough for me.

Right now, MFT seems like my best choice for a mirrorless side system. There's the widest range of camera types and sizes, and a huge range of native lenses from pro to pocketable pancakes. More ergonomic than the Fujis, I find, and let's not even mention the Sony "devices." Used gear prices are quite reasonable and likely to get better.

Best of all, MFT gives me an aspect ratio close to the shape of the 8x10 and 11x14 prints that I made and framed. That just looks like Art to me. It's far better to see that in the camera, rather than rely on cropping later. It makes the GX8 feel like coming back home again.

My old history teacher - and history is now a dinosaur subject - once said, "The biggest take home message in learning history is to expect CHANGE."

"Olympus's "pro" Micro 4/3 camera (also discounted by $1,000 right now) was met with perplexity among customers and ended up being one of its swan-songs."

I will eschew the long form essay on the economics and accounting for production, pricing and sales of complex goods like this. Suffice it to say that neither you nor I can have any idea whether the E-M1x is more or less profitable than projected inside the company. Insufficient evidence, way insufficient.

Oly mostly, but Panny to some extent, tried to play with the big boys and just produced products that while they performed well for a small sensor camera system naturally did not equal the performance of the larger formats. This would be fine except they were often priced higher than their larger format equivalents. That will fail 100% of the time.

As Clint Eastwood used to say "A man's gotta know his limits" or something similar. Oly definitely didn't know their limits, and yes Oly as we knew it is gone and really that's probably for the best. I never heard any $ amount for the Oly 'sale' but I would not be surprised if they paid to get rid of the camera division.

m43 grew into something that just didn't make economic sense anymore. BTW I have used the system since the GH1.

I think when people start to fall in love with and/or, for other reasons get into photography, they want a "real camera". However good camera phones are, using a camera, particularly an interchangeable lens camera, sets them apart from the crowd.
My issue with interchangeable lens 4/3 cameras is that they are essentially as large as some APC cameras, and some APC are as large as Full Frame. The smaller and faster lenses (for the smaller formats) is negated by the larger camera size. The major advantage of 4/3 is the availability of more compact and relatively fast super telephoto zooms that are ideal for wildlife photography.
The reverse is also true, Sony's a7C doesn't have a line of compact lenses and the Leica CL is a beast with its f1.4 Summilux (although more compact slower lenses are available).
Of course the last two points are superfluous if you really do like big cameras with huge lenses.

"But rationally, what really makes the most sense for general photography would be for the standard to settle on Micro 4/3 size or even 1"."

Yes, thank you! I bet heavily on M4/3, and I still believe it's the optimal format for professional cameras. I'm so sad they seem to be dying.

Eolake

Just today I read that Photoshop (or was it Lightroom?) has a new feature which allows for enormous upscaling of low resolution files, using "deep learning" (whatever that is). The lead developer mentioned that they plan to use this algorithm to improve sharpening and noise reduction. This makes me wonder whether these large, expensive cameras and lenses aren't actually a thing of the past? That a small sensor in a portable, convenient and affordable camera, combined with powerful image processing software is actually well past the point of diminishing returns re. image quality?

Once Adobe has released all these new features, it would be interesting to compare files from a micro 4/3 camera, processed using the new algorithms, to files from a current FF camera, using traditional processing.

"If I could shoot with any 50mm focal-length-equivalent lens, it would not be unobtanium: it would be the relatively modest, relatively older HD Pentax 35mm ƒ/2.8 DA Macro Limited on APS-C"

I bought that one when you first wrote about it.
Before I went to MFT, I used Pentax for a while, their prime lenses were lovely. (The one zoom I bought sucked.) Back in the day I used a ME-Super, I loved it. I used it from late seventies to late nineties.

Eolake

What is a large print? A 12 megapixel iPhone can easily do 12x16 LightJet prints. Although I've never done one, 18x24 LightJet prints should be no problem. BTW LightJet prints are continuous tone laser prints on silver gelatin photo paper.

Could this stove-top iPhone shot (4.2mm, f/1.8 @ 1/30) work as a cook book photo? With a little lighting/styling why not. This sounds like a good excuse to use some Profoto studio strobes and their iPhone camera app.

My feeling is that the way forward is keeping things smaller. A 30MP sensor is all that is needed to keep m43 viable for the future, and I am sure it is coming. As to Olympus losing money: that was then. The new company has not inherited that debt, so that is in the past.

Here's another take on the desire for "a handy always-with-you note-taker, ideal for quick sharing, and [a larger camera as a] deliberate and involved tool for very high-quality results and large prints."

https://www.dearsusan.net/2018/04/23/715-monday-post-23-april-2018-finding-a-useful-spot-for-my-smartphone-in-my-photographic-workflow/

Long story short: it was satisfying to use a cell phone for "anything akin to recording a memory" while reserving the larger camera for "anything creative."

A 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds camera coupled with DxO PhotoLab 4 (the version that includes the horribly named DeepPrime noise reduction) is an amazingly powerful combination, even at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. I'm hoping that, one day soon, some of the newer sensor technology will make it to the MFT sensor—backside illuminated sensor or even (though I'm not holding my breath for this) a stacked sensor.

I'm a bit puzzled that Panasonic designed, tested, manufactured and released its expensive 10-25mm ƒ/1.7 lens and didn't follow up with radically improved MFT camera bodies. I live in hope!

Meanwhile, Apple's ProRAW file format looks promising.

Well Mike you touched a nerve! I just invested in an OMD Mark II at $700 CAD discount. I have an investment in Olympus lenses that should see me through life just fine. I'll be watching rumoured developments with interest, I do not expect anything to be cheap, at least initially. I'm betting that any new camera will be innovative and very social media integrated.

I far prefer the selection of lenses that are available for micro 4/3 over APS-C. This alone makes micro 4/3 a viable option. I just picked up an Olympus OMD EM5iii that I will use for macro and backpacking. I also use a Nikon Z7, and cannot tell the difference in 16x20 in. prints over the smaller format. I sure hope mico 4/3 does not disappear.

"...what really makes the most sense for general photography would be for the standard to settle on Micro 4/3 size or even 1"..."

I have two 1" cameras: Sony RX10 (24-200mm ƒ/2.8) and Sony RX100V (24-70mm ƒ/1.8-2.8). I also have an iPhone and FF DSLR.

What I like about the 1" cameras is they are not ILC. And sometimes that is an advantage. The RX100 is smaller (h x w) than my iPhone (original SE) although it is thicker. And the RX10 has a nice zoom range at constant aperture and weighs significantly less than the DSLR similarly equipped.

Hmmm.

How long until an iPhone has a 1" sensor?

I don’t know much about videography, but thinking about still photography, I think there are three main groups of users:

1) Those who feel that the camera on their phone is sufficient (including those who occasionally take an old compact camera out of the closet for the rare moment that calls for a big zoom).

2) Those who want the best image quality they can afford and who therefore gravitate to full frame or even medium format (bigger budget) or APS-C (smaller budget).

3) Those who recognize the limitations of their phone but feel that m43 is sufficient. Some of them will still choose APS-C, of course, because they happen to like a particular APS-C product or product line, but a decent portion of these people will choose m43 due to cost and/or size considerations.

That third group is obviously the target audience for m43, and it is definitely the group in which I reside. The problem for the m43 manufacturers is that as a photographer who is happy with “sufficient“ quality, I am already happy with my E-M10 II plus some f/1.8 primes. I might eventually upgrade to something like an E-M1 II or a G9 for better autofocus and ergonomics, but it’s hard for me to imagine wanting more than those (more than sufficient) cameras offer. Since those cameras have already been out for a number of years, it’s pretty easy to get an affordable used copy from a reputable source. The same is also true for any m43 lenses that I could ever want.

So the real question from my perspective is not whether a group of m43 camera users exist, but whether it is possible to sell those people enough new equipment to sustain the business when there is already a seemingly infinite supply of sufficient used options, with none of the money for used purchases going to Olympus or Panasonic.

The future has a way of not always going where it's supposed to, and for proof, one need look no further than the niche success of film, phonograph records and vacuum tube audio!

I've pondered selling off my Olympus outfit, but products like Pen-F have a certain "something" that I like, and as long as that's true, perhaps any such talk is premature.

Where is the “unfriend” button on TOP to unfriend Mike?! I’ve only recently invested to expand my m4/3 system with high aspirations to achieve something big (including an OC/OL/OY project using 20/1.7)!

Oh wait, I did all that with the full knowledge of Olympus’ and m4/3’s gloomy outlook....

[Did I not say "rationally, what really makes the most sense for general photography would be for the standard to settle on Micro 4/3 size or even 1"," or did you not read it? --Mike]

To me the biggest obvious and remaining benefit of 4/3s (followed by aps) is in long lenses. You can have good quality, fast, long lenses in a system that is small. Phone cameras can never compete with that. The ‘telephoto’ lens in iPhone is a 50mm normal equivalent. It probably indeed is a telephoto design, meaning it is physically shorter than it’s focal length. But it is not a tele in the common meaning of the word, and it is not a zoom either. The two or three lenses can imitate zoom by digitally cropping the image between the fixed focal lengths but that quickly turns the image quality into crap. Some phones are starting to have ’folded’ telephotos, with lens elements that are length-wise within the flat form factor of a phone. That can give some additional focal length but at the expense of speed. Some phones try to overcome the limitation by adding pixels. Small sensor with 100 megapixels allows for a lot of cropping, but that again produces crap. Ergonomics, and operating speed not only lens speed, becomes increasingly important with longer focal lengths. Another big disadvantage for phone cameras. Canon is now trying to compete in that field in full format with the new 11/600 and 11/800 lenses that are relatively very small and light, but I would much rather take a 100-400 or 300 in 4/3s.

Everytime I have heard the same story about the prophetic downfall of Micro Four Third format system and especially Olympus or now OM-D product offer. It is a kind of pathetic that certain people "want" absolutely to be true and final. For myself, I have found that MFT may be at the present moment the real compact photo system compare to the larger format ones such as the old "mini" 24 X 36mm.
The best buy of the day is may be the OM-D E-M1 Mark II alongside with some appropriate M.Zuiko "Pro" lenses for your specific needs and pleasure. These products are higher quality and durable photographic gear that will last for a long time and are capable to withstand intense use in adverse conditions. And, more important, they are mature products.
In one word, long live to MFT system and Olympus/OM products.

[I'm not prophesying anything, merely looking at what is happening. And I've been a booster of 4/3 since before it was Micro. --Mike]

I invested in M4/3rd's because I like the EVF, and the ability to have a focusable viewfinder, before there were a lot of other EVF cameras. Not only focusable from the standpoint of visually able to see the focus snap in and out (unlike most DSLR's with weird almost aerial viewfinders), but also to have a focusing system that I could pick the focus point over the entire screen, without being forced into engineer mandated focus points!

The second reason I picked it was to get multiple aspect ratios for the output. Yeah, I know that it's just pre-cropping the sensor to get 16:9 and 1:1, but that's a step I don't have to do in "post", and I have a screen image that I can shoot to, like using a Hasselblad when I want square. I also hate the 3:2 aspect ratio of 35mm, and it seems weird that after decades and decades of real professional commercial photographers shooting 4X5 and 8X10 sheet film, as well 120 square and 6X7; we should be forced into the majority of digital cameras options to be crappy 3:2 based. A praise here for the medium format chips that are 4:3rd's aspect (although I don't really think they're better than the old 6X4.5 CCD chips).

3rd, after years of messing around with various camera manufacturers permutations of APS-C, where none of them made format specific prime lenses, Olympus made a concerted effort to have a selection of primes for their offerings, and I own every prime between 12mm and 45mm! Too bad the Pen digital body I bought is almost unusable with it's multiple and confusing menus and multiple ways to set functions. I could clear this up with the engineers in an afternoon! I've seen this over most of technology development over the last 20 years: engineers need to shut the "F" up, and do what they're told, instead of adding so much "baloney" to a camera they become unusable!

4th, what's the end use? You can certainly make a case for the fact that the M4/3rd's camera system is the true heir to the 35mm Leica (vs. sheet film, etc.) when it comes to camera systems. If you're shooting for web use, magazine reproduction, print 11X14 and smaller, etc., the M4/3rds's system is what you should be shooting! Camera that, size wise, are closer to on old Pentax Spotty, than the Nikon D810! The M4/3rd's system is the closest thing possible to the old 35mm in output and equipment size.

I await developments with Olympus, but fear the bodies will be "more of the same".

Why m4/3?

Format, depth of field, lenses, size, weight, portability, stabilization, all weather usability, maturity . . .

A sensor update will be icing on the cake.

Olympus Em1 Mk2 and the 12-40mm f2.8 and Super Resolution in Adobe Photoshop, got it all now.

Re: Tulip mania

The 1637 event gained popular attention in 1841 with the publication of the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, who wrote that at one point 12 acres (5 ha) of land were offered for a Semper Augustus bulb. Mackay claimed that many investors were ruined by the fall in prices, and Dutch commerce suffered a severe shock. Although Mackay's book is a classic, his account is contested. Many modern scholars feel that the mania was not as extraordinary as Mackay described and argue that not enough price data is available to prove that a tulip bulb bubble actually occurred.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania
(References at the link)

The camera market has behaved rationally. It has reacted, as expected, to a market where there is not enough profit catering to folks that require better than iPhone image quality while requiring the smallest form-factor. Consumers as a whole have also behaved rationally. m43 biggest threat is no longer the iPhone but the mirrorless APS-C and FF offerings. Compare a Nikon Z6/7 (or Canon or Sony - FF or APS-C) to the Olympus E-M1. Same size, weight, and price. And if one needs small lenses, for Nikon, there is a 24-50mm, 16-50mm DX, 55-250mm DX, and pancake primes on the roadmap. Best of both worlds - one can choose either large or small glass depending upon the situation and all under one camera system. So which system should the consumer select? If anyone is acting irrationally it is the m43 user that ignores how the market has changed since m43 was first announced. The original value prop for m43 has almost disappeared.

Brandon makes a really good point. The smartphone companies have their customers in a cycle of continuous updates. It's not hard to imagine customers buying a new phone every year, every other year, or what not That's a lot of money committed to the phone, which of course is way more than a phone. The practicality may be: not enough budget for a stand-alone camera when so much already plowed into the phone, which has a pretty good camera already.

Eventually the phones will have even larger sensors, more computational ability, and probably allow more control such as for shutter speed, etc. Seems inevitable. And so it makes sense to see all the full frame and larger sensor camera development, but it seems counter intuitive to some degree when it seems most people would want smaller gear, which goes full circle to the notion of M4/3, but really lands us back to the smartphone as the most rational camera choice for most people.

I wonder whether how the market would react if Panasonic released a 3rd generation of the 20mm f1.7 with faster focus, ibis and weather sealing.
Considering the minuscule size of their 12-32mm pis zoom, surely this is possible.

Assuming the price was competitive, it might become the most recommended lens in history?

The original was a m4/3 system seller, I know people getting the GF1 purely for the lens comparability.

Update the sensor. Add phase detection, bung it all in a gx9 body with weather sealing and higher res sensor, and I would buy and keep that camera forever.

Mike, sorry about my badly worded comment. It was a joke. I was trying to say you pointed out the dilemma and I am at the middle of it.

Back in 2007, Barry Lategan did a full bleed, double page magazine ad for Olympus with a 10mp Olympus E-400 DSLR. The ad - a photo of New York - appeared in the April 2007 issue of the UK's Professional Photographer magazine on pages 6&7.


That 4/3 sensor is several generations older than the current 20mp m4/3 sensors. The 'processing engines' in camera and in Olympus own software have also been improved since then.

That said, Olympus cameras under their new JIP banner may well struggle to survive as they cannot rely on Olympus medical division's earnings now for support. m4/3 ought to be safe with Panasonic but Panasonic do have a larger sensor now to fall back on if need be.

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