So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
Sierra Dave
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Re: telecentricty and sensor format...
In reply to agogo, 10 months ago

agogo wrote:

I get the feeling that Oly took a calculated gamble with sensor technology advancement - thinking that maybe the technology would move along quicker than it did.

Other way around, I'd say.  They gambled that improvements would not be particularly rapid, and lost out when they were.  Of course, it wasn't at all clear in 2001-2002 how far sensor performance could evolve.

Also the sensor size was a choice based on them not being able to compete directly with Canikons FF and APS.

There's no evidence they expected to compete against full-frame at all.  When they were designing the E-1 and 4/3, there were no decent full-frame sensors available.  And to their credit, 3 of the original 4 full-frame designs were failures - Contax's N Digital and Pentax's MZ-D relied on a Philips 6MP sensor which proved a dead end, and Kodak's long-delayed DCS Pro 14n used a Belgian design that was essentially recalled due to poor performance.  The only full-frame to succeed in the early days was Canon's 1Ds, which at $8k was in medium-format territory.

Their inability to get traction early on was much more about inability to match APS-C and APS-H sensor progress.  Canon and Sony ramped up rapidly in resolution and signal-to-noise performance while Kodak was basically coming apart at the seams.  Kodak wasn't a good choice of partner, but obviously nobody knew in 2001 and 2002 just how spectacularly badly run they were.

The other thing Olympus clearly underestimated was the importance of autofocus and frame-rates to photojournalists, event photographers and other working professionals.  Perhaps because they had little experience with SLR AF, they misgauged the other players and failed to produce a competitive alternative.

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