Thank you, Sony.

Started Aug 18, 2012 | Discussions
Sergey Borachev
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Thank you, Sony.
Aug 18, 2012

Last time we had a major improvement in IQ was when the K-5 and D7000 were released with a new Sony sensor, which was later used in other cameras and helped them to also become top performers. Performance of those cameras was so good many questioned the need for FF cameras for the majority of photographers. Now, we have the E-M5 and RX100 both providing unexpectedly high IQ, again due to Sony's sensors. These cameras' IQ is so good that it begs the question why the majority of photographers should bother with DSLRs at all. Indeed, even as we post, numerous DSLR owners are buying if not switching completely to M43.

Sony seems to be running away from the other sensor makers in the sensor race. Its sensor used in the D800 is also a major improvement, though the superiority of that sensor not so obvious and exciting as in the smaller formats.

Olympus is lucky to have this sensor at this critical time, for its E-M5. It was languishing due to poor ISO and DR performance in the sensors it had, and it also had serious financial problems. Sony's NEX model sales and its place in the mirrorless market are obviously affected by the E-M5, which uses its sensors. It is nice to see commercial forces working well in win-win strategies.

Panasonic on the other hand has been widely rumoured to have caused Olympus problems by not sharing its best sensors with its M43 partner. It is so good to see this new source of sensors for Olympus. Without it, it is possible Olympus might not even survive, and there migiht not be a E-M5 and Panasonic become the only M43 maker.

Nikon D7000 Nikon D800 Pentax K-5 Sony RX100
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The Jacal
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

Another thing to thank Sony for with their RX100 is that Photo Perzon doesn't come here and troll badly now.
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assaft
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to The Jacal, Aug 18, 2012

Don't be so sure...
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1041&message=42240672
(skip right to the last line)

The Jacal wrote:

Another thing to thank Sony for with their RX100 is that Photo Perzon doesn't come here and troll badly now.
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Abrak
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to assaft, Aug 18, 2012

While I appreciate the tech that Sony is bringing to cameras - particularly sensors - I wonder if it will be good for competition in the long run.

It appears that Sony has the lead in sensor technology and it can use it to command a grip over most camera formats - APSC, M43 or large sensor compacts (perhaps it is a question of time before they take a hold on FF too.) Manufacturers relying on their own sensors like Panny are likely to suffer. It also gives Sony the ability to keep its own brand of APSC product running ahead of a licensed product like Oly M43.

And while other manufacturers fight for market share within their own narrow base of product, Sony will clean up whomever is the winner most likely.

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JosephScha
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

I was looking at the mini G5 review thread, in which he posted an ISO 3200 picture of this dog. Very nice, but not pristine by any means. And, no doubt the sensor is better than on my G10 (that was the less featured version of the G2). But I recently had to take some pictures in a remarkably dark venue with my 45-200mm not fast at all zoom. So I ended up shooting at ISO 3200. I shot raw + jpeg and figured I'd have to develop raw to clean it up. But output was actually better than I feared - I don't ever shoot at ISO 3200, this time I had to.

Here's a x-large view of an unprocessed, out of camera jpeg image at ISO 3200 by my now out of date G10:

The lit areas are excellent. The dark shadows have some noise - but so does the background in the G5 dog image (but to be fair, not as much). I'm sure if I developed the raw image and cranked the luminance noise reduction slider up I could get rid of this noise. But, the subjects are in properly exposed and don't need noise reduction, so I think the jpeg is pretty darn good:

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js

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jalywol
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to JosephScha, Aug 18, 2012

JosephScha wrote:

Here's a x-large view of an unprocessed, out of camera jpeg image at ISO 3200 by my now out of date G10:

The lit areas are excellent. The dark shadows have some noise - but so does the background in the G5 dog image (but to be fair, not as much). I'm sure if I developed the raw image and cranked the luminance noise reduction slider up I could get rid of this noise. But, the subjects are in properly exposed and don't need noise reduction, so I think the jpeg is pretty darn good:

I have to say, I think the difference is a lot bigger than you are noticing. The G5 seems to be noticably better at ISO 3200 than my GH2 in terms of not having banding or yellow blotchy chroma noise (and chroma noise in general), and in keeping shadow detail. When I look at your photo, I notice lots of banding, very rough grain structure, also lots of yellow blotching and chroma noise, and terrible loss of detail in the dark areas. I don't think they are close at all.

Yes, the photo you have is a really nice shot, and I am sure you can PP some of the noise and grain out, but it's really not particularly close to the G5 output in the dog photo to my eyes, anyway....

-J

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Triggr Happy
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Are you sure you have Sony to thank
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

for EM-5 sensor?

Sergey Borachev wrote:

Last time we had a major improvement in IQ was when the K-5 and D7000 were released with a new Sony sensor, which was later used in other cameras and helped them to also become top performers. Performance of those cameras was so good many questioned the need for FF cameras for the majority of photographers. Now, we have the E-M5 and RX100 both providing unexpectedly high IQ, again due to Sony's sensors. These cameras' IQ is so good that it begs the question why the majority of photographers should bother with DSLRs at all. Indeed, even as we post, numerous DSLR owners are buying if not switching completely to M43.

Sony seems to be running away from the other sensor makers in the sensor race. Its sensor used in the D800 is also a major improvement, though the superiority of that sensor not so obvious and exciting as in the smaller formats.

Olympus is lucky to have this sensor at this critical time, for its E-M5. It was languishing due to poor ISO and DR performance in the sensors it had, and it also had serious financial problems. Sony's NEX model sales and its place in the mirrorless market are obviously affected by the E-M5, which uses its sensors. It is nice to see commercial forces working well in win-win strategies.

Panasonic on the other hand has been widely rumoured to have caused Olympus problems by not sharing its best sensors with its M43 partner. It is so good to see this new source of sensors for Olympus. Without it, it is possible Olympus might not even survive, and there migiht not be a E-M5 and Panasonic become the only M43 maker.

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3DrJ
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

Sergey Borachev wrote:

Panasonic on the other hand has been widely rumoured to have caused Olympus problems by not sharing its best sensors with its M43 partner. It is so good to see this new source of sensors for Olympus. Without it, it is possible Olympus might not even survive, and there migiht not be a E-M5 and Panasonic become the only M43 maker.

Obviously, the EM-5 was brewing for quite a long time before being announced to the world. That suggests Olympus was negotiating with Sony, and no doubt other sensor makers, even while using Panasonic sensors in their prior models (except the E-1).

Certainly Panasonic, and other manufacturers, are not going to simply let Sony just take over, but are feverishly working to improve their own sensor products. In this respect, how much improvement to the GH2 sensor is necessary to reach the level of the EM-5 sensor? Is there reason to doubt Panasonic will strive to get there?

I have no way of knowing for sure, but my intuition is that there are no real secrets in the arcane venues of sensor creation. Furthermore, odds are quite good there's more than one way to reach certain goals, and companies will find ways to achieve parity with Sony in due course.

We are living in truly remarkable times. Look at how much things have changed in the mere 9 years since the E-1 was introduced. This pace will continue for a few more years, and the Next New Thing will push aside the last. No company can constantly stay on top, not even Sony. Let's enjoy the ride while it lasts.

JRA

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s_grins
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to 3DrJ, Aug 18, 2012

3DrJ wrote:

Sergey Borachev wrote:

Panasonic on the other hand has been widely rumoured to have caused Olympus problems by not sharing its best sensors with its M43 partner. It is so good to see this new source of sensors for Olympus. Without it, it is possible Olympus might not even survive, and there migiht not be a E-M5 and Panasonic become the only M43 maker.

Obviously, the EM-5 was brewing for quite a long time before being announced to the world. That suggests Olympus was negotiating with Sony, and no doubt other sensor makers, even while using Panasonic sensors in their prior models (except the E-1).

Certainly Panasonic, and other manufacturers, are not going to simply let Sony just take over, but are feverishly working to improve their own sensor products. In this respect, how much improvement to the GH2 sensor is necessary to reach the level of the EM-5 sensor? Is there reason to doubt Panasonic will strive to get there?

I have no way of knowing for sure, but my intuition is that there are no real secrets in the arcane venues of sensor creation. Furthermore, odds are quite good there's more than one way to reach certain goals, and companies will find ways to achieve parity with Sony in due course.

We are living in truly remarkable times. Look at how much things have changed in the mere 9 years since the E-1 was introduced. This pace will continue for a few more years, and the Next New Thing will push aside the last. No company can constantly stay on top, not even Sony. Let's enjoy the ride while it lasts.

JRA

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Could not say better!!!
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Sergey Borachev
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to s_grins, Aug 18, 2012

Good comments, but it is nice for Sony to sell its great sensors and not just keep it to make its own cameras the best. Now that must be good for competition, besides being good also for itself to get the volume, funding for more R&D.

The way I see it, if Sony should become like Intel is for computers one day, I won't regret it, provided it continues to let anyone buy its sensors. That would drive prices down and probably better than Olympus and Pentax camera business disappearing, and probably Sigma and others too, if only the strongest companiest who who can develop everything themselves are able to survive.

There is too much proprietary stuff going on, too many patent wars, and not enough standardisation and sharing in the camera world, why prices stay so high, in spite of the huge increases in number of cameras sold compared to decades ago. PC prices on the other hand has come down at least 10 times but got 10,000 better.

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sderdiarian
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

Sergey Borachev wrote:

Good comments, but it is nice for Sony to sell its great sensors and not just keep it to make its own cameras the best. Now that must be good for competition, besides being good also for itself to get the volume, funding for more R&D.

The way I see it, if Sony should become like Intel is for computers one day, I won't regret it, provided it continues to let anyone buy its sensors. That would drive prices down and probably better than Olympus and Pentax camera business disappearing, and probably Sigma and others too, if only the strongest companiest who who can develop everything themselves are able to survive.

There is too much proprietary stuff going on, too many patent wars, and not enough standardisation and sharing in the camera world, why prices stay so high, in spite of the huge increases in number of cameras sold compared to decades ago. PC prices on the other hand has come down at least 10 times but got 10,000 better.

Agree on all points.

The previous poster said:

"My intuition is that there are no real secrets in the arcane venues of sensor creation. Furthermore, odds are quite good there's more than one way to reach certain goals, and companies will find ways to achieve parity with Sony in due course."

May be true, but Olympus users patience had been stretched to the limit watching Panny throw them crumbs. While Olympus, ever the innovator, managed to dust off and squeeze the last bit of IQ out of their sensors, and learned some valuable lessons along the way, this nearly wrecked Imaging in the market place.

The difference between Sony and Panny on this matter is that Sony was enlightened enough to see benefits to both their and Olympus' bottom line and R&D progress to work together.

Sony's sensor group is clearly given latitude to manufacture and market their own products to create the greatest profit as a group, not hamstrung by marketing strategies for their cameras. This forces their camera group to stand on its own two feet and compete in the overall marketplace. It also allows both groups to benefit from what they learn of, and perhaps even collaborate on, with their competition.

Who knows, perhaps Olympus is now helping Sony develop smaller and better optics for their NEX line, and both are sharing information on technologies in general. Good for them, good for us.

This is not to say it's all sweetness and light, it's still a highly competitive market sector, but this allows all involved to more rapidly elevate the state of technology in general with benefit to the consumer.

I shed no tears for Panny, they have now reaped what they sowed. And I'm very happy for Olympus Imaging, a great small group of innovators that has repeatedly been ahead of the curve in introducing new features, now given the tools to compete on a level playing field. I look forward to many good things to come.

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IcyVeins
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to JosephScha, Aug 18, 2012

JosephScha wrote:

I was looking at the mini G5 review thread, in which he posted an ISO 3200 picture of this dog. Very nice, but not pristine by any means. And, no doubt the sensor is better than on my G10 (that was the less featured version of the G2). But I recently had to take some pictures in a remarkably dark venue with my 45-200mm not fast at all zoom. So I ended up shooting at ISO 3200. I shot raw + jpeg and figured I'd have to develop raw to clean it up. But output was actually better than I feared - I don't ever shoot at ISO 3200, this time I had to.

Here's a x-large view of an unprocessed, out of camera jpeg image at ISO 3200 by my now out of date G10:

The lit areas are excellent. The dark shadows have some noise - but so does the background in the G5 dog image (but to be fair, not as much). I'm sure if I developed the raw image and cranked the luminance noise reduction slider up I could get rid of this noise. But, the subjects are in properly exposed and don't need noise reduction, so I think the jpeg is pretty darn good:

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js

Are you out of your mind? This image's quality is godawful, soft everywhere, no detail, shutter speed is too slow and causes brutal motion blur, and intolerable noise is present throughout. The dynamic range is very poor; the white signs is completely blown out. This image is no better than what you could capture from a cell phone. If you consider this "very good" then you are badly underutilizing the abilities of your (admittedly low end and outdated) camera.

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3DrJ
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

Sergey Borachev wrote:

Good comments, but it is nice for Sony to sell its great sensors and not just keep it to make its own cameras the best. Now that must be good for competition, besides being good also for itself to get the volume, funding for more R&D.

Apparently, that's Sony's business model: we'll make a lot more money selling sensors to whomever is willing to pay for them. In other words, it's likely there's more profit in sensors than whole cameras. As long as we have the know-how, and there's a good market for it, let's get the most out of it while we can.

Isn't sensor-making a separate division from the camera part? In that case, the sensor guys really aren't going to care about what's happening "over there". Sell, sell, sell is the chant.

The way I see it, if Sony should become like Intel is for computers one day, I won't regret it, provided it continues to let anyone buy its sensors. That would drive prices down and probably better than Olympus and Pentax camera business disappearing, and probably Sigma and others too, if only the strongest companiest who who can develop everything themselves are able to survive.

Can't tell you how I know, but I do know something about Intel, and how "they" think. It's a huge company with a zillion divisions doing all manner of odd things that we the public are unaware of, functioning semi-independently. Attempts to dominate many segments of the computer hardware and software industries have gone nowhere.

Their core (no pun intended) business is microprocessors. They have a huge amount of resources devoted to R&D in that area, including amazingly arcane basic research into the physics of the materials they develop and use.

But they are not alone. Some of the most interesting and potentially significant advances are happening elsewhere. A good number of those patents are held by IBM. It means Intel produces the majority of microprocessors, but hardly have a monopoly. (They have suffered anti-trust charges due to bad, anti-competitive behavors, and perhaps a bit more restrained these days.) Cross-licensing is common.

Sony may produce for now the best sensors, but it's not a one company effort. Other companies are no doubt already have a piece of the action, directly or indirectly. Other companies will make advancements too. Competition has not vanished and is not going away.

There is too much proprietary stuff going on, too many patent wars, and not enough standardisation and sharing in the camera world, why prices stay so high, in spite of the huge increases in number of cameras sold compared to decades ago. PC prices on the other hand has come down at least 10 times but got 10,000 better.

It's hard to compare, the camera industry being much older, with many established players, and traditions to support and constrain decisions.

Computers, at least the personal kind, are quite new, no more than 30 to 40 years at

the outside. Originally dominated by the IBM PC, which swamped the earlier Apple and Atari brands, the "standard PC" came about because IBM literally gave away the technology, and once "clones" proliferated, the PC architecture became a quasi-standard on the basis of market forces.

The other highly influential standard developed more deliberately, but not entirely without bumps along the way. That's the Internet, in fits and starts it evolved unevenly since 1969. A number of fortuitous events and strong governmental and international support created a fairly consistent platform from which many technologies have grown and are able to interoperate peacefully.

Nothing like the above affected the camera industry, perhaps outside of standardization of film speeds and exposure conventions. There's no strong market force to promote "standards" for lens mounts, user interfaces, internal mechanisms, etc.

Perhaps one ray of light that could develop is the likelihood of increasing integration of camera sensor, A/D conversion and computational components, much like has occurred with commodity PC's. Economies of scale demand production of integrated imaging units will not only result in lower costs but also lower cost leads to greater volumes produced and sold. Then consolidation of suppliers results in greater uniformity, while less diverse range of products, also implicit standardization is the result.

Not sure what will be more noteworthy, the merit of greater consistency across brands, or the loss of diversity with greater consistency across brands.

JRA

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The Jacal
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to assaft, Aug 18, 2012

assaft wrote:
Don't be so sure...
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1041&message=42240672
(skip right to the last line)

I missed that one. Thanks, I kind of miss him really.

The Jacal wrote:

Another thing to thank Sony for with their RX100 is that Photo Perzon doesn't come here and troll badly now.
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sderdiarian
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to 3DrJ, Aug 18, 2012

3DrJ wrote:

Sony may produce for now the best sensors, but it's not a one company effort. Other companies are no doubt already have a piece of the action, directly or indirectly. Other companies will make advancements too. Competition has not vanished and is not going away.

No quibbles, I think any consumer supports this. It was Panny's unwillingness to share their better sensors with Olympus that was the issue, now put to rest.

There's no strong market force to promote "standards" for lens mounts, user interfaces, internal mechanisms, etc.

mFT has set just such a standard to take advantage of the "market force" of consumers fed up with being bound to one mfr's mounts. Panny hobbled this with their choice of OIS over IBIS and refusal to share their best sensors with Olympus to grow the sector, but nonetheless this cross-manufacturer sector does now exist.

Perhaps one ray of light that could develop is the likelihood of increasing integration of camera sensor, A/D conversion and computational components, much like has occurred with commodity PC's. Economies of scale demand production of integrated imaging units will not only result in lower costs but also lower cost leads to greater volumes produced and sold. Then consolidation of suppliers results in greater uniformity, while less diverse range of products, also implicit standardization is the result.

Wow, that's a mouthful ;).

Not sure what will be more noteworthy, the merit of greater consistency across brands, or the loss of diversity with greater consistency across brands.

I think your leaving competition out of the equation. It reminds me of consolidation in the auto industry, with the current mantra being that a manufacturer, or allied group of same, must produce 6 million cars/year to survive. Yet there is still quite a bit of product differentiation/diversity.

But you're correct, there is an ultimate risk here that consolidation into virtual monopolies would flush diversity right down the toilet in the interest of higher profits, mores the shame. It's one reason, along with an allergy to pack mentality, that I always seem to support the nimble small innovators (Olympus, Mazda, etc.).

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michaelrb
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to sderdiarian, Aug 18, 2012

The fact is Sony as a business have suffered in the past 12 months and I suspect that the only way to recoupe R&D costs etc is to sell as many sensors as possible even to a competetor.

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Franka T.L.
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May the best one win
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

... I think its a bit too arrogant to say Panasonic is guilty of not giving Olympus their best sensor. After all, they compete direct on with their very own M4/3 offerings ( both of them ) there is no reason by any mean to further your enemy right.

In any case, yes, Credit where credits due, Sony did us all major favor by producing all these sensors. And I am awaiting what that new 16MP rumored in the new NEX would be like and the 24MP FF. What technology Sony did put into the OM-D sensor can be an indication of what might be inside the next new ones.

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s_grins
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

Sergey Borachev wrote:

Good comments, but it is nice for Sony to sell its great sensors and not just keep it to make its own cameras the best. Now that must be good for competition, besides being good also for itself to get the volume, funding for more R&D.

The way I see it, if Sony should become like Intel is for computers one day, I won't regret it, provided it continues to let anyone buy its sensors. That would drive prices down and probably better than Olympus and Pentax camera business disappearing, and probably Sigma and others too, if only the strongest companiest who who can develop everything themselves are able to survive.

There is too much proprietary stuff going on, too many patent wars, and not enough standardisation and sharing in the camera world, why prices stay so high, in spite of the huge increases in number of cameras sold compared to decades ago. PC prices on the other hand has come down at least 10 times but got 10,000 better.

I believe you do not think that SONY sells sensor to other camera makers for the love of photography and desire to support competitors sales.
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GregGory
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Indeed, thank you Sony for the Rootkit too, Sony bless n/t
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012
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bobn2
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Re: Thank you, Sony.
In reply to Sergey Borachev, Aug 18, 2012

Sergey Borachev wrote:

The way I see it, if Sony should become like Intel is for computers one day, I won't regret it, provided it continues to let anyone buy its sensors. That would drive prices down and probably better than Olympus and Pentax camera business disappearing, and probably Sigma and others too, if only the strongest companiest who who can develop everything themselves are able to survive.

This is exactly what Sony Semiconductor does. The sensor business is much larger and more important to Sony than is the camera business. If there is a conflict of their interests within the Sony empire, it is the interests of the sensor business that will win out. Being in the pocket of the camera business is very definitely not in the interests of the sensor business, since other camera manufacturers will not buy a product if they believe that it is building in an advantage to a competitor. For instance the Sony sensor in the D800 is not in any Sony product, and talk is that Nikon has exclusive use for 12 months. Sony Semiconductor's aim is to be #1 in the sensor industry, and they know that they will not get there on the back of Sony's camera sales alone. With companies like Nikon, they also know that they can go elsewhere if Sony doesn't offer them the product they want. So they give them the product they want. Same with Olympus. I doubt there was much in the way of 'negotiation', Olympus would have put in a specification, Sony will have put out their best tender (not at all unlikely that Panasonic and maybe even Aptina) tendered as well and Olympus took the best offer, which was Sony's. That is how its work. By and large companies don't willingly turn away business for Machiavellian brand war reasons.
In many ways Sony already is the 'Intel' of the sensor business.

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