Is the Olympus problem sensors?

Started Sep 24, 2010 | Discussions thread
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SteB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,462
Is the Olympus problem sensors?

Plainly Olympus users are not happy, and it is difficult to understand what is going on with Olympus.

I think it is time to re-evaluate the whole situation. People are talking about Olympus abandoning 4/3 to concentrate on m4/3. However, Olympus m4/3 cameras appear to be undergoing the same R&D drought that 4/3 DSLRs are suffering. The last slew of cameras Olympus released that contained fairly new technology were the E-30, E-620, and E-P1 - all of them appearing in around an 8 month period. Since the E-P1 Olympus has produced no really new camera technology. The question is why?

The answer seems quite simple - sensors! You would have thought that Olympus would put there most advanced sensor in the E-5, but instead it appears to have the same 12mp sensor that first appeared 2 years ago.

Sensors are the achilles heel of the 4/3 system. Because no other cameras share the 4/3 sensor dimensions, there is a lack of off-the-peg alternatives, such as there are with APS-C. So for instance Pentax could switch from Samsung to Sony sensors with the K-7/K-5. Whereas Olympus either has to commission someone to design a 4/3 sensor, or rely on what Panasonic produces. For whatever reason Panasonic does not seem to be making its more advanced GH sensors available to Olympus.

The sensor is key to the development of a new camera. The Sony A55, Nikon D7000, and Pentax K-5, which are proving so attractive to many on this forum - are all due to the availability of the same sensor. Even a giant like Nikon cannot build a more advanced camera, until they get the sensor.

Without a more advanced sensor, there is little point in Olympus releasing more advanced cameras because they would always look inferior in specification to Panasonic cameras like the GH2. The 12mp sensor appears to be limited to 720p 30 video, which is always going to look inferior compared to full 1080 HD video - specification wise.

Olympus has shown itself very adapt at making the most of sensors that become available to them. The 12mp sensor resulted in the E-30, E-620 and EP-1 in a short period of time. With the E-5, Olympus have coaxed a bit more out of it. However, I think the E-5 was just a stop gap, Olympus making the most of what it had available to it, and proving it hadn't given up making cameras.

Whilst Olympus may talk about developing m4/3, where is the fruit of this R&D? They haven't produced a significantly different m4/3 camera since the E-P1. This is a crucial time for EVIL systems, with new competitors appearing. So now is the time for Olympus to make their mark, yet all we get is vague possibilities of new cameras in the future. Panasonic are updating all their m4/3 cameras, but not Olympus.

So I think that possibly Olympus are not disrespecting their customers as many seem to think. Probably Olympus are in a difficult position. They want to release new cameras, but know there would be little point until they get the right sensor. If the Panasonic GH2 sensor had been available to Olympus, you would have thought they would have delayed the E-5 to implement it. An E-5 with the GH2 sensor, and its full HD video capability would have meant the E-5 would have been seen very differently.

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