So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Started Nov 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
OP Big Ga Forum Pro • Posts: 18,622
Re: Big GA..there is absolutely NO doubt who it was aimed at....

Bobby J wrote:

Now, since you are a practicing professional....answer this... Why did it fail?

Hmmm. I don't know if that's a hard or an easy question to answer.

This is just my opinion of course, but .....

In its original 'aimed at the pro' incarnation, the problem they faced was they needed advantages over the established big two, to make people switch or at least buy into the system. They probably had this in terms of a nice (but small) set of lenses, with good build quality and weathersealing, and the promise of telecentricity and a 'designed for digital' ethos that did seem to make sense at the time. And the E1 body was liked by many people (and I actually recall Reichmann giving it a fairly positive review in an episode of the Luminous Landscape video journal - he was dubious of the system concept as it was though, and he's been proved right!).

The problem was there wasn't really anything else that was particularly compelling, and there were some things that were actually sub-par. Particularly, perhaps two of the most important things for pro use, namely sensor performance and AF, were noticeably behind the competition. There was very little compelling reason for pros shooting Canon or Nikon to switch.

There were also holes in the lens lineup.

Now the sad thing is that probably all of the above MIGHT have been able to have been fixed, given time and resources/money. The lens lineup did get fleshed out, but there were (and are) still many key lenses missing that a pro would want. We don't have a long macro. No tilt shift lenses, no fast portrait or wide primes etc.

Of the lenses that were made, many seemed to be designed with the blinkered goal of simply being 'the best' instead of being made to be more useful to the working pro. I've never made any secret of the fact that I thought the 14-35 and 35-100 should have been designed to be operated at f1.4, even if that would mean the f1.4 performance was slightly soft. The 14-35 should NOT have been restricted to 14mm - the competition were all making 12mm equivalent focal lengths, and to a working pro, the difference between being able to zoom a 24-70 type lens out to 24mm and not 28mm is often the difference in having to carry an additional wide lens or not. I'm absolutely delighted that the new 12-40 is what it is and not just a small 14-35/2.8, its going to be FAR more useful in real life.

Af - well that's a tough one. Its possible the smaller AF sensor might always have been a problem, but I have this nagging feeling from stuff I've read, that Oly simply weren't prepared to pay the licence to use the (IIRC) Honeywell patent to allow contemporary AF performance. Whether this was tied up to the accounting scandal and a lack of cash - I have no idea.

Sensors - well, just look where we are today. They have forged an agreement with a sensor manufacturer that's class leading, and all of a sudden, there isn't such a huge gulf in performance any more. What's really sad here is that Panasonic themselves are now nipping at Sony's heels and their latest sensors aren't too shabby at all (and are giving better results that the once class leading Canon). Its just such a pity that this didn't happen half a decade or more ago. (and bear in mind that Oly have used sony sensors in smaller cameras in the past, and Sony started making sensors for cameras like the D3/D300 something like 6 years ago - Nikon saw the writing on the wall when they were getting thumped by Canons sensor tech, and they went and did something about it)

But anyway, the issues in certain areas and thus the lack of compelling reasons for high end users to switch meant that the assault on the pro market could only last for a certain time until the accountants decided it wasn't going to work and another direction or niche market was the only way to go. That seems to be what happened, and investment in the high end seemed to stop.

Who knows if it could have been different. If a few high end pros would have taken the plunge and ran with the system, got some interest, made (a lot) more sales, got more investment ploughed in, sorted the inadequacies out ... who knows where we'd be today. Maybe there would be a 4/3 system that would finally be competitive with the big boys. Its such a shame we have the OMD sensor technology now, but it wasn't put into a conventional body. That would at least have sorted one major thing out.

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