So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Started Nov 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
Marty4650 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,188
There is absolutely no doubt about it

Initially, at least, the 4/3 system was aiming at the very high end of the market.

Serious camera, at a serious price.....

This is easy to see if you just look at their initial offerings in 2003, all announced on the same day:

  • E1, weather sealed pro grade camera, $1,900
  • 300mm f/2.8 - fast weather sealed pro grade long lens, $8,000
  • 14-54mm lens - weather sealed semi-pro normal zoom lens, $600
  • 11-22mm lens - weather sealed semi-pro wide angle zoom lens, $700

That's $11,200 worth of gear, in 2003. This was clearly not aimed at amateur shooters. There were NO standard grade lenses until their seventh lens release, the 40-150mm I lens. That's right... all six of the initial lens offerings were high end premium lenses.

They used professional photographers and Olympus Visionaries to promote their new system.

In their E1 announcement press release, Olympus said...

Four Thirds is the first professional standard for digital SLR photography. By setting standards on three levels - mechanical, optical and communication - it maximises the performance of camera body, image sensor and lenses. The Olympus E-1 is the first and currently the only camera to make use of the advantages of this new standard.

Now, contrast this to Olympus' introduction of M4/3, six years later in 2009:

  • EP1, enthusiast grade camera, with 14-42mm lens, and 17mm lens. All three bundled together cost around $1,000. If you bought them separately then it would cost you around $1,100.

They used Kevin Spacey and some soccer mom to promote their new system.

"Don't be the camera guy"

When 4/3 failed to gain much traction among professional photographers, Olympus took the product line down, to consumer level while still offering some excellent high end bodies and lenses.

Within a few short years you could buy an E510 or E520 two lens kit for under $500. But even at bargain prices, the Olympus market share only reached around 7% of DSLR sales.

The concept of a smaller sensor being used for a pro-grade system just wasn't ready for prime time in 2003. Eventually, sensor technology improved, and the EM5 and EM1 because a real possibility for professional photographers as travel cameras, street shooters, and light weight cameras for less critical use.

But, to answer your question.... while a size and weight advantage was mentioned when 4/3 was first launched, it was primarily sold as a pro system. Which in retrospect, was probably a mistake. The E1 system just wasn't able to compete at the high end, and wasn't small enough or light enough to really be that portable.

M4/3 seems to have fixed all of that.

 Marty4650's gear list:Marty4650's gear list
Panasonic LX100 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Olympus Zuiko Digital 11-22mm 1:2.8-3.5 +13 more
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