EM-1 uses Panasonic sensor per Chipworks

Started Feb 8, 2014 | Discussions thread
Impulses Veteran Member • Posts: 6,347
Re: EM-1 uses Panasonic sensor per Chipworks

I don't know what commercial arrangements there are between Sony/Olympus/Panasonic in regard to the decision in the use of sensors in Olympus cameras. It should be clear there was a problem in the past with getting the best sensor from Panasonic for Olympus cameras. So, this surprising turn of event is a good sign, as it shows more flexibility for Olympus to get what sensors it need or can afford, but not everything is looking good.

What is of concern is the fact that IQ of M43 cameras has not moved at all since the first OMD E-M5 camera was released. That camera uses a Sony sensor. It has been 1.5 years at least and so something is not going well, as technology should have delivered at least some improvement however small. I don't think Sony stopped sensor R&D. Their RX100 sensor is a nice stop forward and an indication that technology does not stop and improvement is possible however little.

Therefore to all the gloating Panasonic fanboys, I say this. If Olympus had used a newer Sony sensor instead in its top model, there most likely would have been an improvement in IQ in the E-M1. Unfortunately, Olympus was to look after its 43 users and concentrate on PDAF and a bigger/heavier camera in the E-M1 and probably did not care so much getting the best IQ when designing it. There may have been other non-technical reasons/arrangements for using a Panasonic sensor, if that is true For example, Olympus cannot afford to have different sensors in each line of cameras, hence the same sensors as the E-M5 used also in the E-PM2 and E-PL5.

I hope however that with the real E-M5 replacement, Olympus would use a Sony sensor and deliver some improvement in IQ when it is released later in the year, about 2 years after E-M5. It is unlikely that Panasonic has any sensor that has better IQ than all the current and old ones, or else it would have used it on the GX7 or GH4. I would still look to Sony for the best sensor and some real improvement in IQ. This particular news if true can also be read as bad news if Olympus could not afford to use the best from Sony. The IQ of the E-M5 was great 1.5 years ago as it compared extremely well or better to those in all other mirrorless cameras then, including the larger APS-C ones. Now, it is not, and Olympus cameras can only distinguish themselves with 5-axis IBIS but not in IQ. Most of us had thought there should be some IQ improvement in the E-M1, but there is none and now we know why - Panasonic's sensors.

Lets pray so that Olympus is not stuck with this Panasonic sensor for all its later cameras.

You're assuming that Sony thought there was a demand for a better M43 sensor AND actually invested money in developing one already... I would think they're spread pretty thin between APS-C, M43, and FF right now but I'm pretty ignorant of how much development they can repurpose across different sensor sizes and how independent the sensor division really is... I know they're pretty huge in smartphones as well but maybe that's yet another division or w/e.

I think it's kinda odd the inner workings of camera manufactures are obscured to such a degree that you need Chipworks scans just to find out some basic info on a sensor... Maybe it's because the vast majority of customers don't care what's inside or whatever, but it sorta gives a lot of undue freedom to the manufacturers. Other industries behave vastly different in this regard, not sure whether it's due to the basic nature of the customers or the more technical underpinnings of the business.

A sports car manufacturer could never be as vague about the engine used as camera makers are about sensors, even car electronics are better understood... Never mind markets like smartphones & PCs where OEMs (or Intel/AMD) are constantly pressured to reveal more about their architectures (even a company as secretive as Apple only gets so far in purposely obscuring these things). Those markets are just different I guess, but the breadth of info available shapes not only buying decisions but market investment decisions.

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