Going forward. Has M4/3 hit the wall?

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Marty4650
Marty4650 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,018
Going forward. Has M4/3 hit the wall?
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(I fully expect to be labeled a troll for posing this question. But it is a sincere question based on some real business realities going forward.  I think my posting history speaks for itself, but if anyone wants to call me a troll, then go for it. I have a pretty thick skin.)

When M4/3 was launched ten years ago, the primary attraction was "good enough image quality in a smaller and lighter package." And in most cases, a good value.

And that strategy worked pretty well.

In a few short years we had a dazzling array of very nice small camera bodies, and some very, very nice small lenses. Then we got even better and even faster lenses, and some incredibly good high end bodies. So now we had something for everyone.

But the overall market for cameras shrank, due to casual users abandoning cameras for smartphones, so now the path to survival seems to be to race to the high end. Sony has virtually abandoned APSC for Full Frame, Fujifilm went to even higher end APSC and Medium Format, and Leica rolled out a SL full frame MILC system. And now Nikon and Canon are planning full frame MILC systems of their own.

And M4/3 is on this bandwagon too. Better bodies and very high end lenses that cost a lot more and weigh a lot more in their quest for better profit margins.

But there is a real question whether M4/3 can successfully compete at the highest end, where cost and size and weight are a lot less important than image quality. In order to compensate for a smaller sensor, M4/3 needs really outstanding lenses, and these tend to be pretty big and pretty expensive.

So this raises the question.... are you better off with a small sensor paired with an outstanding lens.... or a big sensor paired with an ordinary but decent lens? Which option gives you the best value, the best image quality, and the smallest size and weight?

Then we get something like this...

Both kits cost the same, but the M4/3 kit is quite a bit bigger and heavier. But how will they compare for image quality?

Both do pretty well at ISO 200, but when you go to high ISO shooting, the Sony wins by a very large margin.

The reason I ask whether M4/3 has "hit the wall" is because the smaller sensor makes it really difficult to compete on the high end, and the low end might be disappearing due to so many amateurs using smartphones. They might have no place left to go, since few people who aren't already invested in the system will spend the same money to get a kit that is larger, heavier, and doesn't perform as well at the high end.

I used to think the answer was for M4/3 to go back to it's roots. Focus more on small cameras and lenses, like the Panasonic GM series, and small fast primes. But now I wonder if that would even work. There didn't seem to be enough customers for it five years ago, and there are probably fewer customers today.

I think Olympus is the most vulnerable, because Panasonic has carved out a very nice video niche for itself. The Olympus high end camera planned for early next year is rumored to have much better video....  I suppose we shall see.

I'd be interesting in hearing your thoughts on this.

Thanks in advance.

 Marty4650's gear list:Marty4650's gear list
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Olympus Zuiko Digital 11-22mm 1:2.8-3.5 Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH +12 more
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