Why is Olympus one of the last brands to make a large-sensor mirrorless?

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dark goob Contributing Member • Posts: 982
Why is Olympus one of the last brands to make a large-sensor mirrorless?

I am very curious why Olympus is one of the last brands to make a large-sensor mirrorless.

Not to say that Four Thirds is bad, but I think Olympus made some of the best 35mm film cameras, and it would be nice to see something from them, andnI feel like many Olympus fans have been waiting a long time for this.

While I have generally been satisfied with the results from my Four Thirds cameras, it just seems surprising that by now Olympus is not trying to also sell a larger sensor option. Sony, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Leica, etc. have offered up multiple different sensor sizes in their line of camera bodies. Only Panasonic and Olympus have limited themselves to a single format. With Panasonic, I can understand this, since they are such a video-centric brand. However with Olympus, especially given its 35mm-format heritage, their strict adhesion to the Four Thirds format is surprising, and seems to demand an explanation. Why leave money on the table?

One explanation could be that the Sony mirrorless ILC system is the large-sensor Olympus system. After all, Sony heavily invested in Olympus in 2012 after Olympus’s legal problems neary tanked the company. PetaPixel reported l in June 2013 that an unnamed source said Olympus was working with Sony to incorporate the 5-axis sensor stabilization system from the OM-D E-M5 into the upcoming Sony mirrorless line. Later we saw the rumor come true, and 5-axis sensor stabilization tech showed up in Sony’s line. Could it be that the Alpha mirrorless is more deeply the result of an ongoing Sony/Olympus partnership?

It’s entirely possible that Olympus set up a non-competition agreement with Sony that has been preventing Olympus from releasing its own brand of large-sensor mirrorless cameras. Or, Olympus may have not had much choice than to make a deal, back when they were in financial trouble, to let Sony handle the large-sensor mirrorless market segment while Olympus collects licensing fees for the patents that Sony used. It seems reasonable; after all, Olympus might not have had enough financial resources to support the development of two different systems at the same time.

The last paragraph is pure speculation on my part and I have no sources for such notions. But how else can you explain why Olympus—the first company with mirrorless—has not already tapped the incredibly lucrative market of large-sensor mirrorless cameras? Do you really think they simply don’t care to try it, or are too small? If so then how did small guys like Leica and Pentax manage develop and release both large and compact sized systems at the same time?

In closing I just want to say my only reason for posting this is that I’m and Olympus fan who’d love a compact mirrorless system with a large sensor from them. It would not need to be exactly 35mm format, just something that would provide much higher resolution and dynamic range than what we get now.


I didn’t call it “full-frame mirrorless” because I hate the term, “full-frame.” It is a term that came from the days when everyone had lenses that were designed for 35mm film cameras, but most digital SLRs lacked a 35mm-film-sized imaging sensor (and just cropped the viewfinder with a black plastic rectangular mask inserted at the factory).

Technically, Olympus has been making “full-frame” cameras all along, in the sense that Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds have always been lens mounts where the lenses are designed for the sensor size of the bodies. In fact, Four Thirds has been the only system (that I’m aware of) to feature a multi-aspect sensor, where setting the aspect ratio to 16:9 or 3:2 or 4:3 does not reduce the diagonal size of the image area or simply result in cropping out part of the captured image.

So I just say “large sensor”, which to me could mean Canon 1DS Mk IV size (1.3x “crop factor”, another misappropriated term that I hate), 35mm-film size, or any of the sizes larger than 35mm film that have shown up in digital formats.

 dark goob's gear list:dark goob's gear list
Olympus E-M1
Canon EOS-1D Canon EOS-1Ds Olympus OM-D E-M5
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