Fuji gets titanium, Olympus gets...plastic?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
cba_melbourne Senior Member • Posts: 1,406
Re: Some thoughts on plastic vs metal, and Titanium...
1

Androole wrote:

cba_melbourne wrote:

Androole wrote:

.............

Titanium is a stupid material for top and bottom plates, given the physical material requirements of those components, but magnesium makes sense for the chassis, and that is what is used...

In my personal experience, in an accident (dropping the camera or hitting an object) it is almost always the top and bottom plates that take the bulk of the hit. Actually, it is the corners of the top and bottom plates. Cameras rarely fall flat onto front/back or side.

The corners of the top and bottom plates are also the ones that show first natural wear and tear. Just think of the old film cameras, where was the paint worn off first exposing the brass underneath?

So, there at least is some logic in trying to use wear and impact resistant materials for top and bottom covers.

I agree Titanium is not the best choice, because it is very difficult and costly to form into intricate and appealing shapes. Exactly because of it's toughness. Cost also matters, because the top and bottom plates are parts relatively often replaced in camera servicing (drives the cost of repairs up).

Plastic:

- A downside of using unpainted plastic for covers, is that plastic often fades unevenly. Different plastic components (even if made of the same material) can take on slightly different colors by the exposure to sunlight, which looks cheap. I am sure you have seen this before, on things other than cameras. This happens because different parts are not made at the same time with the exactly same batch of plastic granules on the same molding machine and melting temperature..

- That is why plastic on cameras is painted. That brings about another problem though. Plastic surfaces are soft and easily dented or scratched, penetrating under the thin paint coat and exposing the different material color underneath. Which now just looks plain ugly, not just cheap. The more the color of the plastic core differs from the paint, the worse it wears. The most horrific example for this, is black plastic sprayed with silver paint.

- Plastic is not a conductor. This has two disadvantages. First, it cannot be used well as a heat sink to dissipate heat generated inside the camera to the outside - then makers have to implant large copper or steel plates or even heat pipes inside the camera to store the heat somewhere away from the sensor, which again adds weight. Second, even with anti static additives, plastic is still is a magnet for dust compared to metal.

Me personally, I believe that the very best and hardest wearing material for top/bottom plates is metal, either hard anodized Aluminium or brass high quality plated with Nickel or Chromium. My second preference would be for painted Magnesium. Injection molded plastic really would never be on my wish list of preferences, unless it was glass or carbon reinforced epoxy resin.

Reinforced thermoplastics (i.e. not thermosetting epoxy, as you mention) are actually reasonably common in this application and do a very good job. Teijin Sereebo carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastic is what is used on the Nikon D750 and D500, for instance.

Just accept it, the one and only reason to use injection molded plastic in camera chassis and top/bottom plates is money. It has nothing to do with weight or impact resistance, nothing at all. It would be far more palatable, had Olympus chosen to pass-on at least some of the savings they made by using plastic to their customers.

I broadly agree with your analysis, and unreinforced plastic typically wouldn't be my preference either.

But that doesn't mean that titanium is a good choice, either.

And if the choice is between an $1800 body with titanium top and bottom plates or a $1200 body with plastic top and bottom plates, I'll still pick the $1200 body, because the price of the other is simply not justifiable.

Me too. But this is not exactly how it is.

The way I see it, the price of the EM5.3 would be appropriate if it was a premium all metal construction like it's predecessors. I would not unreasonably expect it to be some 20-25% cheaper as an all-plastic "utility" construction.

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