A Wake Up Call for Panasonic

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Marty4650 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,616
A Wake Up Call for Panasonic

I know you folks are getting sick and tired of threads about Olympus' departure from the camera business. But I will post this one in the hope of offering some constructive criticism and some ideas on how Panasonic can learn from the mistakes made by Olympus and grow their own M4/3 business. And I am assuming that is precisely what they should want to do at this point.

In my view, Olympus' biggest mistake was that they lost the plot.

They failed to leverage the inherent advantages of having a system based on a smaller sensor (good image quality, smaller size, less weight, and greater value) and instead tried to compete against full frame systems at the high end.

This was more than a mistake it was a fatal error. It resulted in cameras that were too large, too heavy, and too expensive that couldn't compete against full frame for image quality, and couldn't even compete against their natural rival APSC well enough.

Ironically, this is the exact same mistake Olympus made with Four Thirds. They kept getting larger and more expensive without enough improvement in image quality. People don't want to pay more to get less, even if you are giving them lots of other nice features. Olympus never learned from their Four Thirds mistake, but perhaps Panasonic can.

Let me explain. The pro photographer wants the very best tools, at a price that makes business sense to them. So any crop sensor system will be used primarily by amateur enthusiasts. These amateurs want value and convenience with "good enough for purpose" image quality. They aren't working for the National Geographic. They just want to bring home great photos without spending a ton of money, and M4/3 is certainly capable of that.

If you want the best image quality, then you buy full frame or medium format. If you just want good snapshots then your smartphone is probably good enough for you. If you are an enthusiast/hobbyist then you want something in between. And that is where these crop sensored systems really shine.

My friend Ricardo frequently says that the EM1X was a disaster, and he is right. It is a nice camera for sure, but it is huge, expensive, and provides image quality about on par with an entry level APSC camera. Yes, it has lots of nice bells and whistles but how many amateurs want to pay $3,000 for a camera that weighs two pounds?

I compare them at ISO 3200, because if you always shoot at base ISO, and never print large, then your smartphone is all you really need. You need higher ISO to shoot at night and indoors without flash.

Which of these cameras do you want to take on vacation? Which one is the better value? Which one is easier and more convenient to carry? Which one has slightly better image quality? Even if it cannot recognize trains and motorcycles.

Rather than accepting the smaller sensor and playing to it's strengths, Olympus chose to compensate for it by offering faster lenses. When you do this, you end up with a kit that is larger, heavier and a lot more expensive. And the DPR gearlist statistics tell us that fewer of us are willing to buy them.

Just compare Olympus' mid range kit to it's high end kit:

HINT: Not many Dpreview members said they bought Olympus pro gear. But many were buying their mid-range offerings.

The high end kit costs and weighs more than twice as much and is purchased by one tenth as many DPR members than the mid level kit. And both provide very similar image quality.

Now compare the Olympus high end kit to their competition, those APSC high end kits:

Olympus ends up having the most expensive, largest, and heaviest kit. With almost as good image quality as other crop sensored systems. And if gearlist numbers have any validity, the fewest number of users. This just isn't a good business strategy.

Panasonic should learn from this, and do the following:

  • Play to the inherent advantages of the smaller sensor
  • Don't even try to compete at the highest end of the market
  • Stay in your lane. Serve the entry level and mid range market
  • Focus on GX type cameras and lenses that offer good value
  • Consider bringing back the GM series or a Pen-F type camera
  • Don't price yourself out of the market

This could be an opportunity for Panasonic. They already have a very good full frame line for their high end, and they could inherit most of the Olympus users for their mid range and entry level users.

But most of all, learn from Olympus' mistakes. Don't follow in their footsteps. Forget about f/1.2 primes. Think about f/1.4 as your high end. They already have vastly improved their jpeg engines, and their video features are superb. Their menu system is pretty good. All they really need is some type of PDAF to replace DFD. Their competitors have already done this, so they just need to find someone to build those sensors for them.

When the dust settles your market will be small.... but it could be profitable.

 Marty4650's gear list:Marty4650's gear list
Panasonic LX100 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 Olympus Zuiko Digital 11-22mm 1:2.8-3.5 +15 more
Olympus PEN-F
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