So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Started Nov 16, 2013 | Discussions
Big Ga Forum Pro • Posts: 18,623
So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?
7

The recent article on 4/3 lenses by Michael Reichmann (well ... I'm assuming its him) over on LL is an interesting one. he kicks off with saying "Four Thirds was conceived by Olympus as a new Pro format". I tend to agree.

I often see people like RovingTim over here saying that Olympus lost their way with the bigger camera gear, and the whole point of fourthirds was to create a smaller, more portable system, the promise of which only MFT seems to have now finally fulfilled.

I've never really agreed with this. My opinion was that from the outset, Olympus had the goal of competing at the highest level in the pro market. Look at the first camera, the E1. Awesome build. Bristling with 'pro' features like weathersealing, locking mode dial, PC sync socket, USB2, a Firewire port for gods sake!, a £500 grip with a REALLY substantial high capacity battery. That all says pro, especially considering the year of release.

They even brought out one of, of not THE best HV packs for a shoe mounted flash. Only pros use HV packs!

And the lenses. Stuff like the 300/2.8 isn't aimed at consumers! ALL of the first batch of lenses were quality, weathersealed offerings.

They even tried to set up a global pro support network which did seem to work in some countries for a while.

So what do you think? what was the target market that 4/3 was originally gunning for?

DavidH202 Senior Member • Posts: 1,598
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?
1

Big Ga wrote:

So what do you think? what was the target market that 4/3 was originally gunning for?

They thought they could capture some of the pro market as they thought they might in the 70s with the OM series. The problem is the ( 35mm) pro market was so entrenched in Canikon it made no impact! Consequently the Prosumers and previous Oly fans (such as myself) were the ones to buy into the system. I did not go digital till the E-3, never looked at Canikon offerings, and I'm still quite satisfied I made the right decision for my style of shooting!

David

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GBC Senior Member • Posts: 1,451
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?
4

Photographers who were interested in using lenses that were superior to Nikon and Canon.

Roger Engelken
Roger Engelken Veteran Member • Posts: 5,429
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at? - Original press release
1

Perhaps an initial press release from 2003 will help answer that question:

World's first professional digital SLR system with interchangeable lenses based on the Four Thirds Standard.

Amsterdam, 24 June 2003 - The Olympus E-System hails a new chapter in the history of photography. Now, the world's first SLR digital camera system realises the advantages of the Four Thirds Standard and is dedicated to the special requirements of digital SLR photography, presenting new benchmarks for professional image quality and performance. All components and accessories of the Olympus E-System - from the camera body, through flash units, to interchangeable lenses - have been expressly designed for digital use and ensure the system's performance potential is maximised in every instance. The Olympus E-System breaks the mould of previous digital SLR solutions and frees itself from the obstacles of the past.

A competitive edge

Near enough is never good enough for Olympus. And with the Olympus E-System, no compromise has been made.

Gone are the days when photographers had to contend with hindrances due to using lenses that were not originally designed for use with their camera backs. Problems such as a loss to wide-angle capability, insufficient lens resolution and cornershading are a thing of the past. The Olympus E-System adheres to the guidelines defined by the Four Thirds Standard that regulate type and diameter of the lens mount as well as the size of the image sensor and the flange back distance. These guidelines not only guarantee complete lens interchangeability between any manufacturer complying with the set norms but also enable production of lenses fully optimised to digital camera requirements.

A five megapixel 4/3-type CCD ensures the light transmitted by the lens is captured in flawless detail. But it is not the pixel-count alone that is responsible for the professional image results. Unlike most digital cameras, the Olympus E-1 utilises a Full Frame Transfer CCD sensor, a type specifically developed for the capture of still images. In comparison to Interline Transfer counterparts found in the majority of digital models, the FFT-CCD is distinguished by a larger pixel area, with bigger photodiodes and transfer channels. This means more electrons can be captured. A high signal/noise ratio can therefore be achieved together with a wider dynamic range. Final images benefit from more exposure latitude, greater detail and less noise.

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Silverback46
Silverback46 Senior Member • Posts: 1,367
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?
2

My guess and it's a guess only it that it was a 'concept gamble'. Digital had emerged as a change in format and Olympus was hoping to catch the wave of buyers that would be looking at this new technology. Offer something that was built from the ground up to support this tech and make it good enough or competitive and you could appeal to the masses. Not a bad idea but with the big players not buying into it they may not have foreseen the speed of the rapid tech growth in the industry which they could not match. They needed to hit all aspects of the market and the best way to do that is in that first 'real' offering. I think along the lines of Blackberry...then Apple...then Samsung.

Silver

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Aoresteen Regular Member • Posts: 456
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?
1

One of the first lenses announced was the 300mm f/2.8 Big Tuna. Clearly Olympus was targeting pros with the E-1 as not too many amateurs buy a 300mm f/2.8 at $7,000 new.

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Wu Jiaqiu
Wu Jiaqiu Forum Pro • Posts: 23,889
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at? - Original press release

Roger Engelken wrote:

 the FFT-CCD is distinguished by a larger pixel area, with bigger photodiodes and transfer channels. This means more electrons can be captured. A high signal/noise ratio can therefore be achieved together with a wider dynamic range. Final images benefit from more exposure latitude, greater detail and less noise.

this gets mentioned in equivalence debates, the amount of light falling onto the sensor, and a bigger sensor with bigger pixels captures more photons.

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Silverback46
Silverback46 Senior Member • Posts: 1,367
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?
1

Good point. But that isn't the kit lens. I think you are correct though in that tempting pros was a priority. Having shot the D1 and paying $5400 a body the E-1 is a different camera...gotta luv the nickel cadium Nikon batteries! The announcement in 2001 of the 4/3 sensors clearly mentions pros but also a standard for consumers.

'The announcement of the 4/3" CCD chip design is the first step towards establishing a new standard for future digital camera and lens development for the imaging industry.'

Silver

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rovingtim Veteran Member • Posts: 8,644
USP was size
2

Big Ga wrote:

I often see people like RovingTim over here saying that Olympus lost their way with the bigger camera gear, and the whole point of fourthirds was to create a smaller, more portable system, the promise of which only MFT seems to have now finally fulfilled.

I've never really agreed with this. My opinion was that from the outset, Olympus had the goal of competing at the highest level in the pro market.

If they are competing at the 'highest level', then they needed a competitive sensor. Especially with the technology in 2003, this wasn't going to happen with a sensor 1/4 to 1/2 the area of other popular cameras.

Also, Nikon already had a focusing monster in the form of the DH2. Shortly after the E1 release, Canon 1Ds married excellent focusing with an excellent sensor. The E1 was behind the best on the sensor and focusing from the start.

What Olympus stated at the time was 5 mp was 'good enough' to compete with 35mm film. Even after the most excellent 16mp Canon 1Ds sensor came out, Olympus still planned to compete with an 8 mp camera (the E1 successor they scrapped).

That is not evidence for attempting to compete against the best.

Their lenses were excellent. However, Olympus literature always omitted the DoF. To the uneducated, these lenses appeared much better than in reality (I see Olympus largely at fault here for triggering the equivalency wars). The reason they omitted DoF was to emphasis the size advantage (look how small our F2 lens is compared to the 35 mm F2!). This was reflected on their fourthirds website, where Olympus claimed that a 35mm equiv lens would have to be 4 times the size of the Olympus lens. Riiiggghhhht.

In the beginning, Olympus boldly stated they wanted to build a rugged professional system that was lighter and more compact than other huge professional systems coming out at that time.

Their initially advertised USP was compact size coupled with good quality. That is the promise I bought into. If you aren't going compact, what is the point of a 1/4 size sensor?

Look at the first camera, the E1. Awesome build. Bristling with 'pro' features like weathersealing, locking mode dial, PC sync socket, USB2, a Firewire port for gods sake!, a £500 grip with a REALLY substantial high capacity battery. That all says pro, especially considering the year of release.

They even brought out one of, of not THE best HV packs for a shoe mounted flash. Only pros use HV packs!

And the lenses. Stuff like the 300/2.8 isn't aimed at consumers! ALL of the first batch of lenses were quality, weathersealed offerings.

Good pro offerings. But as a whole, the 4/3rds system was never the best. Look at the E3. It's claim to fame was the 'world's fastest autofocus' ... something that no pro ever asked for. Impressive to nubies though.

They even tried to set up a global pro support network which did seem to work in some countries for a while.

So what do you think? what was the target market that 4/3 was originally gunning for?

I think they were trying to capture the pro market where people wanted to go smaller.

But they screwed up by going bigger. Where's the competitive advantage in offering a camera the same size as the 35mm competitors, combined with the same size and weight in (SHG) lenses, but with a sensor 1/4 the area?

What fool is going to think that is a good idea?

I would predict that if any manufacturer tried to do this, their system would ultimately fail for obvious reasons.

Sergey_Green
Sergey_Green Forum Pro • Posts: 11,928
Superior?
1

GBC wrote:

Photographers who were interested in using lenses that were superior to Nikon and Canon.

But superior in what way? Smaller format made those lenses equal to only stopped down lenses on the other systems, which essentially were very much the same in size and performance. This is the whole point of the discussion. Aside from long like 90-250 telephotos the overall system was as big as the larger formats that could do more. And with this it became rather unclear who in fact this system was made for.

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- sergey

Sergey_Green
Sergey_Green Forum Pro • Posts: 11,928
Very mich so ..
1

Aoresteen wrote:

One of the first lenses announced was the 300mm f/2.8 Big Tuna. Clearly Olympus was targeting pros with the E-1 as not too many amateurs buy a 300mm f/2.8 at $7,000 new.

And then they did not sell many of them, as today it is rather a rarity, but the system continued. Till it finally made absolutely no sense even to Olympus themselves, as their market simply faded from existence.

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- sergey

CharlesB58 Veteran Member • Posts: 9,125
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Big Ga wrote:

The recent article on 4/3 lenses by Michael Reichmann (well ... I'm assuming its him) over on LL is an interesting one. he kicks off with saying "Four Thirds was conceived by Olympus as a new Pro format". I tend to agree.

I often see people like RovingTim over here saying that Olympus lost their way with the bigger camera gear, and the whole point of fourthirds was to create a smaller, more portable system, the promise of which only MFT seems to have now finally fulfilled.

I've never really agreed with this. My opinion was that from the outset, Olympus had the goal of competing at the highest level in the pro market. Look at the first camera, the E1. Awesome build. Bristling with 'pro' features like weathersealing, locking mode dial, PC sync socket, USB2, a Firewire port for gods sake!, a £500 grip with a REALLY substantial high capacity battery. That all says pro, especially considering the year of release.

They even brought out one of, of not THE best HV packs for a shoe mounted flash. Only pros use HV packs!

And the lenses. Stuff like the 300/2.8 isn't aimed at consumers! ALL of the first batch of lenses were quality, weathersealed offerings.

They even tried to set up a global pro support network which did seem to work in some countries for a while.

So what do you think? what was the target market that 4/3 was originally gunning for?

It was also a matter that, at the time, 4/3 allowed higher quality lenses to be made for digital than APS-C or FF (advances in microlenses on sensors has balanced the need for telecentric designs somewhat). It wasn't that the lenses were going to be smaller (though in some cases they are) so much that they would offer better optical performance at a given size.

Another aspect is, well, the aspect ratio's impact on composition and aesthetics. 4:3 is considered the "ideal aspect ratio" for portraits and many other genres. Any student of painting will know much more about aspect ratio and the impact it has on the aesthetics of an image than it seems a lot of photographers know. I often have people telling me that there is something about my images that set them apart from others they see. I believe that in many cases it's a contributing factor is the subtle aesthetic of 4:3 as opposed to the 2:3 ratio of APS-C or FF sensors.

For sure, people crop those formats, but often they are left in the 2:3 format. There are of course times when that format works well for a subject. But a lot of inexperienced people tend only to crop in the same aspect ratio, cropping simply to remove extraneous details but not to improve composition and aesthetics.

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gsergei Contributing Member • Posts: 838
It was aimed at me, for sure.
3

I like very much the format and the lenses. The 4 by 3 sides are almost ideal for composition. May be some 2:3 cameras have a better IQ, but I came to strongly dislike the ratio and their monster size glass.

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CharlesB58 Veteran Member • Posts: 9,125
Re: USP was size
2

Do you realize how little the DoF issue matters to most pros, with the exeption portrait and wedding photographers? It has very little to do with the buying decision. Why pros went with Canon and Nikon over Olympus is two very,  simple reasons:

System versatility and support.

Existing investment in the system.

...the same reason the OM cameras never matched sales of Canon and Nikon among pros.

Freelancers especially need to make sure they have those "1 in 100" situations covered.

Pro: I need to lease a T&S lens for some architectural work I have coming up.

Canon Pro Support: Sure

Nikon Pro Support : Coming right up.

Olympus Pro Support: How about an F2 14-35 zoom instead?

Pro: My 600mm was damaged, I need it repaired, or a loaner, before the big game tomorrow. Can you help?

Canon: Sure.

Nikon: Coming right up.

Olympus: Oh wait, there is no pro support branch in this city...

The necessity of good support for pros is such that it was how Canon knocked Nikon off their long-held perch as "The Choice of Professionals". Canon's flagship still didn't really match Nikons at the time the "new" F-1 was matched against the F3. What Canon started doing was offering more favorable terms for purchasing gear in quantity to agencies and periodicals, along with better pro support. If Nikon said their turnaround time for a repair was 48 hours, Canon promised 24 hours-and delivered.

At the same time they poured a lot of money into fleshing out their lens line, and continued besting Nikon in introducing new technology. The money came from sales of the AE-1 and other A series cameras, which actually was a big gamble for Canon (introducing cheaply made, electronic cameras into the rather conservative world of 35mm SLRs). More funds were available, if needed from their aggressive business branch pushing their copiers and later, their printers. Video was the icing on the cake. All of these things contributed to Canon having the financial resources and reputation to lure a lot of buyers.

Olympus had a great idea in the camera, but other aspects fell short.

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OP Big Ga Forum Pro • Posts: 18,623
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at? - Original press release

Roger Engelken wrote:

Perhaps an initial press release from 2003 will help answer that question:

Hmmm. Well, apart from the word 'professional' (that to be honest, most manufacturers would throw in there to give it weight), I don't really see how it does. That's just marketing blurb to try and show that the new system has inherent advantages and gives high quality results. They're not really going to say anything else are they?

OP Big Ga Forum Pro • Posts: 18,623
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at? - Original press release

Wu Jiaqiu wrote:

Roger Engelken wrote:

the FFT-CCD is distinguished by a larger pixel area, with bigger photodiodes and transfer channels. This means more electrons can be captured. A high signal/noise ratio can therefore be achieved together with a wider dynamic range. Final images benefit from more exposure latitude, greater detail and less noise.

this gets mentioned in equivalence debates, the amount of light falling onto the sensor, and a bigger sensor with bigger pixels captures more photons.

Not necessarily. A 4/3 camera with a lens two stops faster would capture the same number of photons as a FF camera with the slower lens.

But that of course does raise an interesting question ......

OP Big Ga Forum Pro • Posts: 18,623
Re: USP was size

rovingtim wrote:

Big Ga wrote:

I often see people like RovingTim over here saying that Olympus lost their way with the bigger camera gear, and the whole point of fourthirds was to create a smaller, more portable system, the promise of which only MFT seems to have now finally fulfilled.

I've never really agreed with this. My opinion was that from the outset, Olympus had the goal of competing at the highest level in the pro market.

If they are competing at the 'highest level', then they needed a competitive sensor. Especially with the technology in 2003, this wasn't going to happen with a sensor 1/4 to 1/2 the area of other popular cameras.

Why not? it seems to be happening now with the EM5/1 sensor ??

rovingtim Veteran Member • Posts: 8,644
Re: USP was size

Big Ga wrote:

rovingtim wrote:

Big Ga wrote:

I often see people like RovingTim over here saying that Olympus lost their way with the bigger camera gear, and the whole point of fourthirds was to create a smaller, more portable system, the promise of which only MFT seems to have now finally fulfilled.

I've never really agreed with this. My opinion was that from the outset, Olympus had the goal of competing at the highest level in the pro market.

If they are competing at the 'highest level', then they needed a competitive sensor. Especially with the technology in 2003, this wasn't going to happen with a sensor 1/4 to 1/2 the area of other popular cameras.

Why not? it seems to be happening now with the EM5/1 sensor ??

The highest ISO on the 1Dx is 200,000.

Wu Jiaqiu
Wu Jiaqiu Forum Pro • Posts: 23,889
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at? - Original press release

Big Ga wrote:

Wu Jiaqiu wrote:

Roger Engelken wrote:

the FFT-CCD is distinguished by a larger pixel area, with bigger photodiodes and transfer channels. This means more electrons can be captured. A high signal/noise ratio can therefore be achieved together with a wider dynamic range. Final images benefit from more exposure latitude, greater detail and less noise.

this gets mentioned in equivalence debates, the amount of light falling onto the sensor, and a bigger sensor with bigger pixels captures more photons.

Not necessarily. A 4/3 camera with a lens two stops faster would capture the same number of photons as a FF camera with the slower lens.

But that of course does raise an interesting question ......

that's where equivalence comes in

and the question is........

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rovingtim Veteran Member • Posts: 8,644
Re: USP was size

CharlesB58 wrote:

Do you realize how little the DoF issue matters to most pros, with the exeption portrait and wedding photographers? It has very little to do with the buying decision. Why pros went with Canon and Nikon over Olympus is two very, simple reasons:

System versatility and support.

Existing investment in the system.

Also:

AF.

Sensor Tech.

...the same reason the OM cameras never matched sales of Canon and Nikon among pros.

This arguments suggests whoever is first to market wins. Well, Oly was the #3 manufacturer in the world (during the E1 reign). So there is no way Sony or anyone could take the #3 position away away from Olympus because people had:

System versatility and support.

Existing investment in the system.

Right?

Pro: I need to lease a T&S lens for some architectural work I have coming up.

Canon Pro Support: Sure

Nikon Pro Support : Coming right up.

Olympus Pro Support: How about a ...

... adapter so you can use your Nikon or Canon lens instead? The building isn't going anywhere.

Pro: My 600mm was damaged, I need it repaired, or a loaner, before the big game tomorrow. Can you help?

Canon: Sure.

Nikon: Coming right up.

[this doesn't always happen this way ... hang out on their forums]

Olympus: Oh wait, there is no pro support branch in this city...

Oly was trying hard at one point.

If Nikon said their turnaround time for a repair was 48 hours, Canon promised 24 hours-and delivered.

Oly set up a 'pro service' thing with the E1 that also promised such miracles.

Olympus had a great idea in the camera, but other aspects fell short.

I would suggest they had a great idea for a system, but it all went tits up after the E1.

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