So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Started Nov 16, 2013 | Discussions
aks Regular Member • Posts: 172
Pity they stopped supporting that HV pack

I still own mine and find it extremely valuable for events photography, but I'm dreading the day when it becomes impossible to find components for it since they've stopped producing it.

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cosmonaut
cosmonaut Senior Member • Posts: 2,223
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

The original concept was lenses made specifically for the sensor. Canon and Nikon designed their systems keeping the faith of their old lenses giving the ones with high end lenses the chance to use their older stuff.

4/3rd was a new option, cheaper is what got me interested, for new shooters moving into digital. Or up from P&S cameras. at the time I could afford an E500.

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n3eg
n3eg Senior Member • Posts: 2,397
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Big Ga wrote:

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

Me, and all the others who believe quarter frame is still a "large sensor" format.  Some of us have even used a Pentax Auto 110 SLR back in the early 1980s.

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bobn2
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 60,932
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?
1

n3eg wrote:

Big Ga wrote:

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

Me, and all the others who believe quarter frame is still a "large sensor" format. Some of us have even used a Pentax Auto 110 SLR back in the early 1980s.

110 is almost exactly Four Thirds (13x17mm frame). Now look at the size of your Auto 110 against a Four Thirds camera (actually the GM1 just about gets back there)

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Bob

agogo Contributing Member • Posts: 596
telecentricty and sensor format...

I get the feeling that Oly took a calculated gamble with sensor technology advancement - thinking that maybe the technology would move along quicker than it did. They probably thought that within a few years they'd get 12mp, better dynamic range, high ISO, etc, etc, on the tiny sensor, but the technology didn't move as quickly as intended (or maybe not enough resources/budget for R&D, and relying on 3rd party manufacturers). Even though the pro cams and lenses are still big, if the sensors were up to scratch, I think Oly would have done better long term.

Also the sensor size was a choice based on them not being able to compete directly with Canikons FF and APS.

The squarer aspect ratio has its benefits and the whole system was designed purely for digital from scratch - this would benefit too from the telecentric lens designs; sharper across the frame, great zooms, etc. Probably all factors that they considered for the pro market.

I personally think the E3/5 should have stayed with the E1 form - that cam is a joy to hold. I don't know why - or have read anything that suggests the reason why - they abandoned the E1 form factor. I never read one negative review of how good that cam was in the hand.

Aoresteen Regular Member • Posts: 456
Re: telecentricty and sensor format...

agogo wrote:

I get the feeling that Oly took a calculated gamble with sensor technology advancement - thinking that maybe the technology would move along quicker than it did. They probably thought that within a few years they'd get 12mp, better dynamic range, high ISO, etc, etc, on the tiny sensor, but the technology didn't move as quickly as intended (or maybe not enough resources/budget for R&D, and relying on 3rd party manufacturers). Even though the pro cams and lenses are still big, if the sensors were up to scratch, I think Oly would have done better long term.

Also the sensor size was a choice based on them not being able to compete directly with Canikons FF and APS.

The squarer aspect ratio has its benefits and the whole system was designed purely for digital from scratch - this would benefit too from the telecentric lens designs; sharper across the frame, great zooms, etc. Probably all factors that they considered for the pro market.

I personally think the E3/5 should have stayed with the E1 form - that cam is a joy to hold. I don't know why - or have read anything that suggests the reason why - they abandoned the E1 form factor. I never read one negative review of how good that cam was in the hand.

Well for one thing they had to add a built in flash to keep up with Nikon & Canon.  That made the top bigger.

They had to make the LCD larger than the E1 so it would could show histograms and live view ect.

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Karaya Senior Member • Posts: 2,045
I thought Olympus hit the bullseye with the E-1...
2

The trouble was they were shooting at a moving target and they did not use enough lead.

I went shopping for my first DSLR a few months after the E-1 came out. I was moving up from a 2MP Kodak digicam and, having nothing invested in a system, was free to choose. People look back on the E-1 as a bit of a dinosaur, but you have to keep in mind what the competition for 4/3 was like at the time. The most popular top level APS-c DSLRs were the 6MP Canon 10D and Nikon D100. Full frame 35mm still pretty much meant film. I think there were only a couple very expensive offerings in DSLRs from Canon and Kodak. Nikon's top DSLR was still the 5MP D1x. The camera shop manager I talked to at the time was ditching his Canon system, a 4MP 1D, for an E-1.

I liked the unique features of the E-1, the dust elimination system and the weather sealing and thought that the image quality was quite competitive with the cameras mentioned above. As I newb I really appreciated that all the 4/3 lenses were top quality - it made it so much easier to choose!

As I mentioned, the trouble was that the competition moved on quickly. While the E-1 was still current as Oly's top pro camera Canikon moved on to cameras like the 30D and D200 in the same price range and pro models like the 1DmkII and D2x, not to mention the 5D that got FF really rolling.

I still like my E-5 very much. Too bad it was not available back ~2008 - with a E-7 equipped with better AF and the 16MP Sony sensor being offered at the same time as the EM-5. I think that might have kept 4/3 going. It sure would have made me a happy camper!

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Sierra Dave Regular Member • Posts: 464
Re: telecentricty and sensor format...
2

agogo wrote:

I get the feeling that Oly took a calculated gamble with sensor technology advancement - thinking that maybe the technology would move along quicker than it did.

Other way around, I'd say.  They gambled that improvements would not be particularly rapid, and lost out when they were.  Of course, it wasn't at all clear in 2001-2002 how far sensor performance could evolve.

Also the sensor size was a choice based on them not being able to compete directly with Canikons FF and APS.

There's no evidence they expected to compete against full-frame at all.  When they were designing the E-1 and 4/3, there were no decent full-frame sensors available.  And to their credit, 3 of the original 4 full-frame designs were failures - Contax's N Digital and Pentax's MZ-D relied on a Philips 6MP sensor which proved a dead end, and Kodak's long-delayed DCS Pro 14n used a Belgian design that was essentially recalled due to poor performance.  The only full-frame to succeed in the early days was Canon's 1Ds, which at $8k was in medium-format territory.

Their inability to get traction early on was much more about inability to match APS-C and APS-H sensor progress.  Canon and Sony ramped up rapidly in resolution and signal-to-noise performance while Kodak was basically coming apart at the seams.  Kodak wasn't a good choice of partner, but obviously nobody knew in 2001 and 2002 just how spectacularly badly run they were.

The other thing Olympus clearly underestimated was the importance of autofocus and frame-rates to photojournalists, event photographers and other working professionals.  Perhaps because they had little experience with SLR AF, they misgauged the other players and failed to produce a competitive alternative.

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Gesture Veteran Member • Posts: 6,464
Re: telecentricty and sensor format...

"The other thing Olympus clearly underestimated was the importance of autofocus and frame-rates to photojournalists, event photographers and other working professionals. Perhaps because they had little experience with SLR AF, they misgauged the other players and failed to produce a competitive alternative."

Yes. The irony is as each new advance came out in film days, many pros declared "we can do better controlling everything ourselves," i.e. auto-exposure, autowinders, autofocus, autobracketing, et al, yet they adopt the new stuff more rapidly than anyone.  In years past, I always feel that consumers benefited from the technology developed for professionals, but, today, it seems like the advances reach all markets (commercial, photojournalism, consumer) faster.

exdeejjjaaaa
exdeejjjaaaa Veteran Member • Posts: 8,263
Re: There is absolutely no doubt about it
1

Marty4650 wrote:

Now, contrast this to Olympus' introduction of M4/3, six years later in 2009

m43 was introduced by Panasonic in 2008, dear.

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Archiver Veteran Member • Posts: 3,634
Re: There is absolutely no doubt about it

If the 4/3 format was aimed to capture some of the professional market, but failed at the time, the irony is that the first micro four thirds cameras were aimed at young single women, but they are now moving into pro territory.  Seems like they had to gain traction before stepping up to the bigger leagues.

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Max Pegler
Max Pegler Regular Member • Posts: 414
Re: So who was 4/3 originally aimed at?

Very interesting post.

I don't know Canikon model numbers, so please feel free to correct any details in the following. So,

- If you've got or read the original Kodak paper, you'd think the future lies in 4/3s exclusively. And a lot of those technical advantages still apply. Still a great read.

- At the time, Canikon were heading in a similar direction. With APC-xyz, A stands for advanced, doesn't it? Wrotniak argued an APC sensor was only about 15% bigger, which is sod-all. But 4/3s was a semi open standard, APC wasn't. At the time, round 1 went to 4/3s. In my view.

- But for marketing reasons, Canikon brought back the 35mm size sensor. Who was first, Canon's 1Dxyz? Then the "bigger is better" fallacy started. Round 2 to Canikon. The rest is history.

So who was it aimed at? My guess with the E1, and half heartedly with the E3, was the pro market. Releasing the E3 & E30 at essentially  the same time was a bet each way.

Regards

Max P

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Olymore
Olymore Senior Member • Posts: 1,776
Re: There is absolutely no doubt about it

Well 99% of sales will be to amateurs so it makes sense
Canikon cameras would be vastly more expensive if they relied on 'pro' sales.

Medium Format digital is a good example of what happens when you don't have the sales volume of the mass market to bring costs down.

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Fave Photog Senior Member • Posts: 1,242
Stick with Lies...

bobn2 wrote:

rovingtim wrote:

bobn2 wrote:

This blurb has been re-written to a certain extent. Olympus' more extravagant claims have been edited out, such as a 35mm lens needing to be 4 times the size of an equivalent 4/3rds lens.

You can see why it is has been such a live topic here. Essentially, many people believed Olympus and Olympus was lying. Given the management of Olympus at the time, we probably wouldn't be surprised. They thought nothing of offering people a free lunch.

I bet the marketing department would say 'brightness' meant light 'intensity'. So I would suggest 'deception' rather than 'lie'.

A bit pedantic, I know.

OK, let's go with 'deception'.

You were correct, bobn2.  Deception is the product, or end result, of lies.  The entire purpose of lies is to deceive.  Satan deceived Eve.  How?  By lying to her.

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

It wasn't aimed at noise obsessed pixel peepers like those who frequent this forum.
In "stereotypical" enthusiast style, people are arguing points (hi iso noise, equivalency and dof) which few pros give the same weight in deciding on a camera system. For instance: John Isaac chose Olympus because he knew the optics would be outstanding but also he liked the look of E1 images.

Yes, pros are concerned about noise and dof, but not to the laughable degree of arguing that we see on this site. Believe me, my clients are more impressed with the composition and overall look if my photos than they are with noise levels. Granted, I have developed a style and PP process which reduces the distracting appearance of the noise my E520 produces.

Would any of the performers I photograph want to use my images for a poster or other large scale display? In some cases yes, but most are happy to use them for websites and smaller formats such as press releases, magazine reviews or flyers.

That being said, I will admit that switching to a system that is more of a "standard" for performance photography is tempting. But then I cover a show with associates using FF Nikon and Canon gear. In the small venue where I am house photographer, those cameras draw a lot of attention during a quiet acoustic show. Since I am required to maintain as low a profile as possible, the smaller gear 4/3 affords, especially m4/3 makes it my first choice.

Budget allowing, I would also invest in some FF gear for those times when I want to take advantage of that format's strengths over less obtrusive gear.
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Marty4650
Marty4650 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,236
Olympus reversed their approach

Archiver wrote:

If the 4/3 format was aimed to capture some of the professional market, but failed at the time, the irony is that the first micro four thirds cameras were aimed at young single women, but they are now moving into pro territory. Seems like they had to gain traction before stepping up to the bigger leagues.

I think it is fairly obvious that Olympus introduced 4/3 by starting at the top. With a pro grade camera, and some very nice and very expensive lenses.

But 4/3 failed, and Olympus learned something from this.

Olympus introduced their M4/3 products in the exact opposite way. Starting at the bottom, with a much more modest camera, and two kit lenses. It took two more years before Olympus had a model with a built in EVF or weather sealing. The EM5 was their 9th camera body, and not their first. It took four full years before they would introduce a lens they were willing to call a "pro lens."

Olympus also learned they make a lot more money by selling lenses than by selling adapters.

In the five year period between 2003 and 2008 Olympus released 21 4/3 lenses, plus another 4 from Panasonic, For a total of 25 lenses.

In the five year period between 2008 and 2013 Olympus released 18 M4/3 lenses, plus another 21 more from Panasonic. For a total of 39 lenses.

I think you're right. Olympus had aimed M4/3 at P&S users and soccer moms, but that never really had much traction with that market, despite the white and bright red colored bodies. Those people went to using their camera phones instead.

But a curious thing happened.... serious photographers (both men and women) liked the smaller format, so Olympus and Panasonic did the smart thing and took the system upscale.  You just don't see any ads for the EM1 or GH3 telling you how nicely it fits in your purse (probably.... because it won't fit in your purse... we have the EM2 and the GM1 for that.)

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Marty4650
Marty4650 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,236
Re: There is absolutely no doubt about it

exdeejjjaaaa wrote:

Marty4650 wrote:

Now, contrast this to Olympus' introduction of M4/3, six years later in 2009

m43 was introduced by Panasonic in 2008, dear.

I did say "Olympus' introduction of M4/3." This means "when Olympus introduced their M4/3 product in 2009." The fact that Panasonic had models out a few months earlier is irrelevant.

The topic was the introduction of 4/3 by Olympus with their E1, dear.

The forum is the Olympus SLR forum, dear.

Panasonic also made and marketed 4/3 and M4/3 cameras. What is your point, dear?

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Richard Veteran Member • Posts: 4,858
A big fail, no pros have or would use it.

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.

Big fail then because no pros use it. Maybe a few unknowns but it really failed to capture the pro market.


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.

But where are the 400 to 800 that pro's use. They don't have them.

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

Again, a big fail.

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

I think it was aimed at people who wanted a small light camera, mainly old people (at least that is what the polls on DPR have shown) and people who do not like the conventional method of photography with a DSLR, usually gear hounds that don't want to look like everyone else but don't use the product so they never find the limitations.

Also people who like Apple, they want to be part of community of people who are like minded, and try to look down on everyone else when their products are overpriced and lack features and standardization. Photogeeks.

Pros buy pro gear, not 4/3rds. I guess I am not sure how anyone could see them aiming this at pros. Or maybe that was the intent but they ended up with old people, gear hounds, and those who bought into the I don't want to be the camera guy ads, they wanted to be cooler.

Marty4650
Marty4650 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,236
Re: A big fail, no pros have or would use it.
1

Do you honestly think Olympus introduced a $2,000 weather sealed camera, and an $8,000 weather sealed lens for "old people?"

Most of what you say applies to M4/3..... and not to 4/3.

4/3 never could compete with a FF sensor (and even an APS-C sensor) when it came to sports photography or commercial photography for billboards. And the smaller sensor was at a disadvantage for any sort of low light photography, like for weddings. But there were many pros who used 4/3 for street shooting and portraits.

Many of the professionals who shoot landscapes don't feel FF sensors are big enough. They use medium and large format cameras instead.

The OP asked... "what market was 4/3 originally aimed at?" And I think it is very hard to deny they were aiming very high at professionals, once you look at the build quality, lens quality and prices of the initial offerings.

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exdeejjjaaaa
exdeejjjaaaa Veteran Member • Posts: 8,263
Re: There is absolutely no doubt about it

Marty4650 wrote:

exdeejjjaaaa wrote:

Marty4650 wrote:

Now, contrast this to Olympus' introduction of M4/3, six years later in 2009

m43 was introduced by Panasonic in 2008, dear.

I did say "Olympus' introduction of M4/3." This means "when Olympus introduced their M4/3 product in 2009." The fact that Panasonic had models out a few months earlier is irrelevant.

it is very relevant, in 2009 m43 was already an existing system, introduced by Panasonic and it can't be compared w/ 43 introduction by Olympus...

The topic was the introduction of 4/3 by Olympus with their E1, dear.

yes, and so why drag in m43 ?

The forum is the Olympus SLR forum, dear.

yes, and so why drag in m43 ?

Panasonic also made and marketed 4/3 and M4/3 cameras. What is your point, dear?

that Panasonic was "me too" with 43 and Olympus was "me too" w/ m43

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