Panasonic & Olympus May Finally Start Getting Frisky

Posted Mar. 31st, 2021 by Daniel J. Cox

Micro Four Thirds system reborn?

After a 13-year marriage, Panasonic and Olympus may finally start getting frisky based on an interview in DPReview. What the heck does that mean? Well, let me explain. Back in 2008 Panasonic and Olympus started a cooperative effort known as the Micro Four Thirds system. Quite simply, they agreed to cooperate in building a camera system that allowed each other to share the lens mount. In other words, a Panasonic Lumix lens could be attached to an Olympus camera and vice versa. In theory it was a great idea and one I felt was essential for these companies to crack the Canon/Nikon juggernaut that has dominated the camera industry for decades.

Unfortunately as time went on it became clear that the Panasonic-Olympus relationship was not as cooperative as they initially planned. It started with image stabilization. Both companies offered a dual IS system for their own cameras, but neither gave the same capabilities to their partner’s equipment. Lumix lenses on Olympus cameras could only use either the lens IS or the camera IS. Not both. And the same went for Olympus lenses on Lumix cameras. It was the start of what seemed like disintegrating marriage.

Renewed cooperation?

Based on past comments from the folks at Panasonic it seems the relationship began to disintegrate due to a lack of enthusiasm on Olympus’ part. The marriage analogy was not my own. It actually came from an interview by three different Lumix engineers regarding the L Mount Alliance by DPReview. DPReview reported that the engineers spoke about the L Mount Alliance stating, “This alliance is like marriage. The previous arrangement [with Olympus] was more like we were just living together.” Based on this comment and ongoing issues with equipment not working across each brand, it became obvious the alliance was faltering. Now that Olympus has been sold to JIP (Japan Industrial Partners), there may be hope to resurrect the relationship for the benefit of those who love this system. I’m convinced it’s very possible the new OM-Digital Solutions will be much more nimble and able to react than the original Olympus camera company was able to do.

That hope was inspired by another interview by DPReview where they spoke to Yosuke Yamane, director of Panasonic’s Imaging Division. About the MFT future he says:

We will strengthen our product lineup in both full-frame and Micro Four Thirds in order to support all shooting opportunities for creators. We have full-frame for creators who want more power to capture images and videos with a shallow depth of field, and M43 for creators who want compactness, light weight, mobility, and an adequate depth of field. The product group consists of two systems with different characteristics, which supports various shooting scenes and demonstrates the creator’s imagination.

Last year, we introduced the Lumix DC-S5, which has a compact and lightweight body and high performance in both still images and videos. On the other hand, in M43, in addition to the GH5, GH5S, and G9 we introduced the Lumix DC-G100, which is highly portable and allows you to enjoy vlogging, and the box-style camera the Lumix DC-BGH1, which increases flexibility in video production and has excellent video performance and customizability. M43 has a wide range of uses, and many creators have high expectations for new M43 products. We will continue to strengthen the lineup from this year onwards.

The future of MFT lenses

In the future, we are planning to develop more lenses that meet the needs of creators regardless of whether they shoot M43 or full-frame.

FF versus MFT

Compared to full-frame sensors, M43 sensors are easier to read out quickly, and they consume less power. This is one of the reasons why we have been able to keep our video features one step ahead. The higher the speed, the better the high-speed shooting performance, the less rolling shutter distortion, and the more potential for autofocus performance improvements. We would like to take advantage of [the potential for higher-speed sensor readout in M43] and continue to take advantage of the unique features of M43 to create attractive products that will please our end users.

Other potentially good news comes from Olympus.

Olympus patent to support AF tracking

Along with this positive news from LUMIX there’s a new Olympus patent to support AF tracking with a dual/quad AF sensor. I’m not sure what this means since it’s an Olympus patent, not a JIP patent. But we can always hope. I’m rooting for MFT. I’m currently shooting both the Lumix and Olympus system along with a full frame Sony camera as well. Each has their strengths and I’m hopeful that Micro Four Thirds will gain enough users to keep them in the game. The following is a link if you’re interested in my additional thoughts on Micro Four Thirds.

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There are 8 comments on this post…
  1. Tom OcasekOn May. 15th, 2021

    Dan, as you know I was an early convert from Nikon to Lumix MFT. Initially, I used Olympus lenses on the GH series, The OLy lenses were superior in my estimation even though the systems didn’t coordinate stabilization. For 30 years I used Nikon’s state-of-the-art equipment, but the G9 is the singular best camera I have owned. I have trained myself to carry & handhold 2 G9’s, dual stabilized, with 2 Leica lenses covering the 35 equivalent of 24-800mm. I travel with a light tripod for slow shutter speed situations, but this sport is affordable and fun again. I look forward to some creativity in the-focusing and lens speed departments, but what makes me most happy is both companies will continue to develop the MFT approach. The masses will reward them as the best camera is the one we enjoy using… Tom

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 15th, 2021

      Great to hear from you Tom. Thanks for your input.

  2. Jerry HallOn May. 5th, 2021

    I have a renewed commitment to Lumix and G9. The new one click enhancement feature in Photoshop/ACR improving the image while doubling each side to 4 times file size (80mp equivelent} is fast and very effective. These new fast arriving software improvements make a larger sensor irrelevant to me as I can crop like the big guys and print up to 32 x 24 need be.

    All I want in the next Lumix is much improved ISO and focusing for BIF especially. Not too much to ask I think especially if they don’t go nuts on larger sensors. Then I will have the near perfect camera for me. The ergonomics and lens inventory are unbeatable. The rapid growth of low cost manual focus prime lens from China is a fun development that shows others are committed to 4/3 standard.

    It was a stroke of luck that I started my photography “career” at 78 with Lumix and I expect to ride it out.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 5th, 2021

      Great to hear from you Jerry. Exciting you’ve found a passion that keeps you busy. I agree with your software comments. I’ve predicted software was going by level the playing field and that’s really starting to happen.

  3. Tim McCulloughOn Apr. 4th, 2021

    Aloha Dan,
    Had been wondering how this new ownership was shaping up and this material is certainly not conclusive of a renewed collaboration between Panasonic and the new OM-Digital Solutions yet, this bulletin is very helpful and encouraging. Would sure like to have the OM lens interchangeability with “stabilization” as well as “improved” wildlife, birds, “focusing” of OM for my G9’s. I just can’t see using two different systems with the weight and expense it would impose which were the original attractions/benefits to part with my decades long loyalty to Nikon. The G9 is so amazingly intuitive to use I would be hard pressed to leave this body while my own body would now struggle with carrying two systems.
    Wish you were still in the folds of Panasonic to help “massage” the collaborative efforts of these two forward for their “consumers” benefit. Thanks for bringing us up-to-speed and look forward to your future up-dates on this.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 5th, 2021

      Thanks for your input Tim. My long running cooperation with Panasonic was a lot of fun but unfortunately there were too many times that my input seemed to fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately that’s not unusual based on what others I’ve talked to who have had similar relationships with camera companies. The frustration would come when a new camera was released and they would hand it to you and ask you what you thought, when you gave some input, they would tell you it’s too late it’s already in production. So tying myself to one company was not beneficial to my readers and the people who travel with us. I’m hopeful that the new OM digital solutions will be a much more nimble fast reacting company and I think that’s a good possibility since they’ve been removed from the big corporate monster of Olympus. Let’s cross our fingers and Sabor both Lumix an Olympus and hope for the best.

  4. Mircea BlanaruOn Apr. 1st, 2021

    I wish only the best to Olympus and Panasonic as I don’t think to go full frame. The depth of field problem within m4/3 does not bother me at all as I don’t shoot abstract images…And about the super zoom Olympus lens 140-400mm I also thought that an 800mm FF equivalent is better than a 600mm one…

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 1st, 2021

      Thanks Mircea for adding your voice to the conversation.

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