Panasonic & Olympus May Finally Start Getting Frisky
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.
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.