Is Olympus Ever Going to Make a Full-Frame Camera?

We recently attended The Photography Show in Birmingham and had the pleasure of speaking to various companies. One of the companies we had a chance to catch up with was Olympus

Based on the fact that Panasonic has made quite a bold move and developed not one, but two full-frame cameras, a lot of photographers wanted to know if Olympus had any larger sensor plans for the future. Although micro four-thirds cameras are actually very popular, there are some very prominent upper limits. One of the major concerns a lot of photographers tend to have with smaller sensor cameras is the fact that low-light performance tends not to be as great as some larger sensor cameras. Personally, I think this tends to depend on a number of factors, such as lens choice, sensor technology, and several others. One of the ways that Olympus does really well to overcome the smaller sensor issue is with their incredible seven stops of in-body image stabilization in their latest camera, the OM-D E-M1X. There are a few reasons Olympus could benefit from producing a larger sensor camera, however. I believe that the micro four-thirds industry has really opened up for them. The fact that Panasonic is now moving their focus more towards full-frame means that Olympus is in a prime position to take over the micro four-thirds industry. If Olympus can push their video features a little more, I think they could become an extremely popular option for a large number of creatives. 

DCI 4k at 120p would be very appreciated. 

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44 Comments

Michael Jin's picture

Despite being very strong in video with their M4/3 camers, Panasonic's choice to move to full frame seems to indicate that the market at M4/3. is simply not there. I'm not sure that Olympus will benefit all that much from taking the space that Panasonic seems to be willing to vacate despite their dominance (M4/3 video-centric cameras).

Usman Dawood's picture

You make a very interesting and potentially valid point. It’s a relatively small market and over coming some of the perceptions may require a lot of effort. There are however some benefits that smaller sensors have and I think many of them come down to stabilisation and higher frame rates for video with less overall heat being generated.

There’s definitely a market there I guess we’ll have to see what Olympus have planned for the future.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"Panasonic's choice to move to full frame seems to indicate that the market at M4/3. is simply not there."

Following this logic, BMW's move to SUVs seems to indicate that the market for sedans is simply not there.

Have you considered that a company might pursue more than one market at a time?

Michael Jin's picture

Bad example. The market for sedans actually isn't there (at least here in the USA) which is precisely why companies are shifting their focus to SUV's and crossovers in this market while phasing out sedan and compact models.

Also, the camera market is shrinking so it doesn't make sense to divert signigicant resources into jumping into the extremely crowded and highly competitive field of full frame cameras if you're already decently profitable in your niche.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Wait a minute. "the market at M4/3. is simply not there" and (about Panasonic) "you're already decently profitable in your niche". This is self-contradictory.

Michael Jin's picture

No. I would say, for instance that Leica is profitable in their niche, but Mechanical Rangefinders as a market "is not there" because the market as a whole is not large enough to sustain any real competition between multiple companies. Same thing at M4/3. There are companies making a profit (although the latest reports seem to suggest that Olympus is actually taking a loss) building these cameras, but the market for M4/3 cameras is too small to reasonably sustain competition within it. Divide a small pie and everyone starves.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"the market for M4/3 cameras is too small to reasonably sustain competition within it"
Panasonic and Olympus have been competing and innovating in the MFT market for years and continue to do so. Your anti-MFT bias is showing.

Michael Jin's picture

What "anti-MFT" bias? Yes Panasonic and Olympus have been competing and innovating in the MFT market for years and continue to do so. Panasonic recently decided to shift their investment into full frame cameras (where you you really think that's going to leave their non-video-oriented MFT cameras?) and Olympus just showed a $157 Million loss in their imagine division last fiscal year. Does that look like signs of a really healthy market to you when one of the major brands has one foot out the door and the other is reporting heavy losses despite there being only one other serious competitor in the market?

I don't think that there's anything wrong with MFT cameras, but you can't deny that they suffer from an industry bias that's obviously hitting them as more companies are releasing full frame options. Whether that stigma is deserved or not is irrelevant as long as it is a real market force that these companies are facing. It's not just MFT either. APS-C is facing the same problem—particularly when a company like Canon is beginning to seriously encroach on the low end market with full frame bodies. Your average consumer is not considering the actual specs of the camera or the image quality. They just hear buzzwords like "full frame" and assume that must be better even though depending on the particular use, a MFT or APS-C camera might be more appropriate.

If you think making really obvious observations about widely public movements in the market is "anti-MFT" bias, then you're free to your interpretation of my interpretation of the situation.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"Panasonic recently decided to shift their investment into full frame cameras"
Replace "shift" with "expand". That's what I mean about an anti-MFT bias. Last time I looked, the maker of the F150 pickup truck still made cars.

Michael Jin's picture

"Last time I looked, the maker of the F150 pickup truck still made cars."

If you only knew how terrible of an example this actually was... But that's beside the point. (Seriously, you might want to look again since it seems like its been a while.)

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Where do you think those resources for full-frame development are coming from? Is it more likely that they're being re-allocated from MFT development, or do you think someone at Panasonic's camera division magically found a bunch of cash stuffed in a sofa in the office? Resources to invest don't just magically appear. They have to come from somewhere and given how competitive the full-frame market is right now, they're going to have to push hard to keep up. Obviously I don't know what Panasonic's finances look like and maybe they are capable of developing both MFT and full-frame at the same time while maintaining a decent rate of development. Given the fact that even Sony, Canon, and Nikon largely neglect their APS-C lines, however, I am skeptical.

No company is going to say "Hey, we're cancelling development of X in favor of Y." when they're still selling "X". Of course Panasonic is going to verbally say that they're not abandoning MFT or anything of the sort. If you want to take them at their word, that's your business. I'm just looking at the situation and seeing what is likely happening. Again, if you want to see that as "anti-MFT" bias, that's your business. If you actually believe that Panasonic's full-frame development is separate and doesn't come at a serious cost to their MFT development, I'd say you're rather optimistic. For the record, Sony still claims that the A-mount is alive and just look at how long it actually took for the death of the original 4/3 system to be acknowledged.

I think that once their full-frame line is established, Panasonic will likely use its MFT for video-centric cameras and entry-level cameras (the way other companies use APS-C) while full-frame becomes the main system for their stills cameras and general purpose (stills+video) cameras. Video (at least right now) obviously doesn't require the same resolution as stills so it makes sense to use the smaller sensor, gain better heat dissipation, and better image stabilization. You take a hit in low-light performance, but low-light performance is already so good on these sensors that you're really not sacrificing a whole lot in meaningful performance these days.

The question you should have asked Olympus: Is the E-M1 Mark II the end of the road?

Olympus has already confirmed an E-M5 Mark III later this year. No details yet.

They already made a "full-size" camera with an M4/3 sensor. They only have to replace the sensor with a full-frame one and they're all set :)

Rk K's picture

M43 has yet to make any profit whatsoever for olympus. I don't see that changing in the future either..

Kang Lee's picture

If they can make a camera as affordable as the Canon RP without any of the comprimise that Canon put in, I think it would work.

A basic M43 camera and lens from Panasonic starts at under $500. Change out the kit lens for a "nifty fifty" equivalrnt and you're still well under $1000. A Panasonic S1 with kit lens runs over $3500, and with a nifty fifty, close to $5,000. They are different markets. It's clear so far that Panasonic is embracing the high end status that Leica lends to the L-Mount, rather than savaging body prices like Sony.

Leica supports three lens mounts today. Canon has essentially four, even if they have promised to ignore EF and EF-S this year. And they also make Cinema EOS, camcorders, and a whole bunch of P&S cameras.

There us no reason to believe Panasonic can't walk and chew gum at the same time. They didn't stop making P&S or camcorders themselves when they entered the M43 market in 2008. Not everyone can necessarily hit all markets, but Panasonic has shown they do.

Haven't Olympus already said they have no plans for a FF camera? Clickbait headline is Clickbait.

Usman Dawood's picture

Lol how is it clickbait? I literally discuss that with Olympus.

A rather low attempt.

I wouldn't call it clickbait but it is a question Oly has previously answered in what would appear to be no uncertain terms.

My recommendation is to keep asking them. You'll have a real story if they ever change their mind.

Usman Dawood's picture

One of the reasons we discussed full frame was because of some of the apprehensions people have for m43. The interview is mostly in support of their system and decision to not develop a full frame camera.

Please no...

I wish they stay focused on what they are doing best - best small cameras with great quality.

Jacques Cornell's picture

All of their cameras are "full-frame". What you mean to ask is "Is Olympus Ever Going to Make a 35mm-format Camera?" Current and former medium- and large-format shooters know that 35mm is not "full-frame" but rather "small format".

Usman Dawood's picture

Most of us know what someone means when they say full frame, Olympus did. Stop being so pedantic lol.

So you don't know what someone means, you only assume and that is where mistakes are done...

Olympus use "35mm" in their products, not "full frame".

Fill frame has meaning only when talking with context with half frame and when talking about cropping your image for wanted composition instead showing a full frame that might not have been so great framing to begin with.

Want to be pedantic? Talk about small format and medium format... Now see where does FF Fanboys go when suddenly their 35mm format is talked what it really is, the small format.

And people who talks about m4/3 format knows nothing that format is 4/3" and the mount is m4/3.

Usman Dawood's picture

?? I’m sorry what?

Jacques Cornell's picture

It's really simple. What part of "small format" don't you get?
Have you been around long enough to know what "full-frame" meant before digital? The modern usage represents a hijacking of the term by digital camera makers' marketing departments. It's pure propaganda.

Usman Dawood's picture

This whole discussion and almost every point you’ve made has been complete and utter nonsense. This is such a waste of time.

35mm sensors are described as full frame by every company in the photography industry including Olympus.

Jacques Cornell's picture

So, you aren't aware of the history of the term "full-frame". You can claim "nonsense" all you want. Do some research on historical uses of the term. I'm old enough to remember its meaning before digital. How old are you?

Usman Dawood's picture

Language changes. Move on.

Also, the reason why all of this is nonsense is because, it's pointless semantics that offers absolutely nothing to the discussion.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Language gets murdered by people who don't understand it. Aintcha?

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