What Will It Take for Olympus Cameras to Succeed?

OM Digital Solutions has promised the release of many exciting new products in the next year or so, but with the camera market more fiercely competitive than ever, they certainly face a steep uphill battle. What will it take for them to succeed? This excellent video essay discusses 10 things that will give them a better chance of finding success.

Coming to you from Robin Wong, this insightful video essay discusses 10 things OM Digital Solutions needs to do to find success. More than anything, I think Olympus cameras strongly need a new sensor. Even the flagship Olympus OM-D E-M1X uses a sensor from 2016. Micro four thirds are already at a disadvantage in terms of things like low-light performance when compared to APS-C and full frame sensors, and being several years behind in development only widens the gap. Fujifilm has shown us that you can certainly use a single sensor across an entire camera line, from entry-level bodies to the flagship, so I would not necessarily expect to see multiple new sensors for different cameras, but whatever the company is planning regarding sensors, it is definitely time for an update. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wong. 

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25 Comments

Chris Rogers's picture

Better marketing and and some APSC sensors with good lenses to match. M4/3 is dead. Yes it's affordable. Minus the OMD EM-1X. Dunno what they were thinking making a M4/3 camera that expensive. Low light performance is just not that great on their cameras. it's not terrible but you can get better for not much more or the same price. The build quality is amaze balls though. they also need to focus on video since that's what the market wants these days. I don't care about video but it seems most of the market does so you gotta sell what the market wants.

Keith Patrak's picture

What a load of rubbish. M43 is far from dead, in fact it is the best selling system in Japan. Olympus just need to carry on with what they are doing, perhaps a weather sealed version of the Pen F. I have a OMD EM1ii and it is more than adequate for my needs

Nigel Voak's picture

But loosing a lot of money on every camera sold.

Chris Rogers's picture

"What a load of rubbish. M43 is far from dead, in fact it is the best selling system in Japan. Olympus just need to carry on with what they are doing"

Yet they still had sell off their camera division... A pretty big fact you're ignoring there.

Stephen Strangways's picture

The size difference between Micro Four Thirds and APS-C is smaller than the difference between APS-C and full frame. 225 mm² to 329 mm² is not significant. Going to full frame, 864 mm² would be. Much like Fuji does APS-C and medium format, skipping full frame, if Olympus did anything, they'd be smart to do Micro Four Thirds and full frame, skipping APS-C.

Penny Fan's picture

2 biggest advantages for M43 system are - 2x crop factor that is good for super telephoto reach, - deep depth of field that is good for product and macro photography. They should make specialised camera/lens serving these 2 purposes.

Thijs Van der Feltz's picture

Don't forget the hi-res (pixel shift) mode that is very useful for product photography and also reduces noise.

Tony Tumminello's picture

The overall performance of the cameras needs to be up to par in terms of responsiveness and smoothness. Using my E-M1 Mark II up against an R5 (for example), and there's no comparison. Everything with the R5 is fast and instantly responsive while the E-M1 seems to always need that brief moment to "think" before responding to your inputs. Even going into the menus it always seems to hesitate before sending you there.

Autofocus needs an overhaul too. I haven't used the E-M1X but while continuous AF is fine when I choose the AF point with my E-M1, the camera is dumb as a doorknob with what it "thinks" to need to track and on those rare occasions it nails the right thing it's generally unable to keep up with any fast movements of the subject. You basically need to have a black crow against a blue sky for it to lock onto the subject, while the R5 is able to find and focus a brown bird's eye in a mess of brown branches with little issue.

Teemu Paukamainen's picture

And how much more expensive was the R5 compared to the E-M1II again? It would be sad if it weren't visibly better than the old E-M1 model.

Tony Tumminello's picture

I was just using the R5 as an example of something that I've used most recently and saying that anything new from Olympus should (hopefully) have the speed, smoothness, and responsiveness that we've come to expect with today's cameras.

And in regards to autofocus, why is it that the Panasonic G9 (from 2017) has been keeping up to date better regarding autofocus (https://petapixel.com/2019/11/21/testing-the-animal-detect-autofocus-on-...) whereas the E-M1 still can't do basic tracking competently? Age might matter in regards to UI smoothness, but there's no reason the AF should still be as far behind as it is when compared to another camera of similar vintage and basically the same sensor.

Teemu Paukamainen's picture

I agree that Olympus do need to improve their AF drastically since basically everyone else has a superb animal eye AF and tracking that actually works.

I shoot pets a lot and I'd really love to have at least a usable animal eye AF for the E-M5 series. I'm not asking for the best in class - I'd even settle for a "decent" for now (while the flagship model should obviously be able to compete with the competitors).

Michael Piziak's picture

I think Olympus should have held on to its camera division. Olympus is a large & diverse company that could have done so. Like any restaurant that has a large menu and is not profiting, Olympus could have scaled back - actually offering fewer cameras and lens (having a smaller menu).

Dave Haynie's picture

According to the various stories, Olympus management wanted to hold on to the camera/imaging division. But unfortunately, they were running it more like a fun hobby than a business. It was ultimately the tgreat of a US stockholder lawsuit that got them serioys about rehoming the imaging division.

The big problem all cameras companies have to deal with is the maturation of the market. Cameras don't change all that much each year. That is fine for a 3-year refresh of professional lines, but the consumer market looks funny at any product that's even a year old. Olympus' last few Pen refreshes were minor tweaks... most consumer model upgrades tgese days are tiny.

Unless something like computational AI takes a real hold in serioys photography, I think we're going back to a period of technical stability not seen since the 70s. Consider that the Nikon F1 was on the market for 14 years! The winners will either adapt to the smalker market and/or find the next big techical innovation.

Michael Piziak's picture

I agree.

Nigel Voak's picture

The appearance of affordable mirrorless FF and APSC cameras from Nikon and Canon, alongside those from Sony make the M43 format more or less redundant.

I bought an EM5 back in 2014 and it performed well against my D300, with the then remarkable IBIS giving it an advantage in many situations. M43 was a remarkable lightweight solution for travel and hiking.

When I compared the EM1 with 12--100 and a Nikon Z7 with 24-200 for a new travel and hiking setup, I was surprised the two solutions weighed the same. I bought the Nikon Z7 which trounces the EM1 for image quality and ability to work in post.

Olympus and Panasonic have not progressed with a better sensor since 2016 and this is starting to tell.

Maybe M43 is still a valid choice for long hyper lens work, but that is about all. My LX100 covers those situations where I want a small camera and my Z based system for everything else I shoot.

chris bryant's picture

What Will It Take for Olympus Cameras to Succeed? A full frame solution :-)

Kurt Hummel's picture

I have to disagree with him when he says they need to stop pushing the wildlife shooting. I think that’s the only segment they really got going for them with people who think they get double the reach compared to full frame with smaller equipment.

Mark Bucher's picture

They've got to improve the sensor. With the exception of the M1-X, I don't think there's an interesting or compelling need to upgrade from my original M1. A 24MB plus sensor on the other hand would get me real interested, real quick

vik .'s picture

Lower high iso noise.

Juan Marziali's picture

In addition to a new sensor, they need something compelling to offset the smaller size of the sensor. Computational photography, AI, social media integration, ease of use. Smartphones killed the camera market with tiny sensors.

Ken James's picture

Not to well up on sensors but my fading memories of the rangefinder I had in the 60s and the SLR I had in the 80s their glass was pretty darned good. That memory stands out, the sharpness was great!

Ken

Michael Parsons's picture

I think they need to something really eye-grabbing and unique like this where a smaller lens *mount* is really an advantage: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64906238

MAGTON SMOOTH's picture

The obvious problem with M4/3 is that sensors used in their cameras have not improved in very long time. Love the form factor, usability, and the quality of lenses available, but low light just sucks. Don't know how OMD is going to fix this problem. They are not going to start developing sensors. There is some hope with Panasonic as they do have sensor design and manufacturing capabilities, but they seem to be chasing the full frame $$$. Maybe Panny will realize FF market is too congested and decide M4/3 has more potential?

Jeremy S's picture

Robins' video seems to make some very good points. We know Olympus as a company was in a lot of turmoil a few years ago and I hope the new focus from the buyers of this division will help reinvigorate the product line.

I know larger sensors are always credited with better performance than smaller ones, especially in low light, owing to basic physics, photons etc. But this is clearly an oversimplification because phone cameras with absolutely minute sensors compared to MFT do increasingly well, even in low light. So there must be technical solutions available within the chip design of the sensors.

No-one here seems to have reflected on a major advantage of MFT, and what sold me on it: size and weight. I had a Nikon D300 APS with 18-200mm and some other lenses and enjoyed it greatly, but I got to the point where I couldn't carry extra lenses, then I could barely carry the body with the 18-200mm on it, and as everyone knows, a camera you don't have with you is no camera at all.

I got a Fujifilm X100S, and later updated it to X100F which is a fabulous camera, well built, APS, a good fast lens and a better amplifier for high ISOs (compared to the older D300), beautifully made and a joy to use, especially in the evenings, but the fixed 35mm equiv. lens is obviously limiting in some places and it wouldn't do, for example, on a foreign holiday where I needed to find a substitute for the D300 zoom set-up.

Happily a camera shop who I raised this with while buying the X100F put me onto the OMD10 Mk III with a 14-150mm lens. They are great for weight, and being a bit smaller, they even fit into a Manfrotto bag that is miles lighter than the Lowepro bag for the D300. Result!

I would be happy to pay more for the OMD body than the OMD10, but I am only a very amateur photographer, and the OMD10 is the lightest of the range (of course with more plastic), as equally are the non-pro lenses (and I get good enough results with the 14-150mm).

So in my view, the MFT remains a brilliant innovation as a huge contribution to reducing size and weight, the stabilisation on the sensor works really well, and I still have a 28-300mm equiv zoom range from the smaller lens because of the 2x crop factor instead of 1.5x. If that can be improved, then fine, but please, whatever the new owner does, don't 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' and abandon the MFT that makes it all possible, just hire the people from Apple or their suppliers who know how to make micro sensors and amplifiers work even better, and follow Robins other tips.

Juan Marziali's picture

The camera sensors in iPhones (and most phones) are made by Sony.