Which future for Olympus and Micro Four Thirds?

Note: I wrote this article in Junuary 2021 but I didn’t publish it until now. It is virtually unchanged apart from some minor edits reflecting recent events. It started as an opinion piece about Olympus and in the end it touched the whole m43 system. I removed a very long analysis of sensors tech, which could maybe go into its own post. The form could be better and I tend to digress too much, but here it is.

I started shooting Olympus with a film OM-10 and a Mju-2 and I then kept shooting with their digital cameras, namely the E-M10 first and the PEN-F then. I owned many Olympus lenses and as you can understand from my previous PEN-F post (and from some of the upcoming posts), my experience with this brand has been highly favourable. I like their cameras and lenses and I enjoy using them.

Shot with Pen-F. All the photos are straight out of camera. It’s mostly shots taken during a walk on a beach here in Sardinia, at sunset.

For this reason it was saddening to read Olympus sold their imaging division to another company called JIP (Japan Industrial Partners), a fund that invests in companies with issues, trying to stop the bleeding and eventually keeping them afloat or disassembling them and selling the spare parts.

What will the future bring for Olympus and for the m43 system? Which are the mistakes I think Olympus did? This post will try to cover all that.

JIP is the same company that bought VAIO from Sony in 2014 and turned it from a world-wide popular line of expensive and stylish computers (I had a one) into a lower profile line being mostly sold in Japan. I don’t know if VAIO is selling good in Japan, what I know is that it basically disappeared in Italy and Russia.

It’s tempting to arrogantly presume we know what is going on right now at Olympus, and predict the future. No matter the topic, we tend to think we know the truth, even if what we think we know is just our prejudice fueled by the abundance of simplified knowledge being easily acquired on Internet — it is also part of human nature in general, think of all the experts of football tactics, telling their friends at the pub how they would have won the match. We can all win the match if we are not playing it.

The truth is that we can’t really know what will happen, what kind of deals are being made — no matter how many graphs we analyze and what we think we read between the lines of offical statements. JIP may turn Olympus into a cheap camera company that uses a popular brand for selling low-end products — or they could sell the patents and terminate the activities. I confess I don’t expect a relatively small company to succeed where Olympus (with 100 years of experience and backed by their successful medical business) failed. That seems delusional. We will see, future will tell. What we can do is to take a look at some of Olympus’ choices and mistakes.

Olympus recent story brings to my memory something from the past. Blackberry was a very popular smartphones company. At some point they were THE smartphone. Even for the first years after the arrival of iPhone, no one could compete with their infrastructure, privacy features, reliability. The newer operating systems they developed (QNX and then OS10) were light years ahead of everything else and their messaging service was unique, reliable, secure. They had devoted fans. They seemingly had it all. And yet they failed to adapt to the market and make the best of what they had. I was for many years a happy user of their phones and I even bought their tablet, the infamous Playbook.

When rumors about their financial problems became frequent, their management sweared they were going on strong and they would update their tablet to the last operating system version, going then on the market with new products etc. It turned out they lied for inducing users to buy as many tablets and phones as possible, before the inevitable end of their smartphone business. Of course they never updated the Playbook to OS10, even if many (me and my family included) bought the tablet only because reassured by this false promise. BlackBerry finally decided to cease designing their own phones in favour of licensing tech to low profile partners, and that lead to some uninspiring Android phones that could never fight Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and the others.

Why did this happen? It doesn’t take an expert to understand: BlackBerry never had a strong App Store, so it failed to attract developers, and while the iPhone (which had many shortcomings in its first versions) became more and more versatile, Blackberry kept being the same as it was, with its very cool features still working great but no projection toward the future. People wanted and expected apps for all kind of tasks and a great touch interface, and BlackBerry didn’t provide that. They did hang to what they had and kept repackaging it and selling again and again.

I think it’s clear why I mentioned this story. Olympus introduced so many new amazing features and it definitely was among the greatest innovators in digital photography — arguably the greatest innovator — but at some point they stopped evolving in the direction the market expected. For a while the other companies were doing the same mistakes but they were not having some of Olympus specific problems, which are mostly connected to the sensor size.

Another reason why I told you that little BlackBerry story is because I was definitely disappointed by Olympus’ managers also lying and saying that they believed in m43’s future, that they were committed to the system, that the rumors of them closing down or selling the company were false, etc. They only wanted people to keep buying as much as possible. And buy what? Cameras like the EPL10 (that is basically a repackaged EPL9, which is a minor incremental update over the EP8) or the E-M5 III and E-M1 III (basically repackaged or slightly updated E-M1 II tech). They wanted to empty their warehouses.

This was clear and evident, and yet many refused to see — especially the “Olympus Visionaries”, praising these products and ignoring their latent issues: the cameras were not bad at all, on the contrary, they were high quality products, but they provided minor changes and mostly selling for more money than what they replaced. That was quite a sign for the events to come. The E-M5 and E-M5 II were once innovative and amazingly well built cameras: the E-M5 III was turned into an all plastic and smaller version of the E-M1 II. The eagerly awaited E-M1 III was just an E-M1 II with some added gimmicks. And Visionaries just tried to see the glass half full. Or two thirds full, even.

Some of them seem genuinely great and passionate guys — while others are arrogant and delusional salesmen who delete all critical comments from under their YouTube videos. And most of them are now leaving the sinking ship, for one reason or another.

I think the whole “Ambassador” thing is wrong, no matter the brand. The moment I see someone is an Ambassador / Visionary / X-Photographer or whatever they are called, I usually close the video. I don’t want to listen to someone that is not free — and you can’t be free if you are being an Ambassador of sort. You can’t say “this sucks!” or “I think the company did something wrong” etc. You can’t talk of other brands and do useful comparisons, especially if such comparisons highlight problems in the brand you are in a relationship with. So, where is the value in watching such videos? Was Olympus helped or rather hurt by that lack of strong criticisim?

At some point Olympus accused the popularity of smartphones as the main cause for all their problems, which is very convenient. I don’t agree with that.

You see, m43 cameras can be quite small — think of the Panasonic GM5 or Olympus Pen, for instance — and the same goes for m43 lenses, which can be quite compact while providing excellent quality. Some features of the system are brilliant because they leverage on the small sensor — one above the others, the image stabilisation. At the moment Full Frame and APS-C can’t be stabilised as effectively, but for how long will that be true? Each new iteration of Full Frame flagships comes closer to m43 stabilization.

But where are all the super compact cameras and lenses? It seems over the years Olympus mostly forgot about them and invested lots of resources trying to play a passive aggressive game against Full Frame systems, focusing on big cameras, big prime lenses, big zooms.

As you may know if you are a reader of my blog, I am camera agnostic: I shoot with everything, from Full Frame (Nikon) to APS-C (Canon, Ricoh) to m43 (Olympus, Panasonic) to 35mm and 120mm film cameras to the iPhone and smaller sensors like the Pentax Q line. I am not a blind fan of any brand. No matter how much I love my Ricoh GR II — maybe may favorite camera ever — I had no issues being critical with Ricoh for the mess they did with the GR III.

Look at the following image. It shows a size comparison between the top of the line mirrorless from Olympus, Nikon and Sony. They all feature a bright 50mm — on the Olympus I chose a 25mm f1.2 because you need the wider aperture if you want to bring the ISO down one stop and help the image quality, which will anyway not be on par with what the Z7 and A7 IV offer.

A 50mm equivalent mounted on E-M1 III, Nikon Z7, Sony A7r IV.

What I am trying to say is that Olympus wanted to establish itself as a professional system in a world where better alternatives are available for similar size/weight/price.

I chose the top of line Nikon and Sony for the sake of an extreme comparison, but keep in mind that Nikon Z6 and Sony A7 III are the same size of their more expensive sisters.

The Z6 and A7 III cost kinda the same as the E-M1 III but the image quality is visibly higher (especially at high ISO) — and while many lenses on Full Frame are necessarily much bigger than their m43 equivalents, it is also true that (especially for Sony) there are some good and compact lenses.

The Olympus E-M1 tried to compensate the worse image quality with lots of tech — something interesting, something gimmicky — but in the end we are photographers and the final step will always be an image, and its quality is — most of the times, not always — a deciding factor.

At this point some devoted fans of m43 will say that m43 size/weight advantage is more evident in zooms, and that’s true. But how many need zooms and super zooms? The market popularity of a system is greatly depending on the basics, and the basics are the primes between 24 and 85 (FF equivalent), plus maybe “standard zooms” like the 24-70 or something similar. Everything else is important but niche.

If we look at the total weight of a decent system configuration (two camera bodies, a couple of primes and zooms) then the m43 is lighter, but this fact, as crucial as it may be for some, it definitely is not enough for making the average user pick m43 as a system over Full Frame or even APS-C.

I am not suggesting m43 is necessarily and absolutely worse than other systems. It is not! What I want to do is to highlight a huge mistake Olympus did — and that mistake was to try to stretch its system out of its core values.

The major strength of m43 is also its biggest problem: the sensor size. A smaller sensor allows for better stabilisation and smaller cameras and lenses, but it also means there is a limit to the image quality you can reach, if compared to bigger sensors. Especially with current old m43 sensors.

And please, please, please let’s not say m43 image quality is just as good as bigger formats or even better — we all saw the reality bending acrobatics some m43 fans do. I love m43 and use it whenever practical but the image quality differences when compared to Full Frame are evident. Do they always matter? No, they don’t. Do they exist? Yes they do. I think it is time to move past inferiority complexes and embrace reality, focusing on what matters in photography and accepting that different systems have different characteristics and very often different uses.

Modern and bigger sensors do offer an advantage in terms of dynamic range and ISO performance. This advantage is real but it can be either unnecessary, useful, important or necessary — it all depends on what you shoot and why.

The key word is situation.

There are times when the advantages of m43 are more important than Full Frame ones — when you need an extremely light and compact camera for instance, so that you can be more agile and interact better with the scenes you are documenting. Again, it is the situation that matters. I think Olympus had to focus on this range of applications and excel at them — instead of chasing professional Full Frame systems.

My opinion is that Olympus stopped believing in m43 long ago, and tried to use their last planned budget for making the existing userbase believe m43 could compete with the rising compact Full Frame mirrorless offer by Sony and others.

Olympus didn’t fail because of smartphones, they failed because they ignored the core values of their products. The m43 system has a huge potential and the chance of being very small and affordable, of having small lenses, of having excellent technology, of producing image quality that is good enough for many situations.

It was crazy having multiple lines of cameras with the same two old 16 and 20 megapixels sensors since years. What’s the point of having E-M10, E-M5, E-M1, PENs, all offering kinda the same image quality and mostly the same features, and at prices which often are quite close? The last 4 years of Olympus show nothing but stagnation and lack of vision.

The E-M10 line has no reason for existing anymore. E-M5 and E-M1 could have been joined in a single model: the image quality of current m43 sensors is not allowing anymore to have a “pro” and a “semi pro” line, especially since they share most of the features and tech. Olympus could have kept only two lines of cameras, streamlining the business: a very compact, stylish and feature rich camera (let’s call it PEN), a slightly bigger one with more professional features (let’s call it OMD). Sometimes diversification is not a good idea. And the “more professional” camera had to forget going after high-end Full Frame, focusing instead strictly on the strengths of m43. The huge and expensive train wreck that was the E-M1X is enough to show the route Olympus went after instead.

The same goes for lenses: Olympus focused on PRO lenses, which are exquisite optics but also big, heavy and expensive. If I want to invest in a professional ad expensive high quality system, I invest in something that is giving me the most for the price, and that’s not m43 anymore. And what about the Zuiko 12-45 f4 PRO? A 600 euros f4 lens for a system stuck with old sensors and mediocre ISO performance, when that system already has a 12-40 f2.8, and with the two lenses being very close in terms of size. Who thought that was a brilliant idea?

PEN cameras and smaller lenses are the only Olympus products that still managed to sell good. Users have been asking for compact f1.4 weather sealed lenses since years.

m43 users were attracted by the core values of the system (small size, lower prices, high quality build, good image quality) and instead were pushed toward a bigger, heavier and more expensive system that could never compete with the new Full Frame wave brought to reality by Sony A7 line.

And this was a definite choice by Olympus: creating smaller and cheaper lenses is possible, just look at Sigma’s 33mm and 56mm f1.4 lenses. I don’t care if they are APS-C lenses with a m43 mount. They prove that it is possible to put a high quality and yet compact autofocus lens on m43, with stellar optics and low price. The Sigma 56mm f1.4 is my lens of choice for portraits with the PEN-F: it has amazing quality, it is much lighter than the Zuiko 45mm 1.2 or the Nocticron and it costed me (new) less than one third of the price of these.

I keep and love my PEN-F because in my opinion that’s a real m43 camera: small, light, with good stabilisation (and so beautiful!). But I don’t forget it’s a camera from 2016, with many limits.

It may seem to you that I focus a lot on sensor size, and it is true. The image forms on the sensor. A bigger and more modern sensor offers higher image quality. I sell images to my clients and they deserve the best I can offer. When I was shooting film I was buying quality one, I wasn’t always sticking to cheap Kodak Gold because it was “good enough”. Now we can choose the sensors. I can’t understand how can such a practical matter become a matter of ideology.

The lack of modern m43 sensors is one of the obstacles that is killing the system. At first I thought of some shady plan where Sony refused to develop m43 sensors as a way for damaging m43 and get rid of some competition for its compact APS-C offer. But then I thought: Leica managed to get the medium format sensor of the S3 cut down to Full Frame and did put it into the Leica M10-R and M10-M. If a company wants to get a new m43 sensor, there are ways. Companies plan most of their business 5, 10, 15 year ahead, they don’t take every choice year after year. Panasonic and Olympus didn’t want to invest, because they didn’t believe in the system — so they kept selling the same sensors and tech for 6 years or so. This is not acceptable. They can tell the evil smartphone fable to someone else.

I would like to close this article with a thought about current Olympus cameras. Many are behaving as if the failure of Olympus means that their cameras will stop working or become useless relics from a distant photographic past. The PEN-F is almost 5 years old and it still shoots great photos. The lenses I mount on it are also from years ago. I use that camera for personal and professional shootings and I plan on keep using it whenever it fits the situation. The failure of Olympus will mean nothing in this sense.

What remains is the sadness about what could have been. It is surely sad to see a brand like Olympus fade away, and the m43 system with them. It is now apparent Panasonic is showing few intentions of keeping the system alive. The fabled GH6 will probably never happen and instead they are releasing an updated GH5 — kinda doing what Olympus did, repackaging tech and trying to empty their warehouses. The Full Frame offer by Panasonic was also underwhelming, so I don’t know how will they restructure their imaging division.

It is my opinion that m43 as a system is probably destined to oblivion, crushed under the weight of the new Full Frame and APS-C offers, but especially victim of the inertia and lack of commitment from Olympus and Panasonic. The virus pandemic and the overall decreasing sales of cameras and lenses are making it very unlikely for Panasonic and JIP to ever invest now in innovative sensors, cameras and lens designs.

And yet it’s nice to dream and imagine what could be done with such a mature system as m43. What about a real digital rangefinder (not a Fuji pseudo-rangefinder), some kind of successor to the Epson R-D1 maybe? It could attract a huge following. A proper follow up to the Pen-F would also be well received, if done according to what the fans of that camera asked for years. These and more ideas could work, but only with investments in new sensors, and JIP and Panasonic are not willing to do so.

Luckily, no matter the camera we decide to use, we can still study composition and technique, improve our photography, and help our knowledge and our instinct converge. All the content of this article is not really connected to photography, it is just some rambling about a brand. Photography is much more than that.

It feels ridiculous having to write this, but this post was not meant at hurting the sensibilty of anyone. If you feel attacked by the opinions I expressed, I then kindly suggest you are reading the wrong blog.

Camera makers come and go. Technology evolves. But what really makes good photography is the same, and we can learn it and apply it regardless of camera brands or tech — as long as we enjoy capturing the light. So, as I often say, let’s spend more in photography books than in camera gear — it’s far more useful. And then let’s pick the camera that works best for us — and shoot.


  1. Hi Andrea,
    My congratulations – a most thoughtful and very perceptive article analysing the historic and current demise of MFT. The quality of the lenses outgrew the quality of the sensors.
    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Peter! I agree when you say that the quality of the lenses outgrew the quality of the sensors, that’s absolutely true in many cases. Zuiko lenses and some Panasonic Leica are outstanding and it is a pity they are in front of such old sensors.

  2. Hi Andrea,

    Thank you for this very well written article. I’m not going to argue with you, there do seem to be a few contradictions in what you write. For example, the 12-45 PRO: first you argue that Olympus should step down in size, but then you criticise them for doing exactly that. The 12-45 is actually significantly smaller than the 12-40, and to be honest, in most cases half a stop less aperture isn’t going to make a huge difference. My 12-40 is pretty much on the shelf these days, and my 12-45 is more or less permanently attached to my E-M5 MkII, to which it fits like a glove. I imagine it would sit very nicely on the PEN-F too, and it is optically fabulous.

    Then, on your size comparison with Nikon & Sony… yes, ok, if you need to shoot in very low light, or have need of very shallow DoF, then an f/1.2 prime might be called for, but if you substitute that E-M1+25/1.2 with an E-M5+25/1.8, it starts to look quite different. And, honestly, once again you’re talking about half a stop. And the 25/1.8 is by no stretch a bad lens.

    And so it goes. Olympus (and Panasonic) offers choices. You don’t have to go with the heaviest combination, and you lose very little quality, if any, by choosing lighter options.

    As for the E-M1X, well, it isn’t for me, but I have handled one, and have to say that in the hand it felt really good. The ergonomics are excellent. But there are plenty of wildlife/nature photographers who have enthusiastically adopted it. It’s a specialist tool, and maybe it sent a confused marketing message, but it certainly isn’t a disaster.

    Who knows where JIP are going to take this? I think they are up against the same challenge as the rest of the industry, in that the point of realistic sufficiency has been well and truly passed, and the days of massive camera sales are gone. I think your idea of a 2 product line, on which they can strongly focus to deliver attractive, powerful highly portable systems is good, although I think probably the low end Pen line still has commercial benefits.

    But yeah, what the hell. The cameras still work, and when they stop, there will be others.

    saluti dal Ticino – David

    1. Hi David, thanks for your insightful comment! Just to clarify my thoughts:

      – the 12-40 f2.8 is one stop faster than the 12-45 f4, and I believe one stop of light loss on a sensor that has noise even at base ISO is not something to be complitely dismissed. For this reason I wrote that a f4 lens for m43 is not a brilliant idea. When I mentioned the lack of fast and compact lenses, I was talking of something like the Sigma I mentioned in the post, or maybe some updated Zuiko design: for instance, I used the Zuiko 12mm f2 and it is a decent lens, nothing more; I owned The Panasonic Leica 12mm 1.4 for a year ad it was an amazing lens, in my opinion wasted on current m43 sensors and quite big/heavy (that’s one reason why I sold it). But what about something in between? I am sure Olympus could have released an improved 12mm or 17mm or something in between, but they didn’t, and the 12mm f2 still sells for a crazy amount of money even if it is a 10 years old average lens! Go figure 🙂

      – I own the Zuiko 25 f1.8 and it is one of my all time favorite lenses, a true gem if you factor size/cost and optical qualities; the combo Pen-F + 25 f1.8 is the essence of m43 in my opinion — but as I wrote, one stop of light is not so important on a modern Full Frame, but it can be very important on m43, and that’s why I used the 25mm 1.2 in the size comparison, because image quality was the final parameter in my comparison

      – m43 is a wonderfully versatile system and it offers a great degree of choice, what’s sad is that all the choices must end on the same old sensors!

      Saluti dalla Sardegna 🙂

      1. It’s clear that I have a much lower quality threshold than most 🙂

        Certainly the 20Mpix sensor isn’t the very latest tech, but, well, compared to 35mm film it isn’t bad. Even the 16Mpix is still perfectly capable of delivering good photos. Admittedly I do tend to shoot at lower ISO, but I still find 3200 quite acceptable, when processing Raw in CaptureOne. Yes, the latest sensors from other manufacturers are “better”, but to what practical use? Possibly for shooting interiors hand-held in low light…

        I’m not totally unaware of other systems – I have a Hasselblad X1DII, and a Ricoh GRII – but for various reasons m43 still hits the sweet spot, for me. I suppose a little more dynamic range would be nice to have, but I’m not sure how much I really need more megapixels. What I WOULD love to see from JIP is a complete refresh of the ergonomics, and a move away from being tied to vestigial film camera design. Maybe they could remember that their DNA also includes the E-1….

        Actually, from everything I’ve used, the one camera that constantly delivers beautiful photos is the Ricoh. If only it wasn’t limited to 28mm.

        1. Hi David! My biggest complain with old m43 sensors is dynamic range and ISO noise. These issues become evident only shooting some special situations, which I sadly enough shoot often 🙂 Fo instance, shooting backlit portraits with few ambient light. The latitude of film was much less forgiving, and close to not existing when shooting slide, that’s true. But seeing where tech brought us in last years, it’s understandable wanting a bit more 🙂

          Capture One is a good choice, I much prefer it over Lightroom and I think it leads to better final images, especially with m43.

          I would not want more megapixels in m43 sensors, I think 16 were enough and 20 even more than enough. Some people gets excited about having 33 or more megapixels in a m43 chip but I think this is overkill and would lead to all kind of issues, with such a crazy high pixel density.

          How are you liking the X1DII? The thought of getting one has crossed my mind, but I gave up because there is no 28mm prime, and that’s once of the essentials for me.

          I absolutely agree with “What I WOULD love to see from JIP is a complete refresh of the ergonomics, and a move away from being tied to vestigial film camera design. Maybe they could remember that their DNA also includes the E-1….” — Leica tried this with the TL line, but I wonder if they will push that forward.

          1. Hi Andrea,

            I think the X1DII would suit you more than it does me. It is probably an excellent camera for portraiture, but I don’t do portraits. I bought it hoping to find a camera that would give me more delicate and detailed colour rendering than m43, and also provide more high frequency detail. It does both of these. It is a very tactile, beautifully constructed object. The handling is excellent, with one exception, which is AF point targetting. It would really benefit from a joystick and and orientable screen. More reactive AF would be good too. The lenses are fantastic, but the lack of distance scale is a black mark. Ultimately my experience with the X-System has mainly emphasized to me just how good Olympus m43 is. My current feeling is to sell it and give up this crazy pursuit of gear.

          2. Thank you for sharing your experience, David. It highlights some of the complaints I heard from another user of the X1D II. Maybe their next iteration will address the issue, they have tons of chinese money to invest in the project, if they believe in it! Have a ncie day.

  3. Good evening from Japan Andrea,

    An inciteful and straight-forward essay that is on-point and needs to be digested and considered by all M43 shooters. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks looking at options for acquiring a used 2nd body M43 camera to complement my EM1 MARK II (Lumix GX8 or G9), new M43 lenses to complement my M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro and PanaLeica 15mm f1.7…or both.

    This whole time a voice in the back of my head has been arguing to broaden my search to consider APS-C format equipment as 2 M43 alarm bells are going off…
    1) Olympus /JIP’s lack of innovation and clear strategy moving forward…and
    2) Panasonic’s bizarre new product development/ launch of M43 camera bodies since 2016 and their new push into full-frame.

    I’ll still use my EM1 MARK II and 2 lenses I currently have but my desire to develop and grow my growing love of BNW/Monochrome Photography may require moving into new format equipment.

    1. Hi Dave! I think 2021 will make everything ever more clear, about m43 strategy. I fear we are dealing with an exit-strategy, but I still have faint hopes things could improve if some player decides to act seriously.

      APS-C could also give us great surprises, but it seems right now it is hostage of Fuji! Pentax just released an amazing K-3 III but it is a reflex and not everyone appreciates that. Ricoh released the disappointing GR III but could give us a decent GR IV … and Ricoh owns Pentax!

  4. I learn so much from your blog, thank you. I have never played with m43, but have to admit that Pen F tempted me, get thee behind me Satan! I use GRD4, GR11, and Leica x’s, the smartest thing I did was take your GR111 article to heart, and eventually got the Q. Had dalliance d850 but that was just too heavy but what a glorious camera. I will be 74 and finally admitting time to think tripod. That would take care of weight issue and age issues to come! Fuji xpro I think are the best in their arsenal but really don’t know why any FX, sorry if I trespassing on anyone’s time with my ramble, but i go for the tool that is easiest for me to use!

    1. Hey John, it’s always a pleasure to read you here 🙂 How are you liking the Leica Q? I’ve been tempted to get one for a while but I decided to get a M10 later, and keep just the GR as fixed lens 28mm, I miss rangefinders after years I don’t shoot them!

      Maybe you could consider a monopod to assist your shooting? They are more practical than tripods and allowed in more places. Of course it depends on the kind of photography you want to do. My cameras usually live attached to a tripod, because 80% of my job is shooting Architecture and Real Estate.

      Your ramble is always the most welcome, take care! 😉

  5. The Q is all that is raved about! The Q2 or Q2 mono is next dream machine, not because MP but weather sealing. I would love to see Leica make Q3 but with the option to order Fixed 35/50 for the lens, but I think that would decimate the M camera crowd. ! Thanks for idea of monopod, makes sense.

    1. Yes the Q2 seems a lovely camera. I am curious about what Leica will release in 2021/2022, they have to make some choices and define the future of their CL and TL lines, and the M series is also starting to show its limits, with the high resolution sensors and the lack of IBIS. We will see!

  6. Interesting read, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I‘ve been enjoying (well, for the most part) the m43 system ever since the first Olympus PEN E-P1 came out and have used and owned various (mostly Olympus) bodies and lenses. In recent years, I’ve experienced first hand that new releases no longer felt as someone I needed or wanted. As an amateur photographer, I feel that what‘s being released in the OMD mark iii series isn’t anything really worthwhile — certainly also given the price tags.

    When I got into m43, the size and weight was a big part of what attracted me, as well the design (I still do like the look of that silver E-P1). At some point I made the jump from the PEN series to the OMD lineup because of things like integrated EVF (the PEN-F wasn’t around yet back then), weather sealing, and also the option to add a battery grip, mostly for better balance when I did use larger lenses. It’s all worked fine for me since, I understand what my gear is suited for and where its limitations are. There’s plenty of room for my creativity within those limitations, so for the time being I’m happy with what I got.

    Like you though, I am curious where Olympus and the m43 system in general are going to. There seems to still be plenty potential indeed should the original values of m43 embraced, rather than competing with FF camera’s with bigger DSLR like bodies such as the E-M1X. I surely won’t be buying any of those. In fact, next to the older OMD bodies I own, I haven’ upraded or added bodies from the latest lineup at all. Besides replacing my broken E-M1 with a ’new’ (2nd hand) version of the same body a while ago, I have instead very recently purchased a 2nd hand PEN-F when I found one in mint condition and with low shutter count. Like many, thàt was the camera that excited me ever since it came out. And still today, it seemed like a better compact companion for day-to-day stuff than anything else currently offered by Olympus. Compact, good-enough quality for my needs, and pretty to look at, which doesn’t hurt.

    I’d be thrilled if Olympus would announce something like a PEN-F follow-up, but truthfully, my expectations aren’t very high. I did just read this morning that Panasonic might be announcing a GH5 II as well as an GH6 tomorrow, so curious to see what’s happening there, and what Olympus will share in their upcoming announcement the coming weeks. Either way, I’ll be enjoying photography, with the gear I have for now, and who knows with whatever else in the future.

    1. Hi Bart, thanks for your comment. I agree with basically everything you wrote. I did read about these Panasonic announcements but I decided I don’t trust nor care about those anymore 🙂 When there will be a product in stores — that will be a different story. Olympus/JIP and Panasonic keep announcing, teasing, hinting, and yet we are stuck with the same stuff since years. It could be they will announce the development of a GH6 just to keep people aboard with the m43 and buying more lenses etc. We will see!

  7. Thanks for the insightful blog post. I agree with everything you wrote. I happily, and exclusively, used a series of Olympus cameras and lenses for many years. In the end I gave up on them because the menus continued to drive me crazy. I also became interested in BIF, and at that time I thought the prices and sizes of the Olympus cameras with adequate focusing and their good longer lenses didn’t make sense when compared to APS-C systems. I still miss them a little, but as you discussed, it’s innovate or die in the high tech world, and they didn’t choose innovate.

    1. Hey Jeff! I also agree with what you say. I sometimes think that if Olympus and Panasonic invested in modern sensors, Fuji APS-C line would have not reached such a popularity. But as you say, it is a market driven by innovation. Fuji (not a fan of their cameras and lenses, I confess) invested a lot in innovation, sensors, AF and so on, while Olympus tried to keep selling the same stuff over and over again, insisting on putting a premium price on many products. Thanks for your comment!

  8. It’s mid-July and I come across your m43-and-the-future piece, Andrea! GRAZIE BENE!!
    I am just reinvesting into m43. Because of a birding interest (in flight, low light, focus) I went for a birder’s entry-level, the Nikon D7500. I also invested in the Nikkor 300/4 PF …this combo weighs less than top Olympus + 300/4 and it is affordable too. However, the D5600 as a back-up I never took a liking to. I just traded it to reassemble an m43 outfit as I missed small volume, light weight, great image quality.
    It’s the small glass (G series 30/1.7, M.Zuiko 35/1.8, 60/2.8 macro, G series 35-100/2.8) which I use with the E-M10 Mark II (and about to arrive E-M1 Mark II). The E-PL5+VF3 remains in the bag as well. Also, I never let go of the tiny Lumix GM5.
    These items speak for m43, they are true to the idea of small and light and competent. Your post reinforces my feelings particularly in view of my rather modest needs.
    Furthermore for small hands and increasing age they are ideal. And no more race for new and incrementally better. This is what it is, like it or lump it.
    Dare we hope for a new body with newer sensor? SPERIAMO! And thanks again for your spot-on opinion piece. Saluti dalle montagne – Kootenays/BC.

    1. Hello Reinhard! I am glad you enjoy your m43 system. I love birds and spend lots of time admiring them, but I never got into BIF photography — m43 is an ideal system for that kind of photos, yes! And it seems recent announcements are putting some life and hope into the system’s future (a new sensor maybe, etc), so we may see pleasant developments in 2022. What matters is that you are having fun and you are satisfied with what you already have. Have a good time and thanks for reading my blog!

  9. Grazie, Andrea, my thoughts exactly, and very well put. I started out after leaving school with an OM-1 and loved it to bits. So when digital came up I naturally turned to Olympus again. But first it was the terrible user interface and artificial restrictions … and the noise, then cameras became bigger and bulkier … and still the noise. F4 lenses just left me shaking my head in disbelief – as you said: with a sensor lacking light-catching abilities you do not want slow lenses. The Pen-F (and GX8) to my mind was THE natural niche for m43, but totally overpriced and discontinued (the GX8’s IBIS was lacking, it too was practically discontinued. It was not to be. Currently I’m on a Z5. A hundred € more than a G9 or EM-1, what’s not to like?

    1. Hi Hendrik! There are some rumors about new m43 sensors… but again, it is rumors. They are around since years, and m43 cameras are still sometimes using sensors 5-7 years old. We will see what future will bring, if it will bring anything worthwhile at all. The thing is that m43 already has all kind of lenses, some of them with stellar quality. Olympus 45 and 25 f1.8 for instance.. so small and optically great! What they need are small, compact, light cameras with modern sensors. Something you can drop in a small purse or bag and take better photos than with a phone, sending them instanly to the smartphone for editing and sharing. That’s the world we live in, and I think smartphones are hitting the limits of the quality they can provide. An updated Panasonic GM1 or GM5 or GF1 or Olympus PEN would be very popular, I am sure.

      For the moment I stand by the words I wrote in the post, and I try to enjoy my Z6 II — I am still not sold on mirrorless and I prefer my Nikon D850, but the Z6 II is proving to be a very good camera.

  10. Thanks! , late too the party I sold reluctantly my m43 gear seeing the storm coming before most tried canon r but prices more expensive than Sony so tried Sony again. Having just had my a7r3 sensor cleaned made me think of the reliability of Olympus again loved that gear but will not keep money in an unfortunately dying system. I really do wish om digital all the best and hope for a turnaround in the systems fortunes. A big thanks again for the article you have saved me from prematurely rejoining Olympus, they need to commit and believe in the system as much as their fan’s/users. All the best

    1. Hello Paul! Thanks for your comment! My point of view about camera companies announcements is simple: I don’t believe them 🙂 If and when they will release new products, I will judge them and eventually buy them, but I am not falling anymore for the lies, the promises, the half announced half denied products… m43 has so many amazing optics, I do wish one day there will be beter cameras for taking advantage of them… but until I see that I doubt I will invest in more m43 cameras or lenses, and I will just use my existing m43 equipment from time to time, when it makes sense 🙂 Thanks for reading the blog, see you around!

  11. There are some valid points in this article. But the ‘end of mfts’ was predicted since it’s very inception back in 2007. I clearly remember many popular reviewers, dismiss it as a ‘gimmick’. One infamous character called it a ‘junk format’. Back then it was all about Canikon dslrs. Then some years later the apsc and ff mirrorless took over and the ‘mft is dead’ was still being shouted by many so called ‘reviewers’. Almost all of them from western countries. In Japan where such ‘reviewers’ dont exist, mft sales have been much bigger! Same with pentax dslrs over there, another favourite punching bag of western reviewers who have been predicting it’s doom for even longer than MFT! The same infamous ‘reviewer’ who labelled mft a ‘junk format’ also called Pentax a ‘brand for people with autism’.
    Many tend to listen to these ‘reviewers’. They play a huge role in influencing sales.

    1. Please don’t get me wrong: I love m43 and I for sure don’t wish for it to disappear. On the contrary. I am never going to sell my Pen-F and I am periodically buying new lenses, contantly looking for the most compact and light travel kit. I also think people dismissing the m43 system over time did show a very limited understanding of photography… or acted according to some hidden agenda that involves sponsorships. My post was not intended as a prediction of the end of the system, it was rather a j’accuse about some choices that damaged the system and put it in serious danger. Still, I confess I am not optimist about m43’s future –– we will see what will happen. We are at the end of 2021 and both Panasonic and OMS are still hinting at the future release of some much improved camera, that I fear will be again as big and expensive as full frames. I find a bit of hope in the release of the M.Zuiko 20mm f1.4 because that is in my opinion the sweet spot for the system: compact, bright, weather sealed. Too bad forthe lack of focus clutch. But its is a very good step toward a commerical offer that could keep the m43 relevant outside video. The 20mm was on the roadmap since long though, so we can’t give OMS full credit for it: we will see what they will do with next products. For sure the virus and the components shortage are making things very tough for everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  12. Hi Andrea, I am one of those who followed Olympus labor from the very beginning, partly for my love for niche things within my pocket capability, partly for technical curiosity I started working with Olympus since from the old e10 then the e20p, then two E1s, one E3, three E5s and finally an E-M1. I want to have mine in this discussion. Olympus quality (by a pure image quality) has never been up to the competitors, at any stage of the digital era. Nonetheless, the E5 was a formidable machine in practical use. I still have two that are simply perfect in terms of use for a wedding professional and studio photos of medium difficulty. No kidding. I have never felt the need for one more feature than it had. Its limit has always been the damn sensor. When before the release of the E-M1 there was the presentation of a 4/3 mannequin with the sensor of the E-M5 that was my hope, that is to say, the survival of a reflex, but since then I clearly remember that the question was not 4 / 3 or m4 / 3, the vulnus was the need for a sensor with larger pixels on a sensor that guaranteed a certain amount of them, it goes without saying that the only way to go was the full frame sensor. At that time Olympus had the advantage of technology applied to obtaining high quality from very small pixels, if management had taken this advantage, in economic times such as those, which although already in full recession were certainly not comparable to those that would arrive later, they could have entered the competition with a technical advantage. Olympus had more technology and innovation than the big brands Nikon and Canon, and Sony was not yet the competitor it is today. They were wrong, the managers were completely wrong. I remember of myself spending year after year waiting for the release of the full frame, but with the feeling that the competition was equipping their arsenals and preparing the gunboats. Today Nikon has the Z9 which I think is a great hit for the market (and for the pockets). I find myself selling off all my Olympus 4/3 kit which I loved so much. and which has remained of much greater charm and usability than the best m4 / 3. In fact, the E-M1 was my latest Olympus purchase. I was highly disappointed. Despite a better sensor it was a clear downgrade in the pro market appeal. Ultimately the death of Olympus was in 2013 the year in which instead of betting everything on full format They chose the micro four thirds. in two years it will be the tenth anniversary of Olympus’ death. As you said, the shame was that both in the transition from m4 / 3 and in the definitive sale to JIP, the Japanese lied shamelessly and in this for me, who have traded several times directly with them, I must say that they are far from that honor that they always flaunted.

    1. Hi Pietro, thanks for taking part in the discussion. I agree with all you said, apart from the fact that Olympus had to switch to full frame: the size of the sensor was not their biggest issue, as much as the fact that they were such old sensors. Technology moved on but m43 kept using the same old sensor tech for far too long. Having a smaller sensor can be beneficial, because for instance it allows having deeper DOF, better stabilization, smaller lenses, etc. But it has to be a good sensor, not the same old stuff recicled year after year. Now there are again rumors about a new m43 sensor, that should be used in the GH6. We will see if it is true and how it will perform, I am done believing announcements. If a new sensor appears and if both Pansonic and OMS use it in small, light and affordable cameras, then the system may still have a future. We will see. In meantime I got the Nikon Z6 II as a job companion for my D850, and I will very probably get the Z9 as soon as available. Thanks for reading the blog!

  13. Good and very true article.
    What does the author think about the new om-1?
    Orders appear to be strong and it has a much needed updated EVF.
    Is it enough to keep the brand or new brand relevant and competitive?

    1. Thank you for the comment, Stephen. I am glad you enjoyed the article. I hjave to say my opinion didn’t change much after the release of the OM-1: it probably is a very good camera (I had no way of playing with one yet) but it really just extends the same concepts of the E-M1 III. As usual, I do wish the company the best with it and I hope I am just being wrong about everything, but I see few reasons to spend 2200 euros on the OM-1 when it is possible to buy a Nikon Z6 II for 1800 –– apart from niche situations like wildlife etc, which are what OMD seems to focus on. I still believe that creating a highend and connected compact camera would have been a much better idea. There is so much the m43 can still be and offer, if done right. We will see what this year will bring to the table, after the OM-1 and GH6. Thanks for reading the blog!

  14. This blog post is simply GOSPEL. I have been saying that what Panasonic and Olympus should focus on and hard is in the unique selling proposition of m43rds: small size, small weight.

    Here’s a glaring omission – re-release the smaller primes in weather sealed form.

    It looks like m43rds is “hanging in there” at the moment, but I totally agree with you it’s a mistake to go against FF. Right now Panasonic is doubling down on Video (can’t fault them, they got a niche there and well) and OMDS (formerly Olympus Imaging) marketing is focused on outdoor adventrue/wildlife. They are banging (at least Olympus USA) on the size and weight advantages, but they really need to plug in some holes fast.

    We need an EM5 or whatever small camera with as much from the OM-1 as they can pack on it, and a properly done PenF (tilt LCD, FAST, eliminate a lot of OMD options that are not for that camera, enhance color profiles with ability for grain, and shoot HEIF).

    1. The situation seems very difficult for OMDS and Panasonic. I can’t see the outdoor/wildlife straregy to succeed for OMDS, though I wish them the best. Panasonic is also dealing with their own problems: GH5 and GH6 are not anymore the only affordable solution for doing high quality digital video, and brands like Blackmagic and Zcam are attracting a lot of new and old videomakers. I personally know a couple of video makers and video factories that are already transitioning from GH5 to Blackmagic. The industry is shifting and I don’t know what Panasonic can do for staying relevant.

      As I wrote in the post, I think there is a good market for lifestyle cameras: small, light, stylish, much higher image quality than a smartphone, seamless connection with smartphones and tablets, etc. Micro four thirds seems perfect for this, with its smaller sensor, huge amount of lenses of all sizes and prices, etc. But it seems OMDS and Panasonic are thinking otherwise 🙂

      I still shoot my Pen-F quite a lot, and it is a shame OMDS is not doing something as simple and effective as releasing a new firmware update, for instance. Olympus almost immediatly abandoned the camera in terms of firmware evolution. OMDS could invest some money into updating the firmware, menus, software, mobile apps, at least for the most popular Olympus cameras. This would keep people on the system for longer. There are so many usability issues that could be fixed! Like making it easier to manually focus with the new wave of cheap chinese manual lenses for m43, or adapted vintage lenses, etc. This is just an idea. People trusts brand that invest in firmware and that support and evolve products (like Fuji does, for instance). And instead we keep seeing the same pattern from Olympus / OMDS: release some slightly improved model and the abandon it. I don’t pretend to know the truth, but I am sure that showing they care could go a long way. People love to be taken care of, to receive free amazing stuff, to feel their trust and investment was a good choice.

      Thanks for the comment, see you around 🙂

      1. Woa, you replied quick and I missed it 🙂

        I get your points. What do you think or view the OM-1? I view it as perhaps a necessary step but not my camera. I still think the “pro” camera should be no bigger than the EM5 line- I love small cameras.

        As for PenF- I have one, the camera I have loved and hated the most. Can’t stand fully articulated LCD’s. Can’t stand the fact in moderate to low light it starts missing focus and with some lenses like Lumix 15 F1.7 which is a great little prime, it hunts a lot.

        Got an EP7 now. Much faster all around than PenF, smaller but no EVF. They should do a next model with pop up EVF, pack in the little PenF flash.

        I agree with you about simplifying the line. I think the tiers should be OM1 class and a mix of EM10 + EM5. Then maybe two pens- low end/hi or just one.

        I still think the OM1 though “small” is still big.

        1. Current strategy from OMDS seems to mimic what Olympuys did, but it’s maybe too early to say that for sure. The OM-1, the OM-5… sharing the same sensor and most of the features… it seems like history repeating. The EP7 is where they should point their strategy, in my opinion… improve the touch experience, improve connection with smartphones and apps, give it a proper app companion… that product could be meaninful and become popular. Not my idea of photography, but still, better than trying to play catch up with full frame. It surely is not a good time for camera brands. Well for humans in general! We will see!

  15. Thanks for the article, really well written and thought provoking. I love lots of Camera brands and I appreciate balanced authors who don’t treat a brand or format as a religion. Ricoh GRii and III were some of my favourite cameras ever, but after buying an OM-1 I can personally say, that for my use case, this is the best camera I’ve ever tried. I like to shoot a wide variety of subjects – street, portraits, family gatherings, nightlife, architecture and sports. For the street and portraits there are definitely other brands that would do as good a job and better, but when I want to have one camera and system that does it all for me then I haven’t seen a viable alternative to MFT. I need to capture fast action at long range – the 40-150mm 2.8 pro (with teleconverter) is amazing, but from my own personal perspective it is also about as big a lens I am willing to use. Weather sealing and IBIS are the two of the most important factors also when photographing rugby in the rain, another two areas where it excels. I also adore the colour science, and the huge range of glass available (often at very cheap prices).

    I’ve tried Canon and Nikon, but to achieve the same reach and quality the glass is just too big. I’m not sure what else I would want from a camera – perhaps a few more megapixels would make a difference but I am delighted with my results so far.

    I hope that Panasonic and OMD keep up with the releases for many years to come, but we will just have to wait and see.

    1. Hello Steven! I am glad you appreciated the article and the point of view I expressed. The m43 systems is still very relevant and could be it much more if only companies showed they are ready to invest, making the few system’s compromises less intense. A real development in sensor tech could bring m43 back to the table: there were many news, announcements and so on, but the pandemic, components shortage and war scenarios did put a halt on many projects. Still, I am convinced m43 cameras could take over APS-C as “compact systems”, with the help of new sensor tech. It would be a shame to abandon a system with so many amazing lenses. We will see what the future will bring! It is surely great we have so much choice, so many relatively cheap cameras and lenses! A person can acquire a very competent m43 configuration and discover/enjoy photography spending few money, and that is absolutely great. Greetings from Italy!

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