Since the very beginning of digital photography, high contrast situations have always been a problem. When the brightness contrast between shadows and highlights exceeds the camera’s dynamic range, either shadow information or highlight information will be sacrificed. Various attempts have been made at working around this problem, the most notable technique being HDR (‘high dynamic range’) photography. Other attempts were hardware-based, such as Fujifilm’s Super CCD sensors that featured dual photosites at each pixel location for shadow and highlight sensitivity respectively.
The latest patent describing a solution for high contrast situations comes from Olympus, and it describes a technique that would allow for different areas of an image to be captured at different exposures. In theory, this would allow for very bright areas in an image to be deliberately underexposed, while darker areas would be deliberately overexposed at the same time. This way, the final image would retain detail in both the highlights and the shadows, without the necessity of taking multiple exposures for a later HDR merging.
In today’s fast-paced technology world, six-month spans between the announcement of a product and its successor is nothing out of the ordinary, and a life cycle of a year is common for many products. So when a device is older than a year, people start wondering when the successor will be announced. For the Olympus E-PM2, the digital life span is already way over its due date, as the camera has been on the market for almost 1 1/2 years. Its bigger sibling, the E-P5, hasn’t been around quite that long–it’s only been introduced last May. Still, a new report claims that both cameras have been discontinued by Olympus, with successors to arrive some time this summer.
Both cameras share much of the same technology, first and foremost the Sony-made 16 megapixel CMOS sensor from the OM-D E-M5. Considering that the E-M5, and with it the sensor, is now almost two years old, and that the OM-D E-M1 is right now the only camera sporting the latest 16 megapixel sensor, it seems to be about time that the PEN series receive an upgrade.
Unfortunately, there is no detailed information available at this point. 43rumors, who first reported about the discontinuing of the two PEN models, mentions that the PEN series is much less successful than the OM-D series, so maybe well see some completely updated and rethought models this summer. One possibility would be to include an EVF in the top-level PEN model, in a rangefinder-style similar to the Panasonic GX7 or Fujifilm X-E1, though that would pit the next PEN directly against the mid-level OM-D.
Another possibility would be to reduce the number of PEN cameras from three to two, and drop either the PEN Mini or the PEN Lite. But there could be even more changes to the series in order to make it more attractive to customers once again, and in a sense revive the success of the original PEN E-P1 and E-PL1 models. At this point, this is all speculation, and to be certain we’ll have to wait until more information becomes available.
It’s no secret that despite how hard manufacturers are trying to push mirrorless cameras, DSLR sales are still better. Recently, Amateur Photographer looked to investigate why this is. According to Mirrorless Rumors’ summation, it’s because mirrorless cameras are too small, have confusing category names, and DSLRs have more lenses, have become cheaper and also have more appeal because of the fact that consumers are holding onto Canon and Nikon’s glory days.
The interesting thing about the study though is that it only seems to have sampled the complaints of a small few and it doesn’t seem to be a worldwide test at all.
Sure, folks are really holding onto the glory days of Canon and Nikon, but let’s also face it: not many folks are as geekily into the camera world as most readers of this site. So they only go with what they know–and that means Canon and Nikon. For what it’s worth, let’s think about where you see ads for these companies: at baseball games, football games, hockey, etc. You barely ever see Olympus anywhere else besides in Tennis and I haven’t seen very much Fujifilm or Sony other places. Canon and Nikon both have television ads too. So maybe part of it is brand awareness. If I told my sister what brands make good cameras, she would probably say Canon immediately and might say Olympus because my mom taught us on Olympus cameras. But otherwise, there is very little customer education. She owns a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone but probably knows nothing about the company’s Galaxy Cam.
For what it’s worth too, lots of consumer tech websites also mostly focus on phones and laptops with very little going towards the imaging world. Cameras require special attention though–blending art and tech knowledge in order to give them their due.
Don’t we all love lens patents! The designs may never see the light of day, but they get us excited and show us what our camera brands of choice are currently working at. And maybe, just maybe, some of the ideas will actually make it to production. Which we hope will happen to at least one of these incredible lens design patents that Olympus just filed.
The patent descriptions that were posted over at Egami show four patents for two super-fast wide-angle lenses for Micro Four Thirds: a 12mm f1 and a 14mm f1. Currently, the widest super-fast lens for Micro Four Thirds is the Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f0.95 (which we totally dig,) but that’s an all-manual lens. According to Egami, the Olympus patents are for autofocus lenses.
Should these lenses ever be made, they’d be the fastest production wide-angle lenses with autofocus. Currently, the fastest AF lens for Micro Four Thirds is the Panasonic/Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2, and one of the fastest AF lenses ever made was Canon’s 50mm f1L, which has been discontinued in favor of the 50mm f1.2L–however, these are both normal lenses, and not wide-angles.
Egami also mentions that the lenses will have issues with distortion and chromatic aberration, which does not surprise us at all considering the focal length and speed. These will be dealt with in-camera, as already happens with most other Micro Four Thirds lenses. As always with patents, there’s no way of telling whether the products they depict will ever be made. But as we here at The Phoblographer are huge fans of fast prime lenses, we sure hope they will.
When Olympus first told us about their 25mm f1.8 lens, we were thrilled that they finally created one. For many years, the scene has been dominated by the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 which is a good lens in its own right, but isn’t the affordable option for many. But just because this lens is affordable doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deliver.
And now for some news that can be taken both well and incredibly sad…
According to Bloomberg and 43Rumors, Panasonic is currently citing a massive profit increase due to restructuring of the company. Essentially what they’ve done is what any other company would do when they’re not surviving–trim the fat! Combined with layoffs, part of this is attributed to getting rid of emphasis on things that aren’t profitable for the company like Plasma TVs. Bloomberg states,
“President Kazuhiro Tsuga, in his second year at the helm, is pivoting toward products for cars and homes as he accelerates changes to recover from back-to-back annual losses. Panasonic suspended plasma panel production, trimmed smartphone and circuit board operations and sold a stake in semiconductor factories to focus on growing businesses.”
What the articles aren’t really citing though is a report from the Credit Suisse earlier on this year that states that Panasonic recently sold off 51% of its Imaging Division. In fact, the company has given them until March 2016 to become profitable or else they get the axe. That means that within the next two years, we need to start seeing some seriously game changing technology from Panasonic. This will be a tough task overall for the Four Thirds industry as Panasonic needs to work with Olympus to become a stronger force in the industry. Micro Four Thirds has the most market share in the mirrorless industry, but the offerings that we’re seeing from Fujifilm and Sony are both taking massive Great White Shark sized bites out of them.
Panasonic has also changed up a lot of their game plan–with mostly trying to cater to pros and those reaching for higher hanging fruit.