M4/3 Rules in Japan, Now OM Digital Solutions Needs to Crack the West

OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic need to crack markets in Europe and the US with their M4/3 cameras.

We have always known that M4/3 cameras from Olympus (now OM Digital Solutions) and Panasonic have been hot sellers in their homeland. But, we didn’t know the M4/3 mount was popular enough to take the top spot on the most popular mount charts for 2020. This will come as a huge boon to OM Digital Solutions. It will also give JIP, the investment firm that purchased Olympus, a huge boost of confidence in their acquisition. This is all fine and dandy, but OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic still need to find a way to crack western photography markets. Let’s talk about this after the break.

A press statement from OM Digital solutions gives both themselves and Panasonic a large pat on the back for a job well done. In 2020, M4/3 cameras accounted for a 21.7% share of the Japanese camera market. This is actually rather impressive, as Sony and Canon seemed dominant, according to previous CIPA reports. Still, this news should come as no surprise, really. Japanese consumers have always tended to like small, compact cameras (something where Micro Four Thirds cameras excel). This is all well and good, but there’s still so much work to be done. OM Digital Solutions, and even Panasonic, need to become bigger players outside of the Japanese market when it comes to Micro Four Thirds.

M4/3 Could Be So Much More

OM Digital Solutions
Captured with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 III

Just how can both OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic bring success from Japan to the west? Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? For whatever reason, the vast majority of photographers think M4/3 cameras simply can’t cut it. This is a real shame. I use Olympus branded cameras (OM-D E-M1 III) in my professional life, and have zero issues with them. I love the images I produce with the cameras and lenses. My clients never have any issues with the images I produce either. I know professional photographers who use Panasonic M4/3 cameras who have no complaints. The stigma around the system is unwarranted, but YouTubers and others have claimed the system isn’t worth investing in.

However, It’s Time for Some Upgrades

OM Digital Solutions

One thing both OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic need to do is use some new technology. At this point, the sensors in the Olympus E-M1 III, the E-M5 III, the Panasonic G9, GH5, and GH5s are older than dirt. That’s not to say they’re bad; they’re not. Still, the lack of advancement with regard to sensors is hurting the platform, especially when so many photographers are tech heads these days. Six years is far too long to go without introducing a new sensor. Other upgrades to the cameras (especially pro-level models), like higher resolution EVF’s, are necessary as well. Going back to using the E-M1 III after using some of the newer models from Canon and Sony is jarring. Overall, it’s the perceived lack of progress that’s hampering the platform outside of Japan.

OM Digital Solutions
Captured with the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro

When the likes of Sony, Canon, heck, even Nikon show that steps are being made forward every other week, it’s disconcerting to see Olympus and Panasonic M4/3 cameras standing still. The messaging around marketing needs to be improved too. The Micro Four Thirds platform has been going after a very niche segment of the market. Panasonic and OM Digital Solutions need to give the platform a much broader appeal.

There Needs to Be Diversification

Olympus 45 1.2

Yes, M4/3 cameras are great for birding, wildlife, and sports. However, they are great for so many more genres: I know from personal experience. Market the cameras in a way that appeals to all photographers. Show them what the cameras can do. I love using Micro Four Thirds cameras for portraiture, yet portrait photography is never mentioned in any marketing. They are fantastic for street and event photography too. I think to win over the American market, you need to show that Micro Four Thirds cameras can do it all, just like Canon, Sony, and Co. show that their cameras are great all-rounders. We all want that one camera that’s good at everything. As I said above, niche markets are on their way out.

We’re rooting for OM Digital Solutions, Panasonic, and Micro Four Thirds cameras in general. We applaud your success in Japan. We just hope that you can get the rest of the world to see the value in your platform; otherwise, the future may not be so rosy. What do you think OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic need to do to make M4/3 cameras more successful outside of Japan? Let us know in the comment section below.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.