Love Crop Sensors? Exciting Possibilities for the Future

Crop sensors aren’t dead yet; I think their future is bright!

The internet loves to predict doom and gloom for cameras with crop sensors. How many years have we heard that Micro Four-Thirds is dead? Current offerings remain quite capable cameras. However, camera technology has been advancing rapidly. Brands like Fuji and OM-Digital Solutions (referred to as OMDS from here on) heavily rely on these cameras to survive. What do they need to do to remain relevant? Read on to find out.

AI May Play a Big Role for Crop Sensors

Lumix Crop Sensors

It seems that AI and deep-learning tech are here to stay. Interviews with people at Fuji and OMDS seem to confirm this. Fuji has mentioned to Imaging-Resource that they are looking at AI for more than just autofocus. OMDS told DPReview that they plan to take advantage of the fast readout of their smaller sensors. What does this mean for us? New technology could help to negate the downsides of crop sensors. Denoise technology has also jumped leaps and bounds. DxO Lab and Topaz have really begun to show us what AI Denoise is capable of.

What if we could see Full Frame level low-light performance from Micro Four-Thirds? If processing power and new sensor tech can deliver better signal-to-noise ratios, the possibility is there. We saw a great example of this with the Nikon Z50. However, I hope they don’t go overboard here. There’s definitely something about the organic feel of an image that isn’t clinically clean. And of course, AI will continue to play a large part in new autofocus technology.

Olympus Had Great Ideas, More Please

Olympus Crop Sensors

Olympus has pioneered some excellent technology in their newer cameras. Everyone knows Olympus IBIS is crazy good. They also came up with other great ways to ditch the tripod. The Live ND features in the EM1X are fantastic. I’d love to see that feature become even more useful. Handheld high-resolution mode is useful but could still use improvement. A big selling point for crop sensor cameras is size. The more features that allow us to leave the tripod at home, the better.

As a result, I’d love to see a handheld focus stacking feature. Deep depth of field is hardly a problem for crop sensors. However, they do get used quite a lot for macro work. Being able to easily get everything in focus in one action would be stellar. I’d also love to see Live ND pushed harder. If it could pair with Live Comp, imagine the possibilities!

Could Modular Cameras Be the Future?

Former Phoblographer staffer Robin Wong recently made a video about the future of Micro Four-Thirds. He thinks we could be looking at cameras that interface with smartphones. As much as I respect him and his opinion, I’m not so sure I agree. Hasselblad tried it with Motorola. Olympus tried it with the Air. Sony even tried it with the DSC-QX10/B. All of these were met with rather little enthusiasm. I think we would need a big breakthrough for manufacturers to try this more. I also doubt many people would want the hassle. You’d still have to carry a separate device. People would still want interchangeable lenses. So what would be the point of attaching your camera to your phone?

I think the better solution would be building phone features into the camera. We’ve been saying this for a while. Let us have apps in-camera. Lightroom Mobile built-in would be a great start. Why not let us install Instagram? Also, a UI built like a cellphone would be great for attracting new users. Nearly everyone can operate a smartphone. Can the same be said about an X-T4?

Crop Sensors Are Still Great for Video

Fuji Crop Sensors

Video specs on future crop sensor cameras could still be an area to watch. As stated earlier, OMDS touched on their sensors’ fast readout speeds. I fully expect to see more high framerate options. Being able to shoot 4k120p shouldn’t be far off. One-inch sensor cameras like the Sony ZV-1 are reaching near 1,000 fps in 1080. It would be great to see those options on more cameras.

I don’t personally hope for 8k in crop sensors soon. I’d prefer 6k or 4k downsampled from 6k. Shooting in 8k can have its uses. However, the pixel density of a 45mp Micro Four-Thirds sensor would be crazy. That would be quite demanding of lenses. It also wouldn’t help noise performance.

Will New Tech Be Enough To Save Crop Sensors?

Only time will tell what the industry’s brilliant engineers will do next. However, what if these technologies are implemented in larger sensor cameras too? Phase One has already managed to start down this path. Their new “Capture One Inside” features some of these ideas already. As a result, they are pushing the bounds on what’s possible in-camera. However, crop sensors still have their place. The Phase One cameras are huge specialist tools. Their prices aren’t for the faint of heart, either. When size and versatility matter, it’s hard to beat a crop sensor camera. New tech can only make them better.

John Bradford

John is an Arkansas based landscape and outdoor photographer. Originally from the Texas Panhandle,he grew up in Oklahoma and now lives in NW Arkansas with his wife and two pups. John shoots mountain bike events, landscapes, and nature/wildlife primarily, but enjoys shooting portraiture and cityscapes as well. He has multiple years of experience working in camera sales. John is also passionate about shooting film. When not working with cameras, John spends his time on the trails hiking and mountain biking. He also maintains two small YouTube channels, one for mountain biking, and one for photography.