Patent: Is that the ultimative Olympus FT and MFT hybrid solution?

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It’s no secret that Olympus is seeking a way to merge their two Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds system in one. And the United States Patent US8390727 filed back in June 2010 by Olympus may show us how they intend to achieve that goal. Basically the optical viewfinder part showed on Figure Number 1 (see image on top) includes the Prisma and Mirror. It can be attached and detached from the original Mirrorless body shown on Figure 2.

Combined the camera looks like that:

Of course, patents are no proof that this may become real. But it shows that Olympus is seeking for a solution and I cant wait until they will announce their new High End Camera by end of this year. Will they finally solve that tricky situation?

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  • hendrik

    Similar to Leica Visoflex system…..

  • kesztio

    Nonsense. A simple translucent mirror would be a far better solution.

    • Tobias

      Translucent or not, it has to be in a detachable adapter, which is the main idea in this patent.

      • Anonymous

        This patent looks like a kludge. Olympus should simply license Sony’s A-series lens adaptor for NEX. It’s fairly compact and focuses pretty quickly, too.

    • What Sony’s A-mount to E-mount NEX adapter does.

    • the Translucent mirror will only fit 43rds SLRs
      you might just as well have an SLR and save the light

  • Stageshadow

    Sony did that also in the past for their Nex system, but they use a semi-transparent mirror and only added the AF module in the adapter…

    • Ant

      Leica also did it in the past with their Visoflex, so their M could use the R lens, TTL viewfinder, super tele, and macro works. There’s no AF, but knowing the company, it’s a given.

      Which bring the question why admin doesn’t put sponsor link for that product :D

      • Visoflex didnt have to provide AF

    • That was here on the rumor mill couple of years ago: Oly also have the SLT tech, but it is far behind the Sony’s in performance. IIRC it has slightly better light transmission, but much slower translucency switching.

      But the point is good. Oly has sensor from Sony. Why not the SLT tech too?

  • Knowing Olympus, their solution is unlike anything we have seen before.

    • You’re right :).

      I hope they’ll skip the OVF and therefore the prism/mirror assembly on top and go for some kind of fixed mirror with changeable transparency (there were patents shown here for that as well).

  • Tulio

    Waste of time in R&D, just make a Pro mirrorless with a Hi-Res OLED viewfinder.
    The mirror is dead.

    • But then they have to give us better zooms. And if I would be an owner of expensive 43 lenses I would be very angry if Oly not would make a new body where I could use this lenses properly with full focus speed…

      • Esa Tuunanen

        Better moving target focusing/tracking is needed anyway.
        And that basically means hybrid AF with phase detection.

        • Boooe

          Or OOF areas recognition in software.

    • mjr

      Tell that to the millions of people who still buy slr’s. Tell that to Nikon and Canon buyers. They seem to be selling their cameras quite well. Your comment makes no sense. Mirrors are being used today and will be for many years to come. Astronomers have been using them for years. There is a reason for this. I see no reason why we cannot have it both ways; slr’s and mirrorless.

      • twoomy

        Agreed. The mirror *could* die, but not yet. I’m an avid M43 and Nikon user. Both have their strong points. M43 for size/weight/convenience and FX for image quality and resolution.

        If ANYBODY could give me a 35mm “full frame” mirrorless system with fast CDAF or PDAF and a mature collection of lenses, including consumer zooms, pro zooms, high-quality primes, tilt-shifts, fisheye, macro, etc. then, THE MIRROR IS DEAD. How many years will that take and who will make it? Probably not Nikon or Canon since they’re so heavily invested in SLR lenses. Probably not Pany or Oly because they’re so invested in m43. Sony perhaps?

        • Anonymous

          EVF would still be sh*t compared to OVF.

          • digifan

            Actually OVF is not far from being obsolete.
            EVF has so many more advantages even today, I only have to think dark environments.
            Through the OVF you just see as much as with the naked eye and many time composition is near impossible. With an EVF it’s much easier due to amplified light levels.
            In Future it will only get better.

  • john

    stupid Idea and you’ll never weather proof it

  • JimD

    Figure 3 clearly shows the m43 mount.

    So if you want a 4/3 you buy part 1 and part 2. If you want m43 you buy part 2 and part ?3

    Nice little dovetailed drop in 4/3 or m43 module on a sensor body. Makes all the parts upgradeable separately. Cut the cost of an update, only need the sensor bit.
    If the battery compartment/communications and the electronics were separate bits we could have the ultimate modular camera.
    Part 1 could have an alternative EVF. Part 2 could be fitted with a M43 center evf top (em-5) or a flat left side EVF. or a cheap version with no EVF which the designers know will outsell all the others combined.
    OK, lets just wait as usual. Then get what we are given!

    • the whole pdf doc looks complex to me, lots of conversion optical parts?
      but i am no engineer, maybe i just can’t process drawings like this lol.

      • Yes, but fortunately once you find that one of the backs is used for digital imaging and the other for the good old silver salt, you realize that no matter how complex the patent, it has nothing to do with m43 :-)

  • Why not just phase detect in the sensor, like some of the others are doing.. Perhaps someone would care to explain… :)

    • Ranger 9

      Pick up a Canon EOS-M and you’ll be able to explain it for yourself. Saying “just put phase detect on the sensor” is easy, but actually making it work well is harder! So far Nikon has done it with their mirrorless cameras… everyone else, not so much…

      • MarcoSartoriPhoto

        Fuji implemented it in its new x100s and it seems it works very well (only in the center of the image/sensor though).

        • true homer

          It works well enough but as a contrast detect assistant, not a full blown phase detect. So far no phase detect on sensor works remotely well as standalone phase detect. And the fuji is still slower than the current crop of m43

      • Jimstir

        I don’t own a Nikon V camera but along with my GH3 set up . I am also a FF Nikon users,I have used some of my lenses on my mates V1/V2 and while limited compared to using on a DSLR the Nikon lens adapter is a world better than the mFT to FT adapters regrading performance. Within a couple of camera generations ,which seem to be getting shorter I fully expect this to be sorted out.

      • Hubertus Bigend

        Even Nikon’s System 1 phase detection AF is nothing like the real thing. It only works in decent light. Oh, and the principle itself is rather dubious, to sacrifice image pixels exactly where the focus is suppose to be.

        I like the idea of retrofitting a PEN with a real SLR finder and a real phase detection AF. Especially if the finder is as good as the E-3/5 finder.

    • Ross

      Len, the downside to that, as far as I’m aware, is it needs to sacrife pixels to achieve it & that’s possibly why they haven’t rushed to that design perhaps.

  • P-mon

    It seems like a system which gives you a cheaper upgrade of a DSLR. When you upgrade, you keep everything that is developing slowly from your old camera (lenses, prism, viewfinder, AF-system) and change everything that is developing fast (sensor, screen, processor, firmware). In addition, you would have to upgrade the physical controls.

    Of course Olympus could develop FT to MFT adapter including OVF and PDAF-system. It would require a specific MFT body, though. It seems so obvious solution, that I wonder why I have never even thought about it.

  • It looks like an outdated design. The separation of the PDAF mechanism from the sensor module would imply no improvement in predictive AF when m4/3 lenses are used, which will put Olympus behind the curve. The implied OVF in the mirrored module is another sign of the age gap. I don’t believe Olympus would consider an OVF and prism these days.
    Let us hope that the actual solution involves on-sensor components rather than a parallel optical path.

    • Ant

      If they could give older model an update to let this unit override the AF function of the body, user wouldn’t need to buy new body and they will still get improved AF through this adapter.

      But that reason alone is probably enough to say it wouldn’t happen. It breath new life to obsolete product.
      Although there’s still possibility that they can now kept the “new and best model with on-sensor PDAF” for exciting point of the later generation.

  • Esa Tuunanen

    Didn’t see anything which would itself help with focusing of lenses designed for PDAF (or improve moving target continuous tracking/focusing of m4/3 lenses) so doesn’t look much of solution…
    Except to obsession for OVF.

    And while possible it adds awfully lots of complexity and bulk to body: That without improving ergonomics/handling any.
    Additionally such more complex light path than in normal SLR viewfinder probably causes further challenges for having decent size VF image… Still without any ideas how sensor would capture image like we have with live view of mirrorless bodies.
    Again if they add some kind transparent OLED display for overlaying data/using it for live view also its image size is limited.
    Further remember that body based stabilization doesn’t help any with optical VF image making pure EVF based approach more practical.

    So I don’t see much reason for such Rube Goldberg design unless goal is absolutely minimal standby power consumption allowed by lack of live view.

  • Robbie

    Haven’t we discussed this before here….I guess it’s the drought season for rumours

  • Mech for i

    oh great, we need several decade to come up with yet another iteration of the Leica Visoflex. Hey even Leica abandon it and adopt the more stright forward liveview with external EVF and simple ( a tube ) R to M adapter in thier new Leica M ( model 240 ). In any case, the rather shallow register between the 4/3 and M4/3 from a mechanical / optical pov will put such an adapter with so minute a mirror housing and that mirror / focusing screen that its probably not worth it at all.

  • Liad

    I understand that the new OMD with the possible 4/3 adapter will be launched by the end of 2013
    WHAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND IS HOW COME THERE NO RUMORS WHAT SO EVER ABOUT THIS CAMERA !?!

  • Bob

    Having a hinged mirror mounted that far from the “film” plane would seem to push the flange distance beyond what 4/3 lenses require, unless you hinged the mirror in the middle, too. That has been done before, but it would definitely add complexity and cost.

  • matt jones

    It’s the end of Four Thirds, they don’t want to kill it completely because they are worried about a back lash, but I think reality will set in soon, these half measures might last one or two bodies but that is it.

    • digifan

      FT was already dead. This is just to get to use the FT lenses.

  • Boooe

    This won’t work. The difference between flange distance of 43 and m43 is way too small to fit mirror assembly.

    • Of course, because it’s actually a full frame system with interchangeable digital and film backs.

  • Scott

    I think they just need to keep it 2 seperate cameras. Trying to make 1 camera work with both systems is slowing them down to putting out good cameras. Put out a e7 with omd sensor please so we can move on

  • PannyBoom

    All we can do is wait until the end of the year too see what pops up.

  • Christian G

    Enough with the patents already.

  • Read the patent. It’s for a system used for combining interchangeable digital imager back and FILM back modules with a generic SLR finder module.

    It has nothing to do with m43 or 4/3 whatsoever.

    • admin

      Read carefully. The patent covers both film and digital cameras. Obviously when you rpesent a patent you wnat to cover the widest spectrum possible: “As a back lid, one for silver-salt camera and one for digital camera are prepared”

    • yes they do say that, but notionally the issues at heart are similar

  • Please Note:
    There are actually seven solutions to the 43rds to m43rds adaption described here, including OVF adapters and correction lenses in various deployments

  • This patent is back to modular camera so, the be many rumors by this in 2010. ;-)

  • Sven

    Yes, this looks so Visoflex – see here: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visoflex (sorry, no English version of this short article but you’ll see everything).
    However, Visoflex was more of a defensive move against the SLRs in the 1960s and had never a substantial effect on the market. I guess that this Olympus hybrid finder would be quite expensive too. I think Olympus would be better advised to go for converter-style adapter like EOS M, Nikon 1 oder Sony and spend some R&D on contrast AF for older FT lenses.

    • I disagree that the Visoflex was just a defensive move against the growing popularity of reflex cameras. The earliest versions of the Visoflex and equivalent boxes from Zeiss existed before World War II. They knew that ground glass viewing was necessary for telephoto lenses and macro work. I used a Visoflex II for several years, and it was fun for someone who likes to tinker with odd optical devices. The 200 mm lens was excellent. But it was a big heavy package when you combined with a Leica M3 and the lens.

  • Sven

    Yes, this looks so Visoflex – see here: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visoflex (sorry, no English version of this short article but you’ll see everything).
    However, Visoflex was more of a defensive move against the SLRs in the 1960s and had never a substantial effect on the market. I guess that this Olympus hybrid finder would be quite expensive too. I think Olympus would be better advised to go for converter-style adapter like EOS M, Nikon 1 oder Sony and spend some R&D on contrast AF for older FT lenses.

  • Anonymous

    Callout #10 had better be the modular Sensor Module I’ve been hankering about. Nikon. Panasonic/Canon would be stupid not have patented THAT aspect.
    These development teams take FOREVER to figure it out it seems.
    Must be something in the Sake ;)

  • I heard that there will be a new camera, this year, which will use both FT and MFT lenses without an adaptor. However I’m unsure whether this will be the E-7 or the E-M7.

    If it were the former and the thus the body would be SLR depth anyway, why wouldn’t it be possible for the sensor to move forward to the correct MFT register when the camera sensed an MFT lens was fitted and moving back to the FT register when an FT lens is fitted?

    • JimD

      The mounts are different.
      But a very thin adapter and a moveable sensor would reduce the bulk of the current mmf2 adapter. Read my comments over the last few months. The 5 way ibis could be used as a 7 way for fine tuning a forward and rearward movable sensor. Could be automatic with the mounting of the very thin adapter. Then come to think of it, if it was a new wide lens mount and M43 and 4/3 adapters, with an over size sensor then it would be possible to fit APSC or 135 lenses with thin adapters.
      CDAF, PDAF, any lens for 135 APSC and m43. Many could be made to work in some form of auto mode.
      Even a 0.5 speed booster to pop up when required.

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