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(FT3) Olympus to use a 16 Megapixel Kodak sensor with electronic shutter?


For some months we received info about a possible future Olympus and Kodak partnership. Now we received small details about a Kodak sensor which could be used inside the next Micro Four Thirds cameras. We learned from one of our trusted sources that the Olympus-Panasonic sensor agreement will expire by early 2011. That agreement didn’t allow Olympus to use other non-Panasonic sensors. Once the agreement ends Olympus has the choice to renegotiate the agreement or to sign a new partnership with Kodak. That could be one of the reasons why Olympus didn’t release any new PEN (or the rumored modular cameras) at Photokina.

According to the info we received the Four Thirds sensor has 16 Megapixel and true electronic shutter. Two of our sources claim to know that there are already working prototypes!

We have to warn you that we are talking about prototypes that might will never be produced for the mass market. I am not sure yet if Olympus will give up Panasonic in favour of Kodak. But I trust my sources when they say that Olympus is currently re-thinking the future sensor partnership.

Kodak recently announced the 29Megapixel W-RGB Interline Transfer CCD which is supposed to be used with the next Leica M9 successor. Although this is not the “Kodak-Olympus sensor” we are talking about, it might be of interest to see some of the features (via ImageSensorWorld):
– The TRUESENSE technology is claimed to provide a 2x to 4x increase in light sensitivity compared to a standard Bayer color sensor by adding panchromatic pixels to the standard RGB elements that form the image sensor array
– The new sensor is also available in a regular Bayer and monochrome versions (Cool!)
– electronic shutter

For all Olympus readers. We are currently collecting info about the following three main rumors:
1) Modular camera
2) Olympus-Kodak partnership
3) New Super43 camera system

If you have some info you can share please contact me at or use the contact form on the right sidebar. Thanks!

  • Alfons

    Hah! Olympus is stuck with their E-5.

    I bet they don’t dare to make a m4/3 camera with better IQ than E-5 for a while, because that would be just another step on 4/3 users’ toes.

    So they have to continue with old sensors for a while and that will cripple them even more.

    • Chris

      I don’t think so. With Olympus openly saying they’re continuing in a new direction, they don’t have an incentive to keep the E-5 as their flagship model. They could just as well release a pro-spec m4/3, a Super43, or a modular camera with better specifications than the E-5.

      There’s not much more you can do to alienate 4/3 users any further.

  • Super43=FullFrame?

    and i dont think they care about 4/3 toes,

    • Riley

      we dont know, logic suggests S43 is for 43rds not m43rds

      really there are 3 pathways
      i) the biggest sensor that will carry 43rds lenses, but still bigger that 43rds. Personally I think that would go to 20x15mm sensor for 300sqmm, just shy of Canon APSC.
      ii) Something larger (perhaps 2×43, requires crop mode to carry 43rds lenses
      iii) A FF substitute in 4×3.

      I think i) or ii), 70% on i)

  • Darren

    I think people should really take this rumor with a grain of salt. The power consumption that plague CCD hasn’t been completely resolved yet. The was a good reason for Olympus to switch away from Kodak – their CCD consumes too much energy and overheats too easily. A live-view CCD with electronic shutter the size of a 4/3 sensor would be a dream.

  • kesztió

    Adding pancromatic pixels is a really brigt idea, Cannot understand why other manufacturers don’t make the best of this idea.

    On the other hands I’m not convinced this rumor is a really credible one.

    • david

      Panchromatic pixels have their own drawbacks (e.g., reduced color sensitivity).

  • SkyZ

    THIS IS IT, Oly!!! Finally make a right move if the rumour is true. There’re way to sort out the power consumption and overheat problem of CCD, but it isn’t as critical as CMOS sensor limited to one single supplier and it’s your competitor and only provide you obsoleted product.

    • One word: patents. Kodak patented the Bayer array+mono element before anyone else did. It’s an interesting idea, but not without cons. The mono element should provide a two-stop gain over a green channel where it replaces it, but color discrimination should be worse.

      • sacundim

        “The mono element should provide a two-stop gain over a green channel where it replaces it, but color discrimination should be worse.”

        And this is likely why the sensor has a very high pixel count, 29MP; you probably need the extra pixels to compensate for the fact that you’re sampling half as much color information per pixel.

  • monkp

    hmm hmm … I was in high hope that oly will use $ony’s Exmor R, let’s see :p

    • WT21

      That would be a welcome change. Would Sony though, like Panny, only give Oly the last gen sensor?

  • Greg

    Admin, can you elaborate a bit about the “New Super43 camera system” please? I mean, you cannot really just throw a concept name in the air like this without writing what you know or suppose or what has been told to you can you? ;)
    Otherwise just don’t speak about it I’d say… ;) ;)

    • admin

      Hi greg!
      I need you to help me to gather more info about that. Of course I do know something but it’s a FT2 rumor. I hope someone can help me….

  • Luke

    my pants just got a little bit tighter.

    • peroni

      LOL, that’s a piece of info I could have done without ;-)

  • nygus

    monochrome sensor version? WANT!

  • WT21

    I have FULL confidence in Oly making the WRONG decision. They seem like they couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag. I think they accidentally make good products (like the EP1 was fantastic when first release. The E3 when it first came out), but they can’t consistently make good decisions. They also seem set on creating odd, marginal niches for themselves. Not profitable niches, but marginal ones.

    Still have my EP1, but I’m working now with a NEX3. I really don’t like Sony as a company, but waiting for Oly to get it’s head on straight has run its course.

  • CR102

    Sounds like a dream come true. OTOH, a m4/3 camera equipped with such a sensor will not appear in 2011. A lot of trial and error is required. A new sensor design will surely dictate rethinking the whole signal processing strategy, especially if an electronic shutter is included. Sadly I expect the next generation of Olympus cameras to keep using Panasonic sensors.
    Just to be clear, I don’t think Panasonic sensors are bad – I’m rather happy with the IQ of the PENs. However, I don’t like the absolute dependency of Olympus on technologies made by its partner/competitor. It weakens Olympus and thus the entire m4/3 system. The long term advantage of m4/3 over other mirrorless systems depends on the difersification of compatible product range. A second manufacturer of sensors for the 4/3 standard is very much needed (I don’t really care whether it’s Kodak or someone else).

  • Ulli

    I believe that adding a kodak sensor again in a olympus would be very interesting, as long as olympus hasn’t limited access to kodak’s technology.
    kodak always followed its own way in making sensors, lets hope any new ones for olympus will have that special extra (like the one in the kodak dcs760)

    • Both the mono-element and the electronic shutter are well known and have been around for awhile. I would be surprised to find a camera company that hasn’t done R&D centered around them. So I really don’t think that there’s any “trial and error” involved in engineering one.

      • Riley

        and lets not forget, Olympus have a patent for pdAF on sensor rather like Fuji’s, but using white lenses an AF pixels for better sensitivity.

  • George

    Any chance that this camera will be disposal ?
    Looking at what Oly is doing for the past year, this kind of disposal camera would be awesome to Olympus idiotic marketing line.

  • CRB

    FINALLY…no more mediocre sensors….(IMO) from panasonic…

  • munio

    This could be a really good news, for Oly and for us!

  • Apostrophe

    A black-and-white sensor would be the bee’s knees! I convert everything I shoot into black-and-white and if a dedicated sensor could provide superior performance, I’d just for one in a heartbeat.

  • Henrik

    I cant help it but I really need something new about the high-end compact. I guess alot disagree but the high-end compact is for me very tempting. I just sold a camera and got money for something new and the high-end is something im considering.

    • Zaph

      I’m also looking forward to it Henrik. It looks like it could be the next step up from the S95/LX5, if it’s done well.

      • Henrik

        Yeah hopefully it is. The mockup already shown… its not 100% sure its the final design right? I wonder how big the mockup was compared to s95. I like the S95s design more than the Lx5 one but I like the features of the LX5 more. A combination of the two would be nice and hopefully Olympus will use the Super Control Panel aswell.

        I just cant belive how little information that is know about the camera… Wasnt it supposed to be released early 2011? Sorry for offtopic admin.

  • Olympus never hesitates to step on toes with new products that are better than their more expensive ones, so I wouldn’t worry about that. And as an E5 user who really likes the camera, I still would welcome some toe stepping.

  • Jonathan

    The 29MP FF sensor is not an option – in 43 format it would only have just a bit over 7MP.

  • ePoe

    This sensor may also lead Leica to move into m43.

  • I dont understand why everyone bashing pana’s sensors so much, after all current GH1 or GH2 sensor trumps Lieca M9 (if to consider that m9 is FF and pana’s sensor is 1/2 the size)

    Am i wrong here?

    • panka

      yep, u are wrong … becouse pana doesn’t sell the gh* sensor to Olympus …!

    • Jason

      Panasonic sensor does not trump a full-frame Leica sensor, but the new Olympus E-5 system, including software, sensor and lens can compete pretty good with the Leica.

      Panasonic still images still need a lot of work, their video, on the other hand, is excellent.

      • juavel

        Who is having a Leica doesn´t shot neither flowers in a garden nor studio portraits nor landscapes, you can´t beat a Leica/rangefinder for social/candid work in available light, with those machines you can almost focus in the dark and they fit your pocket, so I don´t think a SLR tank like an E5 is able to compete with a leica, is to compare apples to oranges.

        If one wants the best lens-sensor combo one must look at a CaNikon body with modern manual Zeiss lenses or something like that, if one wants a street camera the path is rangefinder, as an Olympus user I´m realist, the best thing it´s having is bang for the buck glass in the HG lenses range, and that´s it.

  • Brod1er

    Interesting. Olympus aren’t chasing the video market, so CCD makes sense. Add electronic shutter and IBIS and the recipe gets tasty. I own panasonic kit and had been waiting for their first electronic shutter cam (gh3?)- however I could be tempted to switch sides……..

    • mochapaulo

      Me too, I am still wait for a silent camera for my perfect snapshot. No mechanical shutter is a great idea. Not just silence, also less boundary for lenses.

    • to date, no large CCD sensor has been able to support live view (main-sensor-LV in interchangeable lens cams has always been associated with CMOS or other sort of MOS sensor). and since live view is integral to the functioning of m4/3 cams, it’s highly unlikely they can use CCD (unless a breakthrough has been achieved).
      note that the Sony A300-series use CCD and has LV but their LV is not from the main sensor, A500-series introduced main-sensor-LV for the 1st time in Alpha’s and that coincided with a move to CMOS.

  • Whatever you may think about the relative merits of various sensors, it CANNOT be good to be dependent on your biggest competitor for your sensor tech. Let’s hope they are free in future to buy from wherever they see fit.

    • Jonathan

      In all fairness one should consider that the GH1 sensor hasn’t been used on newer Panasonic bodies (G2, G10, GF2) and the same will probably apply for the GH2 sensor. They are doing this to differentiate the GH line from other Panasonic AND Olympus lines (there wouldn’t be a lot to tell them apart from one another otherwise).

      Panasonic simply does not have a new generation sensor yet (other than the above mentioned), hence their disappointing new models. If they did I doubt they would not Olympus have it.

      The way things are going, I think when they do come out with a new sensor it will be too little (improvement in IQ) too late (the competition will be further away by then).

      • What would be to stop them allowing Olympus the GH2 Sensor for the E5? They have nothing which competes directly with it. Instead the E5 ends up looking late, underpowered, overpriced and frankly a bit embarrassing.

        Just because they want to differentiate the GH series in their own muddled line-up (SO MANY G’s) doesn’t mean Olympus should be starved of the best sensor for theirs.

  • Miroslav

    Whatever happens on the sensor side, I hope it doesn’t lead to breakup with Panasonic. Their lenses have made m4/3 a strong system it is today. I’d swap Kodak sensor for Panasonic lenses any day …

  • Medved

    @Miroslav :
    No worries, Olympus and Panny partnership coming to and end is unlikely (at least in the near future)… They’re both using m4/3 for their full line-up(or 4/3). And of course they have a lot of glass to sell. so I guess their collaboration is far from being over.
    If they change their system they’d lose a considerable amount of customers (IMHO there is no strategic argument that would justify going their separate ways).

    On the other hand they’re competing against each other, hence the fact that Panasonic developed the 14 mp and the 18 mp sensors on their side is understandable… I mean, they’ve got to be competitive.

    Also, It would be fair for Olympus to source sensors from more than one partner, in order to be more competitive.


    • Zaph

      “hence the fact that Panasonic developed the 14 mp and the 18 mp sensors on their side is understandable… I mean, they’ve got to be competitive”

      Sure, but if you do that and are in an exclusive supply relationship, it’s pretty low tactics. They should really be choosing one of the other. Silly of Olympus to have signed up to such a deal, *if* that is what stopped them using the GH2 sensor, it might well have been technical.

  • YUGOslaw

    Imagine, olympus has already developed a camera with kodak sensor and internal EVF like the X100 and are just waiting to show the word 3 new camera models.

    A system/modulare cam in size of e-3, a small m43 cam in size of the current PEN and a smaller toyish cam like NEX.

    It would make sense, cause at the moment there are selling the same old “garbage” over and over again.

    But i do NOT believe it. I think it will all stay the same. The DSLR part of oly is just a small franchise.

  • David Bateman

    If this is true, I would first be surprised. I didn’t think olympus was tied to Panasonic. I thought they even said so themselves. But maybe what they were referring to was that the contact was ending and they would not be tied to Panasonic.

    If true, I hope Olympus can get there hands on the new Sony sensor in the K5, D7000 and A55. That sensor seems to be really good. And with Olympus best out of camera jpeg, may be able to get as much out of it as Pentax has. I would also hope they just drop it in is as is. Yes it has 16MP in 2/3rds that would drop to around 10Mpixels in 4/3rds format, but should be good as the best part of the sensor is used.

  • kesztió

    Guys, you forget a quite important thing.

    The only sensor technology which can really compete DSLRs is the one from GH2: I have serious concerns that Kodak sensors can get even close to DSLRs in terms of SPEED.

    So Panasonic sensors still cannot be get around when speaking about competitiveness against DSLRs.

    • Zonkie

      Yes, I agree. I would much like Kodak to come out with a dream sensor that would be competitive with APS-C sensors from Sony, but I very much doubt they can. Not only high ISO performance, but also speed as you say. Video might not be important for Olympus (there, like Pentax, it will never be able to compete with Sony, Panasonic and Canon) but they need very fast readout speed for fast autofocus, and this IS important for Olympus.

      Well, the sensor on the Pentax 645D seems quite good, actually (but yes it’s a huge MF sensor), so let’s dream a bit :)

    • what “speed” are you talking about?
      This is a shutter-less sensor, it can go 30FPS at least

      • Ganec

        no, it is CCD, it probably cannot be so fast…

        Current FF senzor can have 4 fps, but KAI 80150 (8-megapixel which should be used for 43 system) can operate at 16 fps!

  • Warren

    I didn’t know that you could make a live view CCD as opposed to a CMOS sensor. I don’t know that Kodak has the experience or technology to make a 16mp CMOS sensor with a fast read capability (let alone with low noise capabilities).

  • jbf

    That ‘rumored leica sensor’ is for industrial purposes. It is not intended for use in consumer cameras.

  • TempTag

    More choice in terms of sensor providers can only be a good thing for the m43 marketplace. I hope this happens.

  • Paulus

    Kodak sensor for Olympus? – Exciting news!

    It appears that Panasonic treats Olympus often like a rival not a partner.

    They seem to “cannibalize” Olympus instead of going ahead with a goal oriented two brands strategy to win a considerable world market share for four thirds and micro four thirds.

    The power of Nikon, Canon, Sony, Samsung …? no problem for Panasonic as long as Olympus is staying only a junior player in their own segment – ripe for attack in a hostile takeover?

    So Olympus must take every chance to become independent of “big brother”

    Competition is often the best way to take advantages of a discovery process (Friedrich August von Hayek – “Competition as a discovery process”).

    • sderdiarian

      Unlike Sony’s relationship with Nikon and Pentax, where Sony shares their latest sensors and allows Nikon and Pentax to tune them differently, only the most naive would fail to see that Panasonic has been increasingly starving Olympus of their latest technology. Could be outright refusal to let them use the GH sensors or pricing them too high for Olympus to compete when using them.

      As another poster said “Imagine, olympus has already developed a camera with kodak sensor and internal EVF like the X100 and are just waiting to show the world 3 new camera models.”

      This is indeed an exciting possibility and would explain a lot about Olympus’ low key presence at Photokina.

      Just the thought of a state of the art sensored Olympus mFT with EVF, flip LCD, IBIS, Truepic VI and Olympus’ flair for design (maybe some hints of OM this time around) has me reaching for my wallet.

      And Panasonic would suddenly be the one left exposed with their inferior JPEG’s and lack of IBIS. Olympus users could still use all the Panasonic mFT lenses, but not so Panny with Olympus non-OIS lenses. And then there’s all the legacy glass best suited to Oly’s IBIS.

      If one enjoys suspense, you’ve gotta love the possibilities of this new “Turn of the Screw”.

      • Sony didnt share its NEX-5 sensor but only after 6 months

        • Miroslav

          Much less than 6 months …

          14.2 MPx sensor:
          Sony NEX-5, announced 11-May-10
          Nikon D3100, announced 19-Aug-10

          16.2 MPx sensor:
          Sony SLT-A55, announced 24-Aug-10
          Nikon D7000, announced 15-Sep-10

          Whereas, on the other side we have:
          Panasonic DMC-GH1, announced 03-Mar-09
          And still no Olympus camera has that sensor. It should have been in the E-5. Camera is as large as a full frame, so there’s space, and for almost 2000 USD, a small adaptation of IBIS couldn’t raise the price much.

  • CyberKexx

    Maybe Olympus should pay attention to something like this?

  • Kodak sensors Olympus colour rendition a great combo for jpeg shooters but that’s where it stops

    • Riley

      hi Imants… ltns
      I think new generation CCD would be a lot more competitive
      I guess the fair question is how does it compare with present high performance CMOS.

      Remember CCD generally depend more on electronics downstream of the pixel even off the sensor board. I firmly believe that there will be more dependence on processing in the future as it can see gains in noise performance and DR

  • Mike

    I’d love to see more than one sensor player in the m4/3 arena. More competition will lead to better products for all of us.

    • Ganec

      more competition (after some point, which was already crossed) leads only to more cost savings (loss of quality) .. and orientation to dumb people (because they buy everything) .. dirty techniques…

      And it finishes with more megapixels, bigger zoom & not usable highest ISO number

  • More competition will lead to better products for all of us……….not really just another form of collusion in many cases. Advances are minor so more sales are generated.

  • so a large Kodak sensor is finally able to do live view, otherwise it won’t be suitable for m4/3 at all?!
    2ndly, if this talk about olympus delaying certain models in order to be able to use this new sensor in them, if there is any truth in that, why on earth would they go ahead with the E5 just before this new sensor?! doesn’t make sense even for a semi-naive reader.

    if there is really a return to the pink panther (Kodak), then brace yourself for lots of grain noise @ base ISO but with better color than Panathetic.

  • Miroslav

    On the other hand, if I remember rightly rumors about modular camera, the sensors in it should be replaceable, so on of them could be Kodak, the other Panasonic. And if the Super43 camera system is full frame, than Kodak could supply sensors for that module(?), a full frame one.

    So, you have a modular system with 4/3 and m4/3 modules with Panasonic sensors and a full frame module with Kodak sensor. If Olympus is wise enough, the modules will be compatible with Ricoh’s and we’ll have a third body manufacturer in m4/3.

  • juavel

    There are couples were one of the parts bullshits the other every time he/she wants with false promises and the other part believe it just for love, because he wants to believe, even when the people from outside is advising that they are fantasies that they will never happen.

    That´s how I see it, fantastic news/rumors between camera releases to keep you dreaming and waiting and nothing new at the end.

    • Nathan

      I never heard anything reliable suggesting modularization of the sensor. I have heard rumors regarding a micro 4/3 camera with more integrated standard 4/3 operation, modular at the mirror box, but to make sensor modules would make the camera hopelessly expensive and pointless.

      I had also heard some rumors regarding a simulated Full Frame experience via the use of a 0.5x converter with autofocus, but any idea that the sensor itself would be user-replaceable are pie-in-the-sky as far as I can tell.

      • Miroslav

        In admin says “The mount should be modular but separated from the sensor module. Olympus will probably not take the path of the one piece lens-sensor modul from Ricoh GXR”.

        Interestingly, he mentions Kodak sensor, modular camera and Super 4/3 together in several posts this year, so there must be some connection.

        I don’t like the idea of modular sensor either. Modular mount with sensor, like the one from Ricoh roadmap, makes much more sense. Personally, I don’t believe Olympus will release modular camera or change sensor manufacturer or make new full frame system, but it would be nice if they did some of that.

  • juavel

    I mean, lots of people is making castles in the sky without looking back and remembering what happened in the last two/four years, one only needs to read the coments, they were also very good rumors that they seemed very logical and doable in the past, but what happened in last two/four years? why should be different now?

  • greyhat

    If rumor is true, they had to launch something because many pros were already switching system, and this is really bad if a system like Olympus do not have a pro photographers supporting it. Olympus is suposely about build quality and great professional grade lenses.

    What I don’t understand is if they really believed on E5 body didn’t engineered it to allow/announce that sensor can be updated at Olympus. This may impact future sales (they will sell just the sensor upgrade) but would boost E5 sales, what they needed now.

    Regarding not using GHx sensor on other Panasonic cameras it may have to do with its cost. Panasonic only uses multi aspect ratio sensor on high margin cameras (lx5 and gh).It’s yield area is bigger and If Panasonic produces few GH sensors its production cost is a lot higher. And Panasonic wants to have its share on high end 4/3 Market, Olympus with its color rendering and the “best” 4/3 sensor would not be good for Panasonic.

    Regarding panchromatic sensor:
    Our eyes have twice luminance detectors than color. Higher luminance (B&W) DR and contrast is better for our human vision, we will see better IQ. Remember that today in bayer sensors 3 out 4 red and blue pixels are interpolated (read estimated). So pixel level sharpness is more about better software to estimate better. I prefer panchromatic for it’s human vision IQ.

    A Foveon sensor (with lower MP) should be a good idea. No anti-alias filter, superb B&W photos an no one really need in practical terms more than 8MP (5.5um per pixel on 4/3rds sensor) (IMHO) in a PEN camera: 11″/28cm wide print at 300dpi, 18″/47cm wide print at 180dpi. This is big enough to allow some cropping on lower sizes. They really should market sensors resolution on print size at x dpi than MP to avoid today’s insanity for consumer use, IMHO.

    One additional advantage is bokeh and better use of fast lenses. Luminous landscape has an interesting article about it (

    CCD caveats are lower refresh rate (16 FPS is low for EVF) and power consumption.

    And people at Panasonic and Olympus should laugh with what we think they are thinking.

    • Esa Tuunanen

      Besides too slow EVF refresh rate 16 FPS sensor read rate would also kill contrast AF speed meaning need to retain clumsy mirror for PDAF so that wouldn’t be such good thing.

  • Panasonic provides announced the Lumix DMC-GF2 Mini 4 Thirds camera. Any simplified model with the corporation’s GF1, Panasonic GF2 inherits the same flat-body layout but with revised handle layout and touch-screen manage.
    You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.

  • napalm

    i hope oly will go back to kodak. i actually sold my e620 because i already have a PEN, but bought an old e500 just because of its kodak sensor. love it despite its shortcomings.

  • e_dawg

    Why does everybody think that Kodak sensors are so good and that Olympus would want to use them again? Kodak sensors are BEHIND everyone else in technology — not only are they CCD, but they are at least a generation or two behind the state of the art in CCD technology. Anything Kodak can do, Sony, Canon, and Panasonic can do better.

    Kodak sensors are NOT able to do many things that Olympus needs — especially for m4/3 cameras, which are mirrorless and dependent on sensor-based Live View and CDAF. They are VASTLY INFERIOR when it comes to Live View, Video, and CDAF applications. And on that basis alone, will never be used in m4/3 cameras, let alone regular 4/3 bodies.

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