(FT4) HOT: Samsung offers a 16 Megapixel sensor to Olympus!!!


I just got a very hot and reliable rumors form one of my very best Samsung sources (via Mirrorlessrumors). The korean company is looking for export their new CMOS technology. A couple of weeks ago there have been a meeting with representatives of digital camera companies. Samsung showed them their latest generation sensor. It’s a 18MPx CMOS sensor with 4K support. One of the present representatives was from Olympus. Samsung offered them a 16MPx 4/3 version with 1080p!!!

The current Samsung sensors cannot deliver the same image quality as the Sony sensors but we know from our sources that Samsung is putting a huge amount of money into the sensor development. The next generation of sensors could close the gap. I think it’s good news that Olympus can now choose between multiple sensors. The source will certainly let us know as soon as Olympus decided what to do!

A reminder. We know from another trusted source that Olympus is designing their own sensor for the Pen PRO. That sensor will be produced by Panasonic fabs.

Links to current Samsung cameras:
NX100 Amazon, B&H, Adorama, Olympus US store, FocusCamera, eBay.
NX10/11 Amazon, B&H, Adorama, Olympus US store, FocusCamera, eBay.


Reminder -> Rumors classification explained (FT= FourThirds):
FT1=1-20% chance the rumor is correct
FT2=21-40% chance the rumor is correct
FT3=41-60% chance the rumor is correct
FT4=61-80% chance the rumor is correct
FT5=81-99% chance the rumor is correct

  • Miroslav

    Hmmm, Pentax has been down that road and went to Sony afterwards. It all depends on the quality of the sensor. As long as it performs better than the current one, I don’t care who makes it, but it would be nice to see a second 4/3 sensor manufacturer ( again ).

    • KL32

      NX100 score: 62
      GH2: 60
      EPL2: 55

      Yes, the sensor in the NX100 is not great. It’s old. It’s the same sensor that was in the K7. Even so, it’s still better than any micro four thirds sensor. This is great news- I think there is a good chance the new Samsung sensor will blow away anything Panasonic has so far come up with. We’ll have to wait and see. Up until now, it seems like Panasonic has been reluctant to share their latest sensors with Olympus, giving them their hand me downs. Perhaps that will change if Panasonic knows Olympus has alternatives that are even better.

  • Ulli

    new sensor supplier sounds always interesting at least!
    I think alot of the output also depends on the processing engine, as we could see with sony’s ff sensors in nikon dslrs, which were quite better then in the sony ff camera

  • furb

    Interesting…interesting in that fact that SAMSUNG is a Korean company and OLYMPUS is a Japanese company. I wonder if that makes a difference to the high level executives at Olympus. Obviously, it doesn’t make a difference to the consumer. The Olympus financial report might mean trying something new and different to raise their game. A lot of stuff is made / assembled in China, so maybe it wouldn’t be that big of a deal?

    • Ahem

      It’s business. An executive who says “no” to a company based on xenophobia would be fired within minutes in the West, and I’m sure it’s the same even in Japan, even given their history with Korea.

      • Digi

        “An executive who says “no” to a company based on xenophobia would be fired within minutes in the West…”
        -not necessarily!

        Maybe now Olympus can use leverage against Panasonic to get high DR sensor made.

        Dear Admin: please edit “last” gen. sensor to “latest” generation (“last” gen. would be the old 14.6MP). Thanks!

      • adam

        Not in Japan. Japanese companies will generally use other Japanese companies as suppliers when possible.

        Between that and the fact that Samsung doesn’t have the best history with sensor development, I don’t see this going anywhere. But it’s an interesting development nonetheless…

    • This is just a business. Moreover, I heard that Olympus branch in South Korea has big power among the Oly branches in all over the world.

    • Vlad

      Pentax is also a Japanese company.

  • I suspect Olympus would not be too interested in another video-centric sensor with higher resolution. They will probably follow their own design (if indeed they worked one out). Nevertheless, they would give the Samsung offering some thorough testing.

  • RickeyG

    Olympus NEEDS to get on the Megapixel wagon, regardless of manufacturer. The average consumer thinks and is sold the More / Better Line. Sales say they need to get these people on the books, and fast.

    • Trevor

      Absolutely agreed! They don’t have to go hog wild, but they have to keep up with the competition who is upping MP while improving quality.

      I know the debate between good, big pixels and lots of bad pixels. But you can only sell low pixel count to people who get it. Nikon figured this out and sells a 12mp FF at $2,700. Anyone spending $2,700 on a body either knows their stuff or wants to show off.

      Panny showed you can go to 16mp for m43 without reducing quality (in fact, improving quality). And, if you look at Canikony (I’m throwing the y for Sony), their new lines of sensors have more MP and better quality than their old lines.

      Until marketers can make a better metric stick with consumers, you’ve got to have the MP to compete for sales.

      • JRK

        These days it’s also about crazy ISO numbers. The next gen A77 sensor is supposed to reach ISO 102400 through boosting. But that won’t help when there’s no light anyway.

  • Ahem

    It’s great news there’s a new manufacturer rumored to join (m)FT. But sensors optimized for high-ISO performance, and others optimized for video. When do us low-ISO still shooters get our love?

    • As a fan of long exposure shooting, I too have said my good-byes to the native ISO 100. Can you imaging, long long long ago there DSLRs with ISO 50!!! They don’t do cameras like that anymore.

      P.S. Yes, I’m too lazy/too amateur to tinker with the ND filters.

      • If you want ISO 50, you’ll have to go with MF. Or film. I like film.

        And honestly, if you really like to make long exposures, you’ll have to get serious and get a variable ND (there’s a decent one for about $80 for a 72mm) (quick google later, its called the “Fader ND”). I suspect that with a variable ND filter, you’d get over some of your reticence, and have a lot more fun.

        • Ahem

          ND filter doesn’t negate poor low-ISO performance of a sensor optimized for high ISO.

          That’s why E-PL1 has native ISO of 200 instead of 100 (or 50) – because it’s optimized for high(er) ISOs.

          • So, if ISO 200 has better performance, then use it. ISO is just a number in the digital world. There are no particles of silver halide that have to be larger. Just use a Fader ND or a Singh-Ray Vari-ND (which sources say is about 10-15% better for 4x the price) and dial down a stop to get the same exposure.

            As much as I hate to say it, compare performance of various cameras at DxOmark. I think you’ll see that overall sensor performance tracks high-ISO. I’m not counting MF here, as the sensor tech is VERY different, although recent sensors have been pushing their ISO numbers, and improving performance at low ISO also, at least for PhaseOne’s IQ180 back, which now has ISO35 and ISO3200.

  • G_C

    more companies joining m4/3 is always good news

    but if the recent nx110 vs the pana g3 samples are anything to go by (dpreview) oly would be better off sticking with pana!

  • Actually Olympus knows many things about their LiveMOS. Soon after they will get their own design of sensor. The only problem is they don’t have factories for sensors, like Nikon and Pentax. (But it seems no problem for those two companies. Like them, I think Olympus will not suffer from that.)
    And I don’t think Olympus will like the samsung’s new sensor. As I mentioned before, the LiveMOS is co-worked product by Olympus and Panasonic. Maybe Olympus don’t want to write another tragedy like Pentax K-7.

    • Neither Nikon nor Pentax (nor Sigma) have sensor fabs. But that’s not important, as sensor fabs are easily available for hire. The real issue with sensors is how many will you use? Cost goes up fairly quickly with small volumes. In my estimate, Olympus currently doesn’t have the sales numbers to support a one-off sensor (a Samsung sensor might actually be piggybacked on Samsung’s APS fab and help both parties get some volume).

      • Agreed. The cost is in the wafers, and the more wafers you push through the fab, the quicker the setup costs are amortized. If you combine the sales of Samsung and Olympus EVIL cameras, you actually have a player. And Samsung have been making a lot of noise, and spending a lot of money, in an attempt to be a player in pretty much every category of consumer electronics.

        Hmmm…. Technology exchange – sensors for lenses? There’s a some potential for both companies.

        • JRK

          Get the Samsung lens roadmap into m43 equivalents! At least theirs is exciting!

      • Thom – Maybe Samsung will give Olympus a break on the volume/unit cost thing so that they can get some acceptance in the sensor business among some of the other potential customers in Japan for the future. Samsung is an aggressive company with deep pockets.

        • Vlad

          I think Olympus needs Samsung much more, so I doubt they’ll get a deal.

  • Tom

    well it depends on the quality of the new Samsung sensor.
    If Samsungs offering a) better quality for b) less money with c) more olympus-made-design changes then what Panasonic offers, that would mean olympus would definitily stick with samsung.
    Its not really known if Olys allowed to use the new G3-Sensor.
    Maybe thats the reason theyre designing their own sensor.

    Regardless of the end of this story: its a good sign that Samsung could make 4/3 sensors.

  • And…. Samsung don’t have to care for FourThirds. If the entire FourThirds format blown away in a second, they will have the market. Their point is not showing their surplusing sympathy for FourThirds, but they want to express that their sensor manufacturing technology is well-compared to, or even surpass Canon and Sony.

    • Mk7

      Great, then Olympus can use cropped APS-C to finally get the multi-aspect sensor which they can’t get from Panny!

      • NativeFloridian

        +1. I would love to see Olympus go in this direction as well. Another interesting option would be take the multiaspect sensor idea even further… I would love to shoot in a 1:1 (square frame) which would utilize the entire lens area. Imagine not having to physically switch between regular and portrait orientation. That sounds like a “Pro” feature to me.

        • Keith

          Actually, since lenses project a circular image, a square does not “utilize the entire lens area” either, and cropping 3:2 or 4:3 or 16:9 portraits or landscapes out of that square would involve a serious waste of the imaging circle and you would lose a lot of flexibility in getting truly wide angles. In any given circle, the long edge of a rectangular sensor will be longer than the edges of a square. So if your intention is to get rectangular photos as a final product, a square sensor is not the most efficient way of getting there.

          A circular sensor would be ideal, but I’m sure technical considerations rule that out. But outside that, rectangular sensors seem a better use of the image circle to me than square… because then you’ve got at least two non-cropped aspect ratios available to you (i.e. both 3:2 AND 2:3, or 4:3/3:4, as the case may be), easily selectable by rotating the camera. :) With a 1:1 square, you have to crop every time.

          • Vlad


        • Esa Tuunanen

          That would increase sensor size quite a lot and its price even more so it would be good for Olympus only if they can transfer that extra cost to body’s price which would be hard.
          (manufacturing cost of semiconductor chip goes up very sharply with its size)

      • +1

  • reverse stream swimmer

    Olympus is already sourcing their OLED screen for the XZ-1 enthusiast compact camera from Samsung.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Olympus need to secure deliveries for their top sensors. I expect Panasonic to have not been able to provide Olympus due to manufacturing capacity limitations. But there’s nothing wrong with the Panasonic technologies, as can be seen from the recent G3, which is well recognized by Imaging-Resource for its image processing and quality.

    Samsung should have a vast manufacturing capacity at their semiconductor fabs. In addition, with the ambition to become a heavy player in image and video sensors, competing with Sony, this is a great opportunity for them.

    If the upcoming Samsung CMOS sensor is on par with the recent Sony sensor found in Penax, Nikon & Sony cameras, this bodes well for an upcoming Olympus pro camera. Of course the MFT sensor is somewhat smaller in area compared to APS-C, but it might be a “good enough” sensor, with superb noisefree low ISO performance.

    Welcome PEN Pro, in less than two years time?

  • Nathan

    Remember that there’s a difference between “Samsung offered a 4/3 video sensor to Olympus” and “Olympus agreed to purchase a sensor from Samsung”.

  • This could be interesting. More options is always good – and samsung seems to be very interested in showing it can compete with the big boys…sounds like a good opportunity for Olympus…

  • Daemonius

    It cant be much worse than previous generation of Panasonic sensor used in E-5.

  • Samsung’s current 14mp APS sensor is pretty much at the bottom of the 14mp APS heap at the moment. Even Nikon’s own D3100 sensor beats it, as do the Sony sensors. That said, it’s going to be more difficult for Sony to push obviously higher in sensor quality than it would be for some of those trailing it. Sony has gotten all the easy gains. I suspect it’ll take something more dramatic, like quantum dots, for Sony to make another big stride forward.

    • But it is hard to counter that Olympus and Samsung at the moment complement each other real well.

      Oly doesn’t have own sensor tech nor deep cache reserves – but has brand and know-how.

      Sammy has fabs and is willing to invest – but neither the brand nor deep still photography know-how.

      • > Oly doesn’t have the sensor tech

        Sure they do. You just haven’t seen it ;~). For fancy, expensive medical equipment, you can afford to do your own sensor. Even an expensive sensor is still often trivial to the cost of the overall product. For mass market consumer cameras, you’d better be using a sensor produced in quantity or else the most expensive part in the camera (by far) will price you out of the market.

        > Samsung has no photography know-how

        Right, which is why they’ve catapulted above Olympus in sales and are now one of the top five camera companies. You might actually want to pick up a NX100 and compare it to the E-PL2. The NX actually is more photographer-centric, and by a wide margin, than the E-PL2. It would have been my first choice in the mirrorless end of things if the sensor were better ;~)

        > Oly and Samsung don’t complement each other

        We’re talking about a parts sourcing thing. Oly already buys LCDs from Samsung. I suppose they should stop using those because they don’t complement each other, too?

      • Vlad

        Looking at the last few years, Olympus’ marketing know-how seems to be lacking.
        And the NX is probably the best and most complete mirrorless system overall on the market right now.

  • > A reminder.

    Ah, Admin, I just got my hopes high – but you have spoiled all the joy by reminding me of the Panasonic.

    IMO Oly should switch one line of their cameras to Sammy sensor – why not use the now-dead 43 E-xxx as a test puppy? – while keeping m43 on Pannay sensor to avoid potential flop. If the cooperation with Sammy would whyever fail, well, 43 was dead already anyway… :( If it would succeed, Samsung please buy the Olympus Imaging! ;)

  • Anything that puts pressure on Panasonic to give Olympus better sensors is a good thing.

  • John

    Give me a multi-aspect sensor in something other than a Panny GH-1/GH-2 (like in an Olypus body) and I’ll buy it. These sensors in m43 just are not exciting – keep the MP count under control, make it multi-aspect, and have decent video settings and Olypus will have a winner on their hands

  • TempTag

    Offered is not accepted, but sensors from other manufacturers can only be a good thing to drive 4/3 sensor improvements. Consumers will only benefit from a competitor to keep Panasonic (and any other 4/3 sensor manufacturer) on their toes and produce a sensor that can be compared “like for like” at the 4/3 sensor size.

  • spam

    I’d expect a new Samsung sensor to be APS-C sized. And 18MP APS-C sized, wouldn’t that be around 11-12MP in FT-size?

    • Steve

      It would be around 12mp. But 14mp would give them a mult-aspect 12mp 4/3 sensor. With the economies of scale for APS-C sensor, I don’t know why Oly doesn’t just source a APS-C and use it as a mult-aspect sensor. I suspect it wouldn’t cost much more than a lower production m43 sensor and produce better IQ/DR.

      • spam

        I’ve also wondered why they don’t buy a APS-C sensor, but even Sony’s new 16MP one would only give 10-11MP in FT-size and I’m not sure if that would sell. Also, a bigger sensor would mean that Olympus would have to redesign the sensor stabilisation mechanism, and possibly also increase camera size a bit.

        • Inge-M.

          APS-C and multi-aspekt sensor is heawy and big, if Olympus use a sensor like the, them need new camera body, and new IS inside in camera to.

  • As mentioned in another thread, using the same real multi aspect of Panny’s GH sensor the crop ratio changes from 2X to 1.8X, in the 16:9 aspect. That is very close to Canon crop 1.6.
    So the handicap decreases while lenses stay smaller.

    Aslo, since Oly wants to specialise in stills, we might expect an increase in Dynamic Range. People like me buy Oly for its photographic quality, indeed. If word keeps spreading tat Oly quality is better, it could contribute hugely to Oly’s image as compared to electronics makers.

    However it makes good sense that they chose or specify the sensor in order to reach better photographic quality. Others might search better or faster video instead.

    Among the prototypes Samsung also showed an X100 look alike with analog controls on top of a RF type of camera. That could be also a v. good idea for the coming Oly semipro.

  • Din

    People forget Samsung is the second CMOS sensor maker globally.

    • spam

      After Sony and Canon? And in front of Panasonic?

      • Esa Tuunanen

        Canon doesn’t even fit to top20 list of semiconductor manufacturers:

        • Not SEMICONDUCTOR, but CMOS sensors. Optivision is first, Samsung/Aptina are second/third, Sony is a distant 7th.

          You have to remember, we’ve got sensors in everything now. Cars, phones, tablets, laptops, mall dressing rooms, and of course cameras. Wait, mall dressing rooms? I meant mall security. ;~)

          Also, unit quantity does not equal quality. Otherwise all those Coolpix cameras would be great, right?

          • spam

            I’m aware that dSLR (and mirrorless) sensors are just a fraction of the market, but couldn’t resist the comment anyway.

            Do you know anything about the distribution when looking at just large (FT and up) CMOS sensors? I’d expect Canon or Sony in first, then Pansonic (if you count their Live-Mos design as CMOS) in third and Samsung in fourth, but I can’t recall seeing any statistics on this.

            And what about Fuji and the X100? I always thought it was a “Fuji-designed” Sony-sensor, but some rumors claim it’s produced by Fuji. It would be interesting to know if Fuji has their own CMOS-sensor production now or if the manufacturing is outsourced to someone.

            • > 4/3 sensor market

              Well, basically about 15m units a year right now. I’d have to do some complex math to get exact numbers, but Sony would probably top that market, Canon very close second, Panasonic a distant third, probably even fourth now that Nikon is making D3100 sensors.

              Fujifilm doesn’t even necessarily use Fujifilm sensors. The F550EXR is a Toshiba fabbed sensor ;~). None of us have a handle on the X100 yet, but I think it’s likely a Sony with different toppings. It appears Fujifilm’s sensor volume has fallen to the level where they no longer fab for themselves.

              • spam

                Thanks, interesting info. Particulary about Fuji. I suspected that they weren’t doing too good with sensors.

        • Inge-M.

          Yes, Canon is only big on image sensor.

          • Irfan

            Sony has to #1 for sensors larger than 1/1.5

            Apple’s IPhone5 is rumored to have Sony sensor. That will change the ranking too even for smaller sensors.

            • Again, you make the mistake of thinking that only cameras have sensors. There’s a huge market in security sensors, and like cameras, they need more pixels and better low light capability to stay competitive, which means you see a fair amount of larger sensors in that market.

  • Max

    4k Video? Like the red?

    • Daemonius

      Well, if its true 4k than it would be killer.. (and need HDD data storage for video).

      • I suppose 4k video will come someday. But what are you going to play it on and what is the standard file format/compression? Oh, nothing right now. 4k is a long ways away from being ubiquitous. It will come mostly because TV manufacturers need a new gimmick to sell, especially since 3D bombed badly. But we have no method of supplying 4k video TO the TV at the moment, and the bandwidth we’re talking about is big.

    • Ahem

      Yes, but 4K is not going to happen any time soon in a E-PLx sized camera due to the massive internal data bandwidth and power consumption even heavily compressed 4K would require.

      Perhaps Oly is considering competition for AG-AF100? Highly doubt it, though.

      • KL32

        Good point Ahem. I doubt Olympus is planning a competitor to the AF100 but I’ve heard rumors Samsung is! Well, actually the rumor was just a big sensor video camera. It’ll be interesting to see what Samsung has up their sleeve for the next year. They certainly have the deep pockets to make some waves! Still, 4K? That would be huge if it’s true.

      • RichT

        No but it could be downsampled to produce video that is much closer to what TRUE 1080p is capable of (closer to that of a still being downsampled to 1080)

  • KL32

    Having to rely on Panasonic’s hand me downs has been a disaster for Olympus. They are at the mercy of Panasonic. This is very good news. Given their resources, I think there is a good chance that this new Samsung sensor is gonna be special. Olympus might finally be able to implement a decent video capability.

  • I also think this is great news.. correct rumors.

    BUT, this is coming too late for Olympus to integrate this into the upcoming models for this year and possibly the beginning of the next year. The E-P2 successor will not incorporate this sensor, so there is little to be gleeful about for now.

    • Inge-M.

      I think, E-P2 and E-30 successor will use G3 sensor,
      but maybe “Pro Pen” and E-6 will use a sensor from Samsung, so i hope come in year 2013-14.

  • Din

    If the Semiconductor division and camera division of Samsung do like Smartphone division, the future look good…

  • DonParrot

    Oh no! From the frying pan into the fire!
    I still hope for the in-house design rumoured the other week.

  • Sampus?

    • Mr. Reeee


      I’ll stop now… ;-)

  • I wonder what kind of sensor Olympus uses for their i-SPEED camera system which could take one million frames per second. It would be interesting if they made one with a FourThirds or Micro FourThirds mount. They currently use C-mount and F-mount lenses. They maybe their expertise in producing these cameras could help the (Micro) FourThirds.


  • cL

    I know I won’t buy the camera is it’s Samsung inside. A major decision in choosing Olympus has to do with quality. Samsung is not exactly good at quality control. I am not interested in replacing my camera every year. So sorry. No Samsung for me. If it really happens, it’ll be Panasonic body with Olympus lens, IF my Olympus E-620 ever fails on me.

    • pdc

      Greater Samsung sensor competition for Sony and Panasonic is great.
      Acceptance of Samsung cameras in China, a huge and rapidly growing market, will really push the competition that the Japanese manufacturers face. While I wouldn’t buy a Hyundai over a Toyota\Honda\Nissan I admit that they are fine vehicles and close to Japanese engineering and quality. I think my preferences in countries designing cameras could be similar. However, I drive a Volkswagen made in Mexico, and I am shooting a Panasonic GH2 made in China, so I’m open to whatever combinations of designing country and build country give me the performance, aesthetics and price point I’ll settle for.

    • Ross

      I hardly think that Olympus would go with Samsung if quality control was going to be a problem. I wouldn’t be dismissing it out of hand but wait until the models were out & see how they perfomed in the hands of consumers. I see so many responses to some of these rumours where “the dummy is spat” before it becomes fact & quite often being unfounded with the concerns. For example, take all the dummy spitting that occured over the lead up rumours for the E5 & now listen to the love stories from its users.

      • cL

        Except you need to wait for one year before your Samsung camera fails on you…. That’s not the risk I am going to take. I have used many Korean products (it’s hard to avoid them), but they always have some caveats. It’s like they’re always compete on style and specs, but they don’t really care about quality and user interface and all that stuff that takes time to appreciate, but intrinsically, what makes a product functional and long lasting.

        I don’t buy stuff according to country of origins usually. Just because I prefer American, Japanese or Taiwanese made product don’t mean none of them will turn out to be studs and I will judge them accordingly on individual base. Country of origin is sort of like brands, they’re good indicator of quality (because of the standard of process is different, long story) but it does not dictate the quality of every product comes out from it.

        For example, I haven’t owned an Olympus m4/3 yet, despite I love my Olympus E-620. Even within the brand and same country of origin doesn’t automatically makes it a good product. Judge your product wisely. Samsung never wowed me with its quality 10 years ago, and after revisited it, it still doesn’t wow me. Same for Philips (which I gave it several chances already). Quality assurance is MUCH more important than specs. I am not into disposable consumerism.

  • Mice

    I don’t know if its been mentioned, but that WHITE PROTOTYPE camera from samsung had an electronic port…

    I wonder if its original, or if the VF-1 would work… I mean considering this bit of news.

    • Ross

      You’ll never know (till later). :)

  • Winder

    The Samasung sensor in the Pentax K20 was actually really good at the time it was introduces. The K20 probably had the best sensor of any APS-C camera on the market (at that time). The Samsung sensor in the K-7 however was a step backwards.

    Samsung has the ability to produce really good sensors. If Olympus is getting sensors that reflect cutting edge Samsung technology then I think Olympus will do well to go in that direction.

    Panasonic’s inability to provide competitive sensors to Olympus is a huge reason for the failure of the 4/3 system. Every other aspect of the system is very good.

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