Panasonic slips into the red zone (financial report). Olympus and Casio to develop together compact cameras?


The German website Photoscala (Click here) analyzed the first quarter results from Panasonic. The company had a net loss of 30.4 billion yen (approximately € 273.3 million) in the first quarter of fiscal year 2011/12. This is of course also the result of the Tsunami/Fukushima disaster.
The digital camera sales can be increased with 44.4 billion yen (about € 400 million) over the fourth quarter of last fiscal year by almost 34%. But it’s still 13% below the fiscal first quarter from last year.

There is a small rumor running in Japan (Source: saying that Olympus and Casio are ready for a partnership in the compact camera segment. It sounds like Olympus will develop future compact cameras together with Casio. Those compacts will use Olympus lenses and Sony sensors. I know it’s not a Micro Four Thirds related news but the most interesting bit of info is that Olympus would drop Panasonic sensors in favour of Sony sensors. At that point I want to remind you that trusted sources said that Samsung offered to make Four Thirds sensors for Oly. If we should give some credit to those rumors than Olympus is trying to become more independent from Panasonic sensors.

  • In the last round of Olympus compacts a 16MP backlit CMOS was used. AFAIK only one manufacturer makes those, and that’s Sony.

    Of course, that has nothing to do with 4/3 sensors. It is clear that Olympus is trying to shake off Panasonic, but it may take a while until somebody else makes a good 4/3 sensor.

    • Igor

      That’s not correct. FujiFilm successfully migrated from Sony to Toshiba 16MP Toshiba HEW4 BSI CIS found inside their F550 EXR camera:
      Omnivision and Samsung also make BSI sensors.

      “Four of Japan’s leading electronics companies lost more than $1.5 billion in the first quarter of the 2011 fiscal year, which ended June 30.” Sony lost $191 million.

    • First!

      I am not surprised considering that panasonic has been releasing some shitty cameras lately.

    • chris

      m4/3 was dead on arrival..
      too small sensor and too expensive.. just compare the samsung nx and panasonic prices.. it is ridiculous ^^

      in a couple of years nobody will care about m4/3 anymore..

      • m43 not delivering as much IQ as an aps-c? sure. We know Panasonic is a little behind.

        But you choose samsung as an example? Samsung’s sensor wasn’t noticeably better than the previous generation 12MP sensor.

        If you’re going to bash something – at least do it correctly! :)

    • sneye, @Igor,@chris,@Patrick,@Ben Y,@twoomy, @LGO,@joey, @bilgey_no1, @Thom Hogan, @Disreali, @uth,@Mr. Reeee, @zsun, @Richard, @alexander
      I feel like I’m in a sensor forum :-(

  • Patrick

    Good news indeed. Panasonic’s approach was focused on squeezing more pixels per square milimeter, not improving the sensors technical qualities. If you look at the camera comparison chart on DXO, you will see that Sony, Canon, Nikon and Pentax have improved their sensors over the years, Panasonic has not.

    All the improvemenets on e.g. noise come from he camera software or tweaks in the hardware.Great work for the software engineers from Olympus and Panasonic, shame of the results of the Panasonic sensor engineers.

    • Ben Y

      +1. I’m glad Olympus is seeing this too.

  • jak0b

    I don’t know if it was a partnership (co-developed camera), but Olympus have used Casio parts for their point and shoot cameras before.
    A long time ago I had a 3 Megapixel (!!!) Olympus point and shoot camera, I think it was the Mju 300, but not shure… However when I got a newer camera I decided to take the old one apart and when I got the LCD out there were stamped “Casio” into the bezel

  • twoomy

    I wish Panasonic would become independent of Panasonic sensors as well! :) Well the GH2 sensor isn’t bad, but it’s just a little noisier than I would like (at all ISO’s). But if you could take Sony sensor technology and tweak it as well as Nikon has with their cameras, and then give it the M43’s size and the GH2’s multi-aspect ratio feature, you could have the ultimate camera…

  • LGO

    Every camera company would be better off long term if it can source the best possible sensor for its product in terms of price and performance. Olympus being free to source its sensor from anywhere would be a great boost to Olympus. The same applies to Panasonic (and even to Canon). In the long terms, this is also what will ensure that the sensor-making company will be at the top of its game.

    A 10-12mp Sony sensor similar in performance to the Sony sensor used in the Nikon D7000/Pentax K-5 would do wonders for Olympus and Panasonic.

    • Joey

      You say that, but would it really? For example, 2012 new panna/oly sensor with performance equal to the k5/d7000, by then new sony sensor out with useable iso 12’000 and even wider dynamic range, que everyone saying m4/3 is a dead concept that can’t compete with the latest aps-c ff sensors ;)

  • bilgy_no1

    Not sure if Samsung sensor would be a good thing per se. Thev fact that Olympus can get better results with the old Panasonic sensor than Samsung with the NX10 aps-c sensor does not promise much good. Yes, Samsung can improve the new gen sensor, but so can Panasonic (and they already have with the G3).

    If Samsung are so keen on making m43 sensors, why don’t they join?

    And no, I would not prefer a crop from the perfect Sony vsensor. What would be the point; we can get that by cropping a Nex image by that time. We need something that’s well designed for m43!

  • If I’m not mistaken, Olympus’s compact camera base and manufacturer was Sanyo. What this story tells me is that they’re switching to Casio. It is a little curious, since Panasonic bought Sanyo and Olympus has a close relationship with Panasonic. But it may reflect a need to differentiate.

    One of the dirty secrets in the compact camera business is that there are only a few “base designs.” By base design, I mean that a contract manufacturer creates a CPU/sensor/frame/mechanicals reference design that the brand companies then slap outer skin, menus/firmware, and lens on. That’s the reason why you see, for example, an Olympus superzoom bridge that looks a lot like a Nikon superzoom bridge. They were probably derived from the same base. And it’s why you get all these compact cameras that are very similar and not highly differentiated.

    • Disraeli

      Thom Hogan

      “If I’m not mistaken, Olympus’s compact camera base and manufacturer was Sanyo.”

      thats correct, Olympus have a long standing relationship with Sanyo that goes back to E1. Sanyo became a Panasonic asset after they got into trouble back in 2009….. bye bye Sanyo

      “What this story tells me is that they’re switching to Casio. It is a little curious, since Panasonic bought Sanyo and Olympus has a close relationship with Panasonic. But it may reflect a need to differentiate.”

      Olympus sensor procurement contract with Panasonic ended early 2011, now they have a need to move on. With micro now being a mirrorless product of the longest standing, differentiation is the name of the game.

      Panasonic / Olympus is purely a business relationship, they have never integrated all that well, and have little idea what one another are doing. Now that some weakness is seen in Panasonic, Olympus are making their move in forward looking well determined plans.

      You wont hear the same from Panasonic.

      • @Disreali
        that are not allowed to know what each other are doing in advance as this would be seen as collusion at would probably breach anti-competition laws, Panasonic and Olympus have mearly agreed to adhere to an open standard -Four Thirds

    • > One of the dirty secrets in the compact camera business is that there are only a few “base designs.”

      Secret? Dirty? It is a norm in the CE (Consumer Electronics) business. That’s is not specific to camera business.

  • uth

    in my opinion, i think Panasonic has done pretty good job in their sensor’s development.

    16 Mpixel in GH2 and G3 are good with acceptable noise in high iso, about 1600 and 3200. (again, this is just my opinion ;P)

    and i’m pretty sure that Panasonic can increase this 16Mpixel sensor’s performance,less noise and more DR, in their next generations.

    don’t forget that G3’s sensor has a new structure inside but use old processing. i am wondering what will happen if their use this with new and better processing ;P.

    at least,if they can provide iso3200 with the same noise level as 1600 in G3. i think it’s enough for amateur photographers or normal people.

    what i really want from panasonic now is not how good of noise in high iso because it’s enough for me but i hope they can increase their performance in DR at lease 3-4 stop, especially in highlight zone.

    and the last… more and more high grade lenses ^^

    • Mr. Reeee

      The GH2 has an 18MP multi-aspect sensor, because it will use the maximum amount of the sensor depending upon the aspect ratio you select: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1. It can even shoot an image using all four aspect ratios at the same time.

      4:3 – 4608 x 3456 pixels
      3:2 – 4752 x 3168 pixels
      16:9 – 4976 x 2800 pixels
      1:1 – 3456 x 3456 pixels

      Other sensors will simply crop an image using the selected aspect ratio.
      (There’s probably a better worded explanation than mine, but at least I tried. ;-) )

      • uth

        please see this link Mr.Reeee

        they said…

        • 18.3 million total pixels
        • 16.0 million effective pixels

        this sensor is a bit special than original 4/3 sensors. its size is a bit larger (larger than image circle for 4/3 lense), so that why total pixel is 18 pixels but if you consider only effective pixels, it’s only 16 MP not 18 MP.

        or you can multiply this 4608 x 3456 pixels, it equal to 15.9MP ,about 16 MP.

        PS.if you use 3:2 ratio… it’s about 15 MP

      • uth

        i know about multi-aspec sensor in GH series. its sensor is a bit bigger than original 4/3 sensor(larger than image circle from 4/3 lenses) that why when we use 3:2 from this special sensor, Photos will widers (you can see in its spec, 4:3 – 4608 x 3456 pixels and 3:2 – 4752 x 3168 pixels). This is only one thing in GH that i really like hahaha.

        PS.If you use this GH2 with 7-14 lens in 3:2 ratio, you will got the same perspective and the same picture ratio compare to 3:2 full frame camera.

        PS2. I really want this kind of sensor in GF-Pro model (or we can say GP model from panasonic). but i know it’s just like a dream :(

  • Zsun

    Yes, do it before it ruin your m43 line. Comparing olympus DSLR to other’s of the same generation, almost everything is equal or better (at least unique) on the olympus (Live view, IBIS, sensor cleaning, flip out LCD on some model, user interface, good choice of glass, etc.) EXCEPT the sensor! If it had been a SONY sensor at the 4/3 format (and less pixel, say at 10M) the olympus line of DSLR wouldn’t be such a failure.

    I don’t know if olympus can see it now but the history is repeating itself. A unique line of design (the PEN) paired with an inferior sensor. Why can’t olympus use top of line Pana sensor like Nikon uses SONY’s sensor (and uses it better than SONY itself)? I would walk away from Pana and work with some unbiased partner asap.

    We are now at the 3rd gen of m43, however only Pana’s line really have the 3rd gen sensor while Oly is stuck with a 2nd gen (no matter how you market it, you can’t hide the truth). I think that’s just humiliating itself and its consumers.

    Of course now I am with Pana G2, I wish them do better and better with their sensor, so that more lens R&D can be fueled. It’s always a concern when you are in the minority system. Just feel less secure.

  • Richard

    Thom Hogan has commented on the lack of development of 4/3 sensors, especially when compared to other format sensor development.

    Whether this particular rumor is accurate, it would appear that Olympus is looking for a new sensor supplier which can provide better sensors. That much is good news.

    If the new sensor can improve the high ISO performance that alone would be welcome.

    • alexander

      the sigma foveon sensor is not better at high iso but at low iso it is fantastic !
      that would be definitivly an argument!….

    • Note that this is about COMPACT cameras. Olympus was already using Sony sensors for the most part in those models. Even Canon uses Sony sensors in compacts.

      For a long time, Sony has had a lock on the compact camera market. When competition started to appear, Sony iterated faster and lowered prices. They’ve tended to hold their share in that market. But that’s not a growing market and hasn’t been for some time. All the action is in cellphone and surveillance sensors. Sony’s not a key player there.

      That Olympus took a Panasonic sensor and modified it for the new Pens tells me they aren’t exactly moving anywhere soon on m4/3 sensors. The highest likelihood would be trying to go it there own way, I think, but they’d still need a sensel base to start with and I’m not sure they have one of their own that’s competitive.

      Once you get to larger sensors (e.g. m4/3, and maybe even Nikon’s 2.7x), the choices start getting small: Canon, Kodak, Nikon, Panasonic, Samsung, Sigma, and Sony have current large-sensor sensels that are competitive. Aptina is trying to get into that market. Of those, Canon is out because they don’t license. Kodak is probably out because they’re still CCD and are ironically behind on some things that CCDs used to be good at (video, Live View). Sigma is having growing pains with Foveon, as the price of the SD1 shows. Samsung and Panasonic are sub-optimal compared to the others. Nikon isn’t going to license the D3s sensor, as it has a unique advantage. That leaves Aptina and Sony as valid choices. Aptina would likely build anything if it meant a volume customer. Sony would only have Olympus for a customer (unless Fujifilm comes on board), so there might not be enough volume to get their interest.

      But who knows? I know Olympus has looked at >12mp sensors for a higher end Pen. I don’t know what they decided.

      • ha

        “That Olympus took a Panasonic sensor and modified it for the new Pens tells me they aren’t exactly moving anywhere soon on m4/3 sensors.”

        Either there’s no alternative or Panasonic already showed something better for a Pro like model. EP3 is catching up in electronics to be on par with Panasonic. And given Oly has good quality OOC jpeg’s, will a better (and more expensive) improve these significant? Or is it just to please some gear fans?

        “The highest likelihood would be trying to go it there own way, I think, but they’d still need a sensel base to start with and I’m not sure they have one of their own that’s competitive.”

        Very risky way. My feeling is current sensel technique seemed to be near optimum and further advances need other tricks in sensel control/readout/shutter/…

        E.g. a live view system knows about light distribution before taking a picture. So on readout the analog amplification could be adjusted to keep the highlights.

        And later on we need some way to print/display at the same level of quality…

  • Din

    Olympus is already using Samsung components on Pen and compacts cameras, look the AMOLED screen on them and who knows if they already are using internal components too.
    The actual NX APS-C sensor is not the best example, it is a old sensor contemporary with Sony Alpha 700 sensor.
    Some rumors says Samsung is working in different APS-C sensor resolutions even in 4K video sensor.

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