4/3?

There are lots of rumours circulating that Olympus are in the process of letting the four thirds system "fade away". The rumours indicate that there will be no more lenses and whether any new camera (E5??) will be released is uncertain. There is talk of a modular camera, which will accept either 4/3 or m4/3 lenses, but its nothing more than that, talk.

Panasonic have long since left the system, and there is talk of them adapting their Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 for m4/3.

In the light of the success of m4/3 I would imagine that sales of 4/3 have diminished somewhat and though the official Olympus line is that 4/3 will continue, they seem to be in no hurry to add to the system.

In a way there is a certain inevitability to this. Olympus, who are the main providers of this system, have never succeeded in producing a "killer" camera. Whereas with m4/3 they succeeded at their first attempt with the E-P1, which quickly became a very desirable camera.

If the demise of 4/3 does happen, this will leave an "orphaned" set of quite amazing lenses. I have three 4/3 lenses. Leica Panasonic 14-50mm f2.8-3.5, Leica Panasonic 14-150mm f3.5-5.6 and Olympus Zuiko 40-150mm F4-5.6. All are superb. The rest of the Olympus 4/3 range has some incredible optics. 14-35mm f2 and 35-200mm F2 to name just two.

So what happens to these? Do Olympus just stop making them? Cut their losses and just concentrate on m4/3? The idea of converting them to m4/3 lenses strikes me as a non-starter, as many are pretty big and heavy lenses. Those who own these lenses have the option of using them on m4/3 via adapters, as I do, very successfully, but is this enough to keep the lens line going?
Probably not.

In the light of all this the concept of a "modular" camera, which is able to accept both 4/3 and m4/3 lenses strikes me as a radical and potentially very successful concept. It could have interchangeable sensor modules, like the Ricoh GXR system. The "4/3" * module could have a larger sensor and there could even be a separate module for tilt and shift. Video would have to be included and the more pro video features it includes the more useful it becomes. Things like an add-on EVF, advanced off-camera flash system, choice of grips could all be choices. *Apparently 4/3 lenses can cover more than the 4/3 sensor. So why not make it an APS-C sensor?, leaving the m4/3 module to retain the 4/3 sensor.

Olympus have never shied away from being different. A hybrid, modular camera, if done right, could be a great success. Not cheap, and probably neither small or light. However I doubt I am alone in finding this an attractive and useful option. Whether it will ever appear, who knows, and ultimately Olympus may decide not to take what is obviously a risk. Time will tell.