So rumour has it Panasonic are about to release a full frame flagship camera at the end of the month. Half of me is so excited. I love new, innovative technology.
I also love the micro four thirds system with all my heart and I am of course concerned with what might lie ahead. Here are my thoughts.
Is this the end of M43?
Probably not. Really, probably not. Instead I see a split in the Panasonic range. There will be a top-end full frame offering, and then there will be the micro four thirds range. Other brands do this too, just with APS-C cameras. Their full frame flagship will get the most attention but there will be other models with smaller sensors and less hefty price tags.
Also: This is a ten year old system with thousands upon thousands of dedicated users all around the world. There are hundreds of lens options - thousands if you include all the adapted options - and people have invested in this system for the last entire decade. Panasonic would be crazy to abandon us now. Especially with the success they've had with the GH series cameras.
But also... probably? Not this month. Not this year. Not the next five years. I think there are still innovations to be found with the micro four thirds sensor. There have been rumours of backlit sensors to combat low light situations, and there must be a few clever folks around the world trying to figure out how to squeeze an 8k video from such a small surface area. But at some point the micro four thirds sensor will become as good as it is ever going to get, OR the full frame technology will evolve to make it obsolete.
There will always be benefits to micro four thirds. I don't know how full frame systems will ever get around the need for ridiculously large lenses, for instance. So I think there will always be a market for micro four thirds. But I do see it getting smaller over time. Hopefully over a long time, because I love this system and want to keep geeking out about it for many years to come!
Will I be buying it?
First, there is an assumption here that this rumoured camera will even be a consumer-level camera. It could very well be a broadcast camera, fit to film the 2020 Olympics in all its 8k glory. But I have a hunch it will be a consumer-level camera though, albeit a bloody pricy one. Because otherwise why build all this hype?
The short answer is probably. You'll find that word a lot in this article.
Here is why: I love my current setup. I get paid decently enough for the output it produces. I think I have mastered it and know how to get the best out of my gear. I have never had any complaints. BUT... I must admit, sometimes there are scenarios where I am simply trying to tread water and survive (like a very dark wedding for instance) when my photography partners are not even THINKING about noise levels. They've got the freedom to be creative, and try things, because their full frame systems let them flourish in the dark.
Can I get good images in low light? Yes, I think I can. I also think that my stringent techniques to get said images have made me a much stronger photographer. Am I jealous when a photography partner accidentally leaves their camera on f8 in the dark, or a flashgun misfires, and their images are still perfectly usable? HELL YES I AM. I have to shoot at f1.2 all bloody day, triple-checking my focus points, bouncing my flash around the room like some kind of magician to illuminate my subject and yet somehow maintain the ambience of the room. I have to hold my breath when I risk it and shoot a photo at 1/40th of a second, and pray that people decide to stay still long enough for it not to blur.
I CAN get results. But it does take a bit of confidence, discipline, and nerve.
So I do maybe see myself with a dual setup in the future, rocking a full frame Panasonic on one hip and my GH5 on the other. I think for the rest of the time though, my full frame camera won't get that much use. The lenses will still be massive. The battery life will probably be pants. It'll probably overheat for long periods of time. The lenses will be abhorrently expensive to start off with.
So to answer the question: you have my attention, Panasonic. And I am indeed tempted just out of sheer curiosity. But at the same time I'm not really in too much of a rush? Let's see what the announcements say. If it's tempting enough I'm just about stupid enough to be first in line. Who needs savings, anyway?
I spoke a bit longer about this subject over on my channel here.