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DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance

Could the Four Thirds Achilles Heel soon be consigned to history?

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Is the Panasonic Lumix GH1's LiveMOS sensor as good as the best APS-C sensors?

If there is one factor that has prevented the Four Thirds DSLR platform from enjoying more success than it has managed to achieve, it's probably the availability of very high quality image sensors. This has nothing to do with the slightly smaller than average dimensions of the Four Thirds sensor. It's more to with the fact that Olympus and, latterly, Panasonic, have not had access to the high quality range of sensors, enjoyed by all their rivals, produced by Sony and Canon. According to DxOMark.com this week, Four Thirds has now achieved parity with the best rival sensor technology, at last.

First of all, here is a brief history of Four Thirds sensor. In 2003 the Olympus E-1, the first Four Thirds system camera, was launched. It featured a Kodak full frame transfer (FFT) CCD sensor. many still regard this sensor as a highlight of Four Thirds because of its excellent colour reproduction, but there is no getting away from the fact that it was noisy at even moderate ISO levels. The same Kodak FFT sensor technology was scaled to from 5 megapixels to 8 megapixels through the E-300, and E-500 DSLR models. The E-400 employed a Kodak interline transfer CCD sensor, and that was the end of Kodak's contribution to Four Thirds. Panasonic replaced Kodak as the exclusive supplier of sensors, trademarked by Olympus as 'LiveMOS' sensors. Although Panasonic was an experienced manufacturer of CCD sensors in its own right, its own technology - a close relative of CMOS (already popular is a replacement for CCD with other DSLR manufacturers) was at least two years behind the competition when the first Four Thirds LiveMOS sensor, a 7.5 megapixel part, was featured in the Olympus E-330, and shortly after in the first Panasonic DSLR, the Lumix DMC-L1.

There have been at least three generations of LiveMOS sensor since, each bringing modest improvements in noise and dynamic range performance, despite creeping up to 12 megapixels. But it's the LiveMOS sensor exclusive to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 Micro Four Thirds camera that has broken into the top tier of 'small' sensor DSLR performance category. DxOMark.com recently tested the RAW image file performance of the GH1 and discovered that its noise, dynamic range, and colour reproduction performance was significantly better than any previous LiveMOS sensor. Pixel for pixel, DxOMark rates the GH1's sensor at the same level as the 18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor of the Canon EOS-7D. This is interesting because the pixel densities of these two sensors is very similar. It suggests that Panasonic has at last caught up with its rivals in sensor technology terms and this is great news for the future Four Thirds, and Micro Four Thirds.

There have been many rumours that Panasonic is stepping up its sensor technology this year. The Lumix GH1 was launched in September last year, and several Micro Four Thirds models from Olympus and Panasonic have arrived since, but they all use the previous generation of LiveMOS sensor. The expectation is that another new generation of LiveMOS sensor will be unveiled by Panasonic later this year, perhaps employing the so-called back-lit style of sensor to further optimise the efficiency of the light gathering function of the sensor.

In the mean time, if you want the best sensor yet for a (Micro) Four Thirds camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 is the camera to go for.

Read the DxOMark.com article on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1's LiveMOS sensor.

Read my article explaining some other unique properties of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1's LiveMOS sensor.

 

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DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance

Four Thirds User editorial team DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
Respected experts at DxOMark.com say the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 Micro Four Thirds camera heralds a ... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
I have long been trying to fathom why dxo consistently rate the dynamic range of fourthirds sensors ... (more)

Ian Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
It had occured to me that the GH1 sensor, which is basically a limited edition product as the GH1 is... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
That would surprise me - it's a pretty massive change to manufacturing technique to do that just fo... (more)

f22 Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
Hi Ian, Is the GH1 sensor different to the G1 sensor? I am not so clued up on the micro four thir... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
The GH1 sensor can support multiple aspect ratios - so is different, it covers more of the image c... (more)

f22 Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
Hi Andy, Thanks for the reply, I was just looking at the DP review diagram here: [url]http://w... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
f22 "GH1 is used in a sensor multiaspecto prepared for high-definition video in the whole process ... (more)

f22 Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
dyElliott;50837] "GH1 is used in a sensor multiaspecto prepared for high-definition video in the... (more)

dingenus Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
Andy, as far as I know is a Sensor an analoge divice. There is no D-A--A-D conversion, only A-D. Bu... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
CCD sensors are analogue, internally, CMOS sensors often have the A-D 'on chip'. I think you are r... (more)

Bob Ross Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
HI Andy, This is an inteesting thread. I wonder if Ian is right in that the GH-1 sensor is a lim... (more)

Bob Ross Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
Here is a link to the Lumix site page on the IQ of the GH-1 [url]http://www.panasonic.net/avc/lumix... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
As I said earlier, it is unlikely to be back-lit. The circuitry that 'goes behind' is usually the ... (more)

hschnee Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
With all the buzz and excitement these days about back-lit sensors, if Panasonic were using one I ha... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
How much benefit on an FT sensor might be a bit questionable. The circuitry that takes up space fro... (more)

dingenus Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
[url]http://www.chipworks.com/seamark.aspx?__VIEWSTATE=%2FwEPDwUKLTQwMzA1MzA5NWRkR8m6RLmvzbUzm6zxBNB... (more)

AndyElliott Re: DxOMark suggest Four Thirds sensor technology has made a big leap in performance
Thanks! Andy... (more)

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