Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thoughts On The Olympus E-7

Olympus has spoken rather candidly in a recent interview, indicating that all-new PEN cameras will be launched in 2012: not news. What was news, though, is that they indicated a successor to the E-5.

This is big news for anyone involved in the Olympus 4/3 system. Used Olympus lenses dropped in value after it became painfully apparent that the E-5 was a swansong of sorts, and the future for the company was Micro 4/3.

Many people thought that 4/3 was fundamentally flawed from the beginning. I am not one of them. There are significant disadvantages to a smaller sensor, certainly, but for many applications, the advantages balance the equation quite nicely.

Wildlife photography, for example. The 4/3 sensor doubles both the focal length and the depth of field for any given lens size/aperture setting of a full-frame camera. That is a HUGE benefit. I do not own any FF camera, but lenses I do possess quite a few. The few times that I have tried to shoot birds... photograph... photograph birds, I am always dismayed by the ISO and aperture that I must use to achieve similar shots on the larger sensor.

Combined with the fact that I consider Olympus' top-pro lenses to be the best lenses at their respective focal lengths, 4/3 always had an appeal.

As is seemingly always the case with Olympus, the problem was the sensor. The E-1, E-3, E-5, and the multitude of inbetween cameras were all pathetic in comparison to APS-C sensors. You might not always notice this in JPEG, but the differences are loud and clear when working with RAW.

Likewise, Olympus always seemed to position their E-x series in multiple worlds, as though they didn't know whether the cameras were for pros, enthusiasts, or consumers. Their top cameras are weather-sealed and are the only avenues into lenses that cost, in some cases, four times the camera, but are slow shooting, have control setups more in-line with consumer cameras, and have ridiculous "art" filters that are squarely aimed at casual shooters.

The successor to the E-5, the E-7 if their naming scheme holds, must reject everything Olympus has done and start over. Every element of the camera must be pro-level; size must be reduced in every area that doesn't affect controls and usability; camera processing must receive a massive upgrade; the sensor must be all-new and all-different (perhaps a 1:1 image ratio); everything that everyone else isn't doing, Olympus must do. If Olympus doesn't differentiate this camera, it will fail.

Olympus is already on the verge. If they release yet another limp-dicked product, they are doomed in the camera world. The level of corruption discovered by the recent accounting scandal only reveals that executives were, them all, brainless and incompetent fools, which is exactly the group that one would expect to have released Olympus' recent series of products.


  1. I'm a Olympus and Zuiko LOVER. I agree about the advantages of a small sensor, about DOF and size of the lenses.

    The E5 with the 12/60 lens is a powerfull allaround gear and with the 50mm f2 macro is a super bug catcher. I think the E5 is a powerful camera. I just would like a little better performance with high ISO but, anyway,I'm not desapointed with that. It's realy good until 800 or 1000 ISO

    It's good to ear about a possible E7.

  2. Manuel,

    What I hope to see is a pro-level Micro 4/3 with some mechanism that finally makes the 4/3 lenses FULLY compatible.

    Focus speed has gotten better since the first Pen camera, but it is still poor.

    The current Panasonic sensor is good up to ISO-1600, I'm hoping the new GH3 sensor pushes that up to ISO-3200. I rarely enter situations that require more than that and it means that ISO-6400 would be manageable with post-processing. I think that would be good for any enthusiast.


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