Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Everyone Can Calm Down. Olympus Is Still Incompetent.

Some of the key specs of the upcoming Olympus OM-D have been leaked. First, the camera's official name is more in-line with Oly's current naming scheme, the E-M5. Second, we now know what sensor the camera will be using.

As for my criticisms, even the name of the camera is stupid. We already have the E-PM, and now the E-M. We have the GX1, and Canon has the G1X. The alphabet soup of the modern camera world is so jaw-droppingly, eye-poppingly, soul-crushingly inane that it makes me want to abandon it all and just learn how to paint really quickly.

But that is neither here nor there. Or hither or yonder. We are here to talk about the camera, and the heart of any camera is the sensor. That's why camera geeks always wait with bated, saliva-soaked breath for the release of the RAW files for any new camera. Because if you already have a camera in the system, if the sensor doesn't offer a big increase in quality, you have no reason to upgrade your camera. That's why the recent generation of Sony sensors generated a solid eighteen months of excitement.

So it was with similar excitement that the micro 4/3 world waited for the new Olympus camera. No one was able to confirm that it was just another repurposed Panasonic sensor, so we all hoped that it was Sony who had made it. With Sony's sensors being easily the best on the market, and Micro 4/3 hurting the hardest in color and dynamic range, this was exciting.

As Olympus has become adept at doing, they have disappointed us. The sensor is exactly the same sensor as in the GX1 and G3, itself something of a disappointment when it premiered a year ago. That means that the RAW files will be the same. That means that the image quality between this camera and the similarly priced Sony NEX-7 will be utterly enormous.

It's not all bad news. The camera looks great and is weather-sealed, which is an oft-neglected feature that all good photos appreciate. The supporting hardware is good, with very fast shooting speeds. The buffer is disappointing, but 10 shots is still adequate. And if the autofocus of the camera has been worked such that it finally plays nice with Olympus' pro Zuiko glass, that's a huge plus.

That said, while a camera is certainly more than its sensor, the sensor is still its heart. It doesn't matter if the camera takes ten shots per second if those shots are all sub-standard. Truly, the fact that the rest of the camera appears good only makes the state of the sensor that much more disappointing.

All of our hope now lies with the GH3. If we don't see something significant in it, I know that I will be lost to Sony or Fuji, and I suspect that many more enthusiasts will follow suit. It's put-up-or-shut-up time for the 4/3 group.

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