Color me surprised and pissed off at the same time. Every time I feel like I'm getting the verve necessary to remove myself from the Micro 4/3 system, Olympus does something to keep me in it. The 12mm, the exemplary 75mm, the E-M5, and now the E-P5.
I mentioned in an earlier article about the Panasonic GH3 that I feel that Micro 4/3 is dying. They have priced their products at a premium that their brands cannot afford. Essentially, they've written checks that their asses can't cash. I still think that this is true. Olympus' camera division is dying, and all of Panasonic is dying.
I have often lamented the arrogance evinced by this behavior. Recent events like the introduction of the Metabones Speed Booster have only exacerbated my frustration with their persistence in selling their products at a high premium, while at the same time not even offering their best products in some bizarre and misguided attempt at protecting their extant markets. News flash to Oly and Panny, Canon and Nikon can pull that shit because they're huge. You are not huge. You cannot pull that shit, nor should you want to. Canon and Nikon deserve to be hated for it. Don't be something worthy of hate, for the love of Pete.
That said, Olympus' recent slate of products also evinces something else that I love and appreciate: a sense of detail. By that I mean that Olympus, more so than seemingly every other company out there, understands the way that details, in large numbers, are what makes a product work. Yes, sure, grand architectural directions are thrilling — just look at Fuji's new cameras — but without good attention to the way the details all gel together, the products fail — just look at Fuji's new cameras.
We can see this detail just holding an Olympus camera. The E-M5 feels so much better and special than an NEX-7. Likewise, the buttons, the menus, the way the accessories connect: they are all loaded with details that make the experience smooth. It's as though Olympus is looking straight at us, the knowledgeable enthusiasts, and saying "we understand."
That's all well and good, you may be saying, but what about the E-P5? The E-P5, you see, has a feature that no other camera on the market this side of a leaf shutter has: a flash sync over 1/250th of a second. This may seem like no big deal. It is, though. It shows that Olympus is interested in giving to the small segment of the market that knows how important that number is.
For those who are wondering what the hell I'm talking about, the flash sync essentially tells you how quickly the shutter can move over the sensor. If the flash sync is very high, then the shutter moves quickly, allowing the entire sensor to be exposed when the flash goes off, thus evenly exposing the sensor. If the shutter is slow-moving and the user selects a shutter speed that is beyond the capabilities of the shutter (for example, 1/1000th on a sensor with a flash sync of 1/160th) the sensor gets exposed for the set 1/1000th by having a slit move over the sensor. The entire sensor is never exposed at once. If you then tried to use a flash on these photos, you would see a band of bright, exposed image, and the rest of the image would be dark and underexposed.
Most mirrorless cameras... actually, all mirrorless cameras save for the Oly E-M5 and the crappy Nikon V1/2, have used the 1/160th flash sync time. This indicates that they almost universally believe their cameras to be for the uninitiated who won't care about the spec. Even Fuji's high-priced X Pro 1 was guilty of this. Most pro cameras have a flash sync of 1/250th. Oly's E-M5 also had a 1/250th flash sync. For me, that spoke volumes about how Olympus saw that camera.
But Oly didn't just match its old design, oh no! They made a camera with an amazing flash sync of 1/320th! That is a rare number indeed. For many reasons that I don't want to discuss right now, this number is very important. For the purposes of this article, all that is important to recognize is that Oly has stepped up to the plate. The E-P5 is meant for us.
Likewise, Oly has given us an absolute first for the mirrorless market: a max shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second. This is yet another pro feature implemented in a pocket-sized camera. Yes, I know that the Nikon V1/2 had a shutter speed of 1/16,000th, but that was an electronic shutter and that doesn't count. This 1/8000th is a real, mechanical shutter. For those who have been using the pro-thusiast SLR cameras from Nikon and Canon for years, this number should seem familiar, because it is. I have it on my eight-year-old EOS 20D. It's actually rather ridiculous that this is a first since the smaller sensor of 4/3 should make high flash syncs and shutter speeds easier.
But that's not important right now. Oly has delivered.
Perhaps these tools would have been more impressive if Sony hadn't already blown the world away with the RX1, but even in the shadow of that colossus, the E-P5 is impressive to me. I wish that Oly would get the fuck out of its own way and release good lenses for good prices instead of utter garbage like the 12-50mm. It's obvious that they are thinking about the very demographic that wants these lenses, so why only give us half of the equation? Give us the whole enchilada. Give us the lenses.