Thursday, March 8, 2012
Olympus E-7... Make it Sooner rather than Later
The rumors seem to all say that this will happen sometimes late next year, in order to maintain a three year timetable between 4/3 flagships.
But I think Olympus must do this much sooner. In fact, the sooner the better.
Olympus, if they indeed intent to keep 4/3 customers, and maintain a market for their outstanding HG and SHG lenses CANNOT afford to wait for competitors to copy their new features.
And this is precisely what has happened over the past ten years.
Olympus comes out with some really nice feature, then within a year everyone else has it too. Here are some examples:
* tilt screens
* image stabilization
* art filters
* digital levelers
* AF micro adjust
At one time, those things were pretty much exclusive Olympus features. Or at least Olympus had a big head start. Now, everyone has their own version of them. Give your competitors enough time, and they will invent their own versions without infringing on any patents you have.
Right now, Olympus is the only manufacturer who offers 5-axis IBIS.
Within six months, everyone will have their own version.
Sony and Pentax will have it, and Canon, Panasonic and Nikon will find some way to "improve" their lens based IS. (Samsung and Fuji are still cluless about IS.)
Right now, Olympus has a 16MP sensor that compares very favorably to many APSC sensors. Why wait until APSC sensors leapfrong over M4/3 again? Exactly what does Olympus gain by waiting another year?
Everyone who wanted an E-5 has already bought one.
What's left are the folks who never saw the advantage is putting down $1700 to get a weathersealed E-620 or E-30. But... with a new sensor and improved IBIS, those people might be ready to upgrade now.
Lets face it. Unless Olympus gives them an upgrade path, many of them will end up being Canon, Nikon, Sony or Pentax users.
"Are there enough 4/3 shooters left to make another 4/3 flagship camera profitable?"
And the answer is... "it depends."
It depends on if Olympus can develop an E-7 without spending a lot of money, and if they can get potential buyers to pay a high premium price for it. And I think the answer is a resounding yes.
The E-7 does not need a new body or "better ergonomics" than the E-5 already has. The E-3/E-5 body is wonderful, and the weather sealing is phenomenal. The tools and dies are already there. Reuse the same body.
The only changes should be internal, and these are relatively easy to do, since the technology is already being used in the OM-D. All an E-7 would need is the new sensor, the new IBIS, better video, a better LCD, new firmware, and improved processing engine and a couple of new art filters thrown in. This is all relatively cheap and easy to do. Voila! We now have a very nice E5 upgrade.
And this is the ONLY way to get fast AF with those wonderful HG and SHG lenses. (I think the only high grade lens that can do fast CDAF is the 14-54mm II. The wonderful 12-60mm, 50-200mm, and all the SHG lenses are painfully slow.)
The OM-D is a wonderful camera, and it is an upgrade from the E5 in one way only.... image quality. In most other ways, it is a "side-grade." Something very wonderful, but something very different.
The OM-D cannot stand alone as a system camera for people who are heavily invested in HG and SHG lenses. For that, they will need an E-7.
And the sooner... the better.
Before the sleeping giants wake up.