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The next Pen flagship may either be called E-P6 or E-P7. That very much depends on whether the company feels the need to align the numbering. Given that everything’s on ‘5’ now and that ‘4’ was circumvented (though not ‘2’), we are confident that Olympus’ obsession here will continue. So everything will be lined up according to ‘7’ and therefore we might have the E-7, E-M7 (including an E-M70 or E-M700 perhaps?) and now the E-P7.
We’ll probably get to see the new E-P7 shortly after the premiering of the pro-grade OM-D (the E-M1). As we know despite the number ‘7’, this is not the seventh range-topping Pen model to have made it. Since there was no E-P4, we’re looking at only the fifth to appear but importantly, one that may adopt the new E-M1 sensor with Dual AF (edit added by GA).
We could definitely see the E-P7 sporting the same sensor as the E-M1 pro-grade OM-D camera – although there is a chance Olympus may not enable phase detect AF for Four Thirds lenses. That also means a similar TruePic processor. In fact we suspect quite a few of the capabilities will be shared minus a built-in electronic viewfinder.
Much of the technical improvements that the new E-M1 OM-D camera offers will find their way to the new E-P7. These will include better C-AF operations and perhaps the improved AF compatibility with the company’s FourThirds lenses not to mention all the attributes that come with the adoption of the new sensor and processor of which dynamic range is but one of them.
A metal body is of course par for the course for the top-ranking Pen.
With the E-P7 breaking cover, the Olympus tradition is that the others in the Pen range will undoubtedly follow and in most cases, all of them will be launched together. This means we’ll surely see the E-PL7 updating its Lite sub-range. This time we believe that a clearer product-and-feature mix will provide better differentiation between the E-P7 and E-PL7 and it won’t just be in the metal-versus-plastic body panels either.
The E-PL7 will represent the sixth successive Lite model in the Pen series if we include the E-PL1S, which was only available domestically in Japan. Arguably as well, it also represents one of the most successful class of mirrorless cameras for sale since 2009. It may cede its brief leadership in the Pen series back to the E-PL7 but in more ways than one it will continue to be the sales leader that Olympus wishes it to be. Given its price positioning, we expect this to continue.
At this stage, it is hard to tell what the E-PL7 will be about but if precedence provides any indication, then it will be closely modelled after the flagship, which is the E-P7. However with Olympus’ revised outlook on the Pen series, it might not be so simple now but some things aren’t expected to change. The sensor is one such example – the same sensor will be used throughout the generation of Pen models. This means that when it comes to image quality (IQ), the E-PL7 won’t be much different to the bigger brother. And if the sensor is identical, the same applies also to the TruePic processor except that certain options that are found in the leading model might not be enabled for this one. Like its predecessors, you’ll have plenty of body colours to choose from – some will survive but new colours may now be available.
It’s hard to believe that we’re only into the ‘third generation’ of the Mini sub-range but it is true. By this time the industry will have borne witness to the fourth range-topper (E-P7), the sixth mid-liner (E-PL7) and now the third ‘basic’ Pen, the E-PM3. And all of them are likely to be introduced at the same time.
It may not share the same model numbering sequence but don’t let that fool anyone – the technology in the E-PM3 will continue to be a subset of what the underlying generation offers. On the subject of the numbering, there is no real telling whether Olympus will finally ‘streamline’ them all at once. If there is a great opportunity to do that, it would be now. So instead of continuing the numbering in sequence, we could now see an E-PM7 rather than E-PM3. Skipping all the numbers of course doesn’t mean a lot if you know that what’s under the skin is all that matters. For that matter, we will refer to the model as E-PM3/7 here.
Some bloggers call the Mini Pen versions ‘minimalist’ but that isn’t quite accurate. It’s true that the Mini models do not share the many physical controls that adorn the flagships and the Lite models but if the previous versions are any indication, the E-PM3/7 isn’t exactly going to be lacking in capabilities. It might not have a tiltable screen. It might not have those useful control wheels. It doesn’t even have to have a built-in EVF (no Pens do anyway). Yet the Mini appears to have its own following; users who have come to appreciate it for what it isn’t and not just for what it supposedly is.
We believe the E-PM3/7 will continue virtually unadulterated – we don’t think Olympus will mess around with it too much. There is traction in this Pen sub-range – courtesy of its low price and similar access to the vast range of lenses and accessories, there is a bargain waiting for future users to explore as well. Plenty of body colours will continue with the E-PM3/7 maintaining its position as the lifestyle leader of the Pen family. Yet even though it is a ‘bargain basement’ proposition, it is a certainty that it will adopt the same sensor and processor that the E-P7 and E-PL7 has. Movie shooting would continue to be a cinch. And access to its various options will continue via its menu although we suspect that by this point in time, screen touch-control will be standardised across the Pen family.
The E-PM3/7 should not differ much from its appointed agenda – a built-in flash, plenty of creative Art filters, very easy Auto operability with lots of on-screen guidance and of course, IBIS. However we also think that a few nifty features will find their way into the E-PM3/7 that the E-PL7 might possibly not have. Email or cloud attachment capabilities, for example, could well be amongst them.
go to next instalment a history of Micro Four Thirds part VII - the Olympus lenses