Consumer sentiment over the past couple of years has suggested that the Four Thirds dSLR system may be reaching end of life based upon the success of Micro Four Thirds and the seeming lack of new Four Thirds cameras or lenses of late.
Of course, one has to take into account a difficult financial and local environment which must be straining the resources of the Japanese camera makers, not just Olympus.
So what can we expect from Olympus?
There is no doubt that their Micro Four Thirds system development will continue at pace as is evidenced by their new Pen cameras and the very nice new lenses they have just announced – the 12mm f/2.0 and 45mm f/1.8 (although it is a pity they couldn’t have given us f/1.4 but then price may have been an issue) which show they have seen the light and realised that wide aperture primes are the way to maximise the utility of the Micro Four Thirds format.
I would think that their next Micro Four Thirds camera would be more of a pro version and perhaps designed more like the Panasonic G3 so that it adequately fills the gap created by their apparent decision to replace entry level Four Thirds dSLRs with Micro Four Thirds models. Personally, I would like to see a weatherproof version with built-in EVF and flip out LCD.
NWP interviewed Sally Smith Clemens, Product Manager at Olympus USA, in July 2011, and essentially she has confirmed much of what most of us already suspect given Olympus has stated in the past that they see the Micro Four Thirds replacing the entry level dSLR market but given it is not as feasable for longer telephotos or large aperture zooms, they will be targeting the Four Thirds dSLR’s at the semi-pros and sports/wildlife photographers.
Sally has confirmed these beliefs and insists Four Thirds will be supported into the future for those needing weather-proofed cameras with flip out LCDs and fast continuous AF for moving subjects, such as the Olympus E5 dSLR, and that there is no need for introduction of new Four Thirds lenses at present given the mature lens line up.
I am hoping her comments does not imply Olympus will not be making a Micro Four Thirds camera with weather-proofing and flip out LCD. Time will tell.
Now let’s look at what is happening over at Four Thirds Rumours website:
- seems a successor to the E-30 mid-range dSLR may be coming soon – the E-50, and if so one could expect it to be a non-weather-proof version of the E-5, and thus be similar to the E-30 but have HD video capability.
- Panasonic and Olympus appear to be working on a global shutter which will allow better video plus near silent electronic shutter still images – very handy indeed for classical music performances, etc. Hopefully it will also give us faster flash sync and potential for very fast burst rates – at least 10fps in full resolution and allow a range of multi-frame techniques such as in-camera HDR, etc. This may make its way into the GH-3.
So, not a lot of new gear for Four Thirds users at this stage, but at least Olympus appears to have committed to its future, and certainly would not be wanting to give up all that R&D costs on those brilliant Four Thirds lenses just yet!
I would expect the next Olympus lens for Micro Four Thirds would be a wide aperture macro lens with focal length somewhere between 50-100mm – personally, a 100mm f/2.8 macro would be a great addition for nature lovers who want a reasonable working distance, while providing a nice, albeit long, portrait lens – it would give similar macro performance at half the weight as the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L macro lens, while a 60mm f/2.0 macro would also be popular (it seems Canon is rumoured to have one of these in their proposed EIS mirrorless 2x crop system lineup).
Then I would expect they would create a new compact macro flash system for both Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds to replace their old Four Thirds macro flash.
I wish they could create an AF version of the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 lens but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one!