New Olympus Cameras In the Works

While a lot of the talk at Photokina has been about the Micro Four Thirds introduction, Olympus is also developing a (non-Micro) Four Thirds camera that will come between the top-of-the-line E3 and the E-520. The specs are not finalized but they have announced that it will have an 11-point AF sensor an built-in image stabilization like the E-3. They did hint that it may have some in-camera effects that might be interesting for some photographers, but nothing is confirmed.

Beyond that, it is hard to say as the physical model that I was able to put my hands on (umm that doesn’t sound right) was not functioning. I am always amazed at how the manufacturers can create these physical prototypes that have no electronics in them. Often they are made out of wood or some sort of composite material. They look like a camera, they have the weight and feel of a working unit, sometimes doors open and buttons and dials move but they don’t work, nor do they have any circuitry in them.

Even though they me be made out of wood they are enormously expensive to create and often times there might be only one in existence, so they need to travel from event to event. I remember one manufacturer tell me that it can be very difficult to go through airport security because it looks like a camera from the outside but doesn’t scan that way. And then when security personnel ask them to turn it on…

Meanwhile back at Olympus, they did announce that they have started work on a Micro Four Thirds camera. They are approaching it from a different perspective than Panasonic.

(If you aren’t sure what this whole Four Thirds thing is all about, check out Olympus’ Sally Smith Clemens’ explanation on video. She also talks about the Micro Four Thirds system too.)

While Panasonic’s idea of a Micro Four Thirds camera ends up looking like a smaller version of an SLR, Olympus seems to throw that design out the window. Since the mirror system has been removed from the camera why does it need to look like a traditional SLR?

When you look at Olympus’ design of their Micro Four Thirds (and this is just a mock up at this show–it is far from being finalized) you would be hard pressed to tell that this camera has interchangeable lenses. It has more of a rangefinder look. When I was looking at the model I was with another reporter who wondered what the market was for these Micro Four Thirds cameras, his thinking was that there was already too much confusion. That remains to be seen, but I do think that there is a need for people who are looking for the next step up in a camera but don’t want the weight or size of an SLR.

Lastly, on the Olympus lens front they showed the earlier announced 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED lens that will be available shortly.