Olympus has embraced the camera designs of yesteryear for several generations, from its first Micro Four Thirds models to last year’s E-P3. But now the Japanese camera maker is stepping up its retro game, announcing a brand new line of Micro Four Thirds cams. Meet the OM-D. A dramatic departure from the more modern-looking PEN cameras, this new line of mirrorless models, specifically the E-M5, in many ways duplicates the design elements of the 1970s-era OM System. The first consumer camera in that SLR lineup, the OM-10, served as clear inspiration for the slightly boxy, black or silver and black magnesium alloy digital model we have today. We were able to spend some time with the Olympus E-M5 before tonight’s announcement, and were very impressed with what we saw. Jump past the break for our impressions and an Olympus-guided video walkthrough, and thumb through the gallery below for a detailed look at the company’s answer to the Fujifilm X-Pro1.
Would you look at that? According to PhotoRumors, that chunk of retro beauty is purportedly a full-on snap of Olympus’ new OM-D Micro Four Thirds shooter (from an Amazon Japan listing that’s since been pulled) affixed with its optional battery grip (adding what appears to be a secondary shutter button). That, or someone knows exactly what makes us go “Oooh.” The chunky ’70s stylings make us fear we’d abandon our career to go become a war photographer if one of those was placed in our hands. 43Rumors believes the unit will hold a 16.1 megapixel EDR CMOS, beefier than the 12.3 sensor inside the PEN E-PL3, but we hope this new body (however beautiful it is) doesn’t spell the end for the dinky PEN series. If that wasn’t enough, that Amazon listing we mentioned also pointed out a 1.44-megapixel electronic viewfinder, a tiltable OLED display on back and a total weight of 454 grams with its kit lens attached. We’ve got a few more shots in the gallery below, with others rocking some serious cropping, but each is more deliciously teasing than the last.
There’s no question that Canon and Nikon still dominate the interchangeable lens camera (ILC) market, but with Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and now Pentax all launching compact, inexpensive, mirrorless models in recent years, the legacy manufacturers have some catching up to do. In an interview confirming the restoration of pre-quake production levels in Japan, Canon camera division head Masaya Maeda told Reuters that the company is “considering the technical aspects” of creating a mirrorless camera, following up by saying “we will launch an interesting product next year.” The comment doesn’t exactly make a mirrorless Canon a sure thing, but it’s as solid a commitment as we can expect for now.
One possible concern for Canon is that entry into the new ILC category would cannibalize the company’s higher-end point-and-shoot offerings, which likely offer higher margins. But if mirrorless models gain market share over traditional DSLRs and Canon doesn’t have its own cam to match, the company could find itself racing to catch up, rather than dominating the ILC category as it has done in the past. Competition from Canon isn’t likely to start a price war, since there isn’t much elasticity at this point, but it could put pressure on other manufacturers to push the limits with image quality, accessory selection, and perhaps even lead to a future lens standard — though we’re probably more likely to see a Pentax Qthat can actually capture DSLR-quality images far before manufacturers decide to adopt a universal lens mount.