Wednesday, February 08, 2012

I'm A Believer – Again

OM-D E-M5 showing weather seals on body, 12-50mm lens, grips, and flash.

I have, since the release of the E-5, led something of a tortured existence with Olympus. I was not happy with Olympus' releases, and when Bill isn't happy, ain't nobody happy. I certainly expressed my unhappiness in various blog postings, and not just with the E-5, but with the E-P3 as well.

That unhappiness motivated me to try and find an alternative camera system with Canon, Leica (yes, Leica), Nikon, Pentax and Sony. It was good to go out and really compare and contrast, because I learned a lot. But at the end of the process I wasn't motivated strongly enough to make a switch away from Olympus. The biggest de-motivator was the price of all those camera systems. I've already spent a fair amount of money purchasing Olympus equipment as well as a fair amount of time learning how to use it. As good as all those brands were, there was nothing that leaped out and inspired me to want to take that double hit. And so I stayed with what I already had. I even enhanced the µ4/3rds system with the purchase of three native µ4/3rds new lenses.

It was the lenses that turned the trick. The lenses went a long way to enhancing the capabilities of the nearly two-year-old E-P2. Before the purchase of those lenses I'd had the 14-42mm and 17mm kit lenses. All the other lenses I used were adapted from regular 4/3rds or from the OM film series. That was all well and good, but the system lacked the speed of my E-3 with its lenses, especially when it came to auto focusing. I could achieve something very similar if I used a manual focus lens and pre-focused on an area. Then the E-P2 would make exposures as fast as the E-3. But no matter what little tricks I employed, the E-P2 was for a more measured approach to photography, something that's not really a liability, but makes it the wrong tool for photographing certain frenetic situations.

The purchase and use of the 20mm, 45mm, and 40-150mm zoom changed that view of the E-P2 and the µ4/3rds. No, the whole µ4/3rds didn't suddenly become as fast as the E-3 system, but it got a lot faster. And it became a lot more enjoyable in other styles of photography (for me), such as candid photography in public settings. The lenses were faster and quieter than the original stock lenses. I also discovered, especially on travel, that I could carry the same quality and capability in far less space than compared with the regular 4/3rds system. Using the new µ4/3rds lenses with the E-P2 became more enjoyable and expanded the scope where I could use the whole system.

Then the rumors about the OM-D, and later the E-M5, began to "leak". And the rumors were remarkably good. As if they were almost deliberate. I paid about as much attention to the E-M5 leaks as I would to any other major leak at that time (Canon 1D X, Nikon D800, Fuji X-Pro1) until the rumor came out about the weather sealing. Then I really sat up and started to pay attention.

By the time the E-M5 was officially announced 9pm on the 7th, I was ready with credit card in hand. Yes, I've done the unthinkable. I placed a pre-order for this camera, sight-unseen. I've purchased the black body with the M.Zuiko 12-50mm.

I'm going to enjoy this latest iteration of the digital Pen family, because that's what the E-M5 is. You can google all over and read about the announcements, or take this shortcut over to Kirk Tuck's take on it. This camera answers all my complaints about the E-5 and E-P3, and then goes even further with capabilities. I don't know when I'll get my copy, so I'll just have to wait patiently until it arrives sometime in April. Even though I've not held the camera, I'm pretty certain this is the Olympus camera I've been looking for since the my disappointment with the E-5. I couldn't have asked for a better camera than if I'd sat down and built it by hand myself.

6 comments:

  1. This is the camera that I have long been waiting for from Olympus. I put my pre-order in last night before the blogs released the news so I should place pretty high in the queue. This will be the last camera that I will ever purchase:o)

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  2. Bill, this camera has pretty much provided everything we wanted in a M4/3 camera.

    But I still see it as a second camera, albeit at the high end. This will be a wonderful street shooter or travel camera, when paired with those great primes. But it will never be the first choice for wildlife photographers and birders.

    The photos are deceptive. They make the camera seem large, especially with the grip attached. But the OM-D is pretty much the same size as the EP3. Actually a bit smaller if you put an EVF on an EP3.

    I want one.

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  3. Fist of all, Olympus needs to make up their mind about where to put the hyphen in these product names. I was just getting used to EP-3, EPL-3 and EPM-1 and now we need to put the hyphen AFTER the E -- i.e. E-M5. It's counter-intuitive, especially after the OM-1, OM-2, OM-4, etc...

    Now that I'm done ranting about hyphen placement, let me say that for many of us this is pretty much the camera we've been waiting for Olympus to make ever since the digital ere began. As a matter of fact, I think there's a whole bunch of folks out there who might find this to be an ideal camera, despite the lack of a 96 MP sensor, and a dynamic range that fails to exceed that of the human eye. The reason: It smartly brings back the ergonomic wonder of the 1970's and 80's manual focus 35mm SLR's, a size and shape that many learned to love, especially me, who still uses his 70's and 80's era film SLR's.

    Congratulations on the new camera. I expect to see a photo of it on your blog as soon as you get it, with the VF-2 mounted on top. :-)

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  4. Sorry, Ronald, but the hyphen is always after the E-, such as E-1, E-3, E-300, and E-P2. And the OM-D moniker fits the OM-1 through OM-4 (as well as OM-10 et el). For all the pens you can check here: http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/cpg_digital_pen.asp

    This is going to be an interesting camera for sure. They could have kept the 12MP sensor (increased its DR and reduced its noise at the higher ISOs). It's all the other features that I find interesting and worth buying.

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  5. You're right Bill, I'm hyphen dyslexic. The hyphen placement should, as far as I'm concerned, always be after the letters and before the numbers, but I understand the whole "E" thing with Olympus, as they want all their digital system cameras to be apart of the big, happy "E" system family. Still, I wish they would have called the "E-M5" the "EM-1" instead...makes more sense than the dual "OM-D" / "E-M5" moniker; that just confuses me. :-(

    Because I purchased two cameras in 2011, I'm just concentrating on lenses for 2012, so I'm going to be taking a pass on the E-M5 for now. But I'm still very happy to see this camera come about, and I LOVE Olympus' concept of trying to tie it to the old OM's, which seems to be working wonders.

    Olympus has never really lost their focus on trying to bring photographers small, high quality cameras at a decent price. While the market has not always embraced their efforts, I do hope this newest cameras turns things around for them.

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  6. One thing is pretty certain... those camera and lens designers at Olympus are a lot more competent than their financial managers are.

    It's a shame there wasn't a lens engineer heading the board of directors. Those guys are too smart to get carried away buying tupperware and face cream companies.

    I do think products like the OM-D will ultimately save the camera division. As long as Olympus is an innovator, the camera division is safe.

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