Monday, May 21, 2012

The Next Camera, Part 2

The US$2,300 µ4/3rds system
Panasonic announced their latest lens, the H-HS 12035 Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm/F2.8 ASPH zoom lens. Brother, what a mouthful. And right now you can preorder a copy for your very own from Amazon for a mere US$1,300.

Something interesting happens when you add the lens to the Olympus OM-D E-M5; you wind up with a rather pricey US$2,300 camera. That's a good US$1,000 higher than the standard E-M5 kit with the M.Zuiko 12-50mm which also happens to be US$1,300.

I mention this in passing because of all the strident squeals from the forum monsters who proclaim how so much better the Panasonic zoom is over the Olympus kit zoom. Amazon and B&H both have this lens for a far more modest US$500, and bundled with the E-M5 it drops further to $300. Based on all the review images I've seen so far, from photographers who really know how to use the kit, the photographs produced by the combination are outstanding. So I wouldn't classify the Olympus 12-50mm as "junk".

No matter how much it calls to me I still can't afford it. Once again I'm looking at a (for me) large financial outlay, although certainly nothing as strenuous as the latest from Canon, Leica, and Nikon. And there's another way to look at the price of this lens (ignoring everything else about it at the moment): compared to the Olympus regular 4/3rds 14-35mm/F2, it's a cool US$1,100 cheaper, which I couldn't afford either. But half of impossible is still impossible, so I look as longingly at the Panasonic lens as the SHG 14-35mm.

So far the limited preliminary viewings of this lens and the one lone review show the Panasonic lens to be within striking distance, image-quality-wise, of the Olympus. What makes the Panasonic so much more desirable than the Olympus is that this lens is a native µ4/3rds lens that is 1/3 the weight of the Olympus lens as well as a heck of a lot smaller, forming a more balanced system as you can see above with the E-M5.

Panasonic is also working on a second lens in this particular series, a 35-100mm f/2.8 X zoom. This lens will more than likely cost at least as much as the 12-35mm, if not more. According to a tweet from Kirk Tuck, once the 35-100mm is released then "we'll have a full system with one body and two lenses." It remains to be seen which body he'll use, but I have a feeling it'll be a Panasonic, not an Olympus.

This kit is still expensive and still well outside my financial comfort zone. The irony is that when Olympus was producing kit I didn't want I had the financial means to afford it. But now that they've finally got something I really want, I can't.

But not to worry. I have a lot to work with. And I've discovered something: I've grown quite fond of the classic Pen design. I guess I've been a "closet" rangefinder nerd all these years. There's something really sweet about handling the E-P2 and the E-PL1. So much so that they're about all I use these days. Those little bodies with their jewel-like primes are a real joy to work with. That may be why events have turned they way they have. The E-M5 and the Panasonic zooms are going back in the other direction, back towards a complexity I'm not quite so sure I want. I hope that the technology developed for the E-M5 is fed back into the classic Pen series. That would indeed be a Pen to have.

But it may not all fit back, specifically the five-axis IBIS. One key reason for the faux pentaprism housing is to hold the sensors used to help stabilize the sensor. With no housing you have no extra room in the body to hold all the special bits. But that may not be such a bad thing. Take the E-P3 body, upgrade the sensor to the E-M5's sensor, and call it an E-P5. I could certainly see owning something like that, budget permitting.

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