Why Olympus Really Needs to Make a True SLR E-7

Started Oct 3, 2012 | Discussions thread
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dark goob
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Why Olympus Really Needs to Make a True SLR E-7
Oct 3, 2012

So, I have the OM-D E-M5, and the E-5. I had the E-3 before this (it was my first DSLR). I grew up shooting OM film SLRs from age 6 or so. I have worked in camera stores since '97, I have sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Olympus gear to customers over the years, including SHG lenses, etc.

So, I know what I'm talking about. At least, I thought I did. I was one of the first that might have proclaimed the SLR to be "dead." "SLRs are dinosaurs with flapping mirrors vibrating everything unnecessarily," I might possibly have said once or twice. You could say that I drank the mirrorless Kool-Aid. But the effects have now begun to wear off.

Because I've now been convinced that the SLR isn't dead. Well, industry-wide it's not dead; but Olympus certainly seems to be one step away from completely killing its own SLR. The E-5 is the "last stand" of the Four Thirds SLR, and Olympus has been silent regarding whether they plan to put out a successor SLR featuring an actual mirror and prism.

Olympus' attitude seems to be the same as Sony's and Panasonic's: an electronic viewfinder is just as good (if not better) than an optical viewfinder. Of course, Sony and Panasonic have a direct incentive for cameras to use EVFs: both electronic giants manufacture the tiny display panels that are used in EVFs. Sony and Panasonic are also both video camera companies, and relying on EVFs makes for better video-capable devices (right?).

However Olympus is an optics company, first and foremost. Microscopes, lenses, top-notch glass. A primary factor in my original decision to buy an E-3 was the quality of the 100%-coverage optical glass viewfinder. I also purchased an eyepiece magnifier that allows me to manually focus with decent accuracy. No, it's not a Hasselblad H-series viewfinder, but E-3/E-5 really is a poor-man's EOS-1-series body. Everyone I know that shoots E-3/E-5 absolutely LOVES these cameras.

But I was ready to really embrace EVFs. The first slap in the face came when I turned on my camera to take a shot one-day, and by the time the OM-D had "booted up," the shot was gone. Hmm. The speed of SLRs for boot-up has still not been approached by any non-SLR camera. The second slap in the face came when I went up into the foothills to do some astro-photography, and I couldn't see a single star in the EVF, which also ruined my night vision, by the way.

Third slap in the face was when a friend pointed out that SLR technology was favored out of all the competing viewfinder technologies due to the fact that it's the best way for photographers to shoot. "Nothing beats looking through the lens directly," he said (I'm probably paraphrasing). He made the valid point that SLR technology was never the most obvious or simplest method of making a film camera -- quite the opposite, really. SLRs are mechanically complex, bigger than they "need" to be, and were certainly not the only option in the film days, either (look at the Leica M-series). However SLRs were what won out because they are what photographers favored. The SLR is a photographer-centric design, he argued. And I would argue he's right, because the EVF-based camera is a portability-centric design, or perhaps even a manufacturing-cost-centric design.

So, Olympus needs to make an E-7 that is a true SLR. But the question is, will they? People who have thousands of dollars invested into HG & SHG lenses deserve a stated commitment from Olympus on this. People deserve to be told, "Yes, we will not leave you high and dry, we WILL make an SLR to replace your E-5, and it WILL have an optical SLR finder." Because right now the only thing we seem to have been told is that Olympus is trying to find a way to get Four Thirds SLR lenses to focus faster on mirrorless bodies. But that neglects to acknowledge that many photographers, pros and amateurs alike, PREFER optical SLR viewfinders over EVFs.

We're far from the day where EVF is impossible to distinguish from an optical finder. Maybe someday. But until then. Olympus needs to stand its ground, so to speak, and stand up for the photographer.

-=DG=-

PS -- I don't want to hear about any "sad realities" of the economy or whatever. The E-3/E-5 chassis is a perfect design. They don't need to make another mold. Most of the parts that go into the production are already in place. Look at Canon -- the EOS-1 design is over 10 years old now. They make only minor modifications to their assembly line at each iteration. When a design is as perfect as this is, you don't need to change it.

But Olympus, you DO need to support your best customers with firmware updates and future products. Look at Canon's firmware for the 7D... compare this to the E-5. The E-5's had almost no updates. If you're not going to update the firmware, at least open-source it so that people can update it themselves.

Canon EOS 7D Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5 Olympus OM-D E-M5
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