The Olympus OM-D. Everyone's Camera of the Year in the 2012 Round-ups.
It's nearly unanimous across the web. Everyone's choice for camera of the year in 2012 was the elfen pro, the OMD. But why? It's not the most comfortable to hold (in its native configuration) nor is it invested with the highest image quality on the market. It's not part of the biggest contiguous system of lenses or accessories on the market nor is it the cheapest high performance camera on the market. So why all the gushing and glorification?
I postulate that the market was ready for three critical technologies to come together in one nearly perfect package at a price that was almost universally acceptable to working photographers and artists.
What are the three critical technologies: At the top of the list I would place equivalent performance to established DSLRs at a fraction of the size and bulk, made possible by the maturing of the mirrorless technology and attendant advances in the autofocus capabilities of this class.
Secondly, I would state that this camera, even more that Sony's (on paper) technically superior versions, made real world use of electronic viewfinders acceptable. And as soon as they were accepted and put into widespread use an enormous swath of the market came, almost instantaneously, to understand the real value of seeing the image as the camera would record it instead of being steps removed and requiring a level of pre-visualization that comes with only years of practice; as with a conventional optical finder.
The third critical technology or product feature was, without a doubt, the fast growing number of lenses optimized and created for this format. From the Leica/Panasonic 25mm Summilux to the cost effective and brilliant 45mm Olympus 1.8 lens to the 12mm f2 lens, everything in the system started to gel in a way that directly appeared to experienced users. This third category will only accelerate with the two new professional zoom lenses introduced by Panasonic which cover both the 24-70mm and 70-200mm focal lengths with f2.8 constant aperture lenses. I've had the pleasure to handle and shoot with both and they are really great.
On top of all these features is the idea of interchangeability between brands a la open standards. One can now buy marvelous optics from Olympus, Leica, Panasonic, Sigma and a growing number of suppliers and use them interchangeably on any m4:3 standard camera, across any system. If you are an OMD user and discover your love for video you can acquire the GH3 from Panasonic as a second camera for back up and video with the assurance that all your investment in glass is protected. Imagine how powerful it would have been, when Canon introduced the 5Dmk2 if all Nikon glass also fit and worked on that camera. If you had been able to cherry pick cameras between systems without worrying about obsoleting a big and costly selection of lenses.
The thing that tipped the point was the fact that Olympus produced the camera perfectly. It exudes precision, good materials and great workmanship. That it currently has the best, in body, image stabilization system in the world is the cherry on top of the whipped creme.
When I played with one VSL member's OMD last week I was once again impressed by the system. More so after putting the Panasonic lenses on the camera. I went back to the studio and looked up the current price. It is now an insanely good value in addition to being the top of the 2012 pile. Well done Olympus!