Keep your VF-2's ready. Here comes the latest micro four thirds camera. Olympus announced the new EP-3 and it seems to cover two of the most important bases Olympus needed to cover in order to stay relevant to a huge number of photographers. It now (according to Olympus and the people who've had the camera in hand) has been re-engineered to focus as quickly as a regular DSLR and there's a new sensor that is reputed to be at least one stop better in high ISO noise performance than its predecessor. In my mind the EP2, which I assume the 3 will replace, was a really fun shooting camera and it had only those two faults. If the performance of the 3 matches the hype then this might be the camera that all of us Olympus fans have been looking for to carry the brand forward.
Why is this important? Because my belief is that consumers want smaller cameras, the vast majority of non-rabid photographers don't really give a darn about the sensor size in theory or practice as long as the camera works and works well. Most people are less concerned about dropping backgrounds out of focus than they are with getting everything they want in focus. And smaller sensors do that better.
Anecdotally I can attest to the popularity of this format in general, and these Olympus cameras in particular, by looking at the metrics on this blog site. Though I've written over 625 blogs and covered many cool cameras the run away, most read, most debated and most linked article I've written to date is the review of the inexpensive EPL2 from Olympus. The article has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in the last several months.
This really is a convergence of what people in general (90% of the camera buying population) want: It's small, capable, has great image quality, beats the pants off their cellphone cameras, lets them change lenses, make movies and much more. Will this particular camera be a winner? I think it's a slam dunk. It's beautifully designed and Olympus seems to have finally delivered the kind of performance that camera junkies crave and measure.
Will I buy one? It's already on order. I haven't played with one yet but the guys at Olympus know I'm ready to get my hands on one. If they send a test model to me soon I'll have a review up that will be so in depth I'll be giving Atlas Shrugged a contest for page count. Confession: I love these Pen cameras and have done some really fun work with them. I also love using them with my large collection of original, manual focus Pen lenses from the 1970's. Go Olympus!!!!
Added at 10:40pm the same day. I respect Bill Beebe. He wrote a great perspective piece about the endless introduction of new gear. His inspiration was this product launch. His piece made me stop and think about gerbils on wheels. You should read this too. Just for a bit of gear perspective: http://blogbeebe.blogspot.com/2011/06/olympus-e-p3-too-little-too-late.html