6.30.2011

Olympus EP3 is announced. I want one. Available in August.

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




19 comments:

Frank said...

Well, as an E-P1 user, and a follower of rumours everywere on the net, I think there is coming out a more pro version then the E-P3, with a build-in VF by the end of the year. Could it be another line then Pen? And there are those new pro prime lenses now ..

Craig said...

The E-P3 looks pretty good. I'm also interested to hear more about the "Lite" (a.k.a. new E-PL) and "Mini" models.

I take it you're not convinced by those who think the Sony NEX system will eat Olympus/Panasonic's lunch?

Then there's also the forthcoming Pentax Q system, though, like many people, I don't think the feature set is quite there -- the tiny sensor makes it all seem like a joke.

Mike said...

Well, since I recently got a e-pl1 because of your influence, I don't see coughing up the bucks for a new one - yet. However, that 12mm 2.0 in the illustration's looking might tasty . . .

kirk tuck said...

Frank, love the new pro primes. Can't wait for the 12mm. As to the other rumors, I'll believe em when I see em.

Craig, It's a really big pie. I don't think anyone who has handled both models would want to choose the NEX, even if the image is slightly better. It's a curious and tiny design in your hands...

fotoplek@yahoo.ca said...

You are dead right about sensor, format sizes. It no longer means anything! Making over-sized DSLR with wimpy viewfinders is the main obstacle. In fact the idea of viewfinders, evil,on top fall off and lose,in the camera is my main hate. The Fuji X100 is a winner. Better that than the Olympus.Why have viewfinders got worse? My Leica-M6 sucks compared to the Leica-M2(1957)!
That you would buy it? Forgone conclusion. Enjoy..when it comes.

Frank Grygier said...

I will have to have it. I have been waiting for the news to upgrade from the E-PL1.

Mike Padua said...

So excited for this. I've been using a Lumix GF-1 that I have absolutely loved--amazing for BTS on movie and TV sets, but this E-P3 is looking quite sweet.

Mike Padua said...

Oh! And from what I read, better dynamic range. Yikes. Ordering one now!

ginsbu said...

Of the new models, I'm actually more interested in the E-PL3. I really like the tilt-only LCD that works well as a waist level finder. The autofocus improvements seem impressive. I expect these cameras will do well for Olympus.

I'm less certain about the IQ though. Comparing various test shots at imaging resource between the E-PL3 and other cameras, I'm seeing a lot of processing being applied to the files--too much for my taste overall, but it's clear that sometimes the processing works well and other times it is pretty awful. Until we see RAWs processed by the standard converters, I think it's very hard to say how much improvement Olympus has made at the sensor level. What also worries me is whether there is enough control over the in camera JPG processing to effectively tame its excesses: it would be a shame to lose the nice JPGs Oly has been known for.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

First I feel Olympus should get kudos on several points:
- Not increasing the megapixels. 12 is fine for what my intended use would be
- Core capability increments: Focus capabilities, interface, rear display, responsiveness, built in pop flash
- Keeping photographers in mind. Want to see how to do that wrong, check out Panasonic (my opinion)

Despite it not fitting precisely into the business model I'm trying to develop I want one. I have had two EP-1's and a GH1. The mirrorless format has me hooked and Oly seems to "get it". The Sony approach is (to me) consumer and Panasonic seems all over the board but heading down that road too. The EP1, 2 and 3 are to me photographer's cameras.

The only niggle in there is when I've used an EP for events I tend to jostle the buttons on the back. Hopefully they implement audio level control as well so if I'm shooting video with a microphone I don't blown out audio.

That being said, if they improved high ISO by a half or full stop and kept their wonderful jpg engine color & sharpness this all points to a win for photographers.

This isn't the flashiest offering, the subtlety will elude a lot of Internet mavens.

Bruce Bodine said...

Still using my E-1 and the awkward (but nice files) DP-1 but it looks like my next move is starting to shape up. Kirk I look forward to reading your review! By the way I need some swim meet shooting tips as my oldest grandson (8years old) has taken the plunge. ( Oh that was bad)

Thanks,
Bruce Bodine

kirk tuck said...

By the way, the thing I like best about the EP2 is the way it fits in my hands. The EVF is my second favorite thing and being able to attach just about anything optical to the front is third.

John Krumm said...

Doug Brown's impression of the EPL3 has me wanting that model, but the phoblographer video of the touch focusing of the EP3 looks awesome for casual family shots. Brown has (like you in the past) been using a combination of the Pens and Oly DSLRs for professional work (in his case journalism).

Andrew Webb said...

I have a set of original Pen lenses, too―they were the first I ever used. I use them on the EP2, but it's a pain in the ass to focus at longer focal lengths. There is a slight shimmer when you hit focus, sometimes, if you catch it. I would kill for a split-ring or a shimmer dot. I'm not a manual-focus weenie, I focused all by myself for twenty-five years. Have you found anything that works better than praying for that little shimmer?

Ghene said...

Kirk, the grip on the EP3 can be changed or removed :-) It brings customisation ideas of the camera to a whole new level (for me anyway).

It's the touch screen that got me. It seems to me that it's what been missing all along specially for those of us who like to shoot somethings that move fast. I can focus and shoot at the same time with the touchscreen enabled.

iwuvwoo said...

I'm not surprised that hundreds of thousands have read the e-pl2 review. It's the first thing that drew me to this blog. It's also what made me take the leap from my lx3 to the e-pl2. Now, a few months later, I have become rather obsessed, having bought the vf2, the panny 20mm f1.7' canon fd 50mm f1.4, hexagon 40mm and the list goes on. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us! On the eve of the e-p3 going on sale and my confusion over whether to upgrade to the e-p3, e-pl3, or even the e-pm1 (and keep my e-pl2), I look forward to returning to this blog for the review that will no doubt solidify my decision.

Low Budget Dave said...

Still trying to decide between the Oly EP3 and the Nikon D5100. The EP3 is about half the size, quiet, includes built-in IS, touchscreen, and drives external flashes. The Nikon has a flip-out screen, and about a hundred great lenses, although I only ever use one at a time.

Am I willing to carry an extra half pound of camera just to get better image quality? Considering that most of the pictures are my kid trying to climb into various fountains, the absolute picture quality might not be as important as portability.

Anonymous said...

No optical viewfinder.

Don't like bright screens blinding me in a dimly lit jazz club when I am trying to photograph the band. Leica is too damn expensive.

How about a simple decent quality Olympus with a 24-135 f/2.0 constant aperture zoom. Forget the million modes and just make it work. Decent High ISO performance, excellent AF capability.

kirk tuck said...

Anonymous. The VF2 is not blinding. The previous cameras work great. The new one should be better.