9.17.2012

Olympus Announce a new Pen, A new Compact and several new lenses. It's official.

Let's start out with the camera that many, many frugal yet demanding Olympus fans have been waiting for since the introduction of the OMD EM-5, the PEN version.

The Olympus EPL-5

All of the information in this particular blog comes directly from a press release issued by Olympus USA.  All images and information are used with the permission of Olympus.

Let's cut right to the chase: The new Olympus Pen OMD EPL-5 uses exactly same sensor and is said to deliver exactly the same image quality as the recent, blockbuster OMD EM5 camera. That alone should drive sales of this camera like nothing else. The maximum ISO setting is an amazing 25,600. Most of us will be quite happy to shoot at 3200 ISO and get the kind of low noise performance we've seen in the flagship model. To focus at the scary edges of darkness the camera is bundled with an AF illuminator and accessory FL-LM1 flash, which will add to the low light performance.

This camera has a few other cool upgrades in addition to the sensor performance. Of course it uses a touch screen and the same instantaneous shutter triggering Touch AF Shutter function technology we've already seen. At to this a more than 2X increase in frame rate of 8fps in Single AF mode.  The screen on the back is a 460,000 dot LCD and has an Anti-Fingerprint coating. According to the press release the screen is bright enough to allow composing even in harsh, midday light. (I wonder if the light in a Texas Summer counts...).

The camera allows for shooting in 1080i, full HD and includes two cool things. 1. A movie teleconverter that magnifies the image up to 4x with NO image deterioration (make sense since the actual sensor is 8X the number of dots one ends up with in 2K video).  And, 2. There is a fade effect that allows one to transition between art filters without having to stop or pause shooting.

There's some nonsense about being able to share images on your (anti) social networks wirelessly but I ignored most of that paragraph since the concept is only of interest to died in the wool hipsters...

The estimated street price is $650 and the folks at Olympus indicated that the camera will start shipping in October.  Check over at DPReview for a complete page of specifications.

My short list of specs is:

-16 megapixel super sensor, ala OMD EM5. Very, very cool.
-Improved video functionality.
-very fast 8 fps performance in S-AF
-Fast action touch shutter on the touch screen.
-Usable with the (almost mandatory) VF-2 EVF

Available, I'm sure, in all the usual colors.

If you were mostly interested in the OMD EM-5 for the low light performance and better dynamic range of its breakthrough Sony sensor here's a way to get exactly the same performance for about half the price----and in a form factor that people seem to like very well.






click on any of these to enlarge.




BUT THERE'S MORE.  MUCH, MUCH MORE.

Olympus also upgraded their mini Pen camera. The new offering is small, cute and potent. They are calling it the Olympus PEN E-PM2.

Pen E-PM2

I'm not going to go into too much detail about this camera since I think the majority of my readers are interested in cameras that are aimed more at hobbyists and professionals but this one also has the Promethean sensor of the micro gods; the OMD EM5 sensor and, according to Olympus has the exact same image quality of its bigger and more expensive brethren. Not only that but it's also the only one available in this delightful red...  A you a real image quality purist? Not a camera snob? Maybe this one is for you....

But wait, there's more...

It wouldn't be a full on product introduction without another camera introduction. The designers in the compact camera bullpen at Olympus have repackaged and upgraded the Stylus XZ-1 and unveiled a new product called, the Stylus XZ-2 iHS which they say, "Takes the compact camera category to the E-Treme."  Right.


I could discuss this camera at length but it would be easier and more comprehensive if I just went ahead and copied the existing press release...

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., September 17, 2012Olympus pushes the compact digital camera to a new X-treme with the introduction of the Olympus STYLUS XZ-2, its game-changing, flagship high-performance point-and-shoot. The STYLUS XZ-2 is a hybrid that combines optical brilliance, the manual controls of a DSLR and the unbeatable convenience of a lightweight compact in a body every imaging enthusiast should love. Inheriting the 4x optical / 4x Digital zoom iZUIKO® DIGITAL f1.8-2.5 large-diameter lens found on its predecessor, the award-winning Olympus XZ-1®, the Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 builds on its low-light performance with new features: the world's first hybrid control ring, customizing controls so ambitious photographers easily capture the shot; a new fast, touch-sensitive tilt screen; the powerful TruePic VI image processor; Full HD movie recording and FlashAir® compatibility to share images immediately on social networks.

The digital lens of the Olympus XZ-2 (iZUIKO f1.8-2.5 (28-112mm*), a 4x compact version of legendary ZUIKO Digital lenses, is designed for clear, high-quality photographic performance, whether set at its maximum f1.8 aperture for amazing wide-angle shots, or at f2.5 for 112mm* telephoto images. The result is expressive background defocusing and sophisticated bokeh, plus the flexibility to use short, blur-free exposure times in low light. The camera’s iHS technology and the large-aperture lens work together to deliver high-sensitivity, low noise and blazing auto-focus performance that translates to the highest image quality of any Olympus compact camera.

The newly developed 12.0 megapixel, 1/1.7" high-sensitivity back-lit CMOS sensor, working with the TruePic VI processor, the same processor used in the Olympus OM-D E-M5™ system camera, provides faster recovery time and shutter release to capture images with true-to-life colors, rich details and low noise. To complement the speed of the f1.8 lens, the camera’s low-light mode automatically adjusts the ISO sensitivity up to ISO 12,800 to take sharp, full-resolution photos in dim conditions, and an easily accessible built-in pop-up flash and AF illuminator brightens low-lit subjects, reduces red-eye and fills in dark areas.

The Olympus XZ-2 is equipped with the world's first hybrid control ring, built around the lens, which allows users to easily assign function settings to their preferences as well as switch between analog and digital operation of the ring. The digital operation provides a solid click on controls, whereas the analog operation offers a smooth, gliding feeling. When the Fn 2 lever next to the lens is placed downward, the ring around the lens switches to analog control so it can be used as a focus or a zoom ring. If the lever is placed at an angle, the ring around the lens switches to digital control to change exposure-related settings quickly and easily. This feature enables fine-tuning of the focus in macro, composition selection when shooting, and exposure adjustment all without looking away from subjects.

Basic operations and settings of the Olympus XZ-2, starting with touch controls and Live Guide, as well as a new graphic user interface will be familiar to Olympus PEN® and OM-D shooters. Instantly activate the Touch AF Shutter function to select the subject you want to focus on and activate the shutter simply by touching the swivel 3.0 inch, 920,000 dot LCD screen. The XZ-2 design is enhanced with a removable grip that offers the option for a sleek style grip, and metal is used throughout the body for a strong and sharp look.

The Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 is packed with additional technologies including DUAL IS, which combines with high-sensitivity shooting to reduce camera shake and subject blur, providing double image stabilization. HDR backlit correction captures multiple images with a single shot at different exposures and automatically merges them into one image, and Super Resolution technology expands zoom power up to eight times with minimal image degradation. iAuto mode automatically identifies up to 30 different scenes. The XZ-2 also features 11 Art Filters and 5 Art Effects that easily bring artistic visions to life.

In addition to superior still image quality, the 1080p Full HD Movie capability with stereo sound captures movies in the best quality currently available in compact cameras. Multi-Motion Movie IS image stabilization corrects for the common gradual camera shake that occurs when shooting on the move, delivering more stable, higher-quality movies. Beautiful movies can be shot even longer with a 1920 x 1080 High-Definition size and MOV/H.264 movie compression that has an excellent compatibility with computers.
The Olympus XZ-2 is also designed to make sharing your amazing images even easier. Using the smartphone connection function, simply set up a compatible Toshiba FlashAir SDHC card with an internal wireless LAN to make a Wi-Fi connection. With the Olympus Image Share smartphone application (to be released in September), easy image upload onto a smartphone via a thumbnail index, adding Art Filters to images on a smartphone, and sharing images on various social networking services is possible.

A wide range of creative and practical accessories is available to adapt the Olympus XZ-2 for specific needs, including three alternative grips in a variety of colors (red, beige and purple), a body jacket and underwater housing. There’s also a sleek, matching black LC-63A lens cap that opens and closes automatically whenever you activate the camera. To expand the camera’s versatility, the XZ-2 includes an accessory port for compatibility with a growing range of Micro Four Thirds® accessories.

*35mm equivalent.









I am so happy they added a grip to this camera as it the thin body is different enough to me to confuse my fingers when I first started using the XZ-1...

I'm sure you're exhausted by this point but we haven't even touched on the new lenses.  Yes, new lenses!




Going through by increasing focal length, there are some interesting new lenses for the Olympus Pen (and all other m4:3 standard) cameras. First off is just a cosmetic change. You can now get the very well respected 12mm f2.0 wide angle lens in......black. You'll pay more money for the privilege. The estimated street price is $1100. And while it's a very good lens that puts it into the same pricing territory as Panasonic's very, very good 7-14mm zoom lens.  But then again, I guess a large part of the fun is in the selection process.  Moving on....

The "Body Cap."

Olympus is calling this one "the Body Cap" and I think it's fun and intriguing. It's a 15mm, three element, f8 lens (30mm eq. on 35mm FF). The actual designation is the BCL-15 f8.0 Body Cap Lens.  The lens is just 9mm thick and it's meant to be left on the body whenever you're just tooling around or when you've got the camera stuffed inside of some pocket or a boot or a sock.

It's basically a lens that's always in focus due to it's small aperture and short focal length. It actually seems like a perfect snapshot lens.  It can be manually focused and will focus down to 30cm's.  "A lens-protection barrier is provided  so the lens can be mounted permanently on the camera and even put in a pocket together with a camera."  No street price was given in the press release but it's sure to become a cult favorite among Lomo-ists who secretly crave a camera with more control and an infinitely better sensor...... See below for a camera mounted view of the lens.

Camera with "Body Cap."

Now here's a serious and covetable lens. The 17mm f 1.8.

But here's a lust prevention warning: The above lens is "in development" and will be available in the first half of 2013. Bummer. This is the lens that everyone I know wants right now.

When it hits the market it will be the 35mm 1.8 equivalent to get. This len on an EPL-5 camera body will be a wonderful street shooting combo, as long as they have the brains to also make it available in a nice, black finish.....

Personally? All lenses should be black. A VSL study shows that images from black lenses are 0.3275 more interesting than images from all other lens finishes.

And Finally.  The last of the Olympus introductions for Now....


Yes. It's a 60 mm f2.8 true macro. 
It's dust proof and splash proof. 
And knowing Olympus it's really, really sharp.

Since I haven't played with it anything I say about it would be total conjecture. I like using my older 60mm on the Pen cameras. It's a nice focal length. While not nearly as fast as the original Pen 60mm 1.5 I am sure this macro will be decades sharper.  We'll see. I'm sure I'll have one to test as soon as they come out.  In the meantime here's what Olympus says about it in their press release:

"""CENTER VALLEY, Pa., September 17, 2012 – Today, Olympus adds to the Micro Four Thirds family of  lenses with the release of the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm* f2.8 Macro lens, a single focal-length macro lens with a dust-splash-proof body that’s ideal for harsh weather conditions. Also joining the expansive list of Olympus® lenses is a limited edition black version of the popular M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f2.0 high-grade snapshot lens and an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f1.8 high-grade lens currently under development.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 lens features excellent close-up capability with 1X** magnification and a focusing distance of 19cm. Its dust-and-splash-proof construction enables the user to shoot macro images in a wide range of conditions, including in the rain or near the water, in addition to traditional landscape and portrait photography.

To ensure the best possible imaging quality, 13 lens elements are incorporated in 10 groups of lenses within the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 with extensive use of special glass materials such as ED (Extra-low Dispersion), HR (High Refractive index) and E-HR (Extra-High Refractive index) elements to completely eliminate the chromatic aberrations often noticeable with telephoto macro lenses. This optical design ensures consistently clear, sharp, high-contrast imaging performance.

Ideal for capturing brilliant still images and high-definition (HD) videos, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 employs an Olympus developed MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) autofocusing mechanism that features an inner focus system to drive quick and quiet focusing. A shooting distance and magnification indicator window enhance macro shooting control and precision.

A focus limit switch sets the focusing range to enable faster focusing. Three modes are available, including close-up (focusing distance between 19 and 40 cm), normal (focusing distance from 19 cm to infinity) and far view (focusing distance from 40 cm to infinity). The 1:1 mode shifts focusing to 1:1 with one-touch operation. Simply setting the mode according to the application makes it easy for users to shoot quickly and comfortably with various shooting styles and at a range of distances.

The optional LH-49 Lens Hood designed exclusively for the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 blocks harmful rays of light and can be safely stored without detaching it from the lens. The lens eliminates the hassle of attaching and detaching the hood before and after every shooting session, but also providing effective protection for the lens body. The FR-2 Macro Ring enables compatibility with the RF-11 Ring Flash and the STF-22 Twin Flash Set."""

kirk's final notes.

I think Olympus will have great market success with the EPL-5. What's not to like about it? Fast, amazing image quality, small and light, usable with a mountain of lenses and who can forget those amazing colors in the jpegs?

The 60 macro will end up in just about every OMD EM5 user's bag since it's most probably going to be a great optic and it is one of the few weather resistant lenses in the line.

I hope the Body Cap Lens is cheap enough to be an impulse purchase and I'm sure someone will create a style around the look. If it's priced over $125 I'll be amazed...and amused.  Even more so if people flock to buy it.

Looks like a well done introduction. Now all we have left is to sit back and wait for the ultra-professional Pen body, the EP-5 to hit the market.  The right form factor and this time with the right sensor. When they've done that Olympus will have maximized the value of the m4:3 proposition. Well done.






41 comments:

D&E Photography said...

Relatively interesting but I'm surprised you are trumpeting this with your marriage to Sony... unless Oly is your rich mistress :)

I don't know, to my eye the GH3 looks more interesting, but for now all my M43 bodies have been herded into a big auction site round up. The D600 is probably the most interesting to me of all the announcements in the past two weeks. The no nonsense, no frills D3200 has been a pleasant, budget pleasing surprise. Frankly its probably where my hobby and occasional job shooting will stay for a while unless I can add a D700 from someone throwing ballast off of their exciting uber hardware upgrade "hot air" balloon ride :)

Bill Beebe said...

There was a leak that priced the 15mm at US$80. As for the 1:1.8/17mm, I'd love to have one, but not if it's priced like the silver 12mm. As for the black 12mm special edition, well, it's good to have choices and I've made mine...

Bill Beebe said...

Oh, I forgot my snarky comment about the $600 XZ-2: for a mere $50 more, I can has Sony RX-100. With the much larger 1" Sony sensor.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hey David, Just reporting the news. I think you'll find a lot of VSL readers are Olympus fans and use the cameras exclusively or in tandem with a Nikon or Canon DSLR system or a Sony SLT system. Fun to read about if you still have one foot in each camp.

I'm not married to Sony. We're just dating...

Dave Jenkins said...

Tell the truth, Kirk. Did you sell all your M4/3s lenses in your recent house-cleaning?

Gregg Mack said...

This is an interesting set of product announcements from Olympus. I will be closely watching the reviews on the 60mm Macro. One of the best features of the OM-D E-M5 camera is the in-body 5-axis image stabilization. Your short list of features for the Pen OMD EPL-5 didn't say if that camera also inherited that IS. That, plus the lack of the EVF could certainly drop a few hundred dollars of the price from the OM-D E-M5 to the Pen OMD EPL-5.

Caleb Courteau said...

A fabulous bunch of gear from Olympus. The lenses especially look enticing. A year ago the XZ-2 would have been a mouth watering piece of gear. While it surely takes wonderful pictures, we live in an RX-100 world now, as Bill Beebe pointed out.

Kirk Tuck said...

Dave, All the bodies and m4:3 lenses are gone. I liked the Sony Nex-7 better. I still have six Pen FT bodies and thirteen original Pen F lenses. They are actually usable on the Nex-7 as well. I thought I mentioned selling off the m4:3 stuff earlier.

Kirk Tuck said...

The press release mentioned that the EPL5 has only a three way image stabilization set up.

Kirk Tuck said...

I think Bill is probably right. I wish I lived in an RX-1 world....

Tom Barry said...

I still have a use for a pocket camera. I would have bought an XZ-1, as I already have the viewfinder, except that you can't hold focus and exposure and recompose. I hope they fixed that in the XZ-2. For the moment, I'll stick with my Canon S95, even without a viewfinder.

Tom Barry said...

I hope the new XZ-2 has a feature to allow the user to hold focus and exposure and recompose. The lack of that facility kept me from buying an XZ-1 and sticking with my Canon S95.

Mr said...

lol@ texas harsh light, and extra low dispersion LOL@ "lust prevention!"

i neeeeeeeeeeeed that lens! and keep my x100, and i may neeeeeeeeed(note the ever so slightly fewer E's) the rx1... one can never have too many 35mm equivs... :D

i wish they had put in a u43 sensor into the xz2
i still wouldnt ever think about buying one, but it woulda been nice for those that do

Dave Jenkins said...

You did report that earlier. I just wondered if you might have possibly held back a lens or two, just in case... :-)

Dave Jenkins said...

I'm probably down for an E-PL5 when the prices calm down a bit and I can get a body-only. Don't need no more steenkin' kit lenses.

John Krumm said...

I think some folks were still hoping for a little more easy camera control from at least the new EPL, but the image quality at first glance looks good to me. Love the iso 10,000 boot shot DPR put up. The flippy screen looks worth the $100.

Dogman said...

As a current user of the E-P1 and E-P2, the new E-Pen body is interesting--more so than the E-P3 was at the time it was introduced. But I'd really like that 17/1.8 if, as mentioned previously above, it's reasonably priced. If it ends up costing more than about $500, I'll have to pass...or wait for them to show up on the used market.

Kirk, I know you're a EVF fan but I'm not. I can't get around the blown out highlights in bright daylight and the grainy weirdness in low light situations as well as the jerky images. I prefer OVFs to EVFs. After buying the Olympus EVF as well as using the G-series Panasonic cameras and trying other cameras incorporating the EVF, I was disappointed enough to go back to DSLRs for a lot of my shooting. The only thing that the EVFs did for me was make using the back LCD more appealing. My E-Pen bodies usually wear auxillary OVFs, matched to 25mm and 17mm lenses and this arrangement, although focal length limited, suits me better. But, to each his own.

Kirk Tuck said...

I hear that. No more duplicate kit lenses!!!

Mike said...

Okay, what the . . . a depth of field scale on the 17 with no distance markings that would actually allow you to use the scale? Am I missing something here?

Kirk Tuck said...

Maybe corner the market on the old Leica brightline finders.

ohnostudio said...

Thanks for the summary and opinions. Now I don't have to wade too deep in a quagmire of crap. If the EP5 live view screen is significantly improved, that would be great. On my bargain PEN E=PL1, it's really the only thing I really dislike. While I can function the way it is, there's a bit of guesstimating withought an add on viewfinder.

rental mobil jakarta said...

Very nice camera, thanks for the information.

Corwin said...

That special new sensor in Olympus cams is actually made by Sony. :D So everything is alright..

Mike said...

Aaannnnnddddd, I just noticed it on the 12 as well. Seriously, what am I overlooking?

Corwin said...

EPL-5 + VF2 = perfection for me.. Tho wouldnt mind if Olympus made those smaller cams weather sealed too.

Anonymous said...

Why does the 17mm f1.8 have a DOF scale? Dare anyone hope for the street shooters 'set focus and let dof cover your a**' method of working? Because even with an ultra fast auto focus how do you know what object the focus will lock on to.

John Robison

Kirk Tuck said...

I think the DOF scale is for those hardy manual focusing people. A technique that still works. I'd love it if Olympus would add focus peaking while in MF...

frank said...

I was thinking E-PL5 + the new 17 and a VF-2 but it just comes out to too much. I will be getting an x100 soon hopefully!

I read your guest post by big camera guy in my RSS reader. Pretty funny.

Kirk Tuck said...

Bonus post for the quick.

Anonymous said...

The ring behind the scale slides back to reveal the missing distance markings. The designers consider this a feature, photographers think of it as a bug. What were they thinking!! Check-out the photos on the B&H site, they show the lens with the ring in both positions http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/805167-REG/Olympus_V311020SU000_M_Zuiko_Digital_ED.html

c.d.embrey

Murray Davidson said...

I see you've pulled it... I was going to write and point out that, while us subtler folk realized that the author was a real person, there is a less perceptive part of the internet community that might have incorrectly come to the erroneous conclusion that you were behind a _nom de plume_ and a satirical post!
On re-reading, I was, however, convinced by the erudition, consideration and proper substantiation of his views, so no concerns there then!

(Just how hot did the "author's" asbestos shorts get, by the way, before he chickened out?)

Kirk Tuck said...

I actually only had one anonymous commenter who vowed never to read (anything) again if I posted more things like that. I didn't remove it for him. In retrospect I thought it just didn't serve any good purpose and wasn't funny enough to stand on its own. I wrote it in the middle of last week and vacillated all weekend. When i finally posted I quickly realized that my initial hesitancy was actually my almost moribund "good taste filter" trying to exert itself....

But nothing is ever really erased from the web, is it?

Mike said...

Okay, having not handled one, I missed that. Thanks for clearing that up for me!

RocketRick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RocketRick said...

Kirk, Olympus has announced the price for the 15mm "body cap lens": it's just $50! At that price, I think it'll definitely be a winner.

https://us.buyolympus.com/body-cap-lens-15mm.html?utm_source=em_penfall2012&utm_medium=email_&utm_campaign=em_penfall2012&utm_content=caplens

I think I'll get one for my E-PL1, just for giggles. At that price point, it's much more of an impulse buy than anything else. I have a feeling it's going to be quite popular with street shooters and the "Lomography" crowd.

Carlo Santin said...

I am really feeling sort of lost in camera land at the moment. The new Oly stuff has me shrugging my shoulders. I just can't get excited about the micro 4/3 format, and I can't explain why.

The Sony Nex-6 or the 7 are interesting as is the new Fuji ex-1. I thought I would be all over the Nikon D600 but now that it's out I'm not real eager to part with over 2k. I'm strangely attracted to the Sony rx1, but I won't be buying it at that price. Still shooting with my Nikon D50 and my film cameras for the next while, maybe a long while.

Noons said...

I think Olympus got the balance right with this 16Mpixel series. Anything above requires a huge jump in lens quality to match the ability of the sensors. How many auto-focusing problems have we seen lately with 24MP+ cameras? Any wonder why? Try dropping the resolution to a more mundane 16Mpixel - or around 20mpixel in FF - and the quality doesn't appreciable drop while the convenience and usability with just about any lens is right up there. I was very keen on upgrading my EPL camera to a OMD but this EPL5 looks like just the ticket and at a much better price. Plus, it'll work fine with the EVF2. Win-win, all the way! Thank you Olympus, you and Sony are fast becoming a good alternative to the big two.

David Hufford said...

Well, I don't plan on buying the EPL5 just yet, unless my now misbehaving EP3 goes belly-up after 7k shots, but I gotta ask one thing: As there is no thumb wheel, how does one adjust the aperture in A or M mode? Surely not with that dainty, finicky, drives-me-nuts wheel around "ok" button, or even worse, via touch screen or similar. I hope the full-size Pen is not discontinued, but having been abandoned by Oly in the past, I suppose it will be.

Anyway, I am still PO'd at that company, but that anger may decrease when I need a new Pen.

emde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
emde said...

If you pull back the ring, not only the distance markings are revealed - you also switch the manual focus handling: Having normally a focus by wire mechanism, i.e. the focus whell can be rotated endlessly without any stop, with the ring pulled back you have a direct foucs mechnism with physical stops at close and at infinity.

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