The traditional press get-together on the Olympus Photokina booth and a surprise unveiling
Ian Burley poses with the new, anonymous, mock-up of Olympus' proposed premium compact camera
Olympus Europe always has a late morning brunch meeting with the press on its Photokina booth on the day before the show officially opens, and they usually manage to spring a surprise or two. This year was just the same.
It's a difficult time for Olympus in one respect; with the relative success of its mirror-less Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens platform, partnered by heavy-hitting Panasonic Lumix, casting a shadow over Olympus' 'conventional' Four Thirds E-System DSLR platform. Olympus has devoted the lion's share of its resources into Micro Four Thirds in the last 18 months, leaving many to speculate that its Four Thirds DSLR ambitions are at an end, despite introducing an updated E-5 DSLR just prior to Photokina.
Olympus Europe's managing director, Miguel Garcia, tackled the subject of the future of Four Thirds in a talk on the booth just prior to unveiling a mock up of a new, as-yet unnamed, premium compact. Here is what he had to say:
It seems that Olympus refuse to categorically deny or confirm that they will a) produce any new Four Thirds lens designs, or b) Four Thirds E-System DSLR camera bodies. Naturally, Olympus doesn't want to lose members from the ranks of its Four Thirds users to other camera marques. One way to do this is to make existing Four Thirds lenses as compatible as possible with Micro Four Thirds bodies. A lens adapter with full electronics pass-through has been available for over a year, and Olympus has just announced that some of its most popular Four Thirds lenses, which use Olympus' high speed AF motor technology, called SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive), will soon receive firmware updates to make them work better when used with the adapter.
Meanwhile, let's have a quick look at the mysterious new Olympus compact. It's not expected until the spring of next year and hard information is quite scarce. But what we do know is that Olympus has decided that this camera will be deserving of the Zuiko Digital lens brand, the first time Olympus has used this for a compact camera model. The lens will also be an extra bright design, it will be a zoom rather than a fixed focal length optic, and the camera will be compatible with some of the accessories designed for the Olympus Pen Micro Four Thirds range, like the VF-2 electronic viewfinder, and external stereo microphone port.
Here's a few images taken of the design mock-up on the Olympus booth: