After disappointing sales of its E-300, Olympus is pinning its hopes on a smarter and more conventional eight megapixel E-500 backed up by three new affordable lenses
Read the Press Releases: Olympus extends E-System lens range to coincide with E-500 launch
Olympus announce the E-500
The smart new Olympus E-500 must sell well to make up for the disappointing E-300
Almost exactly one year ago, Olympus launched its E-300 (Evolt branded in the US), the first budget-priced DSLR to sport a sensor equipped with as many as eight million pixels. Today, after a radical rethink, the E-300 is officially replaced by the E-500 (Evolt E-500 in the US), a more conventional eight megapixel DSLR that Olympus hopes will address the issues that prevented the E-300 from selling in quantities that had been expected.
The E-300 (right) was a radical design that failed to capture the public's imagination
The E-500 is smaller, lighter, more conventionally designed and has some evolutionary improvements over the E-300. These include a larger and clearer 2.5 inch LCD monitor screen, improved light metering, better continuous shooting capability, plus a new and cheaper standard kit zoom lens option. An xD Picture Card slot is now incorporated alongside a conventional compact flash slot.
With the more original and more expensive 14-45 (28-90) f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, here in the UK, the E-500 has a projected street price of £620, or about the same as a Canon EOS-350D kit, when it goes on sale next month, compared to £499, which is the current typical discounted price for the outgoing E-300.
Extra-low cost SE kit
Although not confirmed officially, we understand E-500 'SE' body and lens package, featuring the new and cheaper 17.5-45mm (35-90) f/3.5-5.6 kit lens but minus a rechargeable battery (three disposable CR123 lithium batteries are used instead), will be significantly cheaper than the standard E-500 plus 14-45 kit lens. We should have a projected price from Olympus in a few days.
Smallest, lightest, most affordable
That means Olympus are likely to have both the most affordable DSLR on the market and it will also be the smallest and lightest, too, with only Canon offering an alternative in the form of the EOS-350D that offers more than six megapixels.
An added-value twin lens kit will be available covering the 14-150mm (28-300) range
An E-500 twin lens kit, including the 14-45 plus 40-150 (80-300) f/3.5-4.5 tele zoom, has a projected street price of £680, just £60 (approx $100 or €90) more than the single lens kit.
Key to an extra-low cost starter 'SE' kit is the new 17.5-45 (35-90) kit lens
The original 14-45mm 'economy' kit lens wasn't built down to the cost of some other kit lenses on the market, but the new 17.5-45mm lens certainly is. It's noticeably lighter and is the first Four Thirds lens to forsake metal for a plastic lens mount.
The new 17.5-45 kit lens is the first Olympus digital lens to have a plastic lens mount.
Olympus has also revealed two other budget-priced lenses aimed at potential E-500 users; a compact 35mm (70mm) f/3.5 macro, set to be available from the end of the year and a 10x 18-180mm (36-360mm) f/3.5-6.3 zoom, which is also very small for its zoom range and scheduled to be available in the spring of next year.
A new 10x 18-180mm (36-360) telephoto zoom is on its way
On the next page we examine why the E-300 wasn't the hit with the public that Olympus hoped and examine what the prospects are for the E-500.
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