Does Olympus have a show-stopper on the way?
By Ian Burley
Will Photokina witness the birth of a digital Olympus OM system?
are separated by 30 years. Will a digital model
revive the Ďtrueí Olympus SLR?
I received an intriguing email from today which just begged to be featured in its own news story. Photokina, the huge biennial photographic trade show in Cologne, Germany, takes place at the end of next month. 18 months ago news leaked from Olympus and Kodak (CCD technology) concerning the gestation of an all-new digital SLR system, with interchangeable lenses. There is increasing expectation that the baby will be born at this yearís Photokina.
It should be emphatically stressed that DP-Now has no privileged information, under embargo or otherwise, to support this speculation. But as a former Olympus OM system user I am in plenty of company and Iím sure what the following email says will be very interesting, to say the least:
Iwert Bernakiewicz wrote:
I just read this in the dutch "Camera Magazine":
can't be the 5050 in my opinion, so?
Itís certainly not the 5050 (click here) and sadly I know nothing more. In a second message, Iwert once again wrote:
Maybe interesting to know as well: at the Photokina 1972 the manual SLR Olympus OM1 was presented (quite a revolution at that time...), that's exactly 30 years ago... and the OM line has been discontinued this year. Olympus missed the autofocus SLR market of the 90's completely, so it could be preparing a big coup in the digital arena...
New film SLRs can be bought today for under £200. That budget will only buy you an entry-level digicam. True digital SLRs, which can take interchangeable lenses, start at near enough £2,000 in the UK - and for that much money you wonít even get a lens.
Current digital SLRs from Canon, Nikon, Contax and Fujifilm are all based on 35mm film camera bodies and use very expensive large image sensors to maintain compatibility with 35mm system lenses.
Olympus has chosen not to go down that route. It should be pointed out that Olympus didnít have a suitable donor 35mm body, anyway and indeed, Olympus did use its IS fixed lens SLR design as a basis for the Olympus Camedia C-1x000 family and the C-2500 and E-100RS SLR digicams. More recently, the Olympus E-10 and E-20 have extended this theme, but again without interchangeable lenses.
Olympus fans might want to quote the legendary Mr.Maitani, who masterminded the original M-1 system (before it was hastily renamed OM after Leica pointed out it already had used the M1 model name): "A camera maker that simply copies others' idea has no right to call itself an original maker in the first place." So has the Olympus tradition of SLR innovation survived into the digital age?
If Olympus has a true digital SLR with a new system of lenses and accessories under wraps and it is free of the legacy of 35mm and itís a great deal more affordable than the current crop of £2,000 leviathans, then I, for one, will rejoice.
The original OM-system launched at Photokina in 1972, with its renowned Zuiko lenses, quickly achieved cult status. The cult remains to this day. If you donít believe me, here is a link to some OM poetry... click here if you dare!
Are you a former OM user? What would you like to see in a hypothetical digital ĎOMí system? Or do you think weíre all deluding ourselves? Tell us what you really think: click here.