Olympus Ups the Ante with OM-D E-M1

Olympus may be bruised by its legal troubles, but the company is definitely in a fighting mood. Proof is today's announcement of a pro-level Micro Four-Thirds camera and a fast f/2.8 zoom lens for the Micro Four-Thirds system. The OM-D E-M1, seeks to make up for the shortcomings the OM-D E-M5 displayed, as well as offer those invested in the Four-Thirds system an upgrade path into Micro Four Thirds.

The camera's specifications promise fast dual autofocus, adding phase detection autofocus for increased speed and improved tracking ability. Also coming are an improved electronic viewfinder, WIFI, a pro body with a built-in grip. The finicky buttons of the E-M5 are a thing of the past. Add to that the stellar in-body stabilization of previous Olympus models and the excellent 16.3MP sensor, now with updated imaging processing software, and Olympus seems to be offering a lot of camera for $1,399. It's shipping early October.

Granted. I'm a fan of the Micro Four Thirds format. I like its combination of small sizes and excellent lenses. It reminds me of my old Pentax. Judging by the forum reactions about this camera, not everyone is willing to shell out $1,400 for a small camera when they can get a top-notch DSLR for about the same price.

DPReview.com had a test model and is reporting that the autofocus speed has improved, but is still lagging compared to DSLRs when used with Four-Third Lenses and the adapter.

Olympus also announced a 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens, offering the equivalent of a 24-80mm lens in 35mm format. The price will be $999 and that includes the lens hood. It seems Olympus finally realized it was angering its customers by not providing a hood with its expensive lenses. The lens will ship in December.

I'll be sure to pick up the E-M1 the moment it's available and try it out. I'm still working on my 'impressions from Paris' writeup and I feel that this camera might have been the one camera that would have suited me in Paris over the three that I used there.

By John van Rosendaal