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Olympus EP-1 First Impressions from a store demo
Old 06-24-2009   #1
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Thumbs up Olympus EP-1 First Impressions from a store demo

I'm now shooting with a Leica M8.2, and for me, it's perfect (or as perfect as any camera can be) as every camera has it's trade-offs.
I found myself looking for a backup for the M8.2. Something a bit smaller, something that had more 'substance' than all of the 'technoplastic' point-and-shoots out there. It also, has to be able to shoot very clean images up to at least iso 400. I had an Olympus OM-1 in the 70's, and also an Olympus Pen F, and was always pleased with both the mechanics as well as the Zuiko optics.
When I heard about the Olympus EP-1, a Micro 4/3 format, interchangeable lens, all-metal body with 'SLR-brains', it definitely peaked my interest. One of the local camera shops here in MA (well, not so local, it took me an hour and a half to drive there), had one to demo, so I drove off to check it out.
Here were some of my impressions:


When I picked it up, I noticed that it felt very dense. Not necessarily heavy, but very solid. There must be more metal in this camera that just the exterior body panels. The top is made of aluminum, and the body panels are a brushed stainless steel. It may prove to be prone to scratches, but to someone who is just a little careful, it should be very durable. The Olympus 14-42 M.Zuiko Digital zoom lens felt a little 'light' when compared to the body, but it felt tight, no wobble, and featured some ED elements. Remember it is a kit lens, and can't be compared to the Olympus premium glass available for the E-3. All in all, it felt better than expected. The other thing that I noticed, it that it a manual zoom. The lens mount is stainless steel, and looks to be either polished or plated. The mounting/dismounting of the lens is very smooth, and the lens locked with a very perceptible 'click'.


The EP-1 is smaller and lighter than my M8.2, but a bit wider than say, a Canon G10. It is somewhat squared off around the edges, sort of like the Zeiss Ikon film body, but smaller. I wanted to bring it up towards my eye to look through a viewfilnder, but it was omitted by Olympus, probably to cut down on size. I've never found the optical viewfinders on digital cameras to be pretty good anyway. They aren't accurate, are somewhat out of focus, and generally not very useful. I don't see this as a 'negative'.
Some have observed or perceived that the menu system is a bit confusing or too 'deep', but I didn't find this the case. Remember, this camera has many of the features borrowed from Olympus SLRs, so to provide this sort of feature set, additional menus had to be put into place. I found them to be fairly intuitive, but a deeper menu system than say a Canon G10, which has quite a few external buttons and dials to select some of the functions.
It features the usual Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, Full Auto and Manual, as well as other nifty items.


I took several photos around the store at iso 200 and 400 and zoomed in on the LCD. The images looked very clean. This site dpreview did a nice preliminary review, and this camera measures up and even exceeds many DSLRs in terms of lack of noise/grain. I didn't look on my 22' monitor or print any images, so I can't say whether the images have too much noise reduction which can reduce sharpness. What I can say is that all of the sample images taken my the numerous reviewers tend to look very good. The only negative is that the LCD is only (I believe 230,000 pixels), so it is just "ok". The Canon G10 features an LCD that is around 430,000 pixels, so the difference is like watching a ball game on a regular channel vs. Digital HD. I would rather put their $$ into the sensor, lens and build quality, which the apparently did.


I am certainly interested in the various adapters that are currently available as well as the ones that will be made available in the future. Since this is based on the 4/3 standard, Panasonic adapters which are currently available for the Lumix G1 will work fine. Olympus has also come out with a MMF-1, Micro 4/3 adapter, which will allow pretty much all 4/3 lenses to be mounted on the EP-1 and function properly. Additionally, there is also a MF-2 adapter, which will allow the legacy "OM" lenses to work on manual focus (of course), but also under manual exposure. I'm also particularly interested in a Leica M-Series adapter, which will be made by either Panasonic or Olympus. I've been told that Cosina/Voigtlander has also made an M-Series adapter for the Micro 4/3 format, and is available at Cameraquest.


Olympus seems to be sort of 'testing the waters' with this camera to determine its popularity. The BJP or British Journal of Photography mentioned that Olympus is already planning more professional updates and versions of this sort of camera utilizing the Micro 4/3 standard. Read more here:

http://newsletters.incisivemedia.com/q/14q7qmTBq57H8i/wv


I was pretty impressed with the EP-1. So much so that I pre-ordered one with the 14-42 zoom. I will also order the 17mm F/2.8 'pancake' lens and the flash when it comes in.
For me, this appears to be a very solid, viable camera with a growing system of lenses and accessories coming. I hope that Olympus does well with this model and sparks the 4/3 standard to introduce even more cameras and accessories.

Brad
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Old 06-24-2009   #2
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Great writeup Brad. I'm posting a link to it on my blog.

One question about zooming in on the images in playback mode:
Did it feel like you were able to zoom into the photo to "actual pixels" level? Many DSLRs embed a smaller (~2-4mp) JPEG preview into their RAW files, or do not let you zoom fully into the full-size JPEGs. This ability would nice for checking critical focus.
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RE: Olympus EP-1 First Impressions from a store demo
Old 06-24-2009   #3
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RE: Olympus EP-1 First Impressions from a store demo

Sam;

I took a photo of the clerk, and then played it back. There is a vertical knurled thumbwheel on the top right rear of the camera. I rotated the wheel to zoom during playback. I zoomed and also toggled with the Rotating Dial and Arrow Keys to zoom in on the clerk's beard. It looked very sharp.

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Old 06-24-2009   #4
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But will it blend?
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Old 06-24-2009   #5
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Not sure. But dpreview did a fairly comprehensive review of this aspect. If I understand what you're asking, it should be found here:

http://www.dpreview.com/previews/olympusep1/page10.asp

Thanks

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Old 06-24-2009   #6
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What's your opinion on focusing speed? A lot of people are concerned about this. Was it fast enough that it could hurt someone when you focus on them? Thanks for the review!
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Old 06-24-2009   #7
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I thought that it was comparable to my Canon G10, but certainly not like an SLR. Also, the focusing speed may vary depending on the lens that is mounted.

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Old 06-24-2009   #8
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Here is a review of the camera in action...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJbLdGA-ZTE
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Old 06-24-2009   #9
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Reviews on AF speed are all over the scale. Some say fast as an SLR, some say slow, and some say it doesn't matter, they are going to zone focus the thing anyway. Have to wait until there are some in the wild for awhile, I guess.
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Old 06-24-2009   #10
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Make of it what you will... e-p1 VS d3

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...hread=32227706
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Old 06-24-2009   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by .ken View Post
Make of it what you will... e-p1 VS d3

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...hread=32227706

Tests done by individuals can be manipulated. And in this particular case, manipulation is the name of this person's game.

There is no reason whatsoever that certain parts of the white napkin shot by the (supposed) D3 have selective blowout. Upon close examination I can only come to the conclusion that the manipulator selectively applied the dodge tool in photoshop in order to make it appear that the D3's sensor has less DR than the E-P1 sensor.

The lower visible part of the white napkin easily shows it. Comparing that area to the same section shot by the (supposed) E-P1, it is easy to spot where and how the manipulation took place.

Poor guy. He must have bought Olympus stock.
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Old 06-24-2009   #12
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I wanna see actual image samples. Yes the camera is pretty but all I want to know is what the photos look like.
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Old 06-24-2009   #13
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I've heard many speak of using the EP1 as back-up to their M8s; I am personally considering the same thing. But I am thinking of using my Leica lenses on it. Has anyone posted any images taken with Leica glass on the EP1? I'm curious as to the quality compared with images taken on the M8?
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Old 06-25-2009   #14
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CNET reviews it:
http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-came...-33704135.html
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Old 06-25-2009   #15
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I played with it a bit at Henry's Queen & Church location in Toronto today. I agree, it seems very solid. Focusing was hunting a lot until the clerk turned on face detection. I saw some full-size outdoor shots and they looked very nice. That was with the kit zoom lens.

If I was buying a digital I would look strongly at it.
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Old 06-25-2009   #16
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Thanks for posting that CNET review. I find that shutter lag a concern. That's a deal-breaker issue for me. I don't really understand the difference between 0.3 and 1.4 in terms of working with the camera. Anyway, I am looking forward to fondling one of these and I hope they show-up in the regular camera stores soon.

capitalK, what a cool looking stereo camera you have...
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Old 06-25-2009   #17
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Brad, thanks for the info about the magnify. It looks like you can get down to pixel level or at least very close.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sirius View Post
Here is a review of the camera in action...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJbLdGA-ZTE
That's a promotional video put out by Olympus, not a review. It's still interesting though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkhorse View Post
I wanna see actual image samples. Yes the camera is pretty but all I want to know is what the photos look like.
There are plenty of samples at all the major review sites (dpreview, etc.).

---

As for the CNET review, remember that actual shutter lag and "shot lag" / "shutter lag" (as CNET calls it) are not the same thing. CNET is measuring times including AF operation. Typically, shutter lag is only the time from pressing the shutter to taking the photo when prefocused (S1->S2 in dpreview parlance).

The long power-up times are inexcusable. There are no moving parts to extend and many DSLR shooters are used to any modern Canon/Nikon powering up faster than you can compose a shot.

Last edited by Sam N : 06-25-2009 at 17:38.
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Old 06-25-2009   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Tests done by individuals can be manipulated. And in this particular case, manipulation is the name of this person's game.

There is no reason whatsoever that certain parts of the white napkin shot by the (supposed) D3 have selective blowout. Upon close examination I can only come to the conclusion that the manipulator selectively applied the dodge tool in photoshop in order to make it appear that the D3's sensor has less DR than the E-P1 sensor.

The lower visible part of the white napkin easily shows it. Comparing that area to the same section shot by the (supposed) E-P1, it is easy to spot where and how the manipulation took place.

Poor guy. He must have bought Olympus stock.
Kevin, how dare you speak out against the EP-1 ! j/k

After examining that thread it should be obvious to anyone as you say, napkin lower gives that away - was either posted by the Olympus MD or Mr I M A Liar. Comparing the results of a "micro" 4/3 sensor to a FF sensor?!? Hmmm, we all know who the winner will be and maybe like comparing a Bugatti Veyron to a VW Golf. Both good cars for sure but hey come on, we all know which is far superior so no kiddy games in trying to make out the family hatchback is a supercar eh?

@ bherman - Many thanks for the hands on experience you posted. Nice to see from someone who has acdtually now handled the camera and had a play around with it. The focus hunt and the shutter lag are the two things that seem to keep croping up so there must be a fair bit of truth regarding those two weak aspects. And yes it does have that squared off shape like the Zeiss Ikon doesn't it?
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Old 06-25-2009   #19
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The longer power up times are because the SuperSonicWaveFilter is doing it's thing. It's the most effective dust eliminator on the market - to put it quite simply, olympus DSLRS very very very rarely get dust on their sensors - my 5d has to be cleaned every few weeks, my dads olympus e-410 has never been cleaned in 2 years and has no dust on the sensor.

It's worth the extra second in startup time.
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Old 06-26-2009   #20
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I went to a shop which had one and they let me put my sd card in it. So here are some completely unartistic full size samples with the 17mm lens:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/3682229...7620625425672/

*EDIT* well, apparently my free flickr account won't allow full size viewing, and I don't want to clutter up my normal flickr account with these.

I'll leave them up there (only viewable downsized) but if anyone wants to see them full size send me a pm and I'll email one over.

*BTW* the focus does hunt, but that makes it sound worse than it is. It doesn't seem to hunt like a SLR, where it cannot find the focus, but rather rapidly focus near and far, before settling on a point in the middle. I get the impression this is just how it works, rather than slrs where it will go direct to the correct focus point, unless it can't find it and then will hunt.

Focus speed seemed fairly comparable to entry level slrs, bit slower maybe but in the ballpark. It definitely focusses quicker than my e420 does in liveview.

Last edited by historicist : 06-26-2009 at 21:27.
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Old 06-26-2009   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Tests done by individuals can be manipulated. And in this particular case, manipulation is the name of this person's game.

There is no reason whatsoever that certain parts of the white napkin shot by the (supposed) D3 have selective blowout. Upon close examination I can only come to the conclusion that the manipulator selectively applied the dodge tool in photoshop in order to make it appear that the D3's sensor has less DR than the E-P1 sensor.

The lower visible part of the white napkin easily shows it. Comparing that area to the same section shot by the (supposed) E-P1, it is easy to spot where and how the manipulation took place.

Poor guy. He must have bought Olympus stock.
Tests by individuals can be manipulated, but in this case I think all he is doing is recreating the tests done by Amateur Photographer magazine April 11th 2009 issue. In this controlled magazine test they found the Panasonic G1 (same sensor) had a higher resolution when compared to the D3 and D700, and did so with either a common non telecentric test lens, or the Pana kit lens.

The audacity that Olympus or Panasonic with their m4/3 sensor can achieve a small victory over the Nikon D3 does annoy people. Some say it is tantamount to creating a 'myth', but considering how many genuinely unfounded myths people like to put about regarding 4/3 sensors it is hardly scratching the surface in balancing the discussion.


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Old 06-26-2009   #22
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Micro 4/3 dust... don't breathe it!

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Old 06-27-2009   #23
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Saw a lady in Nara walking around with this camera today. Surprised. Did look good, though.
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Old 06-27-2009   #24
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Sorry to be a "dumbo" about this but I'm quite new to RF type cameras and their various lens adaptations.

I have a Contax G2 with various Contax lenses.

With the appropriate adaptor, would I be able to fit my lenses to the EP-1 and would the camera automatically recognise the focal length?

Also, what about focusing - no "in house" focusing on a G2 lens!

If the above is dumb please excuse my ignorance.

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Old 06-27-2009   #25
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250swb, if the results AP got were, in fact, practically valid, don't you think Canon and Nikon would be falling all over themselves putting 4/3's sensors in their professional cameras to make them smaller and lighter (and more profitable to make). And pros would be snapping up G1's to replace their $8,000 cameras.

Some times we need to apply common sense, I think.
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Old 06-27-2009   #26
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Contax G lenses don't have focus ring, do they? So it probably won't possible to make an adaptor.
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Old 06-27-2009   #27
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Well, first you would have to spend several hundred dollars to convert it to M mount. Then you can use an M-4/3 adapter.

I really like the look of the EP-1. Without a usable optical viewfinder, I don't think using a manual focus lens will be much fun.

But that's me, and others obviously are looking forward to using their Leica lenses.
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Old 06-27-2009   #28
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CNET - pretty bash-y review. Just when I'm thinkin', ya know Nick? Quit being such a luddite about cameras, this is 40 year old technoloy. Step up into this century, this new digital Oly Pen looks like your kinda camera. Same old sh-t w/ digital according to the review... Uggg - shutter lag, slow auto-focus, and battery life bad, all the things I hate most about digital wrapped up into a small cool-looking package. No optical viewfinder - a concession I could live with but a big concession. Me thinks - for now, I'll stuck with array of film cameras and my $80 used Fuji Finepix F20 and infra-red ready 2 megapixel Panny FZ1v2 suuuuper zoom digitals.
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Old 06-27-2009   #29
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I've tried the camera in a shop today.

The zoom is enormous and kept on extending itself even at the widest setting. The optional VF is not very bright and has no cross to at least indicate a focus point, no parralax correction either.
The size of the body is odd and still had to be held between thumb and index, although my hands aren't that big. It's also quite loud.

But worse of all was the delay when changing the aperture with the rear wheels, it just wasn't responsive at all.

This is something that would be usable with a manual focus superwide voigtlander for instance, but you need the appropriate VF because of the aspect ratio. Might be usable as a hip shooting camera, but at this price I'll get a ton of film instead.

What a let down, I was really looking forward this thing, it's a wonder if they have photographers to try their flops before they release them.

Pah!
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Old 06-27-2009   #30
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yehh... a 17mm @ 2.8... not much character to work with there...

Having to focus "Legacy MF lenses" at arms length, I don't think so...

I'LL pass on this one...
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Old 06-27-2009   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by .ken View Post
Make of it what you will... e-p1 VS d3

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...hread=32227706
i think there was no correction on napkin like someone stated - because that burned out parts are lighter on oly too. and it is obvious that oly has nicer sharpness - so congrats to olympus on making such a good job - i really want them to catch the race with nikon and canon and to suceed with their for thirds concept...
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Old 06-27-2009   #32
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Quote:
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250swb, if the results AP got were, in fact, practically valid, don't you think Canon and Nikon would be falling all over themselves putting 4/3's sensors in their professional cameras to make them smaller and lighter (and more profitable to make). And pros would be snapping up G1's to replace their $8,000 cameras.

Some times we need to apply common sense, I think.
Yes indeed, we need to apply common sense.

An what that tells me is that 'if' Canon and Nikon did champion a smaller 4/3 size sensor progress in its development would go much faster.

But they don't and won't. And the answer is not because it wouldn't work in the long run (which is the skeptical view regarding smaller sensor packages, not the 'common sense' view) but because they would both have a vast number of lenses to re-design (which is the common sense view).

Neither Nikon nor Canon have the financial clout to disenfranchise photographers from their lens collections by introducing a radically different pro/amateur DSLR body. The consequence would be seeing core regular customers stampeding off like a herd of wildebeast to distribute themselves around other manufacturers.

Steve

Last edited by 250swb : 06-27-2009 at 19:24.
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Old 06-27-2009   #33
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Hi bherman,

I was at the Australian PMA 2009 today and they had plenty of Pen EP-1 on show. I definitely agree that the body feels dense and that the lens is really light. In regards to the focusing, it is not as fast as a SLR but still very fast and the difference isn't major. It is nice to hold in your hand but I found it strange/awkward to zoom in and out with the camera when it is distanced away from my face (try it with your rangefinder + pancake lens and you'll understand what I mean). Pictures looked quite sharp and handled the lighting well.

Overall I liked the camera, was never a big fan of the design besides the size and had to fiddle with all the functions for quite some time. The mode ring is smooth to turn and has a very light 'click' to lock it into place. The shutter is soft and makes less noise than most compact cameras. The Olympus booklet I have says - Not a compact, not an SLR...It's a Pen. To me it does feel like a compact camera but one of high quality.
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Old 06-27-2009   #34
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Quote:
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Yes indeed, we need to apply common sense.

An what that tells me is that 'if' Canon and Nikon did champion a smaller 4/3 size sensor progress in its development would go much faster.

But they don't and won't. And the answer is not because it wouldn't work in the long run (which is the skeptical view regarding smaller sensor packages, not the 'common sense' view) but because they would both have a vast number of lenses to re-design (which is the common sense view).

Neither Nikon nor Canon have the financial clout to disenfranchise photographers from their lens collections by introducing a radically different pro/amateur DSLR body. The consequence would be seeing core regular customers stampeding off like a herd of wildebeast to distribute themselves around other manufacturers.

Steve
Why would Canon or Nikon leave the 2:3 standard they already adopted when the new kid on the block, Olympus was at a minimum re-entering the serious camera market after abandoning their OM line, decided to use a different standard?

Oly made a bold move to go to 4:3, but why was any other company obliged to follow?
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Old 06-28-2009   #35
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Why would Canon or Nikon leave the 2:3 standard they already adopted when the new kid on the block, Olympus was at a minimum re-entering the serious camera market after abandoning their OM line, decided to use a different standard?

Oly made a bold move to go to 4:3, but why was any other company obliged to follow?
Obviously there is no obligation to follow, but I can think of a good reason to adopt it at least as an offering. That is, to take a good part of the 4/3s market share. With their much larger R&D and marketing budgets (especially Canon), they conceivably could eat Olympus' lunch.

Not that I want them to ... see my sig line.
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Old 06-28-2009   #36
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Canon and Nikon have no stimulus to go to micro 4/3rds or a similar mirrorless format; they can make plenty of money selling their existing line ups, which are both more complete and popular than Olympus' or Panasonic's. Then they can let Olympus and Panasonic take all the risks of developing a new type of camera and making design mistakes or targeting it at the wrong audience, and if and when they become popular (as I'm sure they will sooner or later) swoop in and make their own.
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Old 06-28-2009   #37
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Canon and Nikon have no stimulus to go to micro 4/3rds or a similar mirrorless format; they can make plenty of money selling their existing line ups, which are both more complete and popular than Olympus' or Panasonic's. Then they can let Olympus and Panasonic take all the risks of developing a new type of camera and making design mistakes or targeting it at the wrong audience, and if and when they become popular (as I'm sure they will sooner or later) swoop in and make their own.
There is no reason for a mirror in a 2:3 digital camera either. If they want to they can with the only change being a new mirrorless body. Samsung should show us their mirrorless 2:3 idea in a couple weeks.
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Old 06-28-2009   #38
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Obviously there is no obligation to follow, but I can think of a good reason to adopt it at least as an offering. That is, to take a good part of the 4/3s market share. With their much larger R&D and marketing budgets (especially Canon), they conceivably could eat Olympus' lunch.

Not that I want them to ... see my sig line.

I agree, but why dilute their product lines and make their customers choose between different Canon or different Nikon products. How many incompatible lens mounts did Zeiss produce in the 1950s and 1960s? Was that not part of their demise? Why should a modern manufacture make the same mistake? The "standard" DSLR form carried over from the accepted size and form of the film SLR and lenses for that matter. It is a tested and successful model, why change and chase trends?

Olympus in my eye has failed miserably in changing that form and size with their 4/3 standard as they promised to do. Only recently have they introduced smaller bodies, and their lenses are as huge as everyone elses. This has nothing to do with quality, just that they didn't deliver a product that is different enough to make Nikon or Canon even take notice. Nikon and Canon have market share, every other company is just treading water.

Maybe the M3/4 standard can change that, but without reason Canon and Nikon are going no where but to the bank.
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Old 06-28-2009   #39
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Given Canikon's history of lens/camera rivalry, it becomes a major paradigm change to adapt a cross-manufacturer common platform. After all, this is what these two, and others , have been avoiding for virtually the entire history of the SLR. The last common lens mount format prior to 4/3 was Leica M, which the major Japanese players abandoned in, what, the early 1960s?

That is what makes the u4/3 format revolutionary; it's no longer correct to talk of a lens/camera format being synonymous with an individual manufacturer's design. The rest of the photography world has some catching up to do, also; many other internet discussion forums (RFF excepted) don't yet have a u4/3 forum (DPReview of note.) And then there's this annoying tendency by some lens reviewers to measure MTF of just a lens when now (at least with the G1/GH1 and I'm assuming with the E-P1 also) the quality comparison most useful to consumers needs to include the MTF of the entire lens/camera/firmware as a system, because of in-camera optical abberation correction. Things are indeed changing faster than what those firmly entrenched can adjust to, it seems.

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Old 06-28-2009   #40
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The sticky wicket, of course, will be, because of these in camera corrections, if one makers bodies can correct another makers lenses.
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