I’ve been a pretty loyal Olympus user for the better part of almost 5 years. I’ve used other systems here and there, but have always loved the flagship Olympus DSLR’s (E-1 & E-3) for their incredible build quality, weather sealing, features offered at reasonable prices, overall ownership experience and their incredible jpg processing engines. Their glass is second to none, outside of maybe Leica and Zeiss.
So how is the new E-5 really any different than the E-3? Remember, the list price for the E-5 is $1699 and the E-3 can now be had new from $999-1099 or slightly used for as low as $600-700! Here are the key differences and disappointments that stand out to me:
- E-5 = 12MP, E-3 = 10MP (who cares, megapixels are overrated)
- Improved jpg engine (if it’s like the EPL-1, yes, a good move)
- replaced 😄 card with SD card, now dual with the CD (finally, they actually listened on this one)
- HD video (it’s pretty standard now, but they implemented a sub-par version compared to the EP-2 and even other competitive DSLRs)
- Removed CF/SD card door latch (not a good move, it needs to be secured to be as robust as the previous E-1 and E-3)
- Improved LCD to 3″ and 920,000 pixels (great move, finally and did keep the excellent swivel feature)
- 5 fps speed (same as the E-3, sub-par for a modern “pro” DSLR now)
- Art filters (Do you really need these on a pro-level DSLR? Why not just throw in dummy mode options too if you are going to include this?)
Does this announcement even give you the urge to upgrade your E-3? How about your E-30 or E-620? For $1699? I think you would be better off picking up a clearance E-3 for under $1100, or even a used for for under $800, versus buying this new one. The only feature I see that would really “make” anyone consider this vs. an E-3 is the video. All of the others are fluff or probably do not outweigh the cost difference between the E-5 and E-3…today.
Let’s look at the E-5 this way. Where can MOST people buy an Olympus DSLR. For many, only the internet. Very few local shops carry them anymore and when they do it’s a very limited selection. They are no longer carried in most of the major electronics stores along side Canon, Nikon and Sony. The last place I saw ONE was at a Fry’s, the E-620 and that was about a year ago.
Since a vast majority of consumers don’t frequent forums or research their gear, they rarely know Olympus DSLR’s even exist (Pentax is the same). For them, only C, N & S make DSLRs. Where does that leave Olympus? I don’t have any hard data, but I would guess that at least 80% of their DSLR sales are from enthusiasts and people like us on forums. Therefore, we are the target market. To keep their DSLR line alive they have to appeal to us and to other users of C, N & S to move over (if they WANT to grow their market share). Only once they do this, would they gain enough traction to get back in to many retail outlets and challenge for the average consumer again.
So where does that leave us today? From what I’m reading, a vast majority of Olympus users, at the very least, feel slighted by Olympus with the E-5 as a statement of their commitment to the original 4/3 system. This will has the very real potential to spell the end of the line for their DSLR development and signal the full rise to prominence of the micro 4/3 standard. At this point, we all have to ask ourselves the following questions:
1) Will we stick to Olympus 4/3 DSLRS in hopes that this is an intermediate step to something still in development? My gut instinct tells me that there is nothing innovative coming for 4/3 as we have known it since the E-1.
2) Will we keep what we have or pick up great used gear as others jump ship?
3) Will any of us actually invest anymore into 4/3 lenses (high grade / super high grade) knowing that it very well may be the end of the line for Olympus DSLR development?
4) Was this enough to cause you to seriously consider moving to another brand?
Many loyal users are considering this a slap in the face. I see it as just plain business. If Olympus sees micro 4/3 as the direction to head, so be it. All I ask is that we all be up front about it. A little transparency to the user community can go along way to regaining loyalty.
I think we’re going to see a lot of users dump their 4/3 gear and move to m4/3 entirely or other systems. There will also be a good number who switch systems after the useful life of their current system reaches its end. I think the retail price on the E-5 ($1699) will drop fairly quickly vs. previous models. I would venture to guess you should be able to pick one up for $1200 by Jan/Feb 2011 and maybe as low as $1000 by mid-2011. With a lot of users selling gear, this may be the perfect time to pick up some of the spoils of “announcement depression” too! E-3’s are going as a bargain now on the used market, with the E-5 released, they should drop a little more. Buying a one generation old DSLR is a great way to insulate yourself (the best you can) from camera depreciation – very similar to buying a 1-2 year old used car vs. new. Let someone else take the hit first! With that in mind, an E-3 / E-5 should last many, many years without issue. Remember, the shutter is rated to 150,000 actuations. The E-3/5 may end up being bargain basement pro level cameras to mate to the superb Olympus Zuiko glass!
Should you sell your E-3? That’s a question only you can answer. If you bought yours used or a the current retail of about $1000, then sure, you won’t lose too much and if you don’t see a future with Olympus, now would be the time before prices drop further. But what if you purchased at full retail or slightly less ($1200-1500) ? Mint E-3’s on the used market are fetching an average of about $700. On a $1400 body purchase back in mid-late 2008, that would be a $700 loss or about $350/year. The choice is yours. Only you know if it worth it to you.
The E-5 is going to be a very capable camera, but not the most modern. However, for those heavily invested in Zuiko glass or the true fan-boys (or girls), the E-3 looks to be a bargain at today’s prices vs. the E-5. If you don’t plan on switching, then this may be a golden time for the system. If you have an E-3, keep shooting with it, the images are just as good today as they were in 2008! When the prices drop on the E-5 (or your E-3 dies), the E-5 may be a great bargain as well – I foresee a substantial price drop in the future.