New Olympus E-5, a slap in the face to their loyal photographers?

The new Olympus E-5, announced just at about midnight MDT on 9/14/2010

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:

Olympus E-5 site link

  • 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 XD 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.

FUTURE PROSPECTS

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.

BOTTOM LINE

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.

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7 responses to “New Olympus E-5, a slap in the face to their loyal photographers?

  1. I am at a total loss in regarding what to do now that the E-5 has been revealed. I am an architect & avid amateur photographer & have used Oly since 1977 when I started with a Trip35. Since then I bought, & still have; OM1n, OM2n, 2 x OM4Ti’s, a variety of lenses, and an XA. In the digital realm I bought a C2020, C5050, E-1, a Stylus 1030, & an E-3 plus a selection of high & super high grade lenses. All I really lack is a SHG super telephoto, like the 300mm f2.8, & some SHG primes. My problem is I want to buy the SHG 300mm 2.8 – but – it is a major investment & I am very disappointed by the E-5 & what it was announced to be. I am really beginning to think that Oly is maxing out on the 4/3 format & that it my die. I do not want to lay down any more money on a system that appears to be approaching the end of the road. Thus I have been looking at the Sony A850 or the Nikon D700 – but this involves major outlay to replace the lenses I have now. So my problem is what to do. To lay out 6G’s for a lens & have the system die would be very unpleasant – but to replace what I have now (prior to buying the 300 2.8) looks like it would cost about 7.5G’s or so. Thus, I am stuck for now & have not been able to figure out what to do. I am very happy with my E-3, for my level of photography it is fine, but I really think Oly made the wrong strategic decision in going with a fixed size small sensor… I have been a major Oly fan for over 30 years – but I don’t know where they are going now.

  2. I agree and understand. I cannot justify investing in the standard 4/3 system any longer unless there is a clear direction / roadmap from Olympus. At this time, I am headed to micro-4/3 since.

  3. Alan Roberts

    Well… I commented above on 10/14 and a lot has happened since then. I decided to use the money I was planning to spend on the Zuiko 300mm 2.8 and, after reading everything I could, decided to jump ship & go the full frame route and bought a Nikon D700 with two lenses. It has some major positives and some negatives as well. Image quality, resolution & low light performance is simply superb – no problems there at all. In low light performance it absolutely blows my E-3 out of the water &, I suspect, the E-5 too. BUT, it is a massive, bulky, heavy camera with big bulky lenses. In a number of areas the build quality of the D700 is nowhere near the quality of my E-3. The Nikkor lenses are also great in terms of sharpness and so on but none that I have are splash proof like my Zuikos. Image stabilization is also in the lenses and not in the body as with Oly & I think Oly’s solution is better. But again, in terms of lenses, Nikkor has a much vaster selection than Oly, so I went on, bit the bullet, & bought the other lenses I needed, fisheye, super-wide zoom, macro, portrait with defocus control, perspective control and the 300mm f2.8 – which is massive. I’m keeping my Oly gear in case Oly comes out in a year or two with something stunning that enables me to use it again – but I’m not going to hold my breath for them. I’m disappointed to have do this because I’ve used OLY for over 30 years and I really liked the brand and enjoyed using a camera that wasn’t seen on ever corner but, I have doubts about them surviving in the pro DSLR arena.

  4. Bill Jones

    I had and E-3, I got to upgrade to the E-5. I’mn glad I did. This article sells it a little short.

    Its low light performance is much better than the e3. It is definately an upgrade in electronics and imaging. I think the image quality overall is a significant upgrade to the E-3 (and I loved my E-3)

  5. Bill, I agree to a certain extent. However, this was more of an incremental upgrade that other manufacturer’s release on a yearly basis. This “upgrade” was year in the making…that’s what the problem is from my point of view. If you are going to make us wait year…then wow us!

  6. Hi. I use an Oly E-620 with hdl-5 grip and fl-36r flash. I got gr8 shots with it but wanned to do video too . I dont have the money at the moment for the E-5 but should I wait to have the cash ? or should I continue with my camera and buy and oly Pen for HD video ? The thing is that I wanned to use the same lenses that I already have but what do you think its the best thing to do? thx

    GD , MTL.QC

  7. Gabrielo, good questions. Sorry for the later response! With an Oly Pen, you can use your E-620 lenses (with adapter) and most will retain auto-focus as well (although a little slower than native m4.3 lenses, but for video, I like smooth slow focus anyway). There is no comparison between video with the Pens or the Panasonic G series (I have a GF-1 & GH-1) vs. ANY DLSR for ease of use, swift AF, continuous AF, etc. If you really want video – go with a micro-4/3 body and native lenses. Right now, the best video lens I have is the Panasonic 20 f/1.7. Why? I can use it indoors with lower ISO and still obtain fantastic video vs. slower lenses. Regular 4/3 lenses that would also be good are the 50 f/2 and any of the other f/2 lenses they have. Any of the standard kit lenses (f/3.5-5.6) are best left for outdoor use only IMO. Other options in the m4/3 world include the Oly 17 f/2.8 and the new Panasonic 14 f/2.8 for lower light video.

    I’m absolutely thrilled with the video I get from these little cameras and have completely ditched my DSLRs 100%. The GH-1 sealed their fate…that EVF is astounding the one on the GH-2 is even better. The EVF available for the Pens is also fantastic 🙂 BTW, my FL-36R is just fine on the Panasonic bodies. Unless you need the weather sealing of the E-5 + the robust body + the video, look to the smaller bodies, especially if you like your 620. If you need weather sealing and want to save cash, look at an E-3 for a bargain price.

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