What does the future hold following today's unveiling of the E-P1? Amateur Photographer interviews Akira Watanabe, Olympus Imaging Corporation's manager for Digital SLR Product Strategy Department.rnrnPicture credit: Damien Demolder

Page 1:What about viewfinders?

What does the future hold following today’s unveiling of the E-P1? Amateur Photographer interviews Akira Watanabe (pictured), Olympus Imaging Corporation’s manager for Digital SLR Product Strategy Department.

Akira Watanabe image

Picture credit: Damien Demolder

BERLIN, Germany — As usual it was difficult to get Olympus to talk much about future products, but last night I asked Akira Watanabe (Manager, Digital SLR Product Strategy Department, Olympus Imaging Corporation, Tokyo, Japan) what we should expect from the Micro FourThirds and the ‘Digital Pen’ over the next few years.

It seemed to me that while Panasonic has started at the higher end of what Micro FourThirds can offer, with the DSLR style bodies, Olympus has started at the other end with a compact style model.

The two would surely join in the middle and then over lap? And what about viewfinders? Why does the E-P1 not have one, and would this be the case with the next generation of products?

Mr Watanabe surprised me by straight away talking about electronic viewfinders, and yes, Olympus is working on one and will incorporate an EVF into a future camera. He explained that this first model does not have a viewfinder as the company wanted to concentrate on its design first.

Although he didn?t say it in so many words, I got the impression that had Olympus used an EVF the camera would have had that distinctive SLR-style lump on the top, which would have undermined the principle of a body that looks easy to use and that looks more like a compact camera than an SLR.

He made the point too, on a number of occasions, that Olympus is producing a new system, not just one camera body.

There will be a range of products, and that range will include cameras that might have that distinctive pentaprism lump on the top plate.

When I asked where in the range the E-P1 would sit, Watanabe indicated that it would have models both above and below it.

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Olympus E-P1 imagePage 2: Future plans on lens production

Lens production will be driven by demand, Watanabe says, and Olympus will listen to feedback from users before deciding what lenses to release.

I had wondered whether Olympus would launch the camera with a zoom to be mass market, or a prime lens to appeal to the higher end of the market. In the event they did both ? the camera will be sold kitted with either.

Watanabe said there would be new lenses next spring, which would be wide angle zooms, but in the meantime FourThirds and OM adapters, as well as a host of other independent adapters, will provide plenty of optical choices.

In reality we should expect more zooms than primes, and it?s not unreasonable that there will be dual ranges of standard and premium optics ? again to suit different ends of the market.

It was important for Olympus to show the camera with its 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens, so we could all get a first impression of a very small system, but as we?ve seen with Panasonic optics, the superzooms that the mass market requires cannot be miniaturised to the same extent.

I think that if things go to plan we?ll see an extensive Pen system that expands to fill that very real gap between compact and SLR, but which also will eat into the lower end of the SLR market. When sensor sizes are the same why would you buy an Olympus E-420 type product when you could have it in a smaller body?

Olympus E-P1 camera image