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Exclusive: What’s in store for Olympus?

Joe Edelman
Aki Murata

This year at PhotoPlus Expo, all the rage was around mirrorless. Canon, Nikon and even Panasonic have joined the likes of Sony, introducing full-frame mirrorless cameras. But this begs the question — what’s in store for Olympus, a long-time mirrorless manufacturer using a micro four-thirds format?

The micro four-thirds format was released by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008. While there’s been a handful of other micro four-thirds cameras made since its introduction, Olympus and Panasonic have been the heavyweights.

With Panasonic’s announcement of its full-frame S1R camera, the company noted that they’re not abandoning micro four-thirds, just offering an alternative in the market. Despite that, many industry experts are worried about the future of the system.

So where does that leave Olympus? I sat down with Aki Murata, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Olympus, and Olympus Visionary Joe Edelman, to find out what’s in store.

Professional features in a compact body

While Olympus might feature a micro four-thirds sensor, it includes many professional-level features, including 5-axis image stabilization, 4K video output, weather sealing, silent mode, High-Res Shot Mode, Live Composite Mode and more.

“After we launched the [OM-D] E-M1 Mark II, many professionals switched to it,” Murata said. “We’ve been investing new features and new technologies like Pro Capture Mode, and this will continue. Our [image stabilization] is still the most powerful in the world, and that will not change.”

As a former Nikon shooter, Edelman agrees. “I switched to Olympus for its mobility, design, features and quality,” he said. “I fell in love with Olympus because the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and the M.Zuiko lenses put the fun back in my photography, and to be clear, my work hasn’t skipped a beat.”

All about quality and mobility

For Murata and Olympus, mobility is the name of the game, which dates back to Olympus’ roots as a company with Yoshihisa Maitani, creator of the OM system.

“[Maitani] said three things. We should provide ultimate reliability, a compact system and a lightweight system. This will differentiate us. He said we should be very unique, and stand out from others that way.

“We want to provide mobility in the system. That’s why we don’t make full-frame — we will not make full-frame. It doesn’t make sense for us to do that. We want to provide cameras you can take anywhere and everywhere, and use them at any time.

“We want to provide the cameras you can take anywhere and everywhere, and use them at any time.”

So what’s next?

“If it makes sense to develop something new, we will. Based on our philosophy, we want to provide the best picture quality in combination with mobility — we believe that’s the best solution,” said Murata.

“Technology is always improving. People say micro four-thirds has limitations because of sensor size, but that will not be the case in the future as technology improves.”

Reaction to Canon, Nikon and Panasonic

While Olympus is all about quality and mobility, the company also recognizes and respects the need for a full-frame system.

“So many of these new full-frame cameras are offering megapixel counts beyond what our eyes can appreciate and dynamic range that we don’t need unless we simply don’t want to pay attention to exposure in camera,” said Edelman. Not to mention the fact that the cameras are getting bigger and heavier and much more expensive.”

“There will be a need for full-frame, but it’s not for everybody,” said Murata. “We believe that most of the professionals will be happy with micro four-thirds. We’d rather use our resources to develop new lenses and new bodies.”

“We use our resources only on micro four-thirds, instead of developing a new system,” said Murata. We cannot give seamless experiences to our consumers [if we change]. It doesn’t make sense [to switch].

“We will be the pioneers in the micro four-thirds market.”

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