Various sites have reported that the eagerly awaited Olympus Micro 4/3 camera will be announced on June 15. I have been in contact with Olympus America and they neither confirm nor deny this. In discussions with other photographers (especially those who can read/translate japanese) the announcement states that:
- the Olympus micro-4/3rds camera(s) have been designed to carry on the philosophy of the “silver-halide” era PEN half-frame cameras;
- about a third of compact camera users are considering moving up to a DSLR but don’t because those cameras are too big, heavy, expensive, and complex — these users are seen as the target for the micro-4/3rds models;
- this is the strategy by which Olympus can “revive their imaging business”.
[translation provided here]
So Olympus, like Panasonic, is targeting the “soccer mom” looking to move up from P&S cameras to something more sophisticated but still maintain ease of use and small size. If the announcement above is any indicator (along with the prototype Olympus has been showing off since the μ4/3 announcement last year), they might hit that market more accurately than Panny did. The Panasonic Lumix G-Series camera turned out to be a big hit with pros who were in search of a small, pocketable camera that would meet their quality demands. I myself found the image quality of the Panasonic Lumix G-1 to be very impressive, but was left wanting with the overall design of the camera. Olympus’ prototype camera’s retro styling and smaller size are more appealing to me. If the image quality is up to Olympus DSLR levels, they may have the ultimate travel camera on their hands.
The design is such a hit that Panasonic & Leica are rumored to be hard at work designing a μ4/3 system similar to it which will likely be sold as the Lumix LX-5/D-Lux 5 respectively. This after Leica announced last year that they had no plans for a μ4/3 based camera.