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Disappointed with Olympus

Tuesday 14 September 2010

I must admit to being more than a little disappointed at Olympus for packing it in at 12.3MP – the sensor size of their latest “flagship” camera, the E-5. There has been a lot of discussion of the quality of Zuiko Digital lenses on the E-5 being amazing (which they are on any Oly body), which is great, but the limiting factor is still sensor size.

Lenses were the be all and end all of IQ, but that was way back in the film days. Back then, lenses meant more because from body to body there were fewer image quality differences – the differences were in the film you chose and the lenses on the body, especially when shooting transparencies which were a direct product of the lens on the camera (essentially a raw image, as opposed to prints from negs which were second-generation and greatly dependent on the enlarging lens, as well).

In the digital world that has changed. My RAW image quality is dependent on three factors:
(a) quality and size of the image sensor;
(b) in-camera software that processes the pixels; and
(c) the lenses out front.

Oly has (b) and (c) covered well, but there is no way that an E-5 will ever stand up to the full-frame Sony Alpha system (A850=$2000) with Zeiss lenses (24-70 f/2.8=$1600).

Many will argue that I am making an unfair comparison here – no I’m not! I’m a pro shooting landscapes and close-ups, out to get the best-possible IQ at the best possible price point and a 24MP sensor with Zeiss lenses will out perform any Zuiko Digital lens simply because it has 24 million quality pixels rather than 12 (sorry, 12.3).

8x10s look the same with either camera and, yes I can make 36″ prints from 12.3MP, but they don’t look nearly as good as ones made with 24MP.

Listen, I have used Olympus since the 1970s: OM-1s, OM-3s and OM-4s with gorgeous Zuiko lenses. My IQ was NEVER COMPROMISED because I shot Kodachrome 25 ad 64, then Velvia 50 and 100. I bought into the Olympus digital system with the E-1 and their great zooms then upgraded to the E-30 with the 12-60 and 55-200 – always with the expectation that Olympus will catch up to the others with a competitively-sized sensor. Now that they haven’t it’s time to move on because I am not waiting another 3+ years for a professionally competitive sensor that Nikon, Canon and Sony had TWO+ YEARS AGO!!

Despite not being an original DSLR-maker, Sony must be the most innovative DSLR company out there – they are doing everything right! I guess I should have kept my Minolta XD-11!! Look where they are now!

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