Monday, July 9, 2007

Fauxtokina 2007: Olympus speculation and predictions

Olympus DSLRs

  • Flagship? The leaked E-P1 DSLR! The details are in this post. A 10mp high-speed sensor and a number of other promising technologies according to the PDF file/presentation.

  • E-series? The E-510 and E-410 were just recently announced (March 2007) so do not expect any more. With the intro of the E-P1 Olympus will officially go to a three-tier DSLR structure. The prior models were the E400 (Sept 2006, limited markets), E330 (Jan 2006), E500 (Oct 2005), E300 (Photokina 2004), E1 (June 2003).

    Olympus non-DSLRs
  • 18x super zooms? The SP-550 looks very tempting on paper, but the compromises needed to be made for a 1/2.5" 18x optical zoom camera were quite a few. Obviously! Introduced in Jan 2007.
  • long zooms? The traditional 10x long zooms continue on their own path with the SP-510 (7mp, Aug 2006) and the SP-500 (6mp, Aug 2005). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predit an SP-520 for August 2007 with let's say 8 megapixels. One question is whether this will get the sensor anti-shake technology. Perhaps Olympus will spawn two of them, one entry-level to compete with the Kodaks and the Fuji S700 and the Panasonics, and another one with anti-shake in the mid-range to compete with the likes of the 1/2.5" 12x Canon S-series and Sony H-series and Panasonic FZ-series.
  • Mid-range Once upon a time this was Olympus's bread and butter. But times have changed, the market has changed and so has Olympus. The SP-320 was the last one (Jan 2006), preceded by the SP-350, and SP-310 (August 2005). This series has skipped the the 10mp 1/1.8" sensor so far. Given the time frame adn the intro of the SP-550, it possibly means that Olympus has given up on the mid-range.
  • Turn back the clock? The critically acclaimed C8080 (see Phil's dpreview review) was Olympus's swan song (PMA 2004) in the top of the non-DSLR segment. In the step below, the 1/1.8" C-series segment the C7070 was the last one (Jan 2005) along with the C5500 (5x, Jan 2005). But if Canon revived the G-series (G6, August 2004), there is a possibility here. Apart from the G7, Panasonic tried its hand here with the LX-series and Nikon with the P5000. Quite possibly a more smaller/RF-ish type of model. The possibility for a successful model is there (eg RAW, hot shoe, control over noise and other parameters, decent lens, etc). But probably not.
  • 1/1.8" Stylus The big sensor Stylus line-up is fixed at a 3x optical lens. It features the 1000 (10mp, Aug 2006), the 810 (Jan 2006) and the 800 (8mp, May 2005). It is not unreasonable to expect the 1200 to feature the latest 12mp sensor in 2007.
  • 1/2.3" Stylus, 5x The 780 has sensor-shift stabilization (7mp, March 2007). The first Stylus with it was the 750 (7mp, Aug 2006). The 740 was without (7mp, Aug 2006). An 8-megapixel 1/2.3" sensor could prompt a new model.
  • 1/2.3" Stylus, Shockproof+ The 770SW is on the verge of breaking out as a successful model despite the xD card (7mp, Jan 2007). Obviously no stabilization because it is meant to be dropped and stepped on. Predecessors: 725 SW (7mp, Aug 2006, limited markets), 720SW (7mp, Jan 2006). This should be refreshed in Jan 2008, even if there is a new 8mp sensor. Or perhaps because of its popularity, a newer model would make sense.
  • 1/2.3" Stylus, Big LCD The 730 (no SW) features a 3" LCD and weatherproofs but not the shockproofness of the SW-series (7mp, Aug 2006). The most bling-bling of the line-up. An August follow-up seems reasonable esp with 8mp.
  • 1/2.3" Stylus, 3x The 760 was the first 3x Stylus to add sensor-shift stabilization (7mp, Jan 2007). The 700 came one year before (7mp, Jan 2006) and led the wave of new Stylus cameras with 1/2.3" sensors instead of the usual 1/2.5". Looks like a Jan 2008 refresh regardless. The 5x would lead the way. But I wouldn't be surprised with a follow-up this year either.
  • 1/2.5" Stylus, 3x The 600 was the last of its kind (6mp, Jan 2006). Before that, the 500 (Nov 2004), 410 (PMA 2004), and the debut of the Stylus line-up at CES 2003 (Jan) with the 300 and 400. This line-up is done! Case closed!
  • The Verve No, not the music group. The Verve was an idea that lasted for a couple of model cycles but was later absorbed by the Stylus line-up. Last Verve came out in Feb 2005. The original Verve (Photokina 2004)
  • The FE-series has grown from basic AA cameras to a little bit more than basic LiIon-based thinner cameras, with the first 1/1.8" and first 5x coming out.
  • 1/1.8" FE-series, 3x The FE-250 (8mp, Jan 2007). Since this is a budget series it doesn't make sense to use the latest sensors, perhaps a 10mp version by PMA 2008.
  • 1/2.5" FE-series, 5x The FE-240 (7mp, not wide, Jan 2007), the FE-200 (6mp, 28mm, Aug 2006). I doubt Olympus is going to pay for a top of the line 8mp sensor for a budget series before PMA 2008. How about bringing back the 28mm- 5x of the FE-200 instead? Olympus does not really have a wide-angle compact.
  • 1/2.5" FE-series, 3x The FE-230 and FE-210 (7mp, Jan 2007), FE-190, FE-180, FE-170 (6mp, Aug 2006), FE-140 (6mp, Jan 2006), FE-150, FE-130, FE-115 (5mp, Jan 2006), FE-120 (6mp, Aug 2005),FE-110 (5mp, Aug 2005), FE-100 (4mp, Aug 2005)
  • In the history books: D-series, IR-series, Verve, C7xx long-zooms, Cxx mid-range compacts (used to compete with Canon's Sxx-series).
  • Memo to Olympus: Stop with the stupid panorama dependency on Olympus-branded memory cards. It's silly, stupid and childish. Grow up please :-)
  • Wide angle compact? Despite all the camera model soup above, the only compact to start at 28 is the FE-200 (Aug 2006). Will Olympus take the next step by creating a new segment in the Stylus line-up that start at 28mm? Just like anti-shake/IS, they are behind the majority of manufacturers.
  • Time to embrace SD? Olympus is clearly losing sales because of their stubborness to use xD. One very clever solution would be to develop dual-drives for their cameras so they can take both xD and SD cards. Fuji did it and they are doing better because of it. This is common sense :-) This scheme would enable xD to continue to exist and be compatible with past, present and future cameras, and would not alienate current xD users.

    What to expect from Olympus in the rest of 2007? (pure speculation!)
  • First and foremost, the new flagship camera, the E-P1 or E3 or something like that. This will be the first direct replacement of the E1.
  • Olympus is getting trapped once again with its model numbering strategy.
  • An 8mp 1/2.3" sensor appears and magically a lot of their cameras get refreshed with that sensor.
  • A wide-angle (28mm-) Stylus?
  • Predicted names of speculated models: E-P1 or E3, SP-520, SP-530, Stylus 1200, Stylus 790, 785, 775SW, 765, 735, FE-260, 265, 270, 275, ..., 300 (too many of them!)

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