Just one week after the shocking announcement of Olympus entering memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Japan Industrial Partners, Olympus announced a few key developments in their immediate future product line-ups. There were some really exciting items in this announcement, all positive developments and I want to share my thoughts in this blog entry. To me, at this moment Olympus is pretty much still alive and there are some very exciting products coming, and I can’t get my hands on them and play with the new products! Of course, I also made an accompanying video for those who prefer to just watch or listen to me rant for 10 minutes or so on screen.
I intentionally spaced this blog article and video a few days apart after the official announcement, to give myself a clearer head to think, without being drowned by the miserable voices over the internet. Also, the OM-D Webcam video took a lot more time and effort to make, and I needed a break. I don’t want to spend so many days consecutively making videos and writing blog articles, I do have a life to live. Even if that means sipping coffee and petting the stray cat.
I fully understand the overwhelmingly negative reaction from the general public. A lot of people are frustrated, angry and felt betrayed by Olympus. Unfortunately, a lot of this anger is also directed to me, and I can see why – I am at the forefront communicating with everyone. Let me be clear – I am an outsider, I do not work for Olympus. Yes, I am their brand ambassador, but I am probably the last person to get information about business decisions. I too, was completely shocked when the announcement came about Olympus imaging being sold off. I was rooting hard for the company, and I have strongly believed in them from day one.
However, the cat was out of the bag and we all knew the less than optimistic truth – change will happen for better or worse. It is still too early to say what will happen – there is no point speculating, making baseless assumptions, or worse, screaming your anger pointlessly at all directions. The way I see it, there are two options – 1. remain calm and positive, hoping for the best outcome, or 2. be all negative and bash the heck out of everything. I am not here to ask you to choose how you react, the choice is yours completely to make. I choose to be be positive. I choose to believe the brand will live on, and this is NOT the end of Olympus.
Now, onto happier news – that multiple announcements that happened last Thursday, 2 July 2020. First, Olympus started rolling out their Webcam software at 10am (Malaysian time), then merely 4 hours after that at 2pm (Malaysian time) they made a flurry of announcements which included some major update on upcoming products. I am not sure why they split the announcements, it would have been easier to lump everything together. Or to completely space these two announcements apart, maybe 2 weeks apart would be ideal to regenerate interest on the brand. I don’t know, I was not the one making decisions and I was nowhere near where these weird marketing decisions were made. Nonetheless, I can only see this as a positive turn of events – Olympus is telling us it is business as usual, they are not going anywhere, they are still selling cameras and lenses and they have some interesting stuff in their pipeline.
In case you missed those announcements (Olympus official full announcement here):
1) Olympus OM-D Webcam Beta – I have blogged about this (click here) with a video that demonstrates how the webcam software enables your camera as a webcam for video conferencing/streaming.
2) M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO revealed in the updated lens roadmap
3) 100mm (F2.8 maybe?) Macro PRO lens added to the lens roadmap
4) M.Zuiko 150-400mm F4.5 IS PRO is coming in winter (more definite release timeline)
5) E-M1X will get a new “Bird” intelligent Subject Tracking AF mode
Wow. Can we just stop at the 100mm Macro lens? Give me that lens already! Take my credit card.
While some may be thrilled about the 150-400mm PRO and the E-M1X getting a new firmware update, I am extremely excited about the two updated lenses on the roadmap – 8-25mm wide angle zoom and the 100mm macro! These are two lenses that I am deeply interested in, and will most likely purchase when they are released.
8-25mm zoom makes perfect sense. It has a more versatile focal length range than the older 9-18mm lens, and continuing the tradition of F4 Zoom (taking cue from the recently released M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO) it should be small and compact in size. F4 constant aperture may be slower for some people, but it is absolutely necessary to maintain smaller footprint of the lens, and if they can truly make it compact (I am expecting maybe smaller than the current 12-40mm F2.8 PRO) I am sold. We already have the excellent 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, but that lens is also quite large by Micro Four Thirds standards, and stopping short at 14mm at the longest end, which is still technically a wide angle.
I’d gladly add the 8-25mm into my camera bag, if it is truly compact and has similar image quality output from the 12-45mm F4 PRO. I am not expecting the lens to be as good as 7-14mm PRO in terms of sharpness, but hey, you gotta sacrifice something. Some will be quick to point out Panasonic 8-18mm lens, which I did review before (just do a quick search, don’t be lazy) and I did like the lens, but it was also not as great as any of the Olympus PRO line up of lenses when it comes to critical image quality. Don’t even start on the Panasonic 10-25mm, 10mm is not even ultra wide, I find 9-18mm barely enough in some tight situations, and that Pana 10-25mm is HUGE, and surely, far from being affordable. I just cannot justify my purchase, not matter how many praises that lens gets. While the Panasonic 10-25mm has constant F1.7, for ultra wide angle shooting, I don’t need fast aperture, I can live with F4.
That 100mm Macro lens, oh how I have waited for so long. There was the 100mm F2 Macro on the lens roadmap for the Four Thirds DSLR system, just before Olympus killed off that line of products. I surely hope the same fate won’t repeat itself for this coming 100mm macro lens. There are many sites reporting Olympus filing patents for the new 100mm F2.8 Macro lens, so it is safe to assume it will be F2.8. I am genuinely interested in this lens – both using it as a dedicated macro lens for my insect macro shooting as well as a lens I can use for my professional shoots.
There is nothing wrong with the current 60mm F2.8 Macro lens from Olympus, in fact that is possibly one of the best macro lenses out there in the market across all brands. However, there are a few times (quite rare) I wish I had a bit more working distance between the lens and the tiny creatures, those that are sensitive and get spooked easily. The 100mm Macro should at least almost double the working distance, and that will be appreciated! The use of 100mm as a telephoto prime lens is a wonderful idea, this will add to my 75mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8, and I can cover all bases. While the 40-150mm PRO is a great all around zoom lens, it is also not small, and honestly I don’t zoom more than 100mm for most of my shots. Being the official photographer for events, I do get access and I can get close to the stage or the people I want to shoot. Having 100mm is more than sufficient to cover most bases. And using the 100mm as a portrait lens! Oh the possibilities.
I know some would say it is unwise to invest in a brand that has an uncertain future. I agree. I also don’t know what will happen, and whether these lenses will even see the light of the day. These may just be announcements and within a few months Olympus may change their direction completely under new management. Personally, I don’t think Olympus intends to betray their loyal customers and their own brand. It is a strong legacy. It may seem like they are giving up, we don’t really know what goes on inside the company that led to this drastic decision. What I do know, being a resilient company they have fought very hard over the years and this was the final decision that they made.
I just want my 8-25mm F4 and 100mm F2.8 Macro lenses already.
What do you guys think? I am sure this announcement sparked some thoughts, please share them!
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