The need for speed
Olympus says its new slimline cameras can focus faster than most, writes Jennifer Dudley- Nicholson
THE pitch for Australians to adopt compact-system cameras intensified last week after Olympus revealed three new slim but smart PEN cameras due this year with one out this month.
Each targets a different type of photographer and offers a slimmer and lighter form, greater resolution, new physical features and focusing speeds that rival the digital SLRs.
They include the flagship PEN E-P3, which delivers a built-in flash for the first time, the mid-range PEN Lite E-PL3 with a tilting LCD screen and the PEN Mini E-PM1, the first in a new beginner range.
The new Olympus shooters will join freshly announced compact-system cameras from Sony and Panasonic, amid predictions the market for this type of camera will double this year.
Olympus international sales general manager Harry Matsushita says compact- system cameras are a major hit in Japan, where they have claimed four of the top five spots for most popular interchangeable lens camera.
But he says the US and Australia have been slow to adopt the slender camera bodies – an issue he says will change this year as a result of better technology.
‘‘ The gap ( in adoption between Japan and Australia) is between 300 and 400 per cent,’’ Matsushita says.
‘‘ This is a problem but it’s also a big chance to develop in this field.’’
Compact-system cameras offer a significantly slimmer form and lighter weight by eliminating the mirror used in DSLR cameras and using smaller image sensors and lenses.
Until now, some Olympus PEN cameras were criticised for their lack of focusing speed but professional photography manager Lucas Tan says Olympus has gone to great lengths to address this issue in the new models, which share new focusing technology.
Olympus has added a 35-point autofocus system to these cameras, and also reaps speed benefits from its new 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor and TruePic VI image engine with dedicated focusing processor.
As a result, Tan says the PEN E-P3 is now one of the world’s fastest focusing cameras ‘‘ regardless of camera type’’, because it can beat Panasonic Lumix GH2 in a focusing shoot-out, as well as digital SLR cameras including the Nikon D3100 and Canon EOS 7D.
The top-of-the-line E-P3 also adds a touch-sensitive, 3-inch OLED screen that users can tap to take a photo, a built-in flash, increased low-light performance ( 12,800 ISO), removable grip and 10 art filters that deliver effects such as Starlight and Grainy Film.
The PEN Lite, meanwhile, is the only model to offer a tilting LCD screen, features an on-screen guide to photography settings, comes in four colours and offers a 3D shooting mode, while the Mini comes in six colours, offers an even lighter body ( 215g versus 262g) and simpler menus.
However, the Lite and the Mini come without a built-in flash. Like the first Sony NEX models, it is included as an attachment.
The PEN E-P3 is due in local stores this month, with a single-lens kit with 14-42mm lens costing $ 999 and twin-lens kit including 40-150mm lens priced at $ 1199.
The Lite and Mini will follow over the next two months.