The need for speed

Olym­pus says its new slim­line cam­eras can fo­cus faster than most, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Tech -

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.

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