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Old May 25, 2008, 1:41 PM   #1
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This was prompted by one of those "what camera should I buy questions". As I've noted, one problem is that with Canon and Nikon having an overwhelming market share, other voices tend to get drowned out. It's not a question of one brand being great and others being crap. Let's face it, they are all pretty darn good. A person buying their first DSLR is unlikely to end up with a bad camera or a bad system. But, because a smaller organization like Olympus doesn't get their share of mention, I wanted to spell out why I picked them. This isn't about why Olympus is "better". However, the Canon and Nikon guys can do their own system defenses, I want to speak for the little guy. Here's some thoughts:

1) Olympus reputation in imaging. I had a bout of colon cancer 5 years ago. I've been scoped four times (3 colonoscopies and 1 sigmoidoscopy). Each time I was scoped with Olympus equipment which ultimately saved my life. My doctor even has Olympus posters on the wall. When I was just about to go under for my last colonoscopy last year, the doctor asked if I had any questions. I asked if it was an Olympus scope…he assured me it was. In my working life, I spent many years overhauling aircraft gas turbine engines. These were regularly inspected with Olympus endoscopes. Detecting cancer and keeping passenger jet engines safe. That's some pretty serious responsibility. Sure, other companies have imaging reputations. But, like I said, an average or first time DSLR buyer may not be as familiar with Olympus. They deserve to have their story out there.

2)History of innovation. Olympus was never so big that they could rest on their laurels. They've always been thinkers. Think to the brilliant Pens and even the OM-1. Olympus was the innovator in radical metering systems and dedicated TTL flashes. Today, they've given us the first effective dust control and live view. Others have followed. Now they have in body image stabilization. NO…they don't get credit for being the first DSLR with in body IS. But they incorporated it when they could. Some big companies (you know who) have a big enough market share that they aren't under any pressure to keep innovating.

3)The "Blank Sheet of Paper" DSLR. I love this idea. My last film SLR was a Nikon F3. So why did I give up those lenses to go with Oly? I tried to be honest with myself. Older lenses aren't really ideal for regular use. To one degree or another, they all lose some kind of functionality on a DSLR…often it's auto focus…or they have other issues with vignetting. Whatever the reason, I could not honestly say I would be making significant use of my old Nikkors. Sure, using them might occasionally come in handy but is that a good reason to choose a DSLR: because some 25 year old lenses might come in handy? Olympus had the guts to recognize this is a new age with a new technology and they were willing to start up and entirely new and modern system.

4)The 4/3 System. This is really a continuation of the blank sheet of paper concept. To my thinking, this is a very logical design. The sensor is only slightly smaller than most common DSLR sizes but the aspect ratio makes more efficient use of the image circle. In the vast majority of cases, the 4/3 sensor does the best job of hitting the sweet spot on most lenses. The truth is, some big manufacturers don't truly have fully integrated "systems". If you buy their entry level DSLR, and eventually go to one of their top-of-the-line "Full Frame" (I hate that term) sensor cameras, you'll discover that the "digital lenses" you bought for their base cameras are either non-functional or of limited function on their pro cameras. They are, in effect, selling "systems within systems".

5) Technology based growth. The 4/3 system is still under development and there are challenges that haven't been fully met. We all want continued improvement in noise control , high ISO operation and dynamic range. However, these are basically electronic challenges and continuing development will yield continuing improvement. As sensor technology advances, these issues will become less important. Other systems will continue to have the physical issues that won't be solved by further development. All the development in the world won't stop a digital specific lens from severely vignetting on a big sensor DSLR.

That's just some of my reason for going with Oly. Again, my point isn't to trash other systems. I just want to put the word out for a company that doesn't get that much word-of-mouth.
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Old May 25, 2008, 3:37 PM   #2
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Hey Brent,

Well said.

I would add that no DSLR camera is perfect. They all have their pluses and minuses. But when you compare the performance and feature sets of the E-510 against the comparable competition the E-510 is overall, a superior value. You add the Olympus designed specifically for digital, lenses and you have a far superior "system" to whatNikon and Canon currentlyoffers at that price point.

(I'm limiting my comments to the E-510 as I have not personally used an E-3.)

Also, I do believe that Olympus' sales and marketingpeople do read forums such as this one and listen to their existing customer base. How else can youexplain why theyreleased a firmware upgrade to allow for image stabilizationfor non-FourThird lenses. Additionally, the E-520 sounds like a tweaked version of the E-510 with the goalof eliminating some of the nagging DR problems(again, most likely a result of customer feedback)



All I ask of a company is to provide a good product at a fair price, listen to their existing customer base and offer improved products based on that feedback.

(Olympus, if you're reading this, please release an E-530 with a 100% OPV and split screen)

Sounds like your in good health. Hope it continues.

Zig


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Old May 25, 2008, 4:13 PM   #3
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Of course here you're preaching to the choir.

Anyway, you missed the SSWF, which was one of MY primary reasons for choosing Olympus; out of three rounds of weeding out cameras Nikon and Canon didn't last the first round due to the lack of sensor cleaning (today there's some that have sensor cleaning, but they are ineffective compared to Olympus' design).


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Old May 25, 2008, 5:01 PM   #4
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Mikefellh, the SSWF is buried in my coment about "first effective dust control". My post is so text heavy that it kinda' gets lost. But that was definitely a big plus when I first got into the system (I have the E-500 and got the E-510 a few months ago specifically because I wanted IS for that 70-300mm lens).

Let me take this opportunity to make two more comments.

1)Here in Canada (another Canuckian here Mikefellh), I've noticed greatly improved Oly availability (I'm in Winnipeg). The cameras have always been easy to come by but any accessories have, in the past, been special order items (mind you, I'm sure things are better in Toronto!). But I actually got my FL-36R flash last month from OFFICE DEPOT of all places. It was in their national flyer and the guy at the store said they were just starting to carry Oly accessories. One week ago today, I got the 70-300mm at FUTURE SHOP which always carried the cameras but NEVER carried Oly lenses. I pointed that out to the guy at the camera counter who said they were just starting to carry Oly lenses. In fact, they also had a 50mm macro there (but I already own that lens).

2)Just before I bought my E-500 two years ago, I handled an entry level Canon DSLR owned by a friend. Honestly, it seemed very flimsy. It had that annoying shiny plastic that would flex when you squeezed it. I've got Taiwanese kitchen appliances that exude more quality. Now, we know that Canon makes some incomparable high end DSLRs that might be considered the Rolls Royces of digital photography. However, it seems that their entry level stuff is almost an after thought for the purpose of drawing people into the Canon mount. But, like I said, try using that entry level lens once you buy into their big sensor camera...
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Old May 25, 2008, 5:15 PM   #5
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Hi Brent,

I appreciate and agree with your comments. I would add two things:

1. The Oly 4/3 lenses are without peer, except for the Leica 4/3 lenses. Either way, you get the best around.

2. I disagree with you that getting high-ISO performance from a 4/3 sensor to match the high-ISO performance of a FF sensor, is just a matter of software tweaks. In the end that's physically impossible - no way can you collect the photons from a 4/3 sensor like you can from a FF sensor with some 4 times the light collection area. Its true that software matters, but given equivalent software capability the FF sensor will always win. Now that doesn't mean we should all go out and spend over $20K for a FF system to match a $7K Oly system. But all things (except price) being equal, in the end a FF sensor will always deliver better high-ISO images.

Ted
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Old May 25, 2008, 5:34 PM   #6
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My specific comment about the developing sensor technology in regard to high ISO, HDR and noise is that, "these issues will become less important".

While large sensors may always have the advantage imparted by their large collection areas, I also believe that we will reach a threshhold beyond which it just isn't very important. As it is today, the issues related to sensor size tend to be most problematic at higher magnifications or cropping of images.

I think that, as technology continues to improve, those issues will be pushed toward the outer edges of the performance envelope where they will matter only to those who make extreme enlargements or do extreme cropping.

SoI would suggest that, while a smaller sensor can't compete evenly with a big sensor, it should be possible to minimize those problems into a state of relative insignificance. We aren't there yet but I can see it happenning.
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Old May 25, 2008, 6:10 PM   #7
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Excellent points from all! Brent, you stated it very well. I don't have the patience nor typing skills to lay out my thoughts as succinctly as you.

I can only add that I really liked theOlympus colors, and I was inclined to Olympus because of my many years of use of the OM-2. (In my mind the best handling SLR ever; its' controls and size fit my hands perfectly. I still wish for a digital back for the OM-2.)

The other thing that firmed up my decision for Oly digitals was the Canons and Nikons owned by several acquaintances. I was not impressed by their bulky size, nor with the build quality. I also knew that Olympus has other divisions to protect it's business cash flows, as you so aptly pointed out about the medical instruments. So they can afford to develop digital withoutworry about digital costs bankrupting the company. (If Nikonloses revenue from it's digitalcameras, it has nothing to fall back on.)

On a personal note, congratulations on your successful cancer fight. I too am a cancer survivor.

Steve R.
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Old May 25, 2008, 7:54 PM   #8
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Steven R wrote:
Quote:
On a personal note, congratulations on your successful cancer fight. I too am a cancer survivor.

Steve R.
Thanks. Surgery was 5 years ago as of April 28 with my last check up May 7. So I've passed that all important 5 year survival mark with no trace of the disease returning.
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Old May 25, 2008, 8:19 PM   #9
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Glad to hear it. I hit the 5 year mark last August.
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Old May 25, 2008, 9:50 PM   #10
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One more thing I want to note about the larger sensors...and this is something that I alluded to in earlier posts.

The larger sensors THEMSELVES do have a technological advantage in terms of things we've talked about (high ISO performance, noise control, dynamic range). However, I do wish to point out that the large sensors also bring with them a problem. And that problem is the way that the sensors integrate with other lenses.

People may read this and think, "Ah, large sensors handle those problems better so that's the way to go". But that's where you start to run into lens problems (I think we here know that...I merely point this out for people just getting into DSLRs). Suddenly you're going to have to begin reading the fine print when you buy a lens. That horkin' big Canon full frame camera that costs as much as a good used car may be a thing of beauty...but try fitting a lot of the lower end lenses on it and you'll end up with useless black corners on that full frame. Most of the newer third party "Digital" lenses will be the same...dark or black corners...5 stops worth of vignetting.

Of course, you can get wonderful, professional lenses that will expose the entire frame perfectly. Nice, professional, expensive lenses. But your selection will go down and the price will go up.

And there's nothing wrong with that IF you are willing to foot the bill. It's like owning a Lamborghini that get's 9 miles per gallon. Heck, we'd all do it if we could foot the bill.

Wth the 4/3 system, if you can get a lens to fit, you can count on that lens covering the image sensor...Oly, Sigma, Pan/Leica. You can spend $7,000 on an Oly E-3 and a 300mm 2.8 lens but if you want to go slumming, you can mount a cheap 14-42mm low end kit lens on your E-3 and be assured that it will work. And 4/3 lens choices are regularly expanding. I take comfort in knowing that, if I get the top-of-line 4/3 camera, I won't have to abandon ANY of the lenses I already own.
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