An Open Letter to Olympus

Olympus E5 - A Technological Dinosaur

Olympus E5 – A Technological Dinosaur

WC has been a loyal Olympus 4/3rds digital single lens reflex camera customer for may years. Essentially every photograph posted to this blog by WC has been made with an Olympus camera.

But over the last 18 months Olympus has fallen seriously far behind the technology curve. In particular, the performance of its flagship camera, the E5, in low light conditions is pitiful in comparison to the comparable high-end cameras from Canon and Nikon. The poor performance involves both autofocus and exposure. That is, in low light the camera often won’t focus and when it does, any image captured is noisy and unusable.

So WC wrote an email to Olympus. That email said, in part:

WC has owned an E1, E500, E3, and E5. WC also owns a 300mm f2.8, a 90-250mm f2.8, a 50-200mm, a 12-64mm, 1.4X and 2.0X teleconverters, a Macro 2.0 and a host of other products. WC has taken nature photographs with Olympus products in a dozen or more countries on three continents. Up until the last 1.5 years, Olympus has taken pretty good care of WC. That’s no longer the case.

WC just spent two weeks in Costa Rica photographing birds. Two friends were with WC. One had a Nikon rig; the other a Canon rig. Both were using 300mm f2.8 lenses, as was WC. Both were able to photograph under low light conditions where the E5 could not. Both could acquire focus in those conditions; the E5 could not. My colleagues returned with photos WC does not have because the E5 could not capture them. In the case of a few birds, that has cost WC sales.

WC was embarrassed for himself and for Olympus by the inadequacy of the E5 in comparison with WC’s friends’ cameras.

The simple fact is that the E5 is badly outclassed, and Olympus has failed to offer a new E-series product to match the features of similarly-priced Nikon and Canon products.

Olympus has completely failed to announce or commit to a new 4/3rd DSLR. Yes, there are rumors, but rumors don’t take photos and don’t pay the rent.

WC is not enthusiastic about waiting a few months for a better-performing camera, but will. What WC is not willing to do is wait any longer in the face of silence from Olympus, let alone a firm shipping date. Has Olympus abandoned the E Series cameras? Do you appreciate that is what it looks like to your loyal customers?

WC really needs a response. In the absence of a commitment from Olympus to a new E series camera in the near future, WC will regretfully shift to one of its competitors. Emails to you have gone unacknowledged. Your silence is a kind of an answer.

/Wickersham’s Conscience

When Olympus didn’t respond, WC posted a similar message on Nature Photographers Network, where he is a member. WC’s message attracted responses from current and former Olympus camera users, echoing WC’s concerns. But Olympus still didn’t respond.

On February 5, 2013, Olympus emailed WC soliciting his input in a customer satisfaction poll. WC was not kind in his responses. Whether by coincidence or not, less than an hour later he had an email from an Olympus Digital Imaging Specialist, Dig Prod Sppt III. In the course of a 40 minute conversation, the gentleman acknowledged WC’s concerns, allowed as how Olympus shared information on a need-to-know basis and that neither he nor WC were persons who “needed to know.” He then pointed to some amazingly vague statements made by Olympus spokesperson Toshi Terada, hinted at some amazing new breakthrough technologies in focusing in low light, talked at length about the popularity and the success of the Olympus OM-D (while admitting autofocus with that camera using existing lenses was unworkable) and shared some interesting stories.

What he didn’t – couldn’t – do was make a specific commitment to a successor DSLR camera, the long-rumored Olympus E7 DSLR.

Which leaves WC enriched by 40 minutes of conversation with a nice man, but no more certain than before that (a) there will be a successor camera to the Olympus E5, or (b) that if there is, the new camera will ship before the end of President Obama’s current term, or (c) that the new camera would have cures for the glaring deficiencies of the E5. Reviewing the comments on Terada’s interview, it’s pretty clear that no one is certain what he said or, where folks are certain, they don’t agree on what he said.

Since that telephone conversation, WC’s photo buddy Mia has forwarded a snapshot of a sign posted at Japan’s CP+, its national camera show.

Is That a Promise? Can You Be more Specific?

Is That a Promise? Can You Be more Specific?

If one of WC’s readers can read Japanese, a translation would be appreciated. An optimist – WC isn’t an optimist – would interpret this to mean a new E-series camera Real Soon Now. Not completely unhelpful, but not very helpful, either.

Converting to a Canon system adequate to the task breaks well into five figures. Who knows what, if anything, WC could get for his Olympus gear.

Gah. What to do?

[WordPress apparently decided to delete this post. WC has retrieved it via Google cache and re-posted it. Any comments were lost, including the translation provided by a Yukon Territory reader. Sorry.)