I know what you are saying. All new 2K? We’ve had 4K for ages. Keep up with the times man!
Well I am up with the times, because the 2K I’m talking about is pounds, dollars or euros. And that 2K is round about the price of Olympus’s new E-M1 Mark 2 in those currencies. It tops the previous prices of flagship Micro Four Thirds cameras in the UK by a handsome – or should that be ugly? – margin. I paid £1300 for an E-M1 when it came out so the price hike for the Mark 2 is over 40%. But more than the price itself, what is significant is that this price puts the E-M1 Mark 2 firmly in full frame Nikon, Canon and Pentax DSLR territory. A lot of photographers, understandably, will baulk at that. I can hear it now. “Two thousand dollars? You can get a Nikon/ Canon/ full frame for that!”
It reminds me of the remarks I used to get when I rode motor-cycles. Someone would look at the bike enviously. “How much does a bike like that cost?”. I’d tell them. Inevitably came back “but you could get a car for that”. That is true but whereas the bike would accelerate from 0-60mph in under 5 seconds, render London traffic irrelevant to my progress and could be parked anywhere free, no amount of money spent on a car could buy that freedom and efficiency. Let alone the mundane family car that would carry a similar price tag. The type I now drive, I might add.
The case I put forward for the E-M1 Mark 2 is along those lines. The 2K buys you the most advanced Micro Four Thirds camera body there is. Note I said ‘most advanced’, not best, that’s another matter. Advanced even down to a speedy type C USB plug. It will shoot very high speed sequences beyond what any DSLR can do, at full quality. It has stabilization approaching the best physics will allow, short of stopping the earth’s rotation while you take a picture.
While not particularly small by Micro Four Thirds standards, it is still compact compared to a DSLR, more so because the format allows for smaller lenses. That is how my Lowepro (UK) (USA) bag below will take an E-M1 Mark 2 plus lenses covering from 7mm to 400mm, the essential 12-150mm range all being at f/2.8.
I will, as always, ignore the equivalence folk. Micro Four Thirds lenses are for Micro Four Thirds system cameras. It is an enclosed ecosystem of its own. Yes, a smaller sensor implies more noise and more depth of field than a DSLR. Just as a 36x24mm sensor does compared to a Hasselblad digital. So what?
Within the Micro Four Thirds system, The E-M1 Mark 2 represents not a comparably priced mid range DSLR but one of the flagship models at around £5,000. In absolute terms it is less capable but then it costs less than half as much and has benefits that even a £10,000 DSLR could not replicate, courtesy of the laws of optics. It’s the motor-cycle/ car argument again.
I had an email from a photographer recently saying he hated the way Micro Four Thirds was going and the price of the new Olympus just strengthened his disapproval. I understand it, because he feels let down that a system that originally consisted of reasonably priced cameras was now moving out of his reach. I pointed out that the fact that a top model Nikon DSLR cost £5,000 didn’t put buyers off the Nikon range. They bought the best model they could afford. Ditto the E-M1 Mark 2. If you don’t want to spend or don’t have that kind of money, there’s the E-M5ll. Or the Panasonic G80. You don’t have to have the top model.
For myself, because I review cameras, I have reason to buy them. Would I buy an E-M1 mark 2 otherwise? I doubt it. For my work, 5 stop stabilization and 60 frames per second are clever circus tricks. I don’t really do much that my Panasonic GH2 couldn’t do and even an E-M10 Mark 2 (UK) (USA) or Panasonic G80 are improved in every way over that 5 year old camera.
For some photographers, having what they consider the best is very important and they will buy regardless of price. Others feel the pricing is excessive and wouldn’t buy for that reason. My only insight is that my dealer told me the new Olympus was selling like hot cakes
My over-arching thought is that if that price and good sales help secure Olympus’s presence in the Micro Four Thirds market we all benefit. I have a sneaking feeling that when Panasonic’s GH5 is announced they will not price it very differently from the E-M1 Mark 2.
One quirky thing I notice is that I have a G80 (UK) (USA) and E-M1 Mark 2 on my desk and I seem to happily pick up one thinking it is the other. The bodies feel quite similar, comfortable hand grip, lots of similarly placed controls, both now have articulated screens, typically well designed Micro Four Thirds bodies. I wonder, if the GH5 is even more physically like the G80 than the new Olympus, whether I would not only pick up the wrong one but use it too. And not realize I’d done so.
If so, why don’t I just save myself a cool £1100. You could buy a DSLR for that.