On top of Olympus

Olympus OMD E-M10 camera review

Daisuke Tainaka, the man in charge of designing the Olympus OMD cameras, including the OMD E-M10, is the heir to a tradition of creating designs that stand out from the crowd.

His predecessor as head of design, Yoshihisa Maitani, was responsible for creating the Pen and OM 35mm cameras, and his ”uncompromising philosophy as a developer”, he said, ”was to create cameras that didn’t previously exist anywhere”.

We bought our first Olympus OM-1 in 1975 and remained a satisfied and loyal customer up until the early days of digital, when we felt abandoned by the company because there was no smooth transition from film to digital .

It wasn’t until the introduction of the E-P1 that we were able to return to the fold. The E-P1, the first of the micro four-thirds cameras from Olympus, picked up on the design cues of the Pen cameras of the 1950s and ’60s, laid down by Maitani. Then, when the E-M5, with its reminders of the OM cameras of yore, came along, we had to have one.

In speaking about the E-M10, Tainaka talked about the challenges of creating a ”little brother” (his words) to an existing model, the E-M5. How do you create a new camera that will sell at a lower price without it seeming to be a cut-down version of the dearer model? Some companies skimp on the look and feel and on quality of materials. They replace a true prism optical finder with mirrors. They remove in-body focus drive motors so their legacy lenses will not auto focus on the cheaper models. They even remove firmware features, such as the number of shots that can be bracketed. Olympus has chosen to create a camera that is different, rather than obviously inferior. It is a risky decision because the company does not want the little brother cannibalising the sales of the big brother.

Tainaka works under a set of design imperatives that he puts like this: ”At a glance you want to touch it; once you touch you want to look through the viewfinder; once viewed, you feel your heart pounding; you feel that you lose yourself in the pleasure of taking pictures and the camera will never let your heart go away.”

Well, gosh! We reckon he has hit the goal with the OMD cameras. But then, we would say that, wouldn’t we?

DISCLAIMER: Terry Lane has owned Olympus cameras since 1975. He currently has four 35mm OM cameras, 16 lenses, and three digital cameras with seven lenses. He travelled to Japan as a guest of the company. Read all that has gone before with appropriate scepticism.

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