Olympus released the arguably professional E-1 in 2003 to much curiosity, interest, and some sales. It was widely understood that due to certain limitations (low-light focusing capabilities and 5 megapixels at a time when the pro SLRs were touting 6), this wasn’t a camera designed for the serious sports photo journalists and may have limitations for other pro photo applications. On the other hand, as it was built from the ground up as digital-only — the all-new 4/3 format — many people wanted it to work out. Competition is always a good thing.
The solid build quality added to the allure. Olympus released it and then things got quiet.
The competition continued to push forward with new professional and consumer models and finally, a year later Olympus released the consumer-focused E-300. An odd-looking SLR for the time, but a solid performer with a higher megapixel count and the same low-light (and high-ISO) failings. It was time for an updated E-1. Another year passed and Olympus released a slightly more conventional-looking consumer dSLR — the E-500. Another small step up, but still with the same issues as its predecessors. Two years had now passed and still no new pro version.
At this point it would still have been enough to update to the E-500’s 8 Megapixels and maybe update the back layout to accomodate a 2.5″ LCD. But still — *cricket* *cricket*.
Here we are 3-years later and we are finally seeing some early mockups for the next generation for something Olympus is calling the E-P1 (likely to be renamed the E-3 when it is finally — I’ll believe it when I see it — released next year).
People who use the E-1 love the ergonomics. Is it perfect? Nope, but it’s a solid shooter that, updated, could hold its own with the Nikons and Canons. Olympus seems to spend an inordinant amount of time coming up with odd-ball SLR designs and integrating things like “Live View” (which is a very nice idea). They need to release a new Pro SLR for chrissakes — it’s been over three years!
Olympus wants us to think they remain optimistic for the system with press releases and such, but the trickle of lenses and slow adoption rate of the standard by other manufacturers leaves me thinking of the OM. What’s to stop Olympus from hanging it’s loyal customers out to dry again?
All that said, I’m in love with my E-500, apart from the lack of lens options, and look forward to moving up to the Pro version in a year or two (if it’s out by then). If it isn’t or has the same issues, I’ll have to grudgingly drink the Kool-Aid and move in another direction.