Olympus rumors 2023 (OM System)
Technically "Olympus rumors" are "OM System rumors", but old habits die hard!
We've had a whole year to get used to the new name, with the OM System OM-1 (opens in new tab) (which admittedly still had "Olympus" on the pentaprism) and the OM System OM-5 (opens in new tab) carrying the flag for the new brand.
While the OM-1 was universally lauded, however, the OM-5 wasn't as well received by many outlets, who accused it to being a light reskin of the Olympus E-M5 Mark III (opens in new tab). So whatever OM's next move is, the industry is going to be waiting to judge it – probably unfairly.
So, what does the future hold for one of the most storied legacies in the photographic industry?
OM System OM-10
The OM System OM-10 is the next camera expected to be announced. Following the transmogrification of the Olympus OM-D EM-1 and E-M5 to the OM System OM-1 and OM-5, now it's the turn of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV (opens in new tab) to be reborn.
There are no rumored specs as yet, but we can use history as our guide here. The flagship OM-1 features a brand new, stacked, back side illuminated 20.4MP sensor, while the OM-5 features the old 20.4MP sensor found in the previous flagship cameras (the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III (opens in new tab) and Olympus OM-D E-M1X (opens in new tab)) – both of which featured phase detect autofocus.
The entry level E-M10 line never featured the same sensor, autofocus system or in-body image stabilization system as its bigger brothers, usually sharing the same technology as the Olympus PEN line. We can thus surmise that the OM System OM-10 will probably possess very similar specs to the brilliant Olympus PEN E-P7 (opens in new tab) (which was actually the first camera released under the new ownership), albeit with an electronic viewfinder.
OM System will partner with other companies
In a dramatic turn, OM Digital confirmed at CP+ 2021 (opens in new tab) that it will partner with other companies. "I’m interested in further exploring the potential of the optical technologies of cameras and lenses, as well as the audio technologies from IC recorder and other areas, exploring new avenues," said OM Digital's chief technology officer (opens in new tab), Setsuya Kataoka.
At this point, he was asked by photographer Koichiro Saito, "In other words, there is a possibility of collaborating with other companies?"
"That’s correct," replied Kataoka. "Instead of just doing things on our own, we will work with other partners when necessary. I also want to actively engage in creating new value going forward."
While the prospect of running photography tours is a little left field, the idea of partnering with other companies makes a lot of sense. Hasselblad, for example, provides cameras for drones like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro (opens in new tab) (though of course, the former is owned by the latter), and Leica supplies the camera system for phones like the Huawei P40 Pro (opens in new tab).
On a more fundamental level, is Kataoka suggesting that Olympus might even partner with another manufacturer on a camera? It seems farfetched, but we've already seen technology partnerships between rivals Samsung and Xiaomi (opens in new tab) on camera phones – so stranger things could happen!
PEN and Tough cameras will continue
Given that the new company, OM Digital Solutions, literally takes its name from the OM-D product line (which stands for Olympus Maitani Digital, in honor of the brand's legendary lead designer), there have been enduring questions as to whether only the OM-D cameras would be continued while the PENs were dropped.
"Some may wonder if we are focusing only on the OM-D series," stated Setsuya Kataoka (opens in new tab), OM Digital's chief technology officer, at CP+ 2021 (opens in new tab). "That is not the case. We will, of course, continue developing models in the Micro Four Thirds PEN series. The same goes for Tough compact digital cameras, Voice Trek and LS series IC recorders, and professional dictation products for some regions."
OM System PEN-F II
The confirmation that PEN cameras will continue threw gasoline on the fire of Olympus PEN-F II rumors (or, perhaps, wishful thinking). The original Olympus PEN F (opens in new tab) was discontinued a few years ago, as it sold well but not quite enough, but it has always been a popular and coveted member of the Olympus family.
A camera created to embody sheer style and cool creativity, it's a very niche and premium priced product that may be difficult for OM Digital – which cannot afford to make any losses – to resurrect. However, it has been brought up publicly by company executives a number of times in recent discussions. Clearly the company is aware of the interest, if nothing else!
That said, the recent Olympus PEN E-P7 (opens in new tab) feels in many ways like a pocket-sized PEN-F successor – but it lacks the PEN-F's vari-angle screen and electronic viewfinder. So if you're jonesing for that kind of style and substance, this would be a great alternative.
OM System PEN E-PL11
Arguably more likely than the PEN F II is the release of another E-PL (Electronic PEN-Lite) camera. The line saw annual (if incremental) updates every year from 2016 to 2019, culminating in the Olympus PEN E-PL10 (opens in new tab) – so it feels like an obvious candidate for a new model.
However, the resurrection of E-P line (in the form of the Olympus PEN E-P7) does throw the future of the E-PL into question. Do we really need another smaller, EVF-free entry level camera?
OM System Tough TG-7
With the Tough line confirmed to continue, we can obviously expect an Olympus Tough TG-7. In truth we don't see it being a whole lot different to the Olympus Tough TG-6 (opens in new tab), which is no bad thing as that is the best waterproof camera (opens in new tab) and one of the best travel cameras (opens in new tab) to boot.
That said, we wouldn't at all object to OM Digital putting the old 16MP sensor from the TG-4 back in – and combining it with a new TruePic processor to squeeze performance similar to the 12MP sensor in the TG-5 and 6.
Bags, straps and photography tours
At CP+ 2021 (opens in new tab), OM Digital Solutions made the surprise statement that it is interested in exploring its newfound freedom of a controlling corporate structure by expanding its remit beyond producing the best Micro Four Thirds cameras (opens in new tab) and best Micro Four Thirds lenses (opens in new tab).
"I believe we can provide value to the photography activities and culture of our customers in areas other than cameras and lenses," said OM Digital's chief technology officer (opens in new tab), Setsuya Kataoka.
"As a manufacturer, we may be able to add value by providing a bag or a strap. Or maybe photography tours. Because now we are free to be involved in the culture of photography, I would like to try some new things."
The Olympus verdict
The OM-1 was a huge hit with reviewers and consumers alike, so the OM System era got off to a good start – but the OM-5 wasn't quite so warmly welcomed. Whether it's the OM-10, PEN 11 or TG-7, whatever comes next will be crucial in cementing public perception of the brand.