UPDATE: OM Digital Solutions reached out to us regarding this story, clarifying on the context within which the discussion was conducted:
"This was a relaxed conversation where we often chew the fat over what people like and don’t like or where things should go in the future. That can lead to interpretations beyond reality. It is all hypothetical and nothing has actually changed on our side. Things carry on as the roadmap suggests and we will release confirmed information in the usual manner."
As such, take a healthy pinch of salt while attempting to read between the lines (especially when mixing metaphors!).
ORIGINAL STORY (16 Feb): An executive from OM Digital Solutions has teased a new Olympus camera due in 2022, but suggested that something of a question mark remains over the E-M5 product line.
The context in which the new camera was discussed leads us to believe that it is a high-end camera – and, given the launch cycles of the various lines, it could be a successor to the flagship Olympus OM-D E-M1X (opens in new tab). However, this same cycle seems to be proving problematic for a follow-up to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III (opens in new tab).
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The exec from OM Digital Solutions (the erstwhile Olympus) was fielding questions from the Olympus UK E-System User Group about the Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25x IS Pro (opens in new tab). This $7,500 uber-lens has proved so popular that demand is 300% greater than supply; indeed, if you were to order this lens tomorrow, you currently wouldn't receive it for 12 months due to the pace of production.
In discussing the future demand and manufacture of the pricey professional optic, the executive revealed that the new camera would only amplify the issue.
"The positive thing I would say, next year – and Kataoka alluded to this in his interview in Japan," said Mark Thackara, OM Digital's Content & Community Senior Manager EMEA/US/OZ. "He was slightly misquoted, but the body that's coming in a year's time will only exacerbate the demand for the lens.
"So they've got to figure this out. So in answer to your question, no they won't stop making it, they should if anything increase the production – especially when people get to see the new body, because it'll just make more people want the lens."
The interview in question (opens in new tab), with OM Digital's Setsuya Kataoka, teased a new camera with features that would amaze consumers with what it's capable of. Of course, it's natural to assume that such a camera – particularly paired with a professional lens like the 150-400mm – would be a professional-grade body, which means it would sit in the flagship E-M1 product line.
Further, it would be reasonable to expect it to have a new sensor – particularly since Olympus' higher end cameras are still using the same 20.4MP sensor from 2016. And it seems that "the next sensor" may indeed appear in the new camera… but this might put the E-M5 line in a tricky position.
"Can I put in a request that the E-M5 range keeps going, and they don't just concentrate on E-M1s?" commented a member of the group.
"It's quite a hot topic, that one, because no-one can quite agree what the E-M5 is supposed to be, and we've had this conversation before haven't we – and we have it at TPS [The Photography Show (opens in new tab)] with everybody, every year as well," replied Thackara.
"Because it's, a lot of people love it, but at the moment it's stuck in the product cycle where it really needs to wait for the next sensor to come out, and we need to get into a cycle where the flagship camera gets the new sensor and then the ones below that get one."
So will OM Digital Solutions' new camera be a new flagship, with a new sensor? And what lies in store for the veritable E-M5 – the original OM-D model that kickstarted a revolution? We're waiting with bated breath to find out more…