The Olympus E-P1 camera, a hybrid designed to combine advantages of both compact cameras and SLRs, is a welcome arrival in a digital camera market struggling to find new directions.
The small and light camera that debuted Tuesday features interchangeable lenses and relatively large sensor that endow SLRs with flexibility and higher image quality, but it's also got a small body of a compact camera. It has the potential to appeal to SLR owners who want something smaller and to compact camera owners who want something better, if Olympus can convince people to surmount a significant obstacle, price.
Like most hybrids--gaming laptops, for example, or bicycles with aspects of both road bikes and mountain bikes--the E-P1 sacrifices specialization for versatility. But the digital camera market is saturated, and the E-P1 is a promising member of a newer camera breed.
There are a handful of competitors with similar aspirations. Canon's G10, the newest in its G series of high-end compact cameras, is one example. Nikon's GPS-enabled P6000 is another, though, like the G10, it doesn't have an interchangeable lens. And Panasonic's G1 and GH1, which employ the same Micro Four Thirds lens and sensor standard as the E-P1, are probably closest.
The biggest knock against these cameras is price. Their relatively large sensors--especially those in the Micro Four Thirds cameras--cost a lot to manufacture, and fast electronics and high complexity just make things worse. Few people are willing to spend more than $300 on a camera, much less the hybrid cameras.
Brace yourself for some sticker shock.… Read more