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Full Translation of Oly Interview
This is for those who don't read regularly on the dpreview forum.
The interview was in Japanese. A very generous dpreview user (Hokuto) translated it for everyone. The content reveals something very significant about the future of 4/3 system.
You may open the link here (http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1022&message=20246190) or read below.
The four-thirds format uses a small sensor close to the size of the earlier 110 cartridge film format. Ever since its inception, consumers have long awaited one thing: namely, a miniature SLR camera system that could not be achieved with products based on the 35mm format type camera.
The E-400 which Olympus has announced for Europe has achieved a reduction in both body and lenses relative to earlier E-system cameras. And while there is fervent attention to the E-400 from Japan, they say there are no plans to issue the E-400 outside of Europe. Well then, what about Japan? According to Watanabe Akira??, Supervising Manager for Digital SLR Products Group of Olympus Imaging Product Strategy Division, a great revolution in the E-system will be revealed at next year’s PMA. It seems that an improved model of the E-400 will be announced at PMA 2007.
(Editorial note omitted)
DCWatch: We’d heard that a miniature system would appear, but until we saw the actual product, we honestly didn’t feel that much anticipation. But when we first held it, we discovered that with the new smaller lenses it really represents an advance in portability while being fully functional. Everyone must’ve been looking forward to a miniature 4/3 camera, but when did you actually begin planning the E-400?
OLY: In the sense of overall planning, we’d always had high hopes of introducing a smaller model separate from the orientation of the E-1 professional model. But at the initial stages, we had issues with electronic devices and batteries, and couldn’t feel sure that we would be able to compress it to the size we wanted. As a result, at the startup of the 4/3 system we emphasized the development of the E-1.
Thereafter, we developed the E-300 that did away with the top superstructure, and from the second year, we began directing more development efforts toward the small system.
DCW: Considering the characteristics of the 4/3 format, you must have had some pretty strong voices clamoring for smaller sized cameras.
OLY: The size of the format and Olympus’ own image was also involved, so certainly we heard voices from around the world for a smaller sized camera. Those voices were particularly strong from Japan. HEADING E-400: about the same size as the OM Series. . .release in Japan. . . Image control: Zoom out | Zoom 100% | Zoom in | Expand / Contract | New window Click to expand / contract the width of this image
DCW: During development did you have a specific size you were going for?
OLY: In the design stage, our goal was the body size of the OM series. We gave long and hard thought about what would be necessary to make it same width as the OM when placed alongside. Effectively, the E-400 is about the same size as the OM if you omit the internal flash. DCW: What kind of issues did you have to overcome to miniaturize it?
OLY: In concrete terms, we worked this past year on figuring out how to arrange the necessary mechanicals inside the body. We paid the most care to how to thin the part of the body meeting the eye--and that was the most difficult part to achieve as well. The 4/3 format is said to have a long back-focus distance, but by designing it so that the mount was continuous with the lens, it is possible to eliminate the sense of thickness there. But in the other body parts, we want to achieve a degree of thinning that people won’t think possible for a digital SLR camera.
To that end, we redid all the internal parts, so there are no common components with any of the earlier E-system cameras. The mirror, shutter, viewfinder, all parts have changed. Even the dust reduction system was redesigned a bit smaller. So we reviewed all the parts and reduced all their sizes bit by bit.
DCW: And the 4/3 sensor is advantageous itself due to its size. But earlier 4/3 (cameras) didn’t give such an impression of smallness. Were you able to do this merely by redesigning the parts?
OLY: The original format size being size certainly had that advantage. But each component—the moving parts in particular—had to have a certain size to maintain reliability and performance. This time we were able to not only make the parts smaller, but also to shift all the components that had been outside more slightly toward the center (the mirror box), and while it may sound like blowing our own horn, we really feel rather amazed that we were able to achieve this degree of compactness. DCW: How do you view the placement of this product within the series?
OLY: In terms of price, it will fit just slightly above the E-500, but since it’s meant for shipping only to Europe, we can’t talk yet about placement in the system within Japan.
DCW: Here we are coming up to the year-end sales period, but when you say that you have no plans to sell the E-400 in Japan and America, do you mean that you have no intention of selling the E-400 itself at all?
OLY: In respect to Japan and America, there will be no sales of the E-400 this year. mysterious statement!
DCW: A few minutes ago you said that you had received strong desires from the Japanese market for more compact (dSLR) cameras, but don’t these remarks that E-400 won’t be sold in Japan contradict that somewhat?
OLY: The E-400 took longer to bring to market that originally planned, and we had no time to build up a stock. As a result, we didn’t have enough units to send out worldwide for the year-end sales push. So the reason for our not shipping to Japan is strictly one of numbers (we simply couldn’t manufacture enough in time).
HEADING: * E-400 to become keystone of new generation E-system
DCW: Well then, does this mean that the E-400 will be placed on the Japanese market next year?
OLY: With next year, we will have products for next year. At PMA, we’ll talk about next year’s E-system. I can say with full confidence that the products we announce at PMA will satisfy our customers..
DCW: Namely, you mean you’ll have products that make people even happier than the E-400?
OLY: That’s right. This time (Photokina), we had the mockup of the next-generation E-1 successor, but (at PMA). we will have not only that but a new lineup of E-system products to unveil. As a result, our message to our Japanese customers is to please wait just a bit more until PMA.
DCW: Until now, the E-system did not represent a lineup arranged from top to bottom and geared toward specific levels of users. Instead, it was a collection of different body design concepts and multiple products, thus giving the improssion of being somewhat difficult to understand as a product line. Can we assume that the PMA announcement will clear up this situation?
OLY: We will have a lineup of products that clearly target various users. I can’t say how many, but it will be a systematic organization with clearly understandable product lines.
DCW: Will there be a series responding to the demands from Japanese users who want the E-400 marketed in Japan?
OLY: Of course, we will not betray the expectations of our users who are longing for the E-400. In exchange for waiting until next year, we will pay back the principle with interest. On the top end, will have the E-1’s successor, and among the other lines we will have one representing the E-400 and its successor(s). With respect to E-1 users, we have heard some pretty severe criticisms regarding making them wait for too long, but the E-1 successor to be announced next year we will be able to deliver it without making people wait for very long.
DCW: In relation to the E-400, you made not only the body, but the kit lenses compact too, thus resulting in an overall more compact system. But it will be sad if you end the series with only that double zoom kit. Don’t you have any plans for a separate series of compact, light-weight lenses, thin primes and other zoom variations?
OLY: When we began the E-system, we understood the need for a series of professional lenses that matched the E-1, and we fully understand the same with respect to the E-400. As I noted earlier, the E-400 will be a series that becomes the bedrock for a new generation of E-system cameras, so naturally, we will also furnish lenses to match it. And yes, we are naturally considering thin type lenses as well.
DCW: The sensor in the E-400 is 10MP, but did you experience any negative effects when going to such a high pixel count?
OLY: Judged as a total system, we were able to maintain the same (quality) as that for the E-500. The sensor is a CCD, but it features a different construction from previous sensors, so its performance has been improved.
DCW: You said that the E-system will undergo a great change next year; will the sensors used in those cameras be the same kind?
OLY: With respect to that point and other details of the next-generation E-system, please wait till PMA. We will be able to present a number of new topics then. HEADING: Image Stabilization Feature: “Won’t have to wait so long”
DCW: The E-system until now have not features IS either in body or lens. How do you intend to approach the IS issue from here on?
OLY: We have already perfected a moving-sensor type of IS in the CAMEDIA Myu750. We already have the technology at Olympus, and are proceeding with evaluation.
DCW: Did you have any problems with patents or intellectual property rights? Also, is it possible to apply the system used in the Myu750 to dSLR cameras as well?
OLY: At the time the Myu750 went on sale, we had already cleared all issues regarding intellectual property rights. In addition, it is possible to apply the same system to dSLRs, and R&D is proceeding.
DCW: You said regarding the next-generation E-system body line up that people wouldn’t be kept waiting for too much longer, but can the same thing be said regarding IS?
OLY: Hmm, well yes, I think I can say you won’t be kept waiting for too much longer for in-body IS.
DCW: We have a lot to look forward to, but there seems to be a mixture of impressions of concrete things we can expect, and more vaporous (cloudy) things that don’t give us a clear impression of what is coming. Can’t you give us any more concrete details about what to expect on the next-generation E-system?
OLY: Well, to repeat, the E-400 line will be a keystone to the next-generation E-system. But to our Japanese friends, please just wait a bit more till PMA. We will have so much to announce then that you’ll think “Wow, Olympus has been so slow to announce any new products till now, what’s suddenly gotten into them??” At PMA, the impression will be so clear that anyone will be able to say with conviction, “THIS IS FOUR THIRDS!” All the products will make the greatest use of the 4/3 features, and it will be a lineup without any sacrifices.
With regard to our development stance, we have received some harsh criticism regarding the speed with which we offer products and our model change cycles. But with the second chapter of the four-thirds saga, we have a structure that will never make anyone wait again due to model changes. We are strengthening our development resources as well, so we sincerely ask you to wait until next year’s PMA.
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