Is Olympus re-inventing the digital rangefinder?

pretty much since the advent of digital SLRs, there has been a group of photogragraphers (myself among them) clamoring for the release of a digital rangefinder (a niche market to be sure!)

There have been a few forays into this territory, Epson and Leica released true rangefinder bodies with digital sensors, using their existing mount, but they were recieved with… shall we say… mixed reviews 🙂 (plus the astronomical pricetag on the leica put it out of range for most casual shooters.

For the rest of us searching for the ever elusive “compact, quiet, unobtrusive ‘street'” camera, we’ve so far had to make do with high-end compact digicams, such as the Canon G9 (my weapon of choice) and the new Sigma DP-1

However it just may be that Olympus plans to change that…

Olympus just announced a new lens/mount standard dubbed “micro four-thirds” based on their current “four-thirds” standard.   The significance of this is it keeps the standard 4/3 sensor while making a smaller mount, and significantly shortinging the flange (lens->sensor) distance.  Additionally the specification of live vew, *completely eliminates the mirror box* which makes up the majority of the “bulk” in an slr body

What this means in english is that the mount will combine the benifit of interchangeable lenses with the compactness of a digicam (or rangefinder) body (in other words, it’s The fabled “E.V.I.L, or Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens” camera we have heard discussed ad-nauseum)!

Personally I think this is a great (and bold) move for olympus.   They seem to have recognized the appeal of a compact system while maintaining the flexibility & quality of an interchangeable lens setup.   In other words, they are looking at the traditional “rangefinder” market, but instead of trying to work with current mounts/standards they are totally re-inventing the concept, embracing the unique advantages of digital.   Particularly when combined with the absolutely stellar optics of the new zuiko lenses, this could be a real killer combo, and is *definitely* somthing I (and I’m sure many others) will be keepting my eye on!

3 thoughts on “Is Olympus re-inventing the digital rangefinder?”

  1. I was plotting to buy a nice point and shoot camera at some point, if anything just for the convenience to carry around. I was considering cameras such as the Sigma DP-1 and Canon G9, but being an existing Olympus OM and Four Thirds shooter, I think I’ll just wait for this platform to kick off :D.

  2. Since I started teaching street photography, my students have been asking me about a digital street camera, and I’ve had to say that other than the Leica M8 and the Epson (which is incredibly hard to find these days), there really is nothing out there that I could recommend.

    Let’s hope Olympus and/or Panasonic do it right. We should know more after Photokina.

  3. Same here. I’ve been using a G9 as a “carryaround/street” camera, but it has it’s limitations.

    I think Olympus has a lot of the pieces of the puzzle to make a stellar product in this area- they already have the sensor, they have the optical technology to deliver high quality at low registration distances (their whole “designed for digital” lenses w/the microlenses etc…) plus the advantage in live view technology…

    If they do it right, this could be a *killer* camera for the “rangefinder” crowd – and likely even bring that aesthetic more mainstream, by making it much more accessible to the public…

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