The big mirrorless news at the just completed CP+ camera show in Japan fell into basically four groups:
- Olympus OM-D. A nice launch party for the camera, and the booth was basically mobbed with people trying to get a chance to try it out. It puts Olympus squarely into the quasi-DSLR mirrorless realm and if you were paying attention you'd have noticed that the OM-D is not a camera, it's a line of cameras, of which only one, the E-M5, has been announced so far. So the unanswered question is where the E-M5 is in that line. Top? Middle? I can't imagine it to be bottom, but that's certainly still a possibility given we know nothing about what comes next. Whatever the case, Olympus has a potential new gem in their lineup.
- Pentax K-01. There couldn't be a bigger contrast than between the E-M5 and the K-01. Retro versus modern is just part of it. But it didn't seem to me that Pentax made as big a splash with the K-01 as they might have, which is a bit surprising, as Japan tends to like both retro and modern. The Pentax user base will certainly be interested in it, but the camera itself feels a little too boxy and arbitrary in design--it's not an ergonomic wonder.
- Fujifilm X-Pro1. This was the camera's first wide, public showing. There were long lines waiting to get hands on with it, and Fujifilm also showed an M-mount adapter, which would just further solidify it in the "lower cost Leica" category. Overall, Fujifilm's retro-style focus is a little disconcerting—when you see it all together close up it feels like you're having a flashback. The question I have is whether that's going to appeal to the young, and the next generations of camera users. I think not. Also, note that it is a big mirrorless camera, the size of a Leica M9.
- Lenses. A lot of small lens announcements and prototypes were on display, primarily centered around m4/3. Even Olympus and Panasonic got into the "future lenses in display boxes" game, but the sense one gets is that the m4/3 mount is getting considerable lens support, both from the makers themselves as well as the third party makers. Overall, mirrorless is fast becoming all about the lens system behind it. Nikon, Samsung, and Sony all need to put even more concerted effort into changing the perception that m4/3 is just getting pretty much every lens type/design any user would ever want.
So what happens next? There's usually a bit of a lull after the big shows as companies try to deliver what they've already announced and shown. Something tells me that this year is going to be different, though. The Japanese quake and Thailand floods pretty much disturbed every corner of the camera development through manufacturing pipeline in some way. We're just now getting back to having parts suppliers back up to speed, and some of those—such as shutters—are critical to product rollouts.
I suspect we'll have a frenzy of continued mirrorless-related announcements for a month or two more that will settle down sometime by late spring, only to pick up again in the rush to Photokina in the fall.