Olympus launched a teaser site for the next E-Pnext:
For reference, I decided to see if I could glean it for MY last camera which came last month… the E-P2
Where did the inch go
If it’s an inch smaller, albeit in a dimension that still won’t make a difference in terms of pocketability. The left side of the deck (right in the picture) of the E-P2 is taken with the mode dial which you can see was moved to the right size. It also means the LCD shifted over to the right and there is less control deck space in the rear. My guess is the main dial was removed and this is a more menu-driven model than the other.
The other thing to note is that it probably has the tripod mount on the edge since there is no room anymore towards the center. Also, it may be using a smaller battery than the BLS-1—either one of their pocket camera 900mAH batteries or a new gumstick style that hopefully brings the battery technology into this decade—there is no reason they couldn’t fit a 1500 mAH battery in that space now. It all depends on if moving the tripod mount to the edge got them the space they needed—after all it may be less than an inch shorter, in which case you can get away with a BLS-1 and just moving the tripod screw.
Making it cheaper
Removing controls means this market for this must be a price point under the E-P1 so we have to ask what does Olympus throw out?
Let’s start with image stabilization—you can charge $100 less if you get rid of that feature. The next thing to get rid of is video, because you can. Also, you can provide the accessory port for the electronic viewfinder, but don’t provide for the $300 VF-2 which you can sell for $300 as an accessory. This brings us to a list price of $699 with a kit lens. Unfortunately the E-P1 kit is $640 street price, and you can’t really unring that bell, so let’s say you replace the all-metal construction of the E-P1/E-P2 with high grade plastics and drop the price to $499-599 list. (You could get rid of or cripple the art-filters, but the market has shown, with the failure of the E450, that it doesn’t care one way or another about them.)
One thing it does add, if you look closely, is a flash like the Panasonic GF-1. That’ll be nice for some and I believe it’s something they promised last year.
Given that it’s smaller, probably plastic, missing a lot of control dials in the rear, and the success of the Pentax K-x, one thing I’d like to see—but probably won’t—is be a zillion body color options. This camera is small enough that it’ll be a seriously cute camera—adding a choice of body colors will make it a great camera to target at style-concious people. The Olympus Stylus was a very stylish 35mm point and shoot, and I hope Olympus returns to that market with gusto.
In any case, whether $500 or $600, at that price and even without image stabilization, you’d be stupid to the max to plunk down a $430 for a Canon G11 at this point—those things are going the way of the dodo for serious enthusiasts. The Panasonic LX4, with it’s more compact body, 16:9 native and ultrawide-fast lens, I’d understand. And heck, who knows, maybe the LX4 will have a 4:3 sensor in it. (In light of this, let’s throw the video back in to entice some people back.)
Overall, I’d put my money on a micro 4:3 with a popup flash, simplified menu-driven rear, no IS, tripod mount on the edge (a la LX3), plastic case with a retail price of either $549 or $699 with a 14-24mm kit the same price for the 17mm (but without an optical viewfinder).
In addition, one should expect new lenses as part of the announcement. Unlike Nikon and Apple, Olympus destroys all the suspense, by telling us that they’ll be among of the following lenses: Zuiko ED 9-18mm f4-5.6, ED 14-150mm f4-5.6, a 50mm macro lens, a 8mm fisheye, and a 12mm prime. Yawn.