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Olympus' E System group of products. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Olympus announces the DSLR 'E System'
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Sunday, March 2, 2003 - 09:37 EST)

Olympus America has today announced the 'E System', a part of which is a new digital single-lens reflex camera based on the 'Four Thirds System' which it has jointly created with Kodak.

As we told you last year , the Four Thirds System is the culmination of almost two years work for the two companies, which has seen them form an alliance through which they agreed to cross-license their digital camera-related technologies. Fujifilm later signed on as well, but in the entire period since this story first came to light in late April 2001, not a single product was announced. To be sure, mockups have been shown of planned cameras, but no indication as to whether these would actually become products, nor when and at what price, was available.

Well, today some of that changes, as we take another step nearer to the realisation of Olympus and Kodak's "Four Thirds" goals. Olympus USA has today announced the "E System", which consists of a Four Thirds-based digital single-lens reflex camera body, four lenses and a flash unit.

Details are still scarce, but at this time we can tell you the following: the camera body (seen below) will have a magnesium body, focal-plane shutter, flash hot shoe, a selection of aperture and shutter priority modes as well as full manual, and both auto and manual focusing. Of course, you might expect most - if not all - of this from any new DSLR, but since the information is confirmed by Olympus that does give it a certain degree of noteworthiness. The camera also bears a striking resemblance to Olympus' E-10 and E-20 fixed-lens cameras, something which is tacitly acknowledged by the continued use of the 'E' designation for the new system.

Olympus 'E System' Camera Body

Olympus' E System camera body. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version

Olympus' E System camera body. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System camera body. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System camera body. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System camera body. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System camera body. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System camera body. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
.

Along with the camera body announcement, four lenses were announced:

Olympus 'E System' Lenses
Olympus' E System 14-54mm lens. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
14 - 54mm F2.8 - 3.5 lens
Equivalent to 28 - 108mm
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System 50-200mm lens. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
50 - 200mm F2.8 - 3.5 lens
Equivalent to 100 - 400mm
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System 300mm lens. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
300mm F2.8 lens
Equivalent to 600mm
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System 300mm lens. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
50mm F2.0 Macro lens
Equivalent to 100mm
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
.

Also, a new flash unit was announced. Unfortunately no specifications at all were provided for this, so you'll have to draw your own conclusions from the images for now:

Olympus 'E System' Flash
Olympus' E System flash. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
Olympus' E System flash. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
.

Finally, we were told that the 'E System' will be rolled out in the USA at an event in New York on June 24th, at which time complete details and specifications of the 'E System' products will be revealed. (It is also possible that review samples might begin appearing at that stage). The first retail shipments of the 'E System' are slated for Fall 2003, and unfortunately more accurate dates or pricing information are not yet available. A picture of the entire Olympus 'E System' together follows:

Olympus 'E System' Group
Olympus' E System group of products. Courtesy of Olympus, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Click for: ( Large / Huge ) version
.

Original Source Press Release:

OLYMPUS PREVIEWS PROTOTYPE FOUR THIRDS DIGITAL SLR SYSTEM AT PMA

World’s First 100% All-Digital SLR System Based On New Four Thirds Digital Standard

Las Vegas, NV, March 2, 2003 – Olympus America Inc. previews a prototype of its pioneering new Digital SLR System at the PMA 2003 Annual Convention and Trade Show this month. The Olympus Digital SLR System is the world’s first 100 percent all-digital system with lenses and body designed to perfectly match the image sensor for unmatched digital performance. Based on a 4/3-type image sensor, this new SLR system is an uncompromising realization of the full benefits of pure digital photographic technology.

“Olympus is leading the industry in a bold new direction as the world’s first manufacturer to build a 100 percent all-digital SLR system from the ground up,” said John Knaur, Senior Product Manger, Olympus America Inc. “The Olympus Digital SLR System is the ultimate light-mastering digital camera system, offering professional photographers powerful advantages in terms of image quality, camera and lens size, durability, and speed.”

The Four Thirds Digital SLR System features interchangeable digital lenses designed to maximize image sensor performance. In contrast, when conventional 35mm film lenses are used with digital cameras, insufficient light at the edges of the image sensor can result in reduced color definition, particularly when shooting with wide-angle lenses. In addition, the 4/3-type image sensor size has allowed the dimensions and weight of the lenses to be reduced considerably for easier handling and mobility.

The Olympus Digital SLR System will feature a durable, all-metal body made of a magnesium alloy, adding strength and durability without adding excessive weight. The system will target speeds comparable to a film SLR and shorten the time it takes to write to the memory card, focus, and shoot/capture.

Olympus Digital SLR System Prototypes To Be Exhibited

  • Camera body
  • Lenses
    • 300mm, f2.8 (600mm equivalent)
    • 14~54mm, f2.8~f3.5 zoom (28~108mm equivalent)
    • 50mm macro, f2.0 (100mm equivalent)
    • 50~200mm, f2.8~f3.5 zoom (100~400mm equivalent)
  • External flash unit
  • Power Battery Holder

The Olympus Digital SLR System will be officially unveiled at a major New York City press event on June 24, 2003, when complete product features and specs will be revealed. The Olympus Digital SLR System will then be introduced to the market at competitive prices in the late third or early fourth quarter of 2003.

About The Four Thirds System
The new Four Thirds System is an open standard for digital SLR cameras and intdrchangeable lens systems that utilize a 4/3-type image sensor. Adopted by a consortium of leading manufacturers including Olympus, Kodak and Fuji, the Four Thirds System is designed to achieve an optimal balance between image quality, camera size, and system expandability. The system maximizes the performance of image sensors and lenses, and establishes a common standard for lens mounts, allowing photographers greater flexibility with a choice of bodies and lenses from different manufacturers using the Four Thirds System.

About Olympus
Olympus Optical Co., Ltd., with its wholly owned subsidiaries, is a global leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing optical-digital product solutions for health care and consumer segments. The company leverages R&D investment in technology and manufacturing processes across diverse business lines that include:

  • digital and film cameras, and digital voice recorders;
  • minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical endoscopes;
  • advanced clinical and research microscopes;
  • chemistry-immuno analyzers and lab automation systems.

In the U. S. and Canada, Olympus America Inc. serves health care, scientific and commercial laboratory markets with integrated product solutions and financial and other service offerings and is the leading brand in gastrointestinal endoscopy and clinical and educational microscopes. The company’s market-leading consumer camera products and services business spans North and South America. Olympus America Inc. works collaboratively with its customers and parent company to develop state-of-the-art products and services that are innovative, intelligent, and easy to use. For more information, visit www.olympusamerica.com.

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