Now that rumours are beginning to solidify about a successor to the 2016 flagship camera from Olympus, I’ve started to think about what sorts of updates I would want to see.

I’m trying to be realistic, keeping in mind that products like this have long development cycles and that gigantic leaps are rare.

Still, it is Olympus’ 100-year anniversary in 2019, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they’ve been quietly developing another set of technologies that would enable them to make a big splash. But what kinds of things would be truly important and beneficial rather than just cool or even gimmicky?

It’s hard to predict, but here are some concrete improvements I’d like to see in a successor camera, in no particular order…

Main Things I’d Like to See

Faster startup time. Both from a fresh boot and waking from sleep. I know it’s a complex camera, but this is one aspect where I’d really push for improvements. Make it feel immediate, and ideally consider relocating the power button so that I can raise it to my eye and start it up in a single motion with one hand, the way you can on cameras with power switches around the shutter release.

Better EVF and LCD panels. The single main reason why Shannon and several other people around me don’t get along with Olympus cameras is that they feel like the EVF and LCD display makes their images look boring, or flat, or unexciting in a way that Canon and Fujifilm ones don’t. I’ve gotten used to interpreting what I see on the screen, but I agree that the panels tend toward plain accuracy instead of punch.

Personally, I don’t mind the flatter rendering, but I would like to see an update to the resolution and magnification to bring it in line with flagships from other systems. It doesn’t need to be gargantuan to the point of distortion like the Panasonic G9, but something with a bit more detail and the same 120fps refresh rate and minimal lag time would be ideal.

Lose the art filters, introduce a better alternative. The potential was there with the PEN-F and its colour creator mode, but I want to see this re-thought. With all due respect to the consumers who enjoy them, the art filters are a garish embarrassment. Their presence is in active opposition to the camera’s professional aspirations. Keep them on the E-PL and E-M10 lines if you must, but take them off the E-M1 and PEN-F.

Getting rid of them frees up a mode dial slot, but also allows them to take a hard look at how successful Fujifilm has been at selling the idea of “film simulations” on their cameras. Whether or not they’re accurate is irrelevant: Olympus is one of the most well-respected names in camera colour science, and they should make their JPGs the envy of all other mirrorless systems.

And keep the superior degree of fine-tuning control for the new filters so photographers can dial in exactly the right tone from the preset they like best.

Better low-ISO performance. Yes, low ISO. I know everyone in the industry is currently obsessed with getting cleaner images at high ISOs, but I want to see more manufacturers paying attention to maximizing the quality of sensor output in good light (kudos to Nikon for this).

Having a lower native base ISO, with cleaner files and improved dynamic range would be terrific. I don’t mind bracketing for difficult situations, but the more I can accomplish in one frame, the less chance of stitching/layering artifacts and the less post-production time I have to spend.

Higher bitrate imaging. If a new sensor makes it practical.

12-bit isn’t bad in and of itself, especially since I assume the current sensors aren’t putting out enough signal to merit more, but if there’s 14 or even 16 bits worth of signal coming off the new sensors, then I want that extra colour and tonal fidelity to be maintained through the entire pipeline for better file integrity during intensive edits.

Slightly higher resolution. With one important caveat: don’t raise resolution at the expense of improving dynamic range and file quality. I’m fine with 20MP, but it would help sell more to the bigger-is-better crowd, and having a bit more cropping leeway for wildlife shots would be welcome.

I think 24-28MP is plenty.

But again: only if it can be done in addition to improving other, more important aspects of image quality.

Interface overhaul. I don’t think the menu system is as bad as some reviewers, but it feels designed by engineers, not designers.

It’s a complex system, no doubt, but there are surely ways of organizing and accessing this amount of complexity that don’t look like a DOS app from the early 90s. Hire some designers and let them re-think it for the modern world. Photographers will adapt.

If nothing else, at least adopt some quality-of-life features from other systems like the ability to press and hold a function button to bring up its settings page to change functionality.

Better onboard pre-amp. The current one is woeful, with an extremely high noise floor (irrespective of IBIS noise).

The only reason I can get usable audio in video from the camera is that I rarely use onboard audio, and when I do, my Røde VideoMic Pro+ allows me to boost the signal gain on the mic side so that I can keep the camera gain dialled way down low.

Stronger video features. Make Panasonic sweat.

It doesn’t have to be crazy, but 4k@60fps, 2k@120fps, and 1080p@240fps would be great. Especially at 4:2:2 10-bit (preferably internal). Give us the option for a nice high bitrate like 400Mbps.

Improved C-AF. For both stills and video. Video is pretty bad right now, but for stills it’s okay.

It should be better than okay.

I’d love to see Olympus take the lead in mirrorless C-AF performance, particularly for stills. Make the tracking useable, allow for more AF point configurations or even custom shapes like Panasonic does, continue to tweak and improve the face and eye detection, etc.

Allow charging over USB. It’s really useful for travel situations and it’s becoming more and more common.

Less Likely Things

  • A GPS module
  • Internal ND filter, preferably variable
  • XQD + SD card slots
  • Global shutter
  • A less cumbersome naming scheme

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

While I would love to see the above items, the truth is that updating a camera is a tricky proposition.

The things that are important to me may not be to others, and the things that seem obvious to everyone may not result in better sales. I’m sympathetic to those struggles, but I’m also confident that Olympus can navigate them successfully if they put their minds to it.

All the full frame news we’ve seen in the past few months does nothing to diminish the value and benefits of the system, despite what forum warriors will have you believe. Much ado about nothing.

Olympus is, if nothing else, very focused on their goals. They don’t split their attention when it comes to their camera work. So the real question is whether their initial goals are still relevant in 2019 and, if not, what direction they’ll take things in instead.

We’ll all find out soon.