Keeping an FT Range of DSLRs/ Hybrids
My own contention is that Olympus are darn fools if they leave the entry and mid range FT users and potential owners out of the picture so to speak. They will not be able to force entry and mid level users over to PEN: the users will keep their systems but will not migrate to a compromise.
PEN so far have external only EVFs, and the mFT lenses are slower per dollar! No, the FT users coming up for repurchase in 2012 will not want a camera at 12 or 14 mpx: in two years time they will all be onto a minimum of 16 mpx and...... someone elses system, most likely panasonic in a by then G 3/ GH3 if they want some use of their Zuiko glass.
Keeping just the E5 and possibly one or two top range children thereafter, is like BMW just keeping the 7 series: they will loose the brand franchise at the grass roots, and system builders on FT now, and thus kill even more of the market for their own top level bodies and lenses by leaving no realistic system upgrade route for we owners today.
However, with only 5-6% of the DSLR market by value, then what would be sensible for Olympus is to stop competing at so many price - feature points and launch just one main "hundred" brand, maybe E700, and follow upgrades and slight variants there only.
Performance of even my entry level Olympus E450 far out stips that of the fixed lens compacts, at a total package price of less than the top Finepix or Nikon coolpix superzooms.
Competing in the Mid Range.
Really olympus shoud look at rationalising their range to compete just with mid range, amateur DSLRs beneath the pseudo pro E5 and after comers. Then they could focus all their R&D and market research efforts on pre-empting the next move in the market, or in markting comms on the key IQ, size, price of lenses and other qualities of Oly-Zuiko. When they get a camera right for the mid point in the market, with users who might actually understand why 12 or 14 mpx is perfectly adequate given good glass and great software, then it will be easier to market the USPs and spend more on the one model ( like they are doing with the E5 now)
The problem for them is that on the shop floor, the spotty university drop outs selling cameras in the major chains, know only the key selling points: MPX = quality, Nikon= speed FPs etc, Canon = all round performers... they don't understand the components of IQ or how many pixels are needed for a reasonable 200dpi print out at 10"x15".....They don't want to explain why 12 mpx is enough, or why you can put up with a smaller OVF in a more compact sized DSLR.
In strategy talk, we would want to see a consolidation of R&D and product lines and a rationalisation to a more sustainable line, competing with real USPs in a higher value segment than the two lower cameras series do so today. Product variants would be based upon the core, roduction line : for example tilt screen, HD video. The core product would then grow towards the end of the FT technology life cycle, with roll downs from the E5 + (onwards) and other fortuitious developments or collaborations on technology enhancing series update models or variants with USPs and competitor point matching.
In practical terms, such a position would mean that olympus would appear serious and focused on the needs of the keen amateur as a new owner. For those of us with the lower level ( this camera would probably be 600 pricing) 400-600 10/12mpx then it still offers a sensible upgrade step, and the current kit glass bought today, will still be good enough for 14, 16 or more mpx.
So what Next to Hold the FT - Oly Brand Franchise ?
For example: start at 14mpx with E5 image handling, while forgetting the video: ie serious amateur photographers: show DR / TD and user definability of programms and buttons etc is better the D90 / 450D were and compete with the D7000 and 550D.
Produce one body, which has excellent ergonomics (best in class!), smaller than d7000, also a low weight and good, intuituve while user definable, hard controls ( best in class)
Shove Wifi on it as a USP
Or put in WIfi, GPS , 3G and extra memory, battery and induction charger into a plug-in.
Then proiduce a version with a tilt and flip and video at a 20% price hike ( G2-GGH2 ?) for those who need these gimmicks and make them pay for it, not us the still photographer. 700 and 700HD.
Next upgrade to 16 or 18 mpx and fully compete on IQ and user interface with the 20mpx APS-C cameras which will be the "Norm" for mid range by then.
.... and so on until the potential 43 chip is maxed out at 22mpx or so, or replaced with a fovean mulit layer with better DR/TD or a split, multi sensor system.
On pricing, then they could of course sell quite a few body only at around 800 to 1000usd to we upgraders in 2012, and to E5 owners as back up and smaller body.
Kit lenses are fine and really very good, but they should look at pricing a package with say: 12-60mm; 25mm pancake; 50-200 HG-SWD lenses for people wanting to change complete system from canikon or god help us, Leicpenicoh...
Olympus are now the last of the original manufacturers to persist with the compact 43 system. It is a pretty lonely place, and now more so as Sigma announce no further lenses or probably production.
Olympus must move very carefully if they are not going to alienate many loyal customers in the DSLR segment. If they choose to abandon our loyalty by dropping the majority of the FT ( four thirds, full sized, faster lenses and system) range and believing people will just use a PEN EP (x) and pay more for less in effect, then they will find that the wishful thinking "users will have their needs met in the PEN range" to become in the market " I will move to another camera brand for a DSLR or get the GH2" especially if there is no in built VF.
This DSLR segment has not been as big a success for Olympus, which seems remarkable given the popularity of the OM range in the 1970s and 80s. Various interweb trolls quote only 5% of the market, while Canon and Nikon rule. The EOS system leant itself more to a smooth integration of proiduct and customers over to digital, while Nikon just got on with making very good cameras. Maybe Oly were a little late in, and their models were to begin with, a bit too left-field in appearance. Now they offer a comprehensive range, in the shops today that is.
PEN is not the solution for Most DSLR users
As an upgrade, PEN is a non starter for most SLR users: poorer ergonomics, smaller batteries and slower lenses: plus everything is really quite expensive.
Currentlyt he PEN range are bought by: 1) a second or even tertiary purchase to a DSLR for many pros and serious amateurs
2) Style conscious consumers with a reasonably good grip on photography
3) upgraders from earlier advanced compacts ( sub 10 mpx, 2 to 5 years old)
Depending on the market, and the far east is different, then it is probably the first group who are PEN buyers in the west. Many of these again, will be bringing in their FT full lenses and buying the adpater, and most of these are probably Olympus users.