Olympus Exits High

In their last product announcement as Olympus, the Imaging team produced the much-awaited 150-400mm f/4.5 lens (with built-in 1.25x teleconverter). This lens clocks in at US$7500, and I suspect that price is surprising a few m4/3 users. Given that it's a 300-800mm equivalent with a reasonably fast aperture (but small image circle), the price seems about right to me.

Aside: while people seem to get excited by 800mm equivalent (and even 2000mm equivalent if you use the teleconverters), be careful about how you assess that. If the reason for a long lens is to get "reach" for something far away, then I'm not at all thrilled. Why not? Because perspective rears its head. Involving shots tend to have involving (close) perspective. Using a really long lens to take a picture of something a really long distance away means a long perspective, too. Generally, for wildlife and sports shooting, access trumps lens. Donate US$7500 to a wildlife researcher or sports program and watch just how fast your access improves ;~). Don't get me wrong, I carry 500mm (or equivalent) with me much of the time. But when I need more than that, I'm generally not shooting.

But the high price does illustrate something that's going to become more obvious moving forward: it's the high-priced gear you're going to see more and more of in the future. Both Canon and Sony are going to want US$2400 for their bottom prosumer camera (R6 and A7 Mark IV). Nikon is going to produce a >US$3000 camera in 2021. The list is going to grow with these higher-end products, not get smaller, while the opposite will be true at the bottom of the lineups.

So get this into your mind: lower sales volume means higher prices. Everything is headed towards lower volume now, so the days of sophisticated US$500-1000 may be ending, or at least most will gravitate towards the high end of that price range.

It's sort of a self-replicating problem. As camera makers try to cut back on costs and personnel worldwide, that makes it more difficult to sell mass market cameras and support them. 

Olympus did add a small present to E-M1X users: along with the lens announcement, the E-M1X now gets a new autofocus mode: bird detection. The new lens and firmware feature couple together nicely.

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