The Olympus product photography above shows the version of the OM-D EM-5 camera which I recently purchased. What you immediately notice is that it looks like an SLR from the 1960s or 1970s. This is one of the keys to the camera’s surging popularity on the internet. It looks really cool.
For some reason, camera manufacturers drifted away from this elegant look in the 1980s and 1990s, and all modern SLRs are huge and bulbous. Olympus, rather ingeniously, designed a new camera to evoke the feeling of the cameras of yesteryear. Olympus understands that SWPLs like retro things. And that’s pretty amazing that they understand that, because despite the Western name (after the tallest mountain in Greece where, according to myth, the gods lived) Olympus is a thoroughly Japanese company, and I am sure it was Japanese people who came up with this design idea and not white people. Japan is the only country in Asia where a camera like this could have been designed. Has a Chinese company ever designed anything that looks aesthetically pleasing? I don’t think so.
People who are familiar with retro 35mm SLRs will get the impression from the photo that the camera is larger than it actually is. Nope, this camera is quite a bit smaller than a retro 35mm SLR, and quite a bit smaller than any modern Nikon or Canon DSLR. It’s not really an SLR at all, it’s completely mirrorless. The “pentaprism” hump only contains an electronic viewfinder and the image stabilization mechanism.
One of the interesting things about cameras today is how resistant the manufacturers are to new ways of doing things. The single lens reflex, which uses a mirror and a prism to direct the image from the lens into the viewfinder, solved the problem of how to present to the user the exact image that the film will see when you snap the shutter. But this technology is pretty close to obsolete, because an electronic viewfinder can do this more efficiently. Some people may complain that the image in the EVF doesn’t match the quality of a true image seen through a mirror, and they probably have a valid point, but it has reached the state in which it’s pretty close, and EVFs can only improve in quality.
By dumping the mirror, the result is a smaller and lighter camera, a camera without the vibration and noise caused by the mirror being rapidly swung aside before the shutter opens, and a camera in which there’s less space between the lens mount and the sensor which allows for better lens designs (although I can’t say that I understand the physics of camera lenses). You get the benefits of a Leica-style rangefinder without the kludgy rangefinder focusing mechanism.
Blue Collar Guys at Work
This is a picture I took with the E-M5 this evening of some blue collar guys at work. (It looks too light out to be evening, but today is the day of the summer solstice.)
I can’t help but notice that all of the blue collar guys are white.
The guy on the right has an American flag patch on his t-shirt which reads “Inwood NYC.” Paul Fussell, if he were alive, would point out that legible clothing is extremely prole. Inwood is the northernmost neighborhood of Manhattan. Maybe he lives there? The very tip of Inwood, near the Columbia University football field, is white. Most of the rest of northern Manhattan is Hispanic, and we are talking about mulatto Hispanics and not Mestizo Hispanics.
Anyway, even though he has this crappy job working outside in the heat, while lawyers and investment bankers who make massively more money ride by in air-conditioned taxis, he’s proud to be an American. More proud than any of those lawyers or investment bankers who would never go to work with an American flag sewn to their clothing.