Where was Olympus at Photokina 2018?

This year’s Photokina 2018 show is already looking as one of the most significant in recent years, particularly for the mirrorless format. Not only has Panasonic surprised everyone by joining forces with Leica and Sigma on two new full-frame mirrorless models, but this has also been the first Photokina at which Canon and Nikon have debuted their own full-frame mirrorless systems. 

On top of that, Fujifilm has announced two new medium format models – including one with a 100MP sensor – and Sigma has announced that its Foveon system will be going full-frame too. Leica, Ricoh Imaging and Sony have all had additional new products to confirm too, but with no product announcements and its Micro Four Thirds partner Panasonic focused on in its new system, Olympus has been overshadowed by pretty much everyone else.

Still committed to Micro Four Thirds

So what did the company bring to this year’s event? It issued a short press release, which largely reiterated its commitment to the Micro Four Thirds standard, and also encouraged visitors to stop by its Perspective Playground (pictured above):

“In a press conference at Photokina 2018, Olympus today emphasized their role as innovation leader in the mirrorless camera segment. Olympus confirmed their commitment to support the personal mobility and spontaneity of photographers with a professional camera system boasting great image quality while still being compact and featuring light weight. Olympus management members Shigemi Sugimoto and Stefan Kaufmann explained the Micro Four Thirds sensor standard to deliver the best platform for this value proposition and invited all Photokina visitors to experience the benefits at the Olympus Perspective Playground at Photokina 2018.”

While this is encouraging for existing Micro Four Thirds users, the lack of any further activity is all the more puzzling when you consider that updates to a number of its products are now well due.

Perhaps the most obvious is a Mark III update to the three-and-a-half-year-old OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Since its release, the company had added the excellent OM-D E-M1 Mark II to the upper end of its camera stable and refreshed the other side of its range with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, but no up-to-date in between has left many confused.

With a 16MP sensor, no 4K video and the further absence of a number of other features present in more recent models, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a far less serious proposition in today’s market against rivals such as the Fujifilm X-T20 and Sony A6500.  

The OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a great camera, but one that's showing its age

The OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a great camera, but one that's showing its age

The PEN-F, meanwhile, the flagship model in the more style-focused PEN series, is also starting to lose its lustre, with its third birthday not far off. Something fresh here would also make sense, although with fewer direct competitors it’s potentially not quite as urgent as a mid-level OM-D camera.

So far this year, the company has only released one camera, the E-PL9, and this hasn’t been accompanied by any new lenses. This itself followed a slow 2017, which witnessed the arrival of only the Tough TG-5 camera and OM-D E-M10 Mark III model along with a couple of optics.

Admittedly, some of the company’s rivals didn’t exactly have the most to talk about at this year’s show either. Ricoh, for example, finally confirmed a new GR III enthusiast’s compact, but nothing under its Pentax-branded line, which hasn’t seen any love since February’s relatively mild Mark II upgrade on the Pentax K-1.

Sony also had only one lens to show in addition to confirming that 12 more would shortly be released, at a time where everyone was opting either a mark III update to the A7S line or a new A6000-series model. It has, however, already launched five new cameras this year, so its focus on lenses rather than more cameras is easier to understand.

Maybe tomorrow

It's easy to forget that manufacturers often deliberately choose to launch products outside of the weeks around big shows like Photokina and CP+, with the lack of activity elsewhere often meaning that those models receive more attention. Olympus is no stranger to this approach, and the year is not over yet, so we may well see one of the rumoured models – or something entirely different – before the year is up.

The company will also celebrate its centenary next year, and it’s unlikely it will let such an opportunity go by without making a fuss, so it’s possible it’s holding off a big announcement until then. Whatever it is, when you consider just how many new products and systems we’ve seen introduced in these past few months alone, it will have to be something special. 

Photokina is the world's biggest photography show, and TechRadar is reporting live from Cologne to bring you all the big announcements, plus hands-on reviews of new cameras and kit. Keep up with all the news here.