The IS Concept

"Actually, our R & D side and business side came to an almost simultaneous conclusion about the need for this kind of camera."

"Even while Olympusí own SLR models were still confined to the exchangeable lens format, we began to watch the market to see how popular exchangeable lenses really were with consumers. And surprisingly, we found that many people buy a camera body and lens at the beginning, but seldom want additional lenses afterwards. Whatís more, most of them acquire a zoom lens for their first choice."


"We understood that consumers donít necessarily buy an SLR camera merely to be able to exchange lenses; but on the other hand, they really do desire good results. We came to the conclusion that there was a strong potential market for a camera whose lenses will never compromise on quality, and which will give a feeling of being a high-class camera, but yet which could be easily used."

"Not everyone in the company agreed this type of camera was the right way to go. But those skeptics are gone. The IS series is exceptional in that it unites the best camera element - body, lens, flash, etc, - for the perfect all-in-one unit."

IS-3000 - Size and Weight

"The IS-3000 does look slightly larger but we tried to compensate by making it so well balanced it almost seems lighter."

"This part (referring to a strip of black material along the inner lens body in a cutaway model) used to be metal, but weíve replaced it with plastic. Normally, plastic has a lower degree of precision, and one challenge we faced was how to make the camera lighter and yet maintain high precision. Where precision was a factor, we retained metal parts."

"Naturally, a larger lens is heavier, because glass itself is a heavy material. And the size is slightly larger. But in the course of our market research, there was no particularly negative response over the larger size of the lens. Instead, customers were very complimentary over the cameraís light weight."

Lens Performance

"Even going from 35 to 180mm photo quality is wholly maintained. Picture quality is better than that of conventional slrs."

"Thinking about the function of lenses, itís been my experience that the performance of autofocus cameras in general leave something to be desired. But Iím satisfied with the performance of the IS-3000. In fact, the more you use it, the better results you can expect."

Original photo of Mr. Kawazoe from Classic Camera Senka No. 20.

 



"Pocket-in-Zoom"


One of the most daunting challenges for Tatsuya Suzuki was the creation of a highly compact 35mm camera equipped with a 2X, 35 to 70mm zoom lens, plus autofocus and weatherproof construction - and yet, amazingly, small enough to slip into someone's pocket. "The word we use to describe this model is 'pocket-in-zoom'," explains Suzuki. "It's meant to be a camera not only small enough to fit into a pocket, but light enough not to be a bother while it's in there."

Suzuki headed the team entrusted with development of the mju:-zoom at the company's R.&D. Center in Hachioji City, west of Tokyo. The task of designing such a camera was, understandably, not an easy one. In keeping with its "pocket-in-zoom" concept, the camera had to be exceptionally small, yet east to operate. As Suzuki puts it, " We realized that building in too many controls can confuse the user. So I gave top priority to avoiding complicated functions."

"We developed a very high-quality lens for this camera, using a combination of aspherical glass and hybrid lenses. This coupled with the 200-step autofocus system delivers the sharpest pictures and best possible performance."

A Plain Kimono With a Silk Lining

Suzuki is very proud that the mju:-zoom's design has as much durability as it has smooth sophistication. " According to our in-house tests, this camera has proved quite hard to break. Why? Well, we have an old saying in Japanese that goes, ' a plain kimono with a silk lining.' Several centuries ago, when a public display of wealth was considered dishonorable, wealthy merchants used to wear expensive silk material sewn into the linings of their kimono, instead of on the outside. I feel the same way about the design of this camera : the really good things can't be seen on the surface."

"The lens barrel, for example, features a water-repellent finish. So when the zoom lens is retracted into the body, the edge of its rubber seal sweeps off any water, like the windshield wipers on a car." he says.

The Star Performers

" I've been involved in camera development for a long time," Suzuki notes. "But I strongly believe it's not the camera that makes the star; the star performers are people. The fact that this little guy has some very good basic features and can give you a lot of fun - letting you take good photos without making you think about anything - is what makes it so special."

Based on a special advertisement section in Time, 1993.
Original text by Mark Schreiber.



30 Percent Less


The IS-100 is designed to appeal to those who appreciate the ease of use and light weight of auto-focus snapshot cameras, but who demand the optical quality and control over the subject that only an SLR can offer. "Basically, we worked at reducing both size and weight by around 30 percent from predecessor models," explains Masaki Nagao.

"In reducing the weight, we used light-weight engineering plastics to the greatest extent possible. And when precision specifications demanded, certain metal components were incorporated. Doing so has brought together the best features of both types of materials in the design of the IS-100."

"To make the IS-100 easier to carry, the lens barrel retracts into the body, making it more compact. This is one of the ways we managed to reduce the overall body length from 155 millimeters for the IS-2000 to 110 with this model. While in use, the lens extends to its full length."

"To reduce the camera size," Nagao continues, " we had to decrease the number of parts. So the number of elements in the lens assembly has gone from 16 to 11. To ensure that the photographic images would retain their high quality, the IS-100 employs a large-diameter glass aspherical lens - one that had been extremely difficult to mass-produce up until now."

Picture quality has also been boosted by the larger diameter of the lens, which Olympus was able to increase by a factor of nearly 1.5 times over that of earlier camera.

Man-machine Interface

To build an SLR that is easy to handle and still manages to provide users with a full measure of control required its designers to completely rethink the IS-100's man-machine interface.

The IS-100 is equipped with four shooting modes that can be quickly selected from a large solenoid control called the "Direct Mode Select Button. " Instead of selecting aperture or shutter speed, this lets the photographer make settings according to the desired results.

As simple as its controls have been designed, the IS-100 still retains such functions as an aperture-priority setting and spot metering.

" I see the IS-100 as appealing in particular to users who are dissatisfied with compact cameras but at the same time appreciate such facets as their simplicity of use and light weight," Nagao asserts.

Two Different Attitudes

While attending business school at the University of California, Berkeley, Nagao enrolled in a local photography course. He soon discovered a fundamental difference in attitudes toward cameras between his fellow countrymen and users in other countries.

"Outside of Japan, people seem to be more interested in the artistic aspects of photography," he observes, " so they 're more likely to evaluate a new camera's performance in terms of the results. In Japan, photo buffs tend to evaluate a new camera according to its technical specifications."

Nagao is confident that his new camera will provide the level of photographic performance - and specifications - to win over users in both camps.

Based on a special advertisement section in Time, 1994.
Original text by Mark Schreiber.




On 30 July 2000, the Pen FT designers examined the Pen FT camera that had been sealed in the time capsule buried at the EXPO ' 70 in Osaka Japan. They talked about the stories behind this camera...

Pen (1959) - making photography popular

Maitani:
"People thought of photography as something very difficult and expensive. Cameras were as confusing to people then as personal computers are to many people today. So with the original Pen, our goal was to make photography more accessible."

"There's an interesting statistic that indicates the impact the Pen series had. Before the first Pen was introduced in 1959, camera ownership among Japanese women stood at a little over 1%. But after the Pen EE was introduced in 1961, that figure grew to almost 34%."

Pen F (1963) - a new level in the Pen Series

Koike:
"The Pen F wasn't just the world's first half-frame SLR. It was a camera that really turned people's heads around. It changed everything that came after it."

Tsunefuji:
"Not only did it have the first rotary shutter - the shutter was made of titanium! Back then, nobody was using titanium. Maitani got the idea from reading an article about the moon rocket, and they really had to hunt around to find any. In the end, they managed to buy some from a company that manufactured jet engine turbine blades."

Pen FT (1966) - still in demand in the 90's

Shimoyama:
"The FT pushed the envelope not just in terms of design, but in materials and production technology. The shutter, the shutter governor, the springs and gears... it was a metallurgical wonder. In an era of precision instruments, it was the ultimate precision instrument. It would be impossible to produce a camera like the FT at a realistic price today."

Koike:
"Maitani was a real stickler for design, and he was very good at convincing the factory to do what was needed."

Maitani:
"I just supplied the ideas."

Shimoyama:
"Yes, and when things didn't work out, we all got in trouble."

A truly original camera

Maitani:
"It (the 60s) was the decade when 'Japanese quality' finally started to gain international recognition. But it was also when Japanese manufacturers began to be criticised for making 'copycat' products. And that's where we came in - it's what set us apart. We had a commitment to make things that were truly innovative, truly new. They had to have the special something, that seductiveness, that distinguishes a truly original work. It's an appeal that is timeless."

Koike:
"Timelessness is the key to lasting success. And we always designed for the world market. When we were working on the OM (1972), whenever a visitor from overseas stopped by R&D, we would have them grip a lump of clay. We had literally hundreds of handprints and grip-prints lying around."

Shimoyama:
"Preferences with regard to colour and form can vary from country to country, of course, and these need to be respected. But design alone is never enough. It's the superior functioning of a well-designed tool transcends national boundaries. Take the XA (1979), for example. Sure, the design was radically different, but it was the functionality of the camera - high-quality, capless and caseless - that really set it apart. If a camera succeeds as a tool, the battle is basically won - you have a product that's going to be an international best-seller."

The future of silver-halide photography

Tsunefuji:
"I think that in the short term, digital photography is going to hold the spotlight. But as a tool for serious imaging, silver-halide will always have a role to play."

Shimoyama:
"To me, the most significant thing about digital photography is not the medium itself, but the tremendous increase in the volume of available image information that it has brought about. The fact is, digital cameras still have a ways to go before they can be considered 'real tools'. It's a question of quality versus quantity."

Based on an article from Pursuit Vol.19, No.4, 2000

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