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- Resolution: 12Mp
- Sensor size: 17.3x13.0mm
- Sensor type: Hi-Speed LiveMOS Four Thirds
- Image size: 4032x3024
- Aspect ratio: 4:3
- Focus system: Contrast detection AF system
- Focus points: 11
- Crop factor: 2x
- Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
- File type: 12bit RAW, JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO100-6400
- Storage: SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Area, single, face detection
- Metering system: TTL open aperture
- Metering types: Digital ESP, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: +/- 3EV in 1, ½, 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 60sec-1/4000sec
- Frames per second: Approx. 3fps
- Flash: External only
- Flash sync speed: 1/30sec-1/180sec
- Image stabilisation: Sensor shift type, one or two dimensional movement to 4EV steps
- Integrated cleaning: SSWF
- Live view: Yes, Contrast detection system, 100% field of view
- Viewfinder: Optional accessory
- Monitor: 3in Hypercrystal LCD, 230,000dots (73,000px)
- Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 120.5x70.0x35.0mm
- Weight: 335g (body only excl. battery and card)
Olympus E-P1: Features
Based on the 35mm Pen released in 1959, the E-P1 follows the basic principles that challenged the designers 50 years ago to make a camera small enough for people to pocket but had interchangeable lenses. The new model is roughly the same size as its forefather but is a little squarer on the top plate. A command dial on the left shoulder is turned using a small black thumb dial just below on the back. It looks nice and works well enough but I found that the ledge housing the large 3in screen on the back got in the way. It's a firm dial which is in stark contrast to the easy-to-turn dial on the back of the camera used for scrolling through menus.
Akira Watanabe, SLR Planning Department Manager for Olympus Imaging, stated at PMA that he considered 12Mp to be a reasonable resolution that would cover the needs of most customers. This echoes what I said in the review of the Olympus E-620 and the E-P1 shares the same resolution but has an advantage of pushing the images through a brand-spanking new Trupic V processor. Exact specifications of this new processor and what it can do have bee kept relatively quiet however, Olympus are confident that it'll produce excellent images and full HD video at high speed and high ISO.
The reasoning behind the Pen was principally a marketing one. In an interview, Mr Watanabe said that for a number of reasons, Micro Four Thirds was developed to meet the demands of those who wanted a DSLR but without the size problems that come with one. “More and more customers are female and don't want, require or need a larger camera.” He continued: “20% of compact camera users have thought about buying a DSLR at one stage but hesitated due to the size.”
He also said that the idea for the design was down to the fact that the same challenges had been set when designing the E-P1 as was set when designing the original Pen. It's certainly a good idea as the retro lines of the Pen work very well. It's a very pretty camera and cashes in nicely on the consumers new need for all things vintage.
Features that Olympus seem to be pretty proud of are the full HD video which, like the Panasonic GH1, also works with autofocus and after trying it, a few clicks can be heard but it's not overbearing. The Art filters have also been incorporated into video so anyone interested in making a film noir type video can set the Grainy Film setting and start filming.
In camera image stabilisation has a maximum 4EV steps keeping your images sharp through the new 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens or the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens. These new lenses are of the Micro Four Thirds lens mount which means they're smaller than Four Thirds but with an adapter, they can be fitted to a Micro Four Thirds body. These new lenses can't be fitted to a normal Four Thirds camera though.
Dust reduction is available on the smaller camera and it's been redesigned especially to fit the smaller model. The Supersonic Wave Filter shakes up to 30,000 times a second to create a supersonic wave that, Olympus say, removes dust missed by conventional dust removal methods.
Take care on the menu system as it caught me out when I first started using the camera. They've still used the typical on screen display that superimposes over the image showing the usual options for ISO, white balance, file format, sharpness and white balance etc. Olympus have not prioritised the usual method and instead opted for a "side-of-the-screen" version similar to Casio or Canon. When you're in this menu, you can press Info and it'll switch to the more familiar method and from then on the camera will favour that style, but it's unusual nonetheless.
Out of the menu, pressing the Info button will scroll through several options such as bracketing and focusing as well as display options such as histogram and targeting cross hairs. In the focusing mode, if you wish to use the naviagtion pad to select the continuous shooting mode, it's not possible without scrolling through the modes to a normal screen or the focus area will move around when you press up, down, left or right.
Olympus E-P1: Build and handling
With a metal construction the E-P1 feels nice and solid in the hands although when you first pick it up it feels far from correct. Maybe it's the retro design that made me think it would feel older (?) than it does and I think I expected it to smell like it had been sat in a canvas bag for the last thirty years. The wheel that moves the top command dial sits a little too close to the 3in LCD screen which projects out from the back of the camera and my finger got caught on it. To be fair to the camera I did get used to this and it only happened a couple of times.
A Micro Four Thirds adapter is available for fitting normal Four Thirds lenses onto and I took my 8mm Zuiko lens along to try and it works nicely.
Using the 8mm Zuiko lens is possible with the Micro Four Thirds adapter.
I appreciate that the camera isn't strictly a DSLR as the mirror box and prism have been removed to make the camera smaller but it's aimed at a DSLR more than a bridge compact.
In tricky light, this portrait image looks good.
Taking a portrait has come out really nice. In a mixture of light from a large Halogen and Daylight from some huge windows at the top of the stairs, this close up of the German sixties model has a good skin tone and plenty of detail.
There are a selection of Art scenes available on the new cameras released this year including Pop Art which boosts the colours to a ridiculous level, Grainy Film whioch sends everything black and white with a grainy look, soft focus, pale and toy camera which emulates the look of a pin hole camera with black vignetting around the edges.
Pop Art mode bursts bold colours out of the screen.
Toy camera mode darkens the image and vignettes the borders.
Grainy Film mode gives the image a noir effect.
Once outside I managed to capture a few shots of Penny, the model who is fronting the Olympus Pen campaign, and after taking a shot at normal exposure, I found the arm to be extremely over exposed so I dropped down the exposure by 1/3 stop and it balanced the image out while deepening the blue of the sky.
Metering slightly under sorts out over exposure and deepens the sky.
At correct exposure, the arm is blown out slightly.
The Don with his girl and protection have a good amount of detail in shadow areas despite the large light directly infront of the camera.
Disappointment and elation abound in these two areas as I could explain about the decent metering system in the time it takes for the focus to lock. An 11 point AF system is used to find the subject and it wasn't always concise with what I wanted it to focus on. Face detection worked quite well but the main problem is the camera's incessant need to hunt through the complete range before settling on its selected subject. There's no speedy focusing system that we saw in the E-3 and E-30 which is a shame. Olympus want to turn the world on its head with this camera so they need everything to be bang on perfect.
Metering is headed up by a 324 area ESP mode which breaks down into an 18x18 grid. This is particularly noticeable on the image of the Don and his girl and bodyguard. A light was shining directly into the lens and the camera has managed to retain some detail in the areas which would normally be silhouette.
Olympus E-P1: Noise test
I was originally unimpressed with the noise performance when I reviewed the pictures back on the cameras screen but I think the relatively low resolution impeded my opinion because on reflection, they're not that bad.
I actually think that noise is to an acceptable standard up to ISO1600 where the sample image started to suffer noticeably in lack of detail and colour invasion. These are only sample images taken at the launch and while they're final production, keep looking back for the official ones when I get a model in for an update and to spend more time with it.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
The ISO3200 test.
The ISO6400 test.
During my time with the Olympus E-P1 I really enjoyed what it could do for me. It certainly has some issues such as no viewfinder and a slow focusing system. Noise is still good which shows my initial reservations were due to viewing the images on the camera's screen.
The screen is also inferior as Olympus are now the only company not to add a 307,000pixel screen to a camera. I'm not too keen on the design idea of the 14-42mm lens but it's not encroaching on performance so it's a matter of opinion.
If you like the retro design and the idea of a smaller lens system then this is the camera for you. I'm into vintage chic so I'll probably end up with one although it won't do much for my bank balance sitting at £700 with the 14-42mm f/3.5/5.6 lens.
Blessedly it's under a grand unlike the Panasonic GH1 so seems a more appropriate choice in the MFT (Micro Four Thirds) system. It does video with autofocus and has stereo sound so it's not too dissimilar.
Olympus E-P1: Plus points
Good noise performance
Olympus E-P1: Minus points
No built-in viewfinder
Focusing is slow
Slow processing on Art modes
The Olympus E-P1 standard kit is priced at £699.99 with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Olympus E-P1 & 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens