Olympus E-P1 Review

July 13, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | |

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#1 whatseansaw

Wow, this little camera sounds really cool, would love to take it for a spin.

Thanks for the great review, really interesting.

7:20 pm - Monday, July 13, 2009

#2 BJN

The lack of viewfinder can’t be solved by the purchase of an accessory finder except when using the 17mm 2.8 lens. No such finder exists for the zoom. You praise the LCD for being visible in bright sunlight, but I don’t find it very visible or usable. Perhaps I’ll try maxing the brightness to see if that helps, but with the sun overhead I find it hard to see anything but the big shapes in a composition with the sun on the display.

The camera’s control structure provides a lot of flexibility, but the operation is far from intuitive. The convoluted “info” “mode” “info” button dance is unimpressive interface design. You have to navigate and enable advanced menu options, then dig deep to enable such features as the built in leveling function.

The E-P1 is a nice compact alternative camera for a DSLR system owner with deep pockets. My pockets are pretty empty after buying and outfitting my E-P1 so perhaps I should have picked up a less expensive and more versatile Panasonic G1.

7:30 pm - Monday, July 13, 2009

#3 terry chay

Thanks for the review, Mark.

9:52 pm - Monday, July 13, 2009

#4 sabana

This camera is the unfinished article and has been rushed through. Olympus are going to include a built in flash and viewfinder on the next model. If you buy this you are going to be gutted as next year the newer model will correct these features. Size will be a little bigger as that is why they couldn’t fit them on this model. Also they will be boosting the lcd to 920 pixels to compete with the mid range dslr’s. Wait a year if you can. But if you can’t then don’t complain when next years model comes out.


6:46 am - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#5 Carl

A whole year? In the year or however long the E-P2 takes, I will have a whole year’s worth of pictures that I wouldn’t have taken because I don’t carry my 40D everyday and my LX2 isn’t as capable as the E-P1.

I also don’t care if the next model has an EVF since that will have the same primary failure of electronic vs optical finders, ie poor low light performance.

Built-in flash I guess could be handy, though I’ve never used the built-in flash on my SLR so it’s moot.

In actuality, this is a very good camera and high ISO performance is very commendable. Now we just have to wait for some faster prime lenses but that’s to be expected as this is essentially a new system.

9:21 pm - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#6 rob

I agree that this is an interesting alternative camera but as of now, quite half-baked and not ready yet for a spot light. Camera lacks focus on specific market segment. Neither for beginners nor for pros. Perhaps for those folks who used to own an original analog Pen…

It will certainly grow up as a system when the next model will be released. But for now, it is certainly not for me, even as a backup camera.

10:58 pm - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#7 Peter

I have the DP2 and the E-P1, and the E-P1 with the 17mm lens really isn’t much bigger in any significant respect than the DP2.  It does feel heavier and more solid, but as far as size they are very close.

11:01 pm - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#8 Antony Shepherd

The problem with waiting for next year’s model is that there’s always another model the year after that. By the time the E-P2 comes out people will be going on about the E-P3 which will do all that and make the tea!
So far I’ve been very happy with my E-P1.

12:12 pm - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

#9 Ludwig

Thanks for the review.

I don’t know why people are so eager using fixed, suboptimal built-in flashes in an often diletantish way.

The E-P1 gives me (with some admittedly expensive adapters) the opportunity not only to use Olympus OM and EZ lenses but also Leica M glass, etc. - and compared to the prize of a Leica M8 the E-P1 is a very good bargain !

7:37 am - Friday, July 17, 2009

#10 CMurdock

In the 2nd paragraph where you say “an indiscrete camera”, don’t you mean “a discreet camera”?  An indiscreet camera would be noticeable, whereas a discreet camera would not be noticeable.  Or am I misreading it?  There is a word “indiscrete”, but it doesn’t seem to apply here.

8:13 am - Sunday, July 19, 2009

#11 nickspur

The expensive adapters (re Ludwig) at £149 or so maintain the electronic connection between 4/3 lenses and micro 4/3 lenses but there are very good non-elctronic ones available for a third of that cost and one can of course combine them with other adapters. For example today my E-P1 has a Leica R 50mm Summicron mounted on it via a Leica R to EOS adapter and an EOS to micro 4/3 adapter. I have quite a lot of adapters to use lenses for other mounts on my Canon EOS equipment so just the one EOS to micro 4/3 adapter gets the E-P1 a big choice of manual focus lenses. Here the magnified display for focusing is really useful.

12:04 pm - Sunday, July 19, 2009

#12 Ludwig

Thanks nickspur, for your hint of cheaper adapters.

I already use a Novoflex MFT/LEM adapter with some Leica M lenses and I appreciate the magnified display option too. Without a tripod I prefer “7x” instead of “10x”. Interestingly, in aperture-priority A-mode, one can pretty good focus manually using desired (optimal) 4.0 or 5.6 apertures instead of the full open 2.0 or 2.8 ones. This saves one critical step in the manual adjustment process.

5:54 am - Monday, July 20, 2009

#13 David Wilson

I really like the idea of this camera, especially with adaptors to make use of my Nikon glass. It’s just too expensive and the non-tiltable accessory flash looks terrible and is also very costly (in the UK, at least). I’ll keep my Canon G10 for now for when the D90 & lenses are not an option.

3:11 pm - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#14 Ralph

I haven’t shot anything with my Canon G10 since I got the Olympus, the E-P1 fits in my backpack. I can’t wait for two things with it: 1) get my hands on the 17mm f/2,8 and 2) get a Raw profile for it in Adobe Camera Raw. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to put this camera through its paces and report along the way. Also I noticed this product fits on the E-P1. Flipout screen??


7:48 am - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

#15 Dennis

The EP-1 is the first of many, but I am very pleased with it. Just hope that “OLYMPUS PEN Since 1959” is not on those that follow as it takes away some of the sentimentality of having the first one.

The MF-2 adaptor for OM lenses really completes the package, and it is fantastic to use MF and see the DOF.

Unfortunately for those who cannot accept what Olympus have achieved will knock the camera as it is not a DSLR, nor a P&S. It may be an expensive P&S with interchangeable lenses, but what a gem to use. Solid as a rock.

10:40 am - Monday, August 3, 2009

#16 zorstklamp

Thanks to all for the opinions on the Pen EP-1 as I’m considering buying one to carry with me as I own a DSLR.

Where can I find out about the lens adapters as mentioned previously ?

Also are there any alternatives to an EP-1 that won’t bankrupt me?

1:27 pm - Monday, August 24, 2009

#17 David Wilson

Further to my earlier post above, I have since bought a Pen and have the following comments:
1) although smaller than my D90, it isn’t that small a camera. Anyone wanting DSLR performance from a compact sized camera will be pleased with the output but disappointed with the size and weight. I wasn’t, so I’m not.
2) The IQ and noise performance is excellent. Not quite as good as a D90 but way, way better than my Canon G10. Difference between RAW and the superfine JPEG option is difficult to discern at low ISO. You can convert in the release candidate version of ACR 5.5.
3) Video mode very good, including the stereo audio. But you have to disable C-AF with the kit lenses because of the horrible AF noise. The Olympus lenses are seriously wanting in this mode. Panasonic’s m43 lenses however AF silently and quickly so can be used for video with C-AF.
4) I sourced a Nikon F to m43 adaptor from a UK e-Bay seller which works superbly. All my Nikon lenses (those with an aperture ring) can now be used and for the first time, as most are non-VR, gain the benefit of an IS body. I use a 28mm f/2.8 mostly and the images are way better than those taken with the kit lenses. MF only, but I always fine tune focus manually with the D90 anyway.
5) Don’t get all the whining about the screen. It’s bright and I can focus manually with the Nikon lenses just fine. It would be nice if the resolution was better but it works ok as is. I have fitted a screen protector as the screen glazing and anti-relective coating doesn’t inspire the same long lasting confidence of e.g. a G10.
6) Lack of built-in flash doesn’t concern me, I rarely use them. They aren’t a substitute for a powerful, tilting/swivelling unit so I bought an FL36R at a lower price than the FL14.
In summary it’s an expensive but high quality purchase which fits my needs for a D90 back up as I can use the same lenses. For me it’s not a substitute for a compact because it’s too big but the results are way better.

1:53 pm - Monday, August 24, 2009

#18 michael

Okay, it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer read these excellent reviews (and yes, they are excellent) without every grammatical sensor firing off an alarm. Please, please, please do your reading public a favor and cease and desist from referring to a single company (like Olympus, for example) in the plural verb tense. It is NOT “Olympus are…” but “Olympus is…” Why? Because Olympus is a single company, not a group of companies called Olympus (yes, yes, I know, they have offices all over the world, but then the UK is a group of individual countries, but no one with a pence of sense says, “The UK are…”)

Okay, ranting English lesson is over. Enough said.

2:01 am - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#19 Caleb Murdock

First of all, Michael, correcting other people’s English in an informal environment like this is pretty obnoxious.  Secondly, you are wrong.  In the U.S., organization names take a singular verb form, but in England it is correct to use a plural verb form—that’s because the British recognize that all organizations are made up of individuals.  This is one of the differences between British English and American English.  Consequently, in an international forum (like the internet) it is correct to say it either way.  All you have done is to show your ignorance.

5:04 am - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#20 michael

Sorry, my mistake. You are correct, British English operates under different rules. It’s just never made much sense to me, as a country is made up of individuals, too, but countries are referred to in the singular. Be that as it may, I’ll keep grammatical notions to myself. I stand corrected.

7:00 am - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#21 Caleb Murdock

If I sounded a little harsh, I apologize.  An organization is a group of individuals engaged in a common endeavor.  A country is more than just a group of people—it is a land mass with boundaries and various geographical features, and also flora and fauna that may be unique to it.  But I do see your point.

7:15 am - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#22 pablo

the microphones for the excellent stereo recording ability of the wonderful ep-1 are the two holes either side of the olympus logo, not on the back as is stated in the article

10:03 pm - Saturday, August 29, 2009

#23 Anne

I’m so tempted to get this camera -and someone on another forum suggests this camera for me -but someone else suggests the GF1-

Are any of you EP-1 owners wishing you’d waited for the GF1 or are you well pleased -and do you maybe think the IQ will be a little better on your EP-1 ?

9:58 am - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#24 CMurdock

I’m not the person you want to hear from because I don’t own either camera, but I am probably going to buy the GF1.  To me the images look cleaner and sharper than the G1, and very similar to the E-P1, so I suspect that Panasonic learned something from the E-P1 (the two companies have a partnership and undoubtedly share information about their models).  The GF1 has faster AF, a flash, and a better screen.  So if the reviewers don’t find anything seriously wrong, I’m going to get it. In fact, I’m very excited.

10:06 am - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#25 Anne

Oh that’s encouraging !

Thank you

10:11 am - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#26 David Wilson

GF1 and E-P1 are essentially clones, although there pluses and minuses for each. For me, the in-body IS is the killer and that’s why I’m happy with the Olympus and my Nikon lenses.

11:32 am - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#27 Anne

Hi David

Thanks for that

Could you tell me the pluses and minuses in your opinion ? -it would be such a help in sifting through what would be more useful to me - I’m starting from scratch - so don’t own any lenses -I understand the GF1 doesn’t have IS -so the lens I would choose must have it -I thought the AF was faster in the GF1 -and that it had a better screen -more lcd -and of course a flash -what is better in the E-PI ? -I’ve been told it has a better IQ -would you say so ? that of course would override the other points…... probably ...........

11:46 am - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#28 David W

Hi Anne

E-P1: +: in-body IS that works with any lens, including third party ones via adaptors; styling; 720p HD movie mode with PCM stereo audio.
-: noisy AF with Olympus lenses (but silent and quick with Panasonic m4/3 ones); no built-in flash (actually not a negative for me, I use an external tilt/swivel head flash).
neutral: screen - it’s bright and clear with a fast refresh rate.

GF1: I can only go on the spec sheets like everyone else, but positives include built-in flash, higher resolution screen (but if it’s the same 460k dot LCD as my LX3 it’s no brighter nor easier to use than the E-P1 screen). Negatives: IS is lens based so no IS with the Panasonic 20mm or Olympus 17mm pancake lenses; no IS with third party lenses; styling - personal opinion of course but it’s not very original, it looks like an overgrown LX3.

IQ comparison will I’m sure come from the PB review but as it uses the same sensor the differences are likely to be marginal. I’d make the observation that the Olympus kit lenses aren’t brilliant - I get better results with Nikon lenses (manual focus on the E-P1 of course) and with a range of adaptors available you have a wide choice for either camera.

1:21 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#29 Anne

Thank you so much David -that’s brilliant- I’m getting wiser all the time !

2:09 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#30 CMurdock

I guess it all depends on what you like.  I like the modern styling of the GF1.  Also, the images I’m seeing from pre-production models look great.  For me the deciding factor is automatic focus.  Every single review I have read of the E-P1 said that the AF was slow, but previews of the GF1 say that it is fast.  I don’t want to miss any shots.  I love the fast AF on compact cameras, and I don’t want to lose that.  For me, there is also one more very important thing:  I sell jewelry components online, and I want a camera for both studio and recreational use.  Olympus has made a choice in their small-sized DSLRs and now on their large-sensor copacts:  those cameras cannot take an A/C adapter.  A user MUST use batteries (at $50 a pop).  It is a design choice that I find astonishingly dumb, and I have passed up several Olympus cameras for that reason (the G-510, G-520, G-620, and now the E-P1).  Panasonic, on the other hand, sells an adapter for the GF1.  So if everything else is equal, that’s the one for me.

7:10 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#31 CMurdock

Make that “compacts”, not “copacts”.

7:12 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#32 Anne

What do you mean $50.00 a pop ? - that sounds extortionate !how long would that last ?

can’t you use re-chargeable batteries ? is it a special pack ?

7:27 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#33 CMurdock

$50 a pop was the wrong expression to use.  Those are rechargeable batteries, so you would need to buy only a couple to do a day’s studio work (and then you recharge them), but it is still an unacceptable price to me.  Camera manufacturers always over-price their accessories, and the true value of such a battery might be only $15.  With the GF1, I won’t need any extra batteries because I never take more than 300 recreational images in one day (which can be done on one battery charge).  And then, when I do studio work, I can use the adapter.  Of course, the E-P1’s battery may well last you for a day’s recreational photography, so you may not need to buy extra batteries either.

8:11 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#34 Anne

Aha !

Thanks - I’m excited now - I’m pretty decided on the GF1 -I’ll just wait for the reviews

8:41 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#35 CMurdock

If you don’t do studio work, the lack of an A/C adapter for the E-P1 may be irrelevant, but slow AF is not irrelevant.  It may mean the difference between catching a shot and losing it.  If, on the other hand, you don’t expect to be trying to catch any fast action, then it shouldn’t matter.  The difference between slow and fast AF can be quite small—.7 second vs .2 second—but .7 second to achieve focus can make the camera feel slow.  Those times that I just mentioned are from another review site and they represent the difference between the E-P1 and the Panasonic GH1.  The GF1 should be as fast as the GH1.

9:10 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#36 Anne

I was reading this as you were typing that !

from digital camera resource page

“While you’d think that the Micro Four Thirds-based Olympus E-P1 would focus just as quickly, there really is no comparison—the GF1 blows it out of the water, big time.

If you’re looking for shutter lag, keep looking—there isn’t any.

Shot-to-shot delays were minimal. I could just keep firing away, even in RAW+JPEG mode. Adding the flash only slightly increased the delay.”

9:22 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#37 CMurdock

I’m a fanatic for image purity, and the original G1 produced images that were too soft for me.  Otherwise, I would have bought that camera.  For more than a year I have been thinking about buying a Sigma compact, which also has a large sensor.  Sigma images are very pure.  But their large sensor captures only 4.7 megapixels.  The technology they use is remarkable, equivalent to 9 MP from a standard camera.  But the 12 MP sensors in the latest Panasonic and Olympus cameras capture a bit more detail, and the images are reasonably sharp.  So I’ve decided to go with the GF1.  I’m filled with anticipation to finally have a new camera.  I hope it doesn’t turn out to have any shortcomings.

9:48 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#38 Dennis

Olympus revolutionised the camera world with the introduction of the OM-1, and others followed. They have done it again with the EP-1, and others are following.
The GF-1 has only just been released with prelim tests, whereas the EP-1 has been thoroughly tested, and beaten up by non-owners. Soon the ‘head-to-head’ comparisons will follow.

David W wraps up the differences in a nutshell, and since he has an EP-1, as I do, I concur with his comments.

Many folk do not own either, and are sprouting uninformed opinions. The comments about the batteries confirms this.

In terms of studio work, and if one was really serious about IQ, then a FF DSLR, as a minimum, is the way to go.

One has to consider what you wish to achieve with a camera. I would venture that most DSLR owners have adopted the EP-1 as a good substitute so as not to lug around the weight of the DSLR for casual outings, yet are able to capture high quality images. The EP-1 fits this niche very well.

Listen to the folk who actually own the camera, and who use it. The balance of comments are perceptions by non-owners.

In the end it is horses for courses. Would I use a compact for capturing fast moving sports?

Finally, there is no substitute for actually holding and feeling the camera in your hands. There is no difference between buying a car or a camera - you have to test drive it.

10:55 pm - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#39 CMurdock

Dennis, thank you for making some obvious comments.

True, I don’t own the camera, but my observations are still valid.  I’ll be able to make better-informed comments once I own it.  Ann didn’t say she was going to buy the camera based on what I said.  And indeed, we both said that we are going to wait for the reviews.

As for my needs for studio work, only I can make that judgement.  A DSLR is unnecessary for web photography.  All the photos on my site were taken with Canon compacts, and they look okay:  http://www.purebeads.com.  The GF1, if I decide to buy it, will be a step up from what I am already using.

My comments about the batteries do not show that I’m uninformed.  The review sites have published the specs for the batteries in these cameras, and I know that they are not adequate for my studio needs.

6:22 am - Thursday, September 10, 2009

#40 Dennis

Caleb, thanks for your explanation.

Once again, it is all about perception. My interpretation of studio work is different to that of yours, as is adequately displayed on your website. Had I known, I would not have made the statement about the need for a DSLR. The Canon’s have done well for you.

My response to your battery statement, and although you corrected it, is the perception that the batteries are not rechargeable ($50 a pop). Further, I am sure that a single spare battery would get you through a day’s work (my perception). 

I do hope that the GF-1 satisfies your requirements. The step up in sensor size from the normal compacts will make all the difference.

I am extremely pleased with the EP-1, it is a quality camera with incredible features. The in-body IS is a major advantage as I am able to use a variety of third party lenses, and enjoy the benefits of IS.

In the end it is what ‘grabs’ you, and although the reviews (sometimes subjective) will provide valuable information so that you can make an informed decision, the final decision is yours. My only recommendation is that you take it for a test drive.

Many reviewers of the EP-1 have started their review by querying where the EP-1 fits. They cannot compare it to a DSLR, or a compact, so they forge ahead (relatively subjectively).


7:11 am - Thursday, September 10, 2009

#41 CMurdock

Perhaps my use of the term “studio work” makes it sound like I am doing something fancier than I am.  Unlike photographers who do, say, fashion photography for magazines, the needs of someone selling on the internet are much lower.  All photos for the web are reduced, and the reduction process tends to eliminate the kinds of defects that you find in small-sensor images.  So although I am certainly making my living by taking photographs, they are not high-end photographs that require a DSLR.

As for the battery, if it takes 350 shots, then I could easily need 2 of them during a session.  I take about 10 shots of each bead style at 3 different exposure compensations, for a total of about 30 shots.  If I photograph 20 bead styles, that is 600 shots.  I don’t want to have to keep recharging batteries to take those photos.

The E-P1 is clearly a great camera, and the in-body stabilization (which I had forgotten about) is a wonderful thing (Anne take note).  However, in my personal experience, few photos come out with blur from hand shake.  Of the thousands of photographs I have taken, perhaps 5% had evidence of hand shake, and almost all of those were studio shots.  When I’m taking recreational stops, they always come out well focused.  On the other hand, stabilization would allow me to take more photos in low light.

Taking the E-P1’s stabilization into account, I would say that balances out the slower AF.  It all depends on what’s important to you.

7:56 am - Thursday, September 10, 2009

#42 CMurdock

stops = shots

8:13 am - Thursday, September 10, 2009

#43 Dennis

I believe a firmware update for the EP-1 is due mid September that will address aspects of the AF issue. Although the AF is not fast, it does ‘lock’ on.

If you only had two batteries, they would certainly earn their keep!

1:48 pm - Thursday, September 10, 2009

#44 jrj073000

Would this be an ideal camera for someone who has previously used/enjoyed this camera:

8:02 pm - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

#45 CMurdock

Please don’t spam this discussion!

9:34 pm - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

#46 Eleanor Maw

A friend of mine has got a Olympus Pen (EP1) body & 14-42mm lens & 17mm Pancake lens, I liked the body and could work around the camera with no problem, I liked the 14-42mm as far as lens quality but did not match my Nikon 18-70mm on my Nikon D5000, the 17mm Pancake lens was a lot better than the Olympus 14-42mm and if I owned the Olympus pen setup I would use the 17mm most of the time as this keeps the Olympus more compact, using the Olympus Pen with the 14-42 it’s not much smaller than the Nikon D5000 body with the 18-70mm, so as the Nikon can have it’s ISO push higher, so getting the Olympus Pen (EP1) body & 14-42mm lens would defeat the object of a compact like this, having a Lumix LX3 as well this does me fine and there does not seem that extra on offer with the Olympus, just an one extra ISO setting, the Olympus will take as good as photo at 800 ISO as the Lumix does at 400 ISO but the Lumix has a faster lens.

10:26 pm - Saturday, November 21, 2009

#47 Piers

With the info you gave and the cameras stella ability to record HD Video I purchased one today.
Initially looked at it at a shop but then decided to save a couple hundred by purchasing online.

Looking forward to getting something I can appreciate photographically as I have been using a paltry Powershot A400 over the last 5 years and it sucks when it comes to low light or speed.

Thanks for your informative site and comments sections.

6:55 am - Monday, January 18, 2010

#48 hp promotion

Awesome little cam. I think it would be pocketable with the pancake lens. This is not a very big camera at all.

11:20 am - Monday, February 8, 2010

#49 Phil

I’ve had the G1 and am now getting the EP-1 because to me it is better built in quality metal - I hated the rubber coated plastic casing of the G1 which will go all gooey and horrible in years to come - also I seemed to forever press the front thumwheel by mistake and alter some setting. Of course I will miss the quick AF,and the super sharp EVF and the built-in flash but I won’t miss that horrible plastic rubbery feel!!
I can’t wait to try out the movie mode on the EP-1, it looks excellent.
Another point is Panasonic’s insistance of buying their over priced batteries (although some ebay sellers now have an equivalent which gets over the “you cannot use this battery” syndrome.)
I don’t think Olympus have this problem, can you use what batteries you like (Olympus brand or otherwise)?

11:10 pm - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Entry Tags

3 inch LCD, compact, 12 megapixel, olympus, DSLR, Micro Four Thirds, ep1, Olympus E-P1, e p1

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