Olympus E-P1 Review
The Olympus E-P1 is a new kind of digital camera that promises to offer DSLR image quality in an ultra-compact format. The first Micro Four Thirds model from Olympus, the EP1 has a retro design based on the Olympus Pen series of compact film cameras from 1959. The Olympus EP1 features a 12.3 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor in a mirror-less, metal body complete with interchangeable lenses and built-in image stabilisation. It's compatible with all Micro Four Thirds lenses and, via adapters, existing Four Thirds and OM lenses. The new TruePic V image processor at the heart of the E-P1 provides fast operation, ISO speeds up to 6400, RAW format support, and the same Art Filters found on the Olympus E-30 and E-620 DSLRs. The EP1 can also record HD 720p quality video with continuous auto-focus and control over depth of field. A 3 inch LCD screen, 3fps continuous shooting, Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system, a level gauge to ensure straight horizons, and auto gradation adjustment to prevent blown highlights and blocked-in shadows complete the E-P1's headline specs. Available in silver and white, the Olympus E-P1 is priced at £699.99 / $799 with the new 14-42mm lens, and is also available in a range of other kits.
Ease of Use
The Olympus E-P1 joins the Panasonic G1 and GH-1 as the third member of the Micro Four Thirds family, but unlike the Panasonic models which resemble DSLRs, the E-P1 has a completely different design that more closely resembles a compact camera. The E-P1 takes advantage of the mirror-less nature of the Micro Four Thirds standard with a slim, all-metal body that measures 35mm deep and weighs 335g. Obviously the depth and weight increase when the supplied 14-42mm kit lens is fitted, making the E-P1 instantly more DSLR-like, but the new 17mm pancake lens maintains a compact overall package that will particularly suit street photographers looking for an indiscrete camera.
The E-P1 is wider (120.5mm) than official product photos would suggest though, and it's also worth bearing in mind that it's not actually that much smaller or lighter than the E-450 Four Thirds DSLR. Photographers looking for a pocketable, take-everywhere camera will be mildly disappointed with the E-P1's size, as it still requires a small camera bag even with the pancake lens fitted. Compared to the Sigma DP1 / DP2, the only other compacts to feature a DSLR sized sensor, the Olympus E-P1 is quite a lot bigger and heavier, even without a lens fitted, and only one of those cameras will fit in a trouser pocket (clue: it's not the EP-1...).
The retro styling of the E-P1 will mostly appeal to photographers old enough to remember the original Pen series of cameras, but it's not so radical to put off younger enthusiasts. Our brushed silver metal review sample actually looked very stylish in an understated kind of way, set off by a generous, textured black plastic hand-grip on the left-front of the camera, and a black panel on the rear where most of the controls are located. The E-P1 is better constructed than you'd expect given its relatively small size, light weight and mid-range price-tag. Thanks to the largely metal body, the camera feels very solid, more so than most entry- and mid-level DSLRs.
Large metal neck strap eyelets are located on top of the camera at the sides, with the rear dominated by the large fixed 3 inch LCD screen. When it comes to storing your photographs the E-P1 uses SD / SDHC cards, an important decision by Olympus as this format is much more popular than the xD-Picture cards that most Olympus compacts use. The BLS-1 battery which provides up to 500 shots under the CIPA testing standard is housed next to the SD slot, both protected by a plastic lockable cover. Also found on the bottom of the camera is a metal tripod mount located almost in the centre. The best method of using the E-P1 is to hold the camera's weight in the left hand, clutching the lens, and use your right hand for balance and operating the controls.
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I haven't yet mentioned an optical viewfinder or built-in flash - that's because neither are actually included as standard on the E-P1. Instead, you can choose to buy the optional detachable VF-1 viewfinder and FL-14 flash, both of which slot into the E-P1's hotshoe on top of the camera. Olympus didn't send either for this review, so we can't comment on the quality of these accessories, but not having a built-in optical viewfinder and especially a flash will certainly put some photographers off the E-P1.
While incorporating one or both into the E-P1 would have increased its overall size and weight, their omission ultimately makes the camera more difficult to use and less versatile, and adding one of the accessories (you can't use both at the same time) adds to the overall bulk anyway. In particular offering a range of flash synchronisation modes without any way of utilising them without purchasing an external flash feels rather strange on a compact camera.
The E-P1's 3-inch, 230,000-dot rear LCD screen has a very wide viewing angle and remains visible outdoors in the sunshine too, but only if you increase its brightness level to the maximum setting. The resolution is on the low side for such a large screen, resulting in a slightly grainy display, but it does offer 100% scene coverage. The colour temperature of the screen can be modified if you think it doesn't match that of your calibrated computer monitor, but the contrast and gamma cannot be altered.
The LCD screen doubles as a status display, with seven different screens on offer, which can be called up by repeatedly pressing the Info button in record mode. These include the camera's key settings and a small live histogram (although sadly not both at the same time), an innovative level gauge which makes it easy to straighten either the horizontal or vertical horizon, and a live preview of different exposure compensation and white balance settings in a multi-frame window.
You can also change all the important settings right on the LCD screen, which Olympus calls the Super Control Panel. This ingenious solution spares you the pain of having to enter the menu, and makes most settings changes fairly simple. Four of the most often-used functions - ISO sensitivity, focusing mode, white balance and drive mode - each have their own dedicated button mapped onto the four-way pad. In addition exposure compensation has its own dedicated button situated on the top plate next to the shutter release button.
Manual focusing is greatly enhanced by the 'enlarged display' function. Once you have selected manual focus mode, press the Info button repeatedly until a green rectangle appears in the middle of the display. You can move this rectangle to one of the 225 available points using the four-way pad, and magnify into it by pressing OK. The default magnification is 7x, but you can raise this to 10x by turning the control thumb-wheel. This is real, non-interpolated magnification, very useful for accurate manual focusing – provided you find a way to steady the camera. A second press of the OK button will let you see the full frame again.
The Olympus E-P1 is equipped with two command dials for setting key options like aperture and shutter speed, but they're not the same as the forefinger and thumb wheels that you find on a lot of DSLR cameras. Instead the E-P1 uses a combination of a large silver vertical thumbwheel and a thin circular wheel that surrounds the navigation pad. In the Manual shooting mode, by default the former sets the aperture and the latter sets the shutter speed.
Having both command wheels on the rear simplifies the design of the front of the camera, but obviously only one of them can be operated at once, slowing down the operation in Manual mode. In addition, the circular wheel in particular is just too small and thin for anyone with normal or large sized hands to operate easily. So while this system is better than having just one shared command dial on on many entry-level DSLRs, it isn't as intuitive as forefinger and thumb wheel system.
The main menu system on the E-P1 is fairly straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu button on the rear of the camera. There are five main menus, Camera1, Camera2, Playback, Custom and Setup. Annoyingly the Custom menu, which allows you to fine-tune the camera to suit your way of working, is hidden by default (there's an option to turn it on in the Settings menu). As mentioned previously, the Super Control Panel on the LCD screen speeds up access to some of the more commonly used options.
Due to the large LCD screen and restricting the number of on-screen choices to six, the various options and icons are clear and legible. If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Olympus have chosen to supply it in printed format, rather than as a PDF on a CD, so you can also carry it with you for easy reference.
The E-P1 has an 11-point contrast detection auto-focus system, which is automatically increased to 25 points when Face Detection is turned on. With a non high-speed contrast AF lens mounted, the camera defaults to Manual Focus mode even if Auto Focus is selected. The AEL / AFL button on the rear of the camera allows you to lock either the exposure, focus or both (customisable via the main menu), then recompose and take the image.
The E-P1 offers a comprehensive set of exposure modes, including P, A, S and M for advanced users. iAuto mode automatically recognises common scenes and and adjusts the camera settings accordingly to achieve the best results, perfect for complete novices, plus there's a legion of different scene modes (19 in total). The new ePortrait scene mode allows you to soften shadows and smooth out unwanted facial features, either before taking the picture or afterwards.
Olympus are also heavily promoting the E-P1's artistic capabilities, with two features in particular, Art Filters and Multiple Exposure, differentiating it from its main competitors. The 6 different Art Filters are Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film and Pin Hole - you can see the results on the Image Quality page. Unlike most other cameras, these effects are applied before taking a shot, rather than afterwards, so you can preview the effect on the LCD screen before pressing the shutter button. The Art Filters can also be applied to previously taken RAW images, either in-camera or with the supplied Olympus software.
The Multiple Exposure function allows up to three images to be superimposed onto each other, creating a composite, and you can either overlay a previous shot or the image that you are about to take. Multiple Exposure even works with RAW files as well as JPEGs, whilst the Art Filters are applied to a JPEG (with an unprocessed RAW file also saved). The Art Filters are a little over-the-top for my taste, and you can't tweak the default look, but the ability to to change the exposure, white balance and other key settings whilst previewing the effect is very welcome.
While the Art Filters get their own setting on the Mode Dial, the Multiple Exposure option is inexplicably buried away in the main menu system. The E-P1 offers also four different aspect ratios that enable individualised framing of scenes, including the default 4:3 ratio employed by the Micro Four Thirds system. The available aspect ratios are: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 6:6. They're quite a good way of personalizing your shots in-camera, with the ability to preview the effect again proving particularly useful.
The Olympus E-P1 has a built-in mechanical image stabilisation system which can be turned on and off via the main menu. Four different options are available - Off, On (I.S. 1), turn off the horizontal image stabilizer but leave on the vertical one (I.S. 2) or turn off the vertical image stabilizer but leave on the horizontal one (I.S. 2), both for when you want to pan with your subject and keep it sharp while the background blurs. The IS system offers up to 4 EV steps of stabilisation - in practice I found that 3 EV steps was more readily achievable. Also available is the impressively named Supersonic Wave Filter, whereby any dust particles that drift inside while changing lenses settle on a filter that protects the image sensor, and are then shaken clear when the camera powers down.
The Olympus E-P1 offers a number of features inherited from Olympus' recent DSLR cameras. Among these are Pixel Mapping, user-configurable mirror lock-up (called Anti-Shock by Olympus) and spot metering, which comes in no less than three variations: midtone-based, shadow-based and highlight-based. The latter two make life easier for those who know what spot metering is but do not know how to use it in combination with exposure compensation. These options come on top of the usual centre-weighted and evaluative modes. The AEL button can be separately configured, so even if you have, for example, centre-weighted set as your working mode, the AEL button can be designated to use highlight-based spot metering.
The E-P1 can record high-resolution HD 720p 1280x720 movies in the 16:9 aspect ratio and standard VGA 640x480 movies in the 4:3 aspect ratio, both using the AVI Motion JPEG format at 30 frames per second. The Movie mode is accessed via selecting the Movie option on the shooting mode dial and then pressing the shutter button to begin recording, which isn't as quick or convenient as the one-touch Motion Picture button on the Panasonic GH-1.
The total length of an individual movie clip is restricted to 7 minutes for 1280x720 movies and 14 minutes for 640x480 movies, apparently due to an inherent limit of 2Gb for AVI files. Stereo sound is recorded during video capture via the small internal mic on the rear of of the camera, which is a big improvement on the rather muffled noises recorded by most digital cameras. The HDMI port allows you to connect the E-P1 to a high-def TV set, but only if you purchase the optional HDMI mini-cable.
The E-P1's Movie shooting mode allows you to set the aperture manually during recording, useful for changing the depth of field when there are several subjects at different distances. Note that you can't set the shutter speed, as on the Panasonic GH-1. In practice this system works well, allowing some really creative effects, but the operating sound of the control dial and in particular the auto-focus mechanism is very audible in the movie, so you'll need to edit the soundtrack later to remove them. Also, the current aperture isn't actually displayed on the LCD screen during recording, making it difficult to control the effect.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
More successful is the ability to use any of the 6 Art Filters during video recording as well as still images. This instantly lends an interesting art-house effect to your home movies, with the Grainy Film option being particularly appealing. The frame rate is rather drastically reduced though for two of the filters (Soft Focus and Pin Hole). A Program option for point and shoot operation completes the movie shooting modes. An Electronic Image Stabilization system compensates for camera shake, and you can take a still shot during video recording, although this also ends the movie rather than just interrupting it.
You can use the zoom lens during recording and really make the most of the wide range of compatible lenses. Focusing is set as for still images via the AF navigation pad option. On the negative side, you'll find that if you choose continuous auto-focus, areas of the video will be blurred before becoming sharp again as the camera tries to refocus, and as noted above, the noise of the AF system is very intrusive. Using manual focus is much trickier but will ultimately produce better looking and sounding movies. On a more positive note, having the AF system is much better than not being able to auto-focus at all, as with all current DSLR cameras that offer video recording. Hand-holding the E-P1 during movie recording inevitably leads to obvious shake, despite the electronic image stabilizer, so for best results you'll need a dedicated video tripod.
The start-up time from turning the E-P1 on to being ready to take a photo is pretty impressive at around 2 seconds. Unfortunately the Contrast Auto-Focusing system isn't going to win any speed awards, taking approximately 0.5 second to lock onto the subject and emit a loud beep (which can be turned off). Half a second doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to miss the moment and is noticeably slower than both regular DSLR cameras and the Panasonic G1 / GH1. Thankfully it usually achieves focus most of the time, helped by the AF assist lamp - the E-P1 doesn't have any notable problems locking onto the subject in low-light situations.
It takes about 2 seconds to store a JPEG image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is a brief LCD blackout between each image. Storing a single RAW image takes around 4 seconds, but thankfully it doesn't lock up the camera in any way - you can use the menu system or shoot another image while the first file is being written to memory. The Olympus E-P1 has quite a good Burst mode which enables you to take 3 frames per second for an unlimited number of JPEG images at the highest image quality, or 10 RAW images. Overall the E-P1 is below par in terms of operational speed compared to a DSLR, especially hampered by its auto-focusing speed, but faster than most compacts.
Once you have captured a photo, the Olympus E-P1 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 100 onscreen at the same time and in a Calendar view), zoom in and out up to 14x magnification, view slideshows, delete and protect an image, add a sound clip and set the print order.
The Edit option offers a number of different ways to alter the look of an already-captured photo, including merging 2 or 3 into one, shadow adjustment, redeye fix, cropping, changing the aspect ratio, converting to black and white or sepia, resizing and applying the e-Portrait filter. The Info button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there are small brightness and RGB histogram and larger brightness histogram available, plus a view showing flashing under- and over- exposed areas.
In summary the Olympus E-P1 is a refreshingly different, easy to use, fairly compact camera with the obvious advantages of interchangeable lenses and a DSLR sensor. The main negatives are the lack of a built-in flash and optical viewfinder, plus the slow auto-focus system.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12.3 megapixel Super Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 7Mb.
During the review, the Olympus E-P1 produced photos of excellent quality. Noise is very well-handled, being virtually absent from ISO 100-800 and not being too obvious at the relatively fast speed of ISO 1600. At the fastest settings of ISO 3200 and 6400, noise is easily detectable when viewing images at 100% magnification on screen, but the images are still perfectly usable for small prints and resizing for web use.
Colours were vibrant without being over-saturated in the default Natural picture mode, and you can always choose Vivid if you want even more punch. Shadow Adjustment Technology helps make the most out of the shadows in a high-contrast scene, so you can safely expose for the highlights. The art filters quickly produce special effects that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the picture modes provide a quick and easy way to tweak the camera's JPEG images.
Image stabilisation via the camera body is a very useful feature that works well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. The 12.3 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting. We did miss having a built-in flash - you'll have to buy the optional external flashgun to take advantage of the E-P1's various flash modes.
There are 7 ISO settings available on the Olympus E-P1. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and the RAW equivalent on the right:
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
ISO 6400 (100% Crop)
ISO 6400 (100% Crop)
The Olympus E-P1 has 4 different JPEG file quality settings available, with SuperFine being the highest quality option, and can also shoot in RAW format. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.
SuperFine (7.5Mb) (100% Crop)
Fine (5.5Mb) (100% Crop)
Normal (2.4Mb) (100% Crop)
Basic (1.7Mb) (100% Crop)
RAW (11.8Mb) (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes by changing the Picture Modes.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Olympus E-P1 lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 60 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well for exposure times as long as 30 minutes, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 20 seconds, aperture of f/11 at ISO 100. We've included a 100% crop to show what the quality is like.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
The Olympus E-P1 has an Image Stabilisation mechanism built into the camera body, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Image Stabilisation turned off, the second with it turned on. Here is a 100% crop of the image to show the results. As you can see, with Image Stabilisation turned on, the images are much sharper than when it's turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.
Shutter Speed / Focal Length
Image Stabilisation Off (100% Crop)
Image Stabilisation On (100% Crop)
|1/10th / 28mm|
|1/6th / 84mm|
Shadow Adjustment Technology
Similarly to Nikon's D-lighting, Sony's DRO etc., Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT) brightens the shadows in a high-contrast scene without affecting the midtones or the highlights, with four settings on offer via the Gradation menu option. Although this option is always at your disposal, remember that it is meant to be used in strong, contrasty lighting at base ISO. Below you can see a comparison of Normal and Auto gradation; the difference is noticeable in the shadowed areas on the left side of the photo. Two other, special-use gradation settings are available on the camera, Low Key and High Key. The former is for photographing dark subjects against dark backgrounds, whereas the latter is for light-toned subjects against a light-toned background.
The Olympus E-P1 offers six different Art Filters, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it (JPEG images only). The most useful of these is Soft Focus, because the FourThirds system lacks a dedicated soft focus lens, and the effect would require advanced knowledge of layers, blurring methods and blending modes if you were to reproduce it in post-processing. The six available Art Filters are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences. Note that applying the Art Filters slows the camera down somewhat as the camera takes several seconds to process and save the image.
Olympus' Picture Modes, similarly to Nikon's Picture Styles and Canon's Picture Controls, are preset combinations of different sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone settings. The five available Picture Controls are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences. There is also an additional Custom style so that you can create your own look.
This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus E-P1 camera, which were all taken using the 12.3 megapixel Super Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
1/13s · f/5.6 · ISO 100
1/40s · f/5.6 · ISO 200
1/80s · f/5.6 · ISO 400
1/200s · f/5.6 · ISO 800
1/400s · f/5.6 · ISO 1600
1/800s · f/5.6 · ISO 3200
1/2000s · f/5.6 · ISO 6400
1/6s · f/5.6 · ISO 800
1/125s · f/8 · ISO 200
1/80s · f/8 · ISO 1250
1/80s · f/5.4 · ISO 250
1/200s · f/5.6 · ISO 200
1/200s · f/5 · ISO 200
1/100s · f/5.6 · ISO 250
1/100s · f/5.6 · ISO 200
Sample RAW Images
The Olympus E-P1 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Olympus RAW (ORF) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).
1/80s · f/5.6 · ISO 3200
1/100s · f/5.6 · ISO 6400
1/100s · f/13 · ISO 100
1/400s · f/9 · ISO 200
1/1000s · f/3.5 · ISO 200
1/2500s · f/5.6 · ISO 200
1/250s · f/8 · ISO 100
1/800s · f/8 · ISO 200
1/80s · f/11 · ISO 400
1/1250s · f/5.6 · ISO 100
1/100s · f/5.6 · ISO 800
1/80s · f/2.8 · ISO 1600
Sample Movie & Video
This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 41Mb in size.
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Image Info
|Rear of the Camera / Main Menu|
|Rear of the Camera / Shooting Menu|
|Top of the Camera|
|Bottom of the Camera|
|Side of the Camera|
|Side of the Camera|
|Front of the Camera|
|Front of the Camera|
|Front of the Camera|
|Memory Card Slot|
The Olympus EP-1 is a brave and largely successful attempt at fusing the small size and handling of a compact camera with the image quality and features of a DSLR. Most potential buyers won't remember the camera or decade that inspired the distinctive looks of the E-P1, so it's definitely a good thing that it's so easy on the eye, in an understated retro kind of way. The EP-1 is also superbly well made given its mid-range price-tag, with no complaints at all in the build department. Lavish attention to details oozes out of every pore of the E-P1, with the 14-42mm even having a retractable locking mechanism that halves its length when not in use. Very neat. And thankfully the E-P1 is not just well-designed, offering the best image quality that we've yet seen on a Four Thirds camera. It surpasses the E-620, offering a leap forward in low-light performance, so much so that the E-P1 is the first Four Thirds camera to offer comparable quality to an APS-C DSLR, despite the smaller sensor size. Olympus have certainly made real strides here.
The feature list is also excellent, with many of the highlights from Olympus' recent DSLRs naturally finding their way onto the E-P1. The well-proven Image Stabilisation and Dust Reduction systems are present and correct, and creative options like the Art Filters, multiple exposures, Shadow Adjustment Technology, level gauge and gradation adjustment all help you to capture that perfect shot. 720p HD video complete with zoom, auto-focus, art filter effects and control over aperture is a real bonus, surpassing what most compacts and DSLRs currently offer, although it's somewhat spoilt by the intrusive sound of the zooming and focusing systems and limited recording time. We can even forgive the large but low resolution 3 inch LCD screen, thanks to its wide viewing angle and excellent visibility even in bright conditions.
Which is just as well, because we now come to the features, or rather the lack of features, that detract from the E-P1's overall appeal. While the lack of an optical or electronic viewfinder won't phase upgraders from compacts, who are used to composing a picture holding the camera at arm's length, DSLR users will certainly miss being able to hold the camera up to their eye. The lack of a flash won't bother the latter group, but the former will wonder why on earth a compact camera from 2009 doesn't have a built-in flash. Both issues can be solved by purchasing the optional accessories, but you can't physically fit both at the same time, and there's the obvious additional costs and additional bulk too.
In addition, the E-P1 is not the fastest-focusing camera on the block, especially with the standard 14-42mm kit lens. The half-a-second wait is more than enough to miss that decisive moment, leaving you cursing as the lens zooms in and out before finally emitting the confirmation beep. As you'd expect, performance is quicker with the 17mm prime lens, but the E-P1 ultimately suffers in comparison to the Panasonic G1 / GH1 and any DSLR that you care to mention. The only main rival that it beats in this department is the Sigma DP1 / DP2, which isn't very hard to achieve...
Despite these short-comings, the Olympus EP-1 is still a very appealing and refreshingly different camera that does indeed combine the best features of compact and DSLR cameras. It's not a pocketable camera by any means, contrary to how Olympus are marketing it, but it is small and unobtrusive enough to carry over a shoulder without attracting too much attention. The EP-1 represents a significant upgrade for compact owners who don't want the bulk of a DSLR, and a great second camera for DSLR users who want something smaller without sacrificing image quality, ultimately satisfying the needs of both groups. Olympus have taken the bold step of creating a camera that fills a clear gap in the market, rather than just following the crowd, and the EP-1 certainly deserves all the success that it will surely get.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4.5|
Listed below are some of the rivals of the Olympus E-P1.
Canon EOS 500D
The Canon EOS 500D is the latest DSLR camera to jump on the HD video bandwagon, offering 1080p and 720p quality settings. Also known as the Digital Rebel T1i, the successor to the EOS 450D features a 15 megapixel CMOS sensor, 940,000 dot 3-inch LCD screen, Live View and ISO range of 100-12800. At $799.99 / £869.99 body only or $899.99 / £969.99 with the EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS kit lens, find out if the Canon EOS 500D is the best consumer digital SLR in our expert review.
The Nikon D5000 is the latest digital SLR camera to incorporate a video recording mode, capable of producing 720p, 1280x720 pixel movies at 30fps complete with sound. The 12.3 megapixel D5000 also features a vari-angle LCD screen, making unusual picture compostions easier than with a fixed screen. More traditional SLR features include an ISO range of 100-6400, 4fps continuous shooting, and 11-point autofocus system. Retailing for £719.99 / €878.00 / $729.95 body only, or £799.99 / €972.00 / $849.95 with the 18-55mm VR kit lens, we find out if the Nikon D5000 can successfuly combine video and still images in our latest expert review.
Looking for the smallest DSLR camera in the world? Step forward the diminutive Olympus E-450, weighing in at less than 400 grams. The tiny E450 is based on the FourThirds standard, offering a 10 megapixel sensor, 2.7 inch LCD screen and brand new Art Filters for creating your own digitally enhanced master-pieces. Is the Olympus E-450 worth £350 body only / £450 single lens kit in the UK, or $699 for the double-lens kit in the US? Zoltan Arva-Toth finds out in the World's first online Olympus E-450 review.
The Olympus E-620 is an affordable mid-range digital SLR camera that offers a lot of bang for your buck. The 12 megapixel E620 features built-in image stabilisation, a free-angle LCD screen, compact dimensions and light weight, 7-point autofocus system and 6 Art filters. Is the E-620 the best Olympus DSLR yet? Read our expert review to find out.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1
The new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 is a new DSLR-like camera that can shoot both still photos and high-definition video. Based on the Micro Four Thirds standard, the Panasonic GH1 takes all the good points of the original G1 camera and adds a plethora of advanced movie-making functionality into the mix. Available now in black, red and gold for $1499.95 / £1299.99, Mark Goldstein finds out if the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 is the best ever DSLR / video camera.
The new Pentax K-7 digital SLR camera is one of the big surprises of 2009, offering a multitude of desirable features in a compact, weatherproof body. The K7 is the latest DSLR to feature a HD movie recording mode, in addition to its 14.6 megapixel still images. Other highlights include a dedicated HDR mode, improved 11-point auto-focus, high-res 3 inch LCD screen and optical viewfinder with 100% frame coverage. Can the Pentax K-7 take on and beat the likes of the Nikon D300 and Canon EOS 50D? Read our in-depth review with test shots, JPEGS, RAW files and movie to find out...
Ricoh GR Digital III
The GR Digital III is the latest version of Ricoh's pocket camera for prosumer photographers. With a fixed 28mm wide-angle lens, high-sensitivity 10 megapixel sensor, 3 inch LCD screen and optional optical viewfinder, the Ricoh GR Digital III is certainly a serious camera. Mark Goldstein finds out if the GR Digital III can justify its equally serious price-tag of £529 / $699.
The Sony A330 is the second model that we're reviewing in Sony's revamped lineup of entry- and mid-range DSLR cameras for 2009. Heavily based on the previous A300 model, the new A330 features a new look and feel designed to make it easier to use for people new to SLR photography, whilst retaining all the key features of its predecessor. These include a 2.7 inch tilting LCD screen, Live View, anti-dust system, ISO range of 100-3200, body anti-shake system, eye-start auto-focus system and Dynamic Range Optimiser. Is the £600 / $650 Sony A330 the best camera for DSLR first-timers? Zoltan Arva-Toth finds out...
Reviews of the Olympus E-P1 from around the web.
Olympus announces a return to an old form factor, and the beginning of a new era of small, interchangeable-lens digital cameras. Panasonic shipped the first Micro Four Thirds cameras, but the Olympus E-P1 wins the prize for the smallest of the new breed of digital camera. The company is aligning the Olympus E-P1 with the old PEN system of film cameras, dating back to 1959, and the camera's style reflects that heritage.
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Looking only slightly like the original Micro Four Thirds concept design that Olympus floated last September at Photokina, the company's retro E-P1 with interchangeable lens debuts this year to ride the coat-tails of the 50th anniversary of the company's Pen film camera. From the name, to the design, to the tagline etched on its top -- 'Olympus Pen since 1959' -- it feels like both an homage and a desperate reminder that Olympus was in the camera business long before most digital photographers were born.
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The Olympus E-P1 is an interchangeable lens digital camera. It uses a Four-Thirds sensor along with the Micro Four-Thirds lens mount. This is now the second such camera with a compact design similar to the reviewed Panasonic Lumix GF1.
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|Lens mount||Micro Four Thirds|
|Type||4/3 '' Hi-Speed Live MOS sensor|
|Effective pixels||12.3 Megapixels|
|Filter array||Primary colour filter (RGB)|
|Aspect ratio & area||4:3 / 17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Full resolution||13.1 Megapixels|
|Dust reduction filter||Supersonic Wave Filter|
|IR cut filter||Hybrid type|
|LPF filter||Fixed type|
|Information||100% field of view, exposure adjustment preview, white balance adjustment preview, gradation setting preview (SAT), face detection preview, perfect shot preview, gridline displayable, 7x/10x magnification possible, MF/S-AF, AF frame display, AF point display, shooting information, histogram|
|AF type||Contrast detection system|
|Modes||Two-dimensional or one-dimensional activation|
|Effective Compensation Range||Up to 4 EV steps|
|Shutter speed range||2 - 1/4000 s (not available when Bulb is selected)|
|Method||Contrast Detection AF system (when non high-speed contrast AF compatible lens is used, it works as MF assist)|
|Focus areas||11 points / Automatic and manual selection
25 points / Auto selection with Face Detection ON
225 points / Manual selection in Magnified View Mode
|Manual focus||Yes , Available by rotating focus ring, available for setting manual focus operation in AF mode (customised)|
|Single AF + MF||Yes|
|Modes||Programme automatic, i-Auto, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Scene Modes|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 3 EV ( 1, 1/2, 1/3 steps )|
|Exposure bracketing||3 frames ( +/- 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1 EV steps )|
|ISO bracketing||3 frames ( 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV steps )|
|Number of scene modes||19|
|Modes||Portrait, Landscape, Landscape with Portrait, Macro, Sports, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Children, High key, Low key, Digital Image Stabilisation, Nature Macro, Candle, Documents, Panorama, Beach and Snow, Fireworks, Sunset, e-portrait|
|Max. number of frames||2 frames (shooting)
3 frames (editing)
|Auto gain control||Yes|
|Frame assistance||Live View|
|Method||TTL open aperture light metering|
|Zones||324 zones Multi-pattern Sensing System|
|Detection range||0 - 18 EV (50mm, 1:2, ISO 100) Digital ESP, centre-weighted average metering, spot metering|
|Modes||ESP light metering, Spot metering, Centre weighted metering, Highlight, Shadow|
|Pop Art||Emphasizes colors and creates bright, vibrant images with a pop-art tone|
|Soft Focus||Gives images a light, ethereal look and evokes a dreamy, mystical mood|
|Pale & Light Colour||Utilizes muted colour tonalities to create a mood of reflection and nostalgia|
|Light Tone||Subdues highlights and shadows to reflect the ambience of a perfectly illuminated scene|
|Grainy Film||Recreates the rich, grainy look and tonality of black & white photography, imparting a dramatic feel to images|
|Pin Hole||Reproduces the peripheral vignetting and unique colour tone of photos taken with a pin hole camera|
|Auto||ISO 200 - 6400 (customisable, default ISO 200 - 1600)|
|Manual||ISO 100 - 6400|
|Shutter type||Computerised focal-plane shutter|
|Self timer||12 s / 2 s|
|Shutter speed range||1/4000 - 60 s|
|Bulb mode||1/4000 - 60 s Up to 30 minutes (selectable longest time in the menu, default: 8 minutes)|
|Shutter speed P, Ps||1/4000 - 60 s|
|Shutter speed A priority||1/4000 - 60 s|
|Shutter speed S priority||1/4000 - 60 s|
|Shutter speed scene mode||1/4000 - 60 s|
|AUTO WB system||Advanced detection system with Live MOS sensor|
|Manual White balance (One-Touch)||Yes|
|White balance bracketing||3 frames / +/- 2, 4, 6 mired steps|
|One-touch white balance||1 custom settings can be registered|
|White balance adjustment||+/- 7 in each A-B / G-M axis (in Auto WB, preset WB mode & one-touch WB)|
|Custom WB||1 setting can be registered at Kelvin temperature (2000K - 14000K)|
|Preset values||Tungsten, Flourescent 1, Flourescent 2, Flourescent 3, Sunlight, Flash, Overcast, Shade|
|Speed (H)||Approx. 3 fps|
|RAW Mode||10 frames|
|JPEG Mode||Depends on compression ratio or number of pixels (Large normal mode: approx. 12 with Toshiba Super High Speed type "Class 6" 4GB)|
|Colour space||sRGB / AdobeRGB|
|Sharpness + Contrast||5 levels|
|Black & White filter||Yellow, Orange, Red, Green|
|Black & White toning||Sepia, Blue, Red, Green|
|Picture mode||Vivid, Natural, Muted, Black & White.|
|Gradation||4 levels (auto, high key, normal, low key)|
|External Flash Control|
|X-sync speed||1/180 s / 1/4000 s (Super FP Mode)|
|Type||TTL AUTO, AUTO, MANUAL, FP TTL AUTO, FP MANUAL|
|Synchronisation modes||Auto, red-eye reduction,slow synchro, 2nd curtain slow synchro, fill-in for exclusive flash|
|Intensity||+/- 3 EV ( 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps )
Note: Some functions are only available if they are supported by the external flash.
|LCD type||HyperCrystal LCD|
|Monitor size||7.6 cm / 3.0 ''|
|Brightness adjustment||+/- 7 levels|
|Colour balance||A-B: +/-7 levels, G-M: +/-7 levels|
|Display||Rear LCD monitor|
|Super Control Panel|
|Displayed information||Aperture value, Shutter speed, AE bracketing, AF frame, Focus mode, AEL notification, Battery indicator, Face detection, Number of storable frames, Metering mode, Exposure mode, Exposure level view, Flash compensation value, Exposure compensation indication, ISO, Colour space, Gradation, Colour saturation compensation value, Sharpness compensation value, Contrast compensation value, White balance, White balance compensation value, Noise reduction, Flash mode, Drive mode, Record mode, Memory card, Internal temperature warning, Histogram|
|Index||Yes 4, 9, 16, 25, 49, 100 frames|
|Histogram in playback mode||Yes|
|Erase / Protect / Copy Function|
|Erase modes||Single, All, Selected|
|Image protect mode||Single frame, Selected frames, All Frames, Release protect (Single/All selected)|
|RAW & JPEG||Yes Parallel recording|
|Aspect ratio||4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 6:6|
|RAW||4032 x 3024 compressed / 14 MB / frame
4032 x 3024 Fine (compression: 1/4) / 5.7 MB / frame
4032 x 3024 Normal (compression: 1/8) / 2.7 MB / frame
2560 x 1920 Normal (compression: 1/8) 1.1 MB / frame
1024 x 768 Normal (compression: 1/8) 0.3 MB / frame
|Still Image Recording|
|Recording format||Stereo PCM/16bit, 44.1kHz, Wave Format Base|
|Recording length||30 s|
|Movie Recording System|
|Recording format||AVI Motion JPEG®|
|Movie mode||HD 1280 x 720 (16:9)
SD 640 x 480 (4:3)
|Frame rate||30 fps|
|Max. file size||2 GB|
|Max. recording time||14 min (SD)
7 min (HD)
|Sound recording||Yes , format: Stereo PCM/16bit, 44.1kHz, WAV|
|Sensitivity||ISO 160 - 1600|
|Image Stabilisation Mode||Electronical image shifting (Digital IS)|
|RAW data edit||Yes|
|Black & White||Yes|
|Correction of saturation||Yes|
|Menu languages in camera||34 languages / 27 European languages (e.g. English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish)|
|Custom preset options|
|My Mode||2 settings storable|
|Battery||BLS-1 Li-Ion battery (included)|
|Sleep mode||1, 3, 5, 10 min. and off selectable.|
|Live View shooting||300 images (100% with Live View) with BLS-1 and Toshiba Class 6 SDHC 4GB card under CIPA testing standard|
|Temperature||0 - 40 °C operating temperature / -20 - 60 °C storage temperature|
|Humidity||30 - 90 % operation humidity / 10 - 90 % storage humidity|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||120.5 x 70 x 35 mm (without protrusions)|
|Weight||335 g (body only)|
|Media||SD Memory Card(SDHC compatible) Class 6 (4GB) is recommended|
|USB 2.0 High Speed||Yes|
|Combined V & USB output||Yes NTSC or PAL selectable|