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Olympus E-1 Digital SLR

By dpreview staff on Jun 24, 2003 at 06:04 GMT

0700 CET: Olympus has today officially announced the Olympus E-1 digital SLR. The E-1 is the first Olympus removable lens digital SLR, it's also the first digital SLR with an entirely new lens mount. Instead the E-1 conforms to the '4/3 System' standard with a standard 4/3" type CCD (18 x 13.5 mm) from Kodak (five megapixel) and the 4/3 System lens mount. Olympus has also confirmed five ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses and three flash units.

Phil, 0700 CET: We have prepared a preview of the E-1 but can not publish it until a pre-agreed embargo time later today. So keep checking back to ensure you are the first to read it!

UPDATE, 0705 CET: We weren't given pricing, indeed we were given the impression that no price decisions had been made. However other US sites are indeed stating that the E-1 will be priced at $2199 body only (which IMHO is about $700 too much) and that the lenses will range between $599 and $7999 (for the 300 mm). In my personal opinion these prices are simply too high, they are too high today and they will certainly be too high by September when the E-1 eventually hits the shelves.

The Olympus E-1 Key Features (my own list)

  • Magnesium-alloy body with environmental sealing (splash proof)
  • Five megapixel 4/3" Kodak Full Frame Transfer CCD (4/3 System compliant)
  • 4/3 System lens mount
  • Range of four ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses initially available (smaller and lighter than 35 mm)
  • TTL viewfinder with removable focusing screen
  • "Supersonic Wave Filter" cleans CCD at each camera start-up (dust is shaken from CCD)
  • Dual USB 2.0 (full 480 Mb/s speed) and IEEE 1394 (Firewire) connectivity
  • 3-point TTL phase difference AF
  • Focus-by-wire manual focus
  • Manual focus after AF lock available (switchable)
  • 3 bulb AF assist lamp
  • 3-zone multi-pattern metering
  • Program Shift in Program AE mode
  • Shutter speed range of 60 to 1/4000 sec (up to 8 minutes in Bulb mode)
  • Custom delay 'Anti-Shock' feature (similar to mirror lock-up on other SLR's)
  • Continuous shooting 3 frames per second up to 12 frames
  • Sensitivity range of ISO 100 - 800 plus 1600 and 3200 with 'ISO BOOST'
  • Exposure steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 stop (EV)
  • Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV
  • Selectable color space; sRGB or Adobe RGB
  • Wide range of white balance options, four manual presets, fine tuning
  • Hybrid white balance sensor (on external surface of camera and using CCD)
  • Customizable image parameters (saturation, sharpness, contrast)
  • Noise reduction for ISO noise and long exposure noise (both can be disabled)
  • RAW format and RAW+JPEG support
  • In-camera RAW Data Edit
  • Compact Flash Type I & II storage including IBM Microdrive and FAT32
  • User upgradable firmware
  • 1.8" 134,000 pixel LCD monitor with anti-reflective coating
  • Control Panel LCD display with backlight (panel also has anti-reflective coating)
  • Flash hot-shoe and PC Sync flash terminal
  • Shading compensation (removes potential vignetting)

Press Release:

An end to compromises -
the revolutionary Olympus E-1

World's first professional digital SLR system with interchangeable lenses based on the Four Thirds Standard.

Amsterdam, 24 June 2003 - The Olympus E-System hails a new chapter in the history of photography. Now, the world's first SLR digital camera system realises the advantages of the Four Thirds Standard and is dedicated to the special requirements of digital SLR photography, presenting new benchmarks for professional image quality and performance. All components and accessories of the Olympus E-System - from the camera body, through flash units, to interchangeable lenses - have been expressly designed for digital use and ensure the system's performance potential is maximised in every instance. The Olympus E-System breaks the mould of previous digital SLR solutions and frees itself from the obstacles of the past.

A competitive edge

Near enough is never good enough for Olympus. And with the Olympus E-System, no compromise has been made.

Gone are the days when photographers had to contend with hindrances due to using lenses that were not originally designed for use with their camera backs. Problems such as a loss to wide-angle capability, insufficient lens resolution and cornershading are a thing of the past. The Olympus E-System adheres to the guidelines defined by the Four Thirds Standard that regulate type and diameter of the lens mount as well as the size of the image sensor and the flange back distance. These guidelines not only guarantee complete lens interchangeability between any manufacturer complying with the set norms but also enable production of lenses fully optimised to digital camera requirements.

A five megapixel 4/3-type CCD ensures the light transmitted by the lens is captured in flawless detail. But it is not the pixel-count alone that is responsible for the professional image results. Unlike most digital cameras, the Olympus E-1 utilises a Full Frame Transfer CCD sensor, a type specifically developed for the capture of still images. In comparison to Interline Transfer counterparts found in the majority of digital models, the FFT-CCD is distinguished by a larger pixel area, with bigger photodiodes and transfer channels. This means more electrons can be captured. A high signal/noise ratio can therefore be achieved together with a wider dynamic range. Final images benefit from more exposure latitude, greater detail and less noise.

ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses - a synonym for quality

All ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses are designed to maximise the performance of digital SLRs based on the Four Thirds Standard. They feature telecentric optics - meaning that transmitted light hits the CCD virtually at right-angles - which is required by digital cameras to give images perfect colour, clarity and brightness from the centre to the periphery of the frame. The lens' high resolving power ensures the image sensor obtains the detail it needs to achieve its full potential. Moreover, because of the set communication standard, lenses are capable of supplying the camera body with information about any potential shading or distortion which can then be compensated for to return perfect results. A further substantial benefit made possible by the Four Thirds Standard is that lenses maintain a compact form and light weight despite offering a large aperture.

The growing list of ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses currently available includes (35mm equivalent values in brackets):

  • ED 300 mm, F2.8 tele (600 mm)
  • E 14 - 54 mm, F2.8 - 3.5 zoom (28 - 108 mm)
  • ED 50 mm F2 macro (100 mm)
  • ED 50 - 200mm, F2.8 - F3.5 zoom (100 - 400 mm)
  • E 11 - 22mm, F2.8 - F3.5 zoom (21 - 44 mm) (available by end 2003)

The Olympus E-1 solves a problem that has long been an Achilles heel of interchangeable lens-type digital SLRs - dust contamination of the camera insides from changing lenses. The Supersonic Wave Filter causes an ultra-high-speed vibration to occur, making dust and/or other particles literally fall off the imager, which are then captured on a special adhesive tape. This function is invoked at each start-up of the camera but may also be manually effected.

Designed to be a trusted, dependable companion, this digital SLR camera features a high-endurance focal plane shutter. Outstanding accuracy at any of the exposure speeds ranging from 1/4,000 sec to 60 sec is assured - and that for a guaranteed minimum of 150,000 releases.

Thanks to dual USB2.0 and IEEE1394 interfaces, PC connectivity is easy and extremely versatile. The Olympus E-1 is the first digital SLR camera to incorporate both of these interfaces. Users will therefore not be hindered by long waiting times while their image files are downloaded.

Unrestricted photographic satisfaction

Of course, while the Olympus E-System breaks convention in many respects, in others, it hones and fine-tunes aspects necessary for professional shooting and handling.

The Olympus E-1 is a camera ready for all assignments bar none. Its robust die-cast magnesium-alloy body is not only tough, it is also light. In fact, the camera body weighs in at just 660 g - enough to give a very solid feel, yet still the lightest model among all current professional digital SLRs with interchangeable lenses. As with the ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses, the Olympus E-1 also boasts a splash-proof design so that photographers can continue shooting while their lesser-equipped colleagues have already sought cover from the elements.

A bright, quick-return mirror viewfinder gives pros the best view for precise framing. Enabling a viewing field of approximately 100% plus providing full photographic information, complete control is assured at all times.

The high-speed 3-point TTL phase difference detection autofocus system has a wide range of 0 to 19EV. Manual and automatic selection of the AF zones is possible. Users can choose single or continuous autofocus to meet their needs. In continuous mode, the AF system is capable of following subjects travelling at up to 50 km/h. As well as full manual focusing, fine manual adjustments to the autofocus values can be made. The ergonomic merit of the camera system is further substantiated with the possibility to adjust the focus ring direction.

For exposure metering, the Olympus E-1 features a 3-zone multi-pattern sensor system. Photographers can chose between electronic spot metering (ESP), centre-weighted average and spot metering. P/A/S/M modes are on hand to suit the situation. A Program Shift function is available that enables the optimal EV value to be retained while adjustments to shutter speed and aperture are made. Bracketing of three or five frames can be undertaken in 1/3, 1/2 or full step increments.

Versatility is a recurring theme with the Olympus E-1. High ISO equivalent sensitivity values of between 100 and 3,200 ISO can be selected. With its hybrid detection system using a dedicated white balance sensor and the image sensor, automatic white balance is incredibly accurate. The pre-set white balance features very detailed steps of approximately 300°K which can additionally be compensated by two mired steps. A white balance compensation function is available too. Furthermore, the Olympus E-1 has two colour space settings: Standard RGB for most applications and Adobe RGB which has a wider range for offset printing in particular.

For many photographers, speed is the key. That's why the Olympus E-1 is equipped with three powerful ASICs. This ensures extremely fast image processing and playback. No matter which quality mode or resolution is chosen, thanks to an impressive 128MB buffer and high-capacity working SDRAM memory, up to 12 frames of sequential shooting can be captured at 3fps in every format (JPEG/TIFF/RAW).

The Olympus E-1 features a CompactFlash slot for image storage. It is compatible with both CF cards of up to more than 2GB and Microdrive. The use of xD-Picture Cards by means of the optional CF adapter is possible too.

Because this camera is an authentic work tool, Olympus realises that photographers cannot afford any time out when it comes to firmware upgrades. That is why the Olympus E-1 provides the possibility to undertake these directly via an internet upload.

Elite hardware deserves exclusive software

Befitting the excellent craftsmanship and functions of the camera, Olympus also introduces an entirely new software with the Olympus E-1 that is far beyond a regular browsing application. The included OLYMPUS Viewer software aids the professional's workflow considerably. Some of the features are:

  • A light box tool & tag function allowing two/four similar images to be easily compared and categorised.
  • Batch processing so that a range of editing procedures can be carried out on a whole group of images at the same time, such as adjusting the colour tone.
  • RAW batch processing of a number of files at once so that they are converted to TIFF or JPEG format in one run.

A complete system of accessories for professional photography

But the Four Thirds concept does not merely comprise of a camera. A whole system of accessories exists to provide serious photographers with the solutions to their needs - whatever these may be. Besides the ZUIKO LENSES, there is a large and growing list of accessories available for all areas of professional digital SLR photography. Among these are:

Flash units

  • FL-50 high-power flash (up to GN50) with SuperFP mode
  • Ring flash (available shortly)
  • Twin flash (available shortly)

Power supplies

  • Power Battery Holder HLD-2 for the BLL-1 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery Pack BLL-1 high-capacity 3400mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Battery-Charger BCL-1 dedicated BLL-1 battery charger
  • AC Adapter AC-1

Four Thirds is the first professional standard for digital SLR photography. By setting standards on three levels - mechanical, optical and communication - it maximises the performance of camera body, image sensor and lenses. The Olympus E-1 is the first and currently the only camera to make use of the advantages of this new standard.

Availability: September 2003

Olympus E-1 Specifications

Body material Magnesium alloy
Sensor • 18.0 x 13.5 mm CCD sensor
• 17.4 x 13.1 mm active sensor area
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Full frame transfer
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter
• Built-in "Supersonic Wave Filter" (dust cleaning)
• Microlenses
• 5.6 million total pixels (2738 x 2044)
• 5.1 million active pixels (2614 x 1966)
• 4.9 million output pixels (2560 x 1920)
• 4:3 aspect ratio
• 6.8 x 6.8 µm pixel pitch
JCIA Effective pixels 5.0 million
Image sizes • 2560 x 1920
• 1600 x 1200
• 1280 x 960
• 1024 x 768
• 640 x 480
File formats • RAW
• JPEG (EXIF 2.2)
Color space • sRGB
• Adobe RGB
Lenses • 4/3 standard lens mount
• Range of ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses available
• Effective FOV is 2x indicated focal length
Focusing • 3-point TTL Phase Difference Detection
• Automatic or manual point selection
• EV 0 to 19 (ISO 100) detection range
Focus modes • Single shot AF
• Continuous AF
• Manual focus
Manual focus • Focus by wire
AF assist • Yes, can be disabled
• Red visible light
Metering modes • Digital ESP
• Center-Weighted Average
• Spot (1.8%)
AE Lock • With shutter release half-press
• AEL button
AE Bracketing • 3 or 5 frames
• 1/3, 1/2, 0.7 or 1.0 EV steps
Exposure steps 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV
Exposure compen. • -5.0 to +5.0 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps

• Auto (ISO 100 - 400)
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600 *
• ISO 3200 *
* With "ISO BOOST" set to ON

Min Shutter Speed • Program AE: 2 sec
• Aperture Priority AE: 3.2 sec
• Shutter Priority AE: 60 sec
• Manual Exposure: 60 sec + Bulb (up to 8 mins)
Max Shutter Speed 1/4000 sec
Flash X-sync • 1/180 sec
• Super FP up to 1/4000 sec for fill flash
Aperture values Depends on lens: 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
White balance • Auto
• 3000 K (Incandescent)
• 3300 K
• 3600 K (Incandescent)
• 3900 K
• 4000 K (Fluorescent)
• 4300 K
• 4500 K (Fluorescent)
• 4800 K
• 5500 K (Sunny)
• 6500 K (Cloudy)
• 6600 K (Fluorescent)
• 7500 K (Shade)
• Manual Preset 1
• Manual Preset 2
• Manual Preset 3
• Manual Preset 4
* All of the above can be fine tuned +/- 7 levels except manual presets
Auto white balance • Hybrid system
• White balance sensor & CCD imager
WB Bracketing • 3 frames
• 1, 2 or 3 steps
Image parameters • Saturation (CM1, CM2, CM3, CM4, CS0 - CS4) *
• Contrast (-2 to +2)
• Sharpness (-3 to +3)
* The CM settings are custom color profiles for particular scene types
Noise reduction • Noise Filter (On / Off)
• Noise Reduction (On / Off)
• Pixel Mapping

• Eye-level pentaprism TTL
• Magnification approx. x0.96
• Eye point 20 mm
• 100% frame coverage
• Diotric adjustment (-3.0 to +1.0)
• Internal eyepiece curtain
• Interchangeable focusing screen with center circle and AF areas (FS-1)
• Viewfinder info bar
• Optional EP-2 large eyecup and FS-2 grid pattern focusing screen available

Viewfinder info • Flash indicator
• FP flash
• Metering mode
• AF / AE Lock
• Aperture
• Shutter speed
• ISO sensitivity (when changing)
• Exposure mode
• Exposure compensation / metering bar
• White balance (when changing)
• AF areas (when changing)
• Bracketing setting (when changing)
• Buffer space remaining
LCD monitor • 1.8" TFT LCD
• 134,000 pixels
• 100% frame coverage
• 15 brightness levels (-7 to +7)
• 4x magnification playback
Record review • Off
• Auto
• 5 sec
• 20 sec
Flash • No built-in flash
Flash modes • TTL Auto (Olympus E System flash)
• TTL Auto FP (Olympus E System flash)
• Auto
• Manual
External flash • Hot-shoe
• PC Sync terminal
Flash compensation +/- 2.0 EV in 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
Shooting modes

• Program AE (P) (with shift)
• Aperture priority AE (A)
• Shutter priority AE (S)
• Manual (M)

Drive modes • Single shot
• Continuous (3 fps, up to 12 frames)
• Self-timer 12 seconds
• Self-timer 2 seconds
• Remote release 2 second delay
• Remote release
Internal Buffer • 128 MB RAM
• 12 Frames
Other features • Shading Compensation
• Anti-Shock mode
• Custom AE-L / AF-L setting
• Custom command dial setting
• Custom Focus Ring direction
• Single AF + Manual AF (On / Off)
• Release Priority Single (On / Off)
• Release Priority Continuous (On / Off)
Playback mode • Single image
• Single image blinking highlights & histogram
• Magnified view (2.0x, 3.0x or 4.0x, scrollable)
• 4, 9 or 16 image thumbnail index
• Slideshow
• Image rotation
• Image delete
• Image protect
• RAW Data Edit
• DPOF Setup
Menu languages • Japanese
• English
• German
• French
• Spanish
• Korean
Remote control • Wired by RM-CB1
• Wireless (IR) by RM-1
Connectivity • USB 2.0
• Firewire IEEE 1394
• Video out
• Remote terminal
• PC Sync flash terminal
Video out Selectable NTSC or PAL
Storage • Compact Flash Type I or II
• Microdrive supported
• FAT32 filesystem support (for CF cards greater than 2 GB)
Power • BLM-1 1500 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery (supplied & charger)
• Optional Power Battery Holder HLD-2 and Lithium-Ion battery
• Optional AC adapter AC-1
Firmware User updatable
Weather Proof IEC Standard publication 529 IPX1

• Operating range: 0°C to 40°C (30 to 90% humidity)
• Storage range: -20°C to 60°C (10 to 90% humidity)

Dimensions 141 x 104 x 81 mm (5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 in)
Weight (no batt/lens) 660 g (1.5 lb)
Box contents E-1 Body, USB Cable, IEEE1394 Cable, Video Cable, Li-ion Battery Pack (BLM-1), Li-ion Battery Charger (BCM-1), Shoulder Strap, Olympus Viewr 1.0, CD-ROM, Manuals
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