The E-1's battery compartment is accessed from the base of the hand grip, the new BLM-1 battery slides into the based and is held in place by the compartment door. This new battery appears to be based on the same OEM piece as Nikon used for the EN-EL3 (1400 mAh), Canon used for the BP-511 (1100 mAh) and Minolta used for the NP-400 (1500 mAh). Of these four the Olympus and Minolta batteries have the highest capacity at 11.1 Wh.
The BCM-1 battery charger is provided to charge the BLM-1 Lithium-Ion battery. The charger can accept a mains supply of 110 - 240 V and has a rated output of 1200 mA (which means it should take 1 hr 15 mins to charge the 1500 mAh battery).
Compact Flash Compartment
The Compact Flash compartment is located on the right side of the camera (from the back) and makes up part of the hand grip. The compartment is opened by turning a small dial. The door hinge is spring loaded so that the door opens on its own once released. There is a rubber weatherproof seal where the door meets the camera body. Inside is the Compact Flash Type II card slot which can accept Type I or Type II cards (including the IBM Microdrive).
One thing that did concern me a little was that opening the compartment door cancels the current image write operation and empties the image buffer. Thus if you had taken a burst of images and accidentally opened the compartment door before the write process had completed you will lose images.
Kudos to Olympus for providing both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 (Firewire) connectivity, this shows good forward thinking and good provision of high-speed connection for all computer platforms.
On the bottom of the camera you'll find the metal tripod socket which is aligned exactly with the center line of the lens. Surrounding this is a hard rubber foot which will help the camera grip on a typical tripod plate.
White Balance sensor
To the left of the 'E-1' label on the front of the camera is a small translucent window, behind this is the camera's external white balance sensor. This sensor is used in combination with captured image data to calculate automatic white balance. The E-1 manual states "The sensor measures and calculates infrared and visible rays to detect sunlight, fluorescent light, floodlight and blue floodlight."
AF Assist lamp
The E-1's AF Assist lamp is located near the top front of the camera between the hand grip and lens mount. It provides a bright three bulb red light (stripe pattern) directly on to the subject, this is designed to give the camera's auto focus system a better chance of locking in low light. The AF Assist lamp can be disabled from the camera menu. The camera will use the AF assist lamp on an attached flash unit if available as a preference over the built-in assist lamp.
The E-1 has a new flash hot-shoe designed specifically for the 'E System', it is a standard ISO size and can accept third party flash units (but only sync contact). Olympus 'E System' flash units communicate directly with the camera and support various features including zoom control, red-eye reduction and slow sync flash.
Pictures of the FL-50 Flash Unit can be found on the following page.
Lens Mount / Sensor
The new 4/3 lens mount appears to be fairly conventional, it looks remarkably similar to Canon's EOS mount in that it is a bayonet fit with a clockwise lock direction, has three interlocking 'spades' and a row of electronic connectors at the bottom of the mount. Olympus 'E System' lenses have built-in focus motors controlled by the camera and manual focusing is 'by wire', that is the lens tells the camera that the focus ring has been turned, the camera instructs the lens to change the focus position. This lack of a physical connection between the focus ring and the lens elements may not be to everyone's liking and certainly takes a little getting used to (a quick 'flick' of the ring changes focus distance very quickly a normal turn changes focus distance very very slowly).
Looking down the neck of the mount you can see the conventional mirror (semitransparent with the AF unit mounted directly below the mirror. Opening the shutter the mirror flips upwards out of the imaging path and the shutter curtain lifts. It's fairly obvious to see the difference in size between the E-1's sensor and that found on other D-SLR's, but what is also striking is the proportion between the lens mount and the sensor size (the lens mount being almost twice the size of the imaging circle). Because of this light hits the sensor in virtually straight rays considerably improving effects such as corner softness and chromatic aberrations especially at wide angles.
"Supersonic Wave Filter"
The "Supersonic Wave Filter" (it had to come from the Japanese marketing department) is a method of cleaning the CCD sensor which involves making it vibrate at a very high frequency, this vibration causes any dust or dirt to literally drop off the sensor surface and on to a sticky tape material (which apparently has been used in conventional SLR's for some time now). This built-in CCD cleaning takes place every time you power up the camera and can also be invoked from the camera menu. It's reassuring to see at least one manufacturer taking dust seriously and attempting to solve instead of avoiding the issue. Kudos Olympus.
Shutter Release Sound
In all of our digital SLR reviews we now provide a sound recording of a continuous burst of shots. You can download the recording (click here - 298 KB MP3) of twelve continuous shots taken with the E-1 followed by nine continuous shots taken by Canon's EOS 10D. The E-1 is noticeably quieter (and seems even more so in real life) thanks to its smaller mirror and better damping, there is however a little more motor 'whine' from the E-1.
The optional HLD-2 'Power Battery Holder' slots into the battery compartment
by removing the battery compartment door (which can be stowed in a special
slot in the holder). It attaches firmly to the camera by tightening a tripod
screw into the cameras tripod mount socket. The Holder serves several purposes;
firstly it extends battery life, the Lithium-Ion PS-BLL2 battery pack provides
a healthy 3400 mAh at 7.2 V (24.5 Wh). Secondly it aids stability when holding
the camera in the landscape (horizontal) orientation (because of the extended
height of the normal hand grip) and also provides a portrait (vertical)
grip and repeat of thumb / finger controls. Lastly the addition of the Holder
allows a hand strap to be attached to the side of the camera. The HLD-2
will has a US MSRP of $549.
Optional Power Battery Holder HLD-2
Supplied In the Box
Box contents may vary by region: