Olympus Pen E-P1 In-depth Review
The E-P1 is an exercise in pared-down styling with a distinctly retro design that will appeal to anyone nostalgic for the salad days of 35mm photography, before the preponderance of plastics and auto everything operation. It's got more than a whiff of the 1950's and 1960's rangefinder about it, but the most obvious debt is - as the pre-launch marketing made clear - the Olympus Pen F, the world's first 'half frame' SLR, introduced in the mid 1960's (see page 1 for more on the Pen connection).
There's no doubting this is a handsome little beast, and the choice of materials, sleek, simple lines and lack of unnecessary ornamentation give it the same 'real camera' appeal that makes otherwise rational photographers lust after the similarly timeless Leica M8. The E-P1 is one of the most attractive digital cameras we've ever seen, and we can imagine there will be a lot of people looking to justify buying one even if they have little or no real need for one. The 'pride of ownership' factor is going to be very strong with this one.
The E-P1 has been designed first and foremost for size, which itself dictates to a certain extent the physical design; we're told that - using current technology - this is as small as the camera could be, and though it's considerably more bulky than compacts like the Panasonic LX3, the body itself is far smaller than any SLR, and is dwarfed by the Olympus E-450 (the smallest SLR on the market).
The desire for the smallest possible body does mean some compromises; there's no viewfinder or built-in flash (both are available as optional extras) and there's little in the way of a grip, but Olympus has done an excellent job on the overall handling. There are fewer external controls than you'd find on an equivalent SLR (and don't forget this camera has all the functionality of a 'semi pro' model like the E-30), but the buttons are large enough to use, there's two command dials (both on the back) and the level of customization is such that it's easy to get the E-P1 working exactly how you want it. It's really, really hard to find fault with the design, even if, like me, you wish there was a viewfinder and a flash...
The E-P1 is available in two equally retro color schemes; good old fashioned chrome (with black accents) and a surprisingly attractive white version with beige/tan accents. The zoom lens (14-42mm) comes in black or chrome (the 17mm pancake is silver only) and Olympus has kits containing every possible combination.
Side by side
Below you can see the E-P1 between the Sigma DP-2 and the Olympus E-450. The DP2 (along with the DP1) is the only 'big sensor' compact in the world today (its X3 chip is roughly the same size as the E-P1's) and the E-450 is the smallest digital SLR in the world (most competitor models are noticeably larger). The E-P1 sits between the two in both physical size and weight, and although it's much closer to the DP2 in size it is, thanks to the metal body, a lot closer to the E-450's weight. It's worth noting that the figures below for the DP2 include the fixed lens (the DP2's 'body' is about 50% thinner than the E-P1).
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Olympus E-P1||126 x 70 x 36.4 mm (4.9 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)||410 g (0.9lb)|
|Olympus E-450||129.5 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)||455 g (1.0 lb)|
|Sigma DP2||113 x 60 x 56 mm (4.5 x 2.4 x 2.2 in)||280 g (0.6 lb)|
In your hand
Thanks to its size/weight ratio (this is a pretty dense camera) the E-P1 feels incredibly solid in a way that the vast majority of cameras just don't these days. It's beautifully constructed and even our pre-production model has an excellent fit and finish. The handling is, perhaps inevitably, slightly compromised by the shiny surfaces and the lack of a grip, meaning that unlike similarly designed compacts the E-P1 feels a lot more comfortable supported by both hands, something you're going to be doing anyway if you're using the zoom.
Once in the hand it handles pretty well - small cameras always demand some compromises (smaller buttons cramped together make using the controls fiddly), but the E-P1's design (which, if we're honest, is far more about style than utility) is surprisingly usable if you assign the exposure setting you most commonly use to the upper (vertical) command dial, which is perfectly positioned under your thumb. The other dial (the circular one around the OK button and four-way controller) is a little less easy to reach and requires a certain amount of thumb gymnastics if you try to use it without taking your finger off the shutter release. Unless you insist on shooting in manual exposure mode and changing settings for every shot the E-P1 offers a nice mix of compact camera handling and SLR control.
As a live view only camera - and one without an eye-level viewfinder (discounting the optional VF-1 attachment) the E-P1's LCD screen is a vital part of the picture taking experience, and it's one of the only (mildly) disappointing things about the whole package. It's by no means a bad screen - quite the opposite; the high refresh rate, excellent brightness/contrast, low lag, good sharpness and wide viewing angle are all to be praised, but we were surprised that a premium model like this doesn't have a higher resolution screen (230,000 dots on a 3.0" LCD is pretty low these days).
It's not a decision breaker but it's a bit of a let-down. We used the camera outside in bright direct sunlight and found that - whilst you can just about make out the preview image, it's still very difficult to see well enough for precise framing or exposure / color assessment (and forget manual focus in such conditions). We also found that the screen sometimes made images appear brighter than they actually were, leading to unecessary exposure compensation (though, given the E-P1's occasional clipped highlights, a little negative EV probably isn't a bad thing).
If you can't stand the idea of relying entirely on the screen / live view for composition Olympus is offering an optional optical viewfinder (the VF-4), which is matched to the 17mm pancake. The lack of any kind of focus confirmation makes using the viewfinder a slightly unnerving experience, though you're unlikely to have problems on a sunny day with a 17mm lens on a sensor this size.
Compared to using the screen on a bright day, however, the viewfinder is a welcome relief from the squinting and guesswork involved should the sun fall onto the LCD. The feeling of being disconnected from the workings and settings of the camera takes some getting used to (it's like going back to film!) but for those of us who don't always like to compose our shots at arm's length, the viewfinder is an acceptable compromise for such a small camera. Why Olympus couldn't produce an optional electronic viewfinder I don't know, as that would transform the use of the E-P1 in bright daylight.
Battery / storage Compartment
The E-P1 uses the same BLS-1 battery as the E-420 and E-620. The battery fits into a combined battery/card compartment behind a door with a sliding lock, and has a small retaining clip to prevent it from falling out. Unfortunately the design of the camera means you can't change batteries - or get the card in or out - when it's mounted on a tripod.
The good news (as far as we're concerned) is that Olympus appears to have finally accepted the inevitable demise of xD-Picture card and has taken the eminently sensible decision to drop it in favor of an SD/SDHC card slot on the E-P1. Ever since xD took over from SmartMedia five or six years ago, Olympus users have been forced into using a slower, less capacious, more expensive and less reliable storage format. And since Fujifilm (the only other brand to use xD) dropped it last year the pressure has been rising on Olympus to finally kill off the unwanted and unloved format.
We're not there yet; Olympus compacts still use xD (and the SLRs offer dual xD/CF slots), but the E-P1 is, hopefully the first of many Olympus cameras to offer full compatibility with SD (though we suspect xD will stubbornly hang around for a while yet).
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Lenses
- 3 What's New
- 4 Specifications
- 5 Body & Design
- 6 Body & Design
- 7 Operation & Controls
- 8 Operation & Controls
- 9 Operation (live view)
- 10 Displays
- 11 Menus
- 12 Menus
- 13 Performance
- 14 Video
- 15 Art Filters
- 16 Photographic tests (RAW)
- 17 Photographic tests (Noise)
- 18 Photographic tests (Noise)
- 19 Photographic tests (DR)
- 20 Photographic tests
- 21 Lens tests
- 22 Lens tests
- 23 Compared to
- 24 Compared to (JPEG)
- 25 Compared to (JPEG)
- 26 Compared to (JPEG)
- 27 Compared to (JPEG)
- 28 Compared to (JPEG)
- 29 Compared to (JPEG)
- 30 Compared to (RAW)
- 31 Compared to (RAW)
- 32 Compared to (RAW)
- 33 Compared to (RAW)
- 34 Compared to (RAW)
- 35 Compared to (Higher ISO)
- 36 Compared to (Resolution)
- 37 Conclusion
- 38 Samples
- 39 Movie Samples
Aug 6, 2009
Jul 29, 2009
Aug 6, 2009
Jul 26, 2012
|Owens Valley Milky Way by ed rader|
from Sign, sign, everywhere a sign..
|Break by Hank3152|
from Motion blur
|Camp by T bird|
from A Big Year - birds
|The Maasai Shepherd by cgravel|
from - African Man - (Portrait in Black and White + A Border)
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.
Photokina, the biennial photo industry trade show in Cologne, Germany, has announced that it will become an annual event beginning in 2018, and expand its focus to additional areas of imaging technology. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
How does the iPhone 7 Plus stack up against the Arri Alexa cinema camera? Watch this short video to find out.
Canon Australia's video series "The Lab" is designed to make photographers experiment and think outside the box. In the latest video a group of photographers create images based on their sense of taste.
The GH5 is expected to get a firmware update this summer to support 400Mbps internal recording. NewsShooter explores what memory cards you'll need to make it work.
Microsoft's new Surface Pro offers Intel's latest processor generation and improved battery life.
Riding a mountain bike downhill is dangerous enough in daylight, but potentially lethal at night. Which is where drones come in.
Rumors abound that Canon (and maybe Nikon) may produce a mirrorless camera based using their existing DSLR mount. Does this guarantee immediate great lens choice or a perpetually second-rate experience? Read more
According to rumors, the next camera from Nest will be able to capture 4K video, though that resolution will be only used for 'virtual' pan and tilt functions.
Boundary's Prima 'fully modular' backpack is expandable to 30L and has a removable camera case and tablet sleeve. Early Kickstarter backers can get one for $189.
Stanley Greene captured 'brutally honest' photographs in the war zones of the Middle East, Chechnya and Georgia. He was also one of the few African-American photographers working internationally.
Owners of Leica M cameras that suffer from peeling CCDs will be able to claim a free repair in the future so long as the camera was purchased within five years of the fault becoming apparent, the company has announced. Read more
The Carl Zeiss Jena BIOTAR 75mm F1.5 Red T lens is very rare and priced accordingly. It can be yours today for the low, low price of $15,000.
The MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has developed a drone that does not require any human control for recording tracking shots. Read more
In this terrifying video, Iraqi journalist Ammar Alwaely narrowly misses a sniper's bullet, which takes out his chest-mounted GoPro. Warning: strong language. Watch the video
A new report expects action camera growth to increase about 15% by 2021, with Ultra HD cameras driving demand. Read more
Profiles for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been released for Irix's ultra-wide 11mm and 15mm primes. Like all profiles, these correct for distortion and vignetting.
An upcoming firmware update from DJI will cripple its drones unless they are 'activated' on the company's website. Live streaming will be turned off and flight radius/altitude will be limited.
Brent from ShareGrid rounds up the 10 most common products filmmakers are renting from one another for productions; chances are good you own one or more of them.
DaVinci Resolve is making strong moves to compete with Premiere and Final Cut Pro, including affordable control panels for colorists. According to Premium Beat, they're really good.
If you are not planning to fly your drone commercially you are not required to register it with the FAA anymore. This decision was handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.
Whether you're syncing a flash, wondering why banding is appearing in your image or getting strange images from your camera's silent shutter mode, the way your shutter works has a role to play. Here's what happens when you press the shutter button. Read more
William Vazquez travels all over the world documenting humanitarian work. He spoke to us about the challenges of his work, the importance of research and why a multitool and duct tape are your best friends in the field. Read more