Dennis Hissink : June 16th 2009 - 19:15 CET updated
Olympus E-P1 preview
Olympus E-P1 SLR camera review : It is only very rarely that I come across something that I believe will become of great importance. It is exactly this feeling that turns a cold view on technique into pure and raw emotion. And if this feeling continues, it will soon turn into daydreaming. In my case, that means dreaming about shooting my immediate surroundings with my camera to try and capture my reality in that one meaningful picture. The new Olympus addition, the E-P1, means pure emotion to me. Back to reality; the Olympus E-P1 is the long-awaited Micro Four Thirds system camera. A mock-up version was introduced during the Photokina 2008 for the first time, and now, the Olympus E-P1 has finally become reality. |
Micro Four Thirds Olympus E-P1 DSLR
The Micro Four Thirds System is a new system that stems from the Four Thirds standard, on which the current digital SLR assortment of Olympus, among others, is based. Yet, the new Olympus P1 comes from a legendary cradle. Olympus' introduction of the first Pen camera is exactly 50 years ago this year. A design with a revolutionary meaning at that time and age in photography. Designer Yoshihisa Maitani managed to design a traditionally technical camera, resulting in a fabulous combination of simplicity, style and performance. This was the birth of the Olympus Pen.
Olympus E-P1 compact SLR camera
Five decades later, Olympus shakes up the photography world once more with the introduction of the first Micro Four Thirds model; the Olympus E-P1. The Olympus E-P1 system camera also provides the possibility to exchange lenses, just like a DSLR, but lacks a mirror box. Therefore, it is possible to design an extremely compact size, and we are in fact witnessing the merging of two important camera groups: compact and DSLR. The big advantage of a compact camera is its small size, whilst the advantage of a DSLR is without question its high image quality. Both advantages have now been brought together, resulting in one camera, thanks to the Micro Four Thirds system.
Olympus E-P1 test model
I had a pre-production model of the Olympus P1 (firmware 0.9) at my disposal for a short period of time. Due to this status, it is not possible to reach a final verdict on the image quality and performance of this camera. As soon as a full test sample of the Olympus E-P1 becomes available, we will publish an extensive Olympus E-P1 review combined with Olympus E-P1 sample pictures.
Olympus E-P1 body
The Olympus E-P1 features a retro design; the metal has a stylish finishing touch and the camera features small dimensions. This new Micro Four Thirds system camera is a combination of the timeless appearance of the classic Olympus Pen series and the latest technology. The Olympus EP1 will be available in two colors; silver and white.
12.3 Megapixel Olympus E-P1
In addition to the 12.3 Megapixel Live MOS sensor and a newly developed TruePic V image processor, the Olympus E-P1 also features an advanced High Definition video function. This brings creative filming and photography within reach for everybody. And if being creative is not your best side, the 6 integrated creative filters will come in handy. These filters can also be activated in the video mode.
Olympus E-P1 video recording
At the time of writing this preview, I have neither specification nor a manual at hand, which means I can only rely on the brief experience in practice. Filming in 1280x720 pixels at a frame rate of 30fps, with stereo sound and a maximum of 5 minutes in HD quality (4:3 or 16:9 ratio), works very nicely indeed. Personally, I had hoped for a continuous auto focus or AF tracking like on the Panasonic LUMIX GH1, but apparently this was not possible. However; it is possible to manually adjust the sharpness during filming via the focus ring on the lens or by pressing the AEL/AF-L button. Although it has to be said that focusing is not carried out all that smoothly in the latter case. When playing the captured video, the sound of the focus engine is heard in the video.
Capture videos with the Olympus EP1
Compared to the video engine of another Micro Four Thirds system camera, the Panasonic DMC-GH1, the latter seems to be further enhanced. Continuous AF via AF tracking and aperture / shutter priority belong to the standard possibilities. Additionally, Panasonic developed a special lens (Panasonic 14-140 mm f/4-5.8 OIS HD) that provides silent focus. I wonder if the E-P1 would also benefit from the advantages of this lens. The Panasonic GH1 seems to hold the trump in this respect.
Olympus E P1 DSLR filter set
We have seen the filter set of the E-P1 before on the E-30. After taking a picture, one of the filters can be applied immediately. For example; Pop-art for a more powerful and vivid color reproduction, Soft-focus for a softer reproduction or granular film; in which case the atmosphere of a granular and contrast-rich black&white picture is created.
Olympus P1 multi exposure program
Another creative function is the so-called multi exposure with the possibility of merging several pictures on top of each other in real-time either during or after shooting. Another specific Olympus feature is the variety of image ratios. This provides an even bigger freedom for the photographer to decide the composition. The selected ratio is immediately displayed on the screen. The available ratios are: 16:9, 3:2, 4:3 and 6:6.
Olympus E-P1 image stabilisation
The retro-designed Olympus E-P1 accommodates a lot of technology. The camera features an image stabilization system that works at all times, independent from the lens used. The so-called gyro sensor registers the precise direction of the motion, upon which the Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) will move the image sensor, thus compensating for camera motion.
Olympus E-P1 anti-dust system
Naturally, the effective Olympus anti-dust system is also found in the E-P1. There is always a big risk of dust entering the camera during the changing of lenses, which will show in the pictures. The Supersonic Wave Filter is a transparent filter placed in between the shutter and the image sensor of the camera. This filter will shake off dust particles from the sensor by a number of ultrasonic waves.
Micro Four Thirds lenses
The Olympus E-P1 works with especially developed lenses for Micro Four Thirds. Additionally; a special developed adaptor (MMF-1) allows you to mount existing Four Thirds lenses. And to keep the nostalgic emotion going, there is also a special adapter available, the MF-2, to enable mounting OM lenses.
Olympus E-P1 M.ZUIKO Digital lenses
The new M.ZUIKO Digital lenses are quite a match too. Our E-P1 test sample came with an M.ZUIKO Digital ED 14-42 mm 1:3.5-5.6 zoom lens and a second lens is also available; the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 17 mm 1:2.8 pancake lens. Undoubtedly, these to lenses are the start of a new assortment M.ZUIKO lenses.
Olympus E-P1 SLR camera design
The advantage of the Micro Four Thirds system is that it makes it possible to change the traditional DSLR camera design drastically. A number of key elements have remained the same, but Olympus has seized the opportunity to design a compact housing with both hands. The retro design seems an almost impossible to justify choice. Personally, I am in favor of it and I find this design a truly wonderful addition to the current camera market.
Olympus E-P1 digital SLR
However; I am not sure if I represent the large group of potential Olympus E-P1 buyers. There are examples in other segments of consumer electronics, where retro did not make it. However; it doesn't mean the retro look is the only option, of course. I can imagine Olympus having various ideas in the pipeline when it comes to design aimed at a different type of photographer.
Olympus EP1 retro metal housing
When taking the Olympus E-P1 into your hand, you will immediately appreciate the high-quality finish and the high-quality material of the housing. The new compact SLR camera feels very solid and offers a stable hand-fit. The housing is made of slightly brushed metal with a slightly slanting upwards rubber coating. The fact that the material used is not prone to fingerprints is very pleasant to the eye. It also saves you from the constant urge of wanting to clean the camera.
Olympus 14-42mm M.ZUIKO Digital lens
The M.ZUIKO Digital lens of 14-42 mm is quite compact and features a length of only 43mm (when mounted on the body). Upon activating the camera, an alert will appear, telling you that the lens is locked. By rotating the zoom ring, a lens system extends via some sort of telescope mechanism which enlarges the lens to 27 - 37mm. A tiny switch on the zoom ring enables inserting the lens entirely again.
Olympus E-P1 memory card support
The Olympus E-P1 features a new processing engine, the TruePic V, guaranteeing the processing speed of the pictures. Olympus has also managed to increase ISO settings to ISO 6400. The pictures can be stored in both RAW and JPEG. An SD or SDHC memory card serves as storage medium. This is surprising, while Olympus always used its own xD Picture card before, sometimes adding CompactFlash support. The choice for SDHC / SD is wise, however, and the most logical when looking at the market development. This ensures a maximum storage capacity of 32GB.
Olympus E-P1 accessories
It's remarkable that the Olympus E-P1 lacks a built-in flash. As for design and link to the Pen-F, it seems logical, but I do miss it to a certain extent. Olympus offers an FL-14 flash as optional accessory. An optical viewfinder is another thing you won’t find on the E-P1. The 3 inch HyperCrystal LCD is used instead. If you insist on a viewfinder, you will have to go for the optional external VF-1 optical viewfinder.
E-P1 Olympus Live View mode
Focus happens via the Live View mode, which is slightly slower than via the standard AF. The menu is displayed well-structured, just like we are used to from Olympus, either completely covering or semi-transparent on the side and bottom of the display. This type of menu structure works pleasantly and is convenient.
Olympus E-P1 camera operation
The operation of the Olympus E-P1 looks like we have seen on other Olympus SLR cameras. The buttons are found mainly on the right side of the screen, with emphasis on navigation on the screen. The Olympus E-P1 is a camera with a high nostalgic value for the photographer that occupies himself with photography in an aware state.
Olympus E-P1 digital system camera
The Olympus E-P1 is not a speed monster, but a model that is based on a platform that gives life to an entire new camera segment, created by Olympus. In my opinion, the Olympus E-P1 is only the first of many possible models. A camera that will win a photographer’s heart in no-time, designed from a historically rich photography past.
Olympus E-P1 review
As soon as we receive a full production test sample of the Olympus E-P1, we will publish a photo gallery with high resolution pictures, followed by an extensive Olympus E-P1 review.