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Dennis Hissink : June 30th 2004 - 04:05 CET

The PRO digital SLR for medicine and science

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OlympusEver more dermatologists, dentists, plastic surgeons as well as hospitals, universities and research institutes are using digital photography to capture images for comparison and documentation purposes. They all appreciate the advantages offered by this photo technology, the immediate control and processing possibilities plus very low costs. However, these alone would not have been enough for them to change from their trusted analogue camera systems. The ability of digital cameras, especially the SLRs, to record images with extremely high precision was crucial in convincing them of the technology's value. And among the professional models currently available, the Olympus E-1 is one of the best in its field.
The PRO digital SLR for medicine and scienceIn the first six months alone, it collected almost 100 awards from publications all over the globe. The opto-digital specialist is also recognised around the world for its endoscopes and microscopes. Now, with its digital flagship model, Olympus aims to build on the success of its OM series. For over two decades, these 35mm-SLRs enjoyed an enviable reputation in the research and science sector as very reliable tools. Olympus is convinced the new digital SLR model will also meet the high demands of medical specialists, researchers and scientists. To heighten the camera's appeal in this area, additional accessories are being developed for special applications. Besides the ring and twin flash systems that are already available, a special adapter is expected to allow connection of the Olympus E-1 to a microscope.

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 of 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 FourThirds 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 FourThirds 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 FourThirds 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):

-- 11~22mm. F2.8~3.5 zoom (22~44mm)
-- 14~54mm, F2.8~3.5 zoom (28~108mm)
-- ED 50~200mm, F2.8~3.5 zoom (100-400mm)
-- ED 50mm F2.0 macro (100mm)
-- ED 150mm F2.0 (300mm)
-- ED 300mm, F2.8 tele (600mm)

The range is rounded out with a tele converter and an extension tube:
-- EC-14 tele converter
-- EX-25 extension tube

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. This has been achieved by placing a Supersonic Wave Filter in front of the CCD. The Supersonic Wave Filter causes an ultra-high-speed vibration to occur, shaking off dust and/or other particles, 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 8 minutes 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 fast-moving subjects. 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 in 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 CompactFlash cards 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.
-- 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 FourThirds 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 DIGITAL 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
-- Twin flash

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

FourThirds 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.

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