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Olympus E-P1 - Product Review
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Olympus E-P1 - Product Review
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(L-R) The FL-14 flash with GN14* and 14mm (EFL 28mm) wideangle coverage or GN20 at ISO 200; the VF-1 optical rangefinder for the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f2.8 lens
* measured at ISO 100 at 14mm (EFL 28mm) focal length
© Copyright Olympus Imaging Corporation 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Like the E-1, Olympus chose to omit the usual standard-issue built-in flash with the E-P1. The reason is simple – Watanabe wanted it to be as small as possible in order to drive home the view that it is possible to utilise Micro Four-Thirds to design very pocketable cameras. It’s the same reason that saw the dismissal of an optical viewfinder. To that end, two accessories are now available to take care of the omissions – a three-element multicoated parallax-corrected VF-1 optical viewfinder to work with the 17mm lens and the FL-14 dedicated flash rated at GN14 (ISO100)* that looks uncannily – although not surprisingly – like the Pen-F’s flash unit. 

* or GN20 at ISO200

One good thing about the VF-1 viewfinder is that Olympus is able to make it large – 0.47X view magnification – and bright to use. Being ‘only’ three elements in its optical makeup, there is a very minimal light loss and so you will have little trouble using the E-P1 under lowlight conditions. No doubt with the VF-1 attached, it mightn’t be pocketable but weighing only 20g, it’s also feather light. 

The FL-14 flash is fashioned to match the E-P1. So you’ll see the same metal body appearance with a very sturdy looking connecting column to the hotshoe. The FL-14 weighs 84g and features simple flash modes that include red-eye reduction, slow sync and second-curtain sync to work in conjunction with the ubiquitous TTL-Auto, Auto and Manual operating modes. Only two AAA-sized alkaline or NiMH batteries are needed to drive the FL-14 and provide a fairly reasonable 5-sec recycle time and 80 discharges at full power.

Speaking of flash operation, the E-P1’s flash sync speed is 1/180 sec, which is neither very fast nor slow. That puts it in the same league as the consumer-grade E-series DSLRs such as the E-620. If you like, you can make full use of the E-System’s FL-36/36R or FL-50/50R where the Super-FP mode will allow you to sync the E-P1 all the way to its fastest shutter speed. 

After toying around with classic leather body cases (and accompanying straps) with the 400-series DSLR models, Olympus has now turned its sights to the E-P1 with the same white and brown offerings. We’re told that these are genuine stitched leather and not the (pseudo) leatherette variety. Interestingly the tripod bush screw-in method – which was even missing with the latter-day OM SLRs – has returned. The shoulder strap chrome buckles look beefy enough to do the job too. Unlike the 400-series though, some of us might feel that the ole’ world style cases are probably more appropriate with the digital Pen. We’ll leave that for you to decide.

(L-R) Full leather body case in white (CS-10BWT) and brown (CS-10BBR), leather camera strap in matching white (CSS-S109LLWT) and brown (CSS-S109LLBR) to suit
© Copyright Olympus Imaging Corporation 2009. All Rights Reserved.

In some regions around the world, Olympus also offers a mini backpack and a small carrying bag under the E-P1 catalogue although by all means, these two will equally accommodate other Olympus cameras. So I think this is but an exercise in marketing cynicism.

Because of the less common filter sizes for the 17mm and 14-42mm lenses, Olympus does offer UV filters for both. PRF-D37 and PRF-D40.5 are for the 37mm and 40.5mm filter diameter sizes of the 17mm and 14-42mm lenses respectively.

Where does the E-P1 take all of us?
For a first inning, the E-P1 is a remarkable feat. In fact just two days following its June 15 launch, Olympus was inundated with orders around the world that took even their most optimistic top management personnel by total surprise. It is clear by now that if things go further to plan, Olympus is on to a huge winner with the E-P1 bolting out of the gate fast.

So why should the E-P1 be a success? Because for the first time in a very long time, there is a true Bridge Camera in sight. The industry has seen numerous pretenders for years but in the E-P1, the market now has a form factor that is closer in size to a typical compact camera but possesses the flexibility, image quality and performance features of a full-fledged DSLR camera. Moreover without the mirror box, shutter operation is eerily quiet (although not silent) and the usual jarring harmonic resonances are missing.

Of course in recent times certain others have attempted to close the gap to the penultimate Bridge Camera. Manufacturers like Ricoh, Sigma including even Epson have come to within touching distance but they fell short for one or another reason. 

Today, Micro Four-Thirds is about to be joined by Samsung with their forthcoming NX model, which rumours claim to feature an OLED screen. Panasonic is apparently working on a model similar to the E-P1 but threatening to upstage it with better features. Sigma’s DP2 doesn’t look half bad either. And nobody should discount what Nikon and Canon might be up to in terms of response. At the end of the day, what we have are two distinct groups of compact-sized solutions with oversized sensors – those that have fixed lenses and those that offer interchangeability. Both will offer image quality that compact camera users were only able to dream of.

The E-P1 represents a new benchmark but unlike the Pen-F, Olympus can expect plenty of competition this time. Fifty years on, Olympus is rewriting history and it plans to hedge its bets two ways. While the E-P1 represents a direction that taps a segment of the consumer market eager to trade up, Olympus’ second model – expected to arrive by the end of 2009 – will hope to steer towards the other direction where the company has plans to build a comprehensive system around more serious users. 

Little is known about this second model but Olympus has hinted that priorities will be somewhat different to those that shaped the E-P1. While much of the base will remain largely similar, there is a high likelihood that we’ll see advanced features and a higher performance envelope. 

Zone-10 predicts the following by comparison: 

 Model 1: Olympus E-P1 Model 2: Olympus E-Px 
Imaging sensor 12.3 megapixel Live MOS 


Processor TruePic V TruePic V+ 
Image stabilisation Mechanical and electronic Same 
Viewfinder None (external accessory) High frame-rate electronic type with diopter control 
LCD monitor Fixed 3" 230,000-dot Hypercrystal III with Live Control Articulating 3" Hypercrystal III with Live Control; dot-count unknown 
HDMI support 1280x720 pixels, 16:9 format, AVI 1280x1080 pixels, 16:9 format, AVI 
Flash None built in Built-in GN13 (ISO 100) 
Digital leveller Yes, dual axis Same 
Exposure Modes P,A,S,M, iAuto, Bulb, 14 Scene Modes, 6 Creative Art Filters Same, but possibly more Creative ARt Filters and better iAuto intelligence 
Metering range EV 0 to 18 (50mm ISO 100) EV -2 to 18 (50mm ISO 100) 
Highlight/Shadow control Shadow adjustment Technology Same but improved 
Autofocusing Imager-AF 11-point Same
Shutter speed range 60 to 1/4000 second Same 
Flash sync speed 1/180 second maximum 1/180 or 1/250 second maximum 
Drive modes Single, Continuous, Self-timer, optional RM-UC1 cable shutter-release Similar, including RM-1 wireless shutter release 
Continuous drive mode 3 fps 3.5 or 4 fps 
Battery type BLS-1 lithium-ion rechargeable Same 
Memory card support SD/SDHC Class 6 SD/SDHC Class 6 and CompactFlash 
ISO sensitivity range 100 to 6400 Same 
Standard kit lens(es) 17mm f2.8 and 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 17mm f2 and 14-50mm f2.8-3.8 

Additional information

The E-P1 kit comes with camera body, USB/video multi-cable, BLS-1 lithium-ion battery pack, BCS-1 external battery charger, shoulder strap, Olympus Master 2 installation CD-ROM, instruction manual and warranty card. Warranty conditions vary depending on geographic region.

Technical Specifications

Camera Type
Full LiveView interchangeable lens digital camera
Lens Mount
Micro Four-Thirds with adaptors to mount Zuiko Digital (MMF-1) and OM (MF-2) lenses; 11 electrical interface contacts
Pickup Device
12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor (13.1 megapixels total)
Image stabilisation
Sensor-shift image stabilisation offering three modes covering up to 4 steps with electronic based Digital-IS supplementing during movie recording
Manual focal length inputs possible from 8mm to 1000mm inclusive
Dust Reduction
SSWF Supersonic Wave Filter resonating at 50,000Hz
LCD monitor
3” (7.6cm) 230,000 pixel 176o Hypercrystal III with AR coating for full-time LiveView or as Super Control Panel with Live Control technology
±7 levels of brightness control including A-B and G-M colour balancing possible
Image processor
TruePic generation V with support for HDMI, ISO6400 and new Imager-AF
Exposure modes
Program (P), Aperture-AE (A), Shutter-AE (S), Manual (M), Intelligent-Auto (iAuto), Bulb including 14 Scene and 6 Creative Art modes
Creative Art modes
6 including Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light, Light Tone, Grainy Film and Pin Hole; fully supported in JPEG still and AVI movie formats; header information available in RAW files
Digital Leveller
Yes, dual-axis, accelerometer driven, LCD active display
Aspect Ratios
4:3 (native to sensor), 3:2, 6:6 and 16:9; default setting is 4:3
Multiple exposure
Yes, up to 2 frames with Auto Gain option
Centre-average, Spot (1%), Spot-Highlight, Spot-Shadow and new 324-segment 18x18 grid Digital ESP with built-in Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT), Face Detect (up to 8 faces), e-Portrait and Perfect Shot Preview
Live histogram and compositional grids including the Digital Leveller’s dual axis display are available in LiveView during metering
AE lock possible
Metering sensitivity
EV 0 to 18 for Digital-ESP, centre-average and spot metering patterns (measured using 50mm f2, ISO 100)
Imager-AF 11-point contrast-detection type fully functional in still imaging and video recording with Magnified AF Assist up to 10X the display view for easier manual focusing
25-point autofocusing when Face Detect mode is enabled; freely selectable 225-point when Magnified View Mode is in use
AF modes
Single (S-AF), Continuous (C-AF), Single with Manual Override (S-AF+MF), and Manual Focusing (MF)
AF point sensitivity
Free, loop or spiral selectable for single or all 11 AF points; no built-in AF Assist
Shutter system type
Computerised focal plane shutter
Shutter speed range
60 – 1/4000 sec including Bulb; 30-min limiter in Bulb mode
Default limiter set at 8 mins
Drive modes and max frame sequence
Single, Continuous, 2 and 12-sec Self-Timer with remote release option via the use of the RM-UC1 cable shutter release 
Up to 3 fps for up to 10 sequential shots in RAW mode
Video record mode and record stream length
480p/576p/720p HDMI video mode at 1280x720 pixels in 16:9 format at 30 frames/sec with 16-bit 44.1KHz linear PCM stereo audio (2 mikes at front panel) at 1/12 compression ratio
Records at HD resolution to automatically stop at 2 Gigabytes (approx 7 mins) or at 640x480 pixels (4:3 VGA format) in SD resolution in 14 mins
* Class 6 or higher SD/SDHC card recommended
None built-in; use of optional FL-14 (GN14, ISO 100) dedicated hotshoe flash or other FL-series flash units; syncs from 1/30 to 1/180 sec
Supports TTL-Auto, Auto, Manual, FP-TTL Auto, FP-Manual control modes
Flash output intensity controllable up to ±3 EVs
Colour Space
AdobeRGB or sRGB
White balance
8 settings available from 3000K to 7500K
Lamp (3000K), Fluoro 1 (4000K), Fluoro 2 (4500K), Fluoro 3 (6600K), Daylight (5300K), Flash-WB (5500K), Cloudy (6000K), Shade (7500K)
Custom WB (CWB) possible from 2000K to 14000K
One-touch WB possible with 1 custom setting registrable 
Recording formats
Still: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW (RAW is 12-bit 1/1.5 lossless compressed)
Video: AVI Motion JPEG
File size (RAW)
4032x3024 pixels at 14MB (108 images in a 2GB SD card)
File sizes and capacities (JPEG)
A. 4032x3024 pixels, 8.4MB, Super Fine 1/2.7 compression (202 images in a 2GB SD card); B. 4032x3024 pixels, 5.9MB, Fine 1/4 compression (290 images in a 2GB SD card); C. 4032x3024 pixels, 2.7MB in Normal 1/8 compression (640 images in a 2GB SD card); D. 4032x3024 pixels, 1.8MB in Basic 1/12 compression (954 images in a 2GB SD card)
My Mode
Support for two My Mode settings
Body construction type
Non-weatherproof, aluminium top and bottom panels, stainless steel side and rear panels
Battery type
BLS-1 lithium-ion rechargeable type with approx 300 shots in-between charge in conjunction with use of Class 6 SDHC 4GB card (CIPA)
Memory card compatibility
SecureDigital SD or SDHC types; one memory slot only
ISO Sensitivity
100 to 6400 inclusive with bracketing possible
Colour Universal design
Only White version is approved by Colour Universal Design Organisation
Dimensions and weight
120.6mm (W) x 69.9mm (H) x 36.4mm (D); 335g body only
Standard lens kits
Kit 1: E-P1 with M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6
Kit 2: E-P1 with M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f2.8 and VF-1
Kit body configurations
* comes with VF-1 optical finder
1: Chrome E-P1 with chrome 14-42mm, 2: Chrome E-P1 with black 14-42mm, 3: White E-P1 with chrome 14-42mm, 4: Chrome E-P1 with chrome 17mm*, 5: White E-P1 with chrome 17mm*, 6: Chrome E-P1 with black 14-42mm and chrome 17mm*
Optional accessories
PRF-D37 37mm filter for 17mm, PRF-D40.5 40.5mm filter for 14-42mm, MMF-1 Four-Thirds adaptor, MF-2 OM adaptor, VF-1 optical finder for 17mm, RM-UC1 remote cable release, RM-1 wireless controller, camera body cases
Current non-Olympus compatible lenses
Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f4.0, Lumix G Vario HD IS 14-140mm f4.0-5.8, Lumix G Vario IS 14-45mm f3.5-5.6, Lumix G Vario IS 45-200mm f4.0-5.6
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