The revolutionary Olympus E-P1 micro four thirds digital camera is launched

Written by Gary on June 16th, 2009

As rumored, the Olympus E-P1 officially launched today will likely be the start of a new style of high quality, interchangable lens, thin, pocketable digital cameras based on the famous Olympus Pen film cameras which I discussed in my last blog.

Why the excitement?

Unlike the recent rather ho-hum dSLR offerings by both Canon and Nikon – ah yes more pixels we don’t need, in same old form factors and still no built-in CCD-shift image stabilisation, and gimicky attempts at video (no AF during video), the new Micro Four Thirds cameras (GH-1 and E-P1) are truly exciting cameras and much smaller and with much quieter shutters making them more versatile and portable.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a large Canon pro system, but its just that Canon and Nikon don’t seem to have much vision for lateral thinking like the Four Thirds teams have, or perhaps Four Thirds have got the right format size after all and Canon and Nikon will not be able to compete for this genre camera?

Not everyone will like the necessary compromises Olympus had to make in order to add most of the functionality of its much larger E-620 dSLR, into a thin pocketable camera (jacket pocket).

In particular, they may miss a through the lens optical view finder or an electronic viewfinder or EVF (as the Panasonic G1 and GH-1 have), but they will be able to attach an optical viewfinder into the hotshoe which will be great when using the 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens, but not so useful for zoom lenses.

But to the others that have waited a few decades for a digital like the Olympus Pen, this camera may almost be heaven for them, and, unlike the GH-1, is more reasonably priced at $US899 including the 17mm f/2.8 lens and optical viewfinder.

The EP-1 takes many of the best features of a dSLR and places them in a much quieter, slimmer package similar to a Canon G10 but with far greater versatility and image quality.

The differentiating benefits over the Panasonic G1 and GH-1 are:

  • slim, retro styling in metal body allowing it to be placed in a jacket pocket
  • built-in CCD-shift image stabiliser that will work on all lenses and apparently also in video mode, and said to be up to 4 stops effectiveness
  • Olympus art filters which apparently will function in video capture mode as well
  • 3fps burst mode

The above benefits will be compelling to many people, but there are also some features of the Panasonic GH-1 which will be compelling for other users (including me – although I do really WANT the built in IS):

  • electronic viewfinder – I’m not a big fan of EVF’s but they are better than nothing and the camera becomes more stable when used up to your face, and unlike the Olympus optical viewfinder, you will get access to the information you need, including AF confirmation.
  • swivel LCD – well, guess I am getting spoilt by the swivel LCD on Olympus dSLRs, and now the Panasonic G1 and GH-1 which is really useful for certain situations.
  • HD video – 1080 not just 720p as with the Olympus EP-1, and with AF with HD-capable lenses (at present, only the Lumix 14-140mm lens).
  • microphone input – this is critical for good videos as the in-camera mic captures all the noises in tehe camera including user’s use of controls including manual focus ring.
  • built-in flash
  • additional auto exposure modes

Shared features of Panasonic GH-1 and Olympus E-P1 include:

  • more detailed 12mp images (compared to E620/E30/E3/etc) due to weaker anti-aliasing filter and new image processor to address removal of potential resulting moire artefact
  • large sensor size – 5x larger than a Canon G10 and thus lower noise at higher ISO, and shallower depth of field.
  • selectable aspect ratios 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
  • micro four thirds mount making them the most adaptable of all cameras – see this blog – you can use the following lenses: MFT, FT, OM, Leica M, Leica R, Leica Visoflex, Carl Zeiss Contax, Pentax, Minolta MC/MD, M42, Voigtlander, Olympus Pen, Rollei 35, Topcon, Canon FD, PL super 35 motion picture lenses, Nikon F, Canon EOS (at wide open aperture as there is no aperture ring on these) and Lens Baby in FT, Nikon or EOS mount, PLUS almost any other lens you can think of which will cover the image circle including telescopes and microscopes!
  • what’s more, you can via the EOS-MFT adapter use any lens you can fit on an EOS camera including Hasselblad, Pentacon 6/Kiev 60, Pentax 67, macro reverse rings, M39, Mamiya 645.
  • full manual control including ISO 100-6400, although most would want to stick below ISO 1600
  • face recognition contrast detection AF
  • sensor dust removal system
  • spot metering as well as centre weighted and 49-zone multi-pattern metering
  • shutter speeds 60sec – 1/4000th sec plus BULB via remote controller (IR for Olympus, cable for GH-1)
  • flash sync 1/180th sec
  • exposure compensation +/- 3.0 EV
  • 3 frame exposure bracketing
  • 3″ LCD with 230,000 pixels and 100% frame coverage, 7x-10x magnified image for manual focus assist
  • multi-exposures
  • self-timer
  • no need for mirror lock up as no mirror thus quieter shutter with less vibrations to blur the image
  • full white balance control
  • AF lock button so you don’t need to keep finger half-pressed on shutter
  • in-camera optical distortion correction
  • mini-HDMI out
  • SD/SDHC memory cards
  • electronic level gauge to assist in ensuring camera is level
  • auto-gradation adjustment to improve high contrast scenes
  • compatibility with Four Thirds flash system
  • i-auto mode that detects which scene mode to use automatically
  • the smaller lenses means smaller, much less expensive filters can be used
  • the smaller, lighter cameras means much smaller, lighter, tripod heads can be used

More details on dpreview.com and John Foster has a hands on preview here well worth the read.

If you must have an  electronic viewfinder and you can’t afford the GH-1, and don’t need video,  then the Panasonic G-1 is a fantastic option at a much better price point than the GH-1.

Now, could I also have an E-P1 with its IR filter removed and replaced by an IR pass filter for infrared photography?

 

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  1. Sara Hession says:

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