Olympus E-P1 - Review / Test Report
DSLR Reviews - DSLRs

by Sebastian Milczanowski


After the introduction of the micro-four-thirds format in August 2008 and the Panasonic DMC-G1 as well as the DMC-GH1, Olympus - the co-inventor of the initial four-thirds system - presents their first micro-four-thirds digital interchangeable lens camera in a retro body of the ancient Olympus PEN from 1959. The Olympus E-P1 can’t be put clearly into the pretty straightforward Olympus DSLR line-up and this is also reflected by the Olympus webpage, showing a separate link to the DSLR selection as well as to the PEN along with the slogan “Not a compact. Not an SLR. It's a PEN“. However, regarding the price tag the camera is positioned between the Olympus E-520 and E-620.

The camera features a 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor with a built-in self-cleaning sensor unit, a 3-inch LCD monitor with a resolution of 230K dots and a built-in image stabilizer. Furthermore, the body is available in a range of two different colours - silver with black as well as white with beige-coloured elements.

The Olympus E-P1 sells for around 650€ with the dwarfish M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6, which is a relatively good match for the E-P1. Additionally, there is another kit available including the even more compact and lightweight fixed focal length lens M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake for around 720€.

I had the chance to test the digital Olympus E-P1 on a 6 days trans-alps trek from Oberstdorf in Germany to Meran in Italy as well as in my ordinary day to day life. The E-P1 was exposed to temperatures between zero and thirty-five degrees, alpine attitudes up to 3100 metres as well as surrounded six awful days by my wet and dirty trekking equipment. We’ve had enough of introductory words so let’s start with a selection of the main features stated by Olympus:

  • Multiple-exposure function with LCD monitor display of current view on top of previously captured image
  • HD Movie with stereo sound featuring depth of field and Art Filters
  • 12.3 Megapixel Live MOS sensor
  • Spotless photography with a strong dust reduction system
  • Built-in I.S. with max. 4 steps efficiency
  • Auto gradation adjustment to prevent blown highlights and blocked-in shadows
  • Preview of shadow adjustment technology (SAT) for maximum image results
  • 7x and 10x magnified view for precise focusing - especially for macro shots
  • Ergonomic design of body, control buttons and GUI for easy operation
  • Shadow Adjustment Technology adjusts dark areas in images.

I picked ten of the nineteen key features from the Olympus webpage and I didn’t change the sorting. It is good to see that there is one more camera with built-in image stabilizer on the market but beyond that I can’t find any unique selling proposition. However, comparing to the micro-four-thirds cameras from Panasonic – the DMC-GF1 and the DMC-GH1 – it looks like this:

DSLR Olympus E-P1 Panasonic DMC-GF1 Panasonic DMC-GH1
Format Micro Four Thirds Micro Four Thirds Micro Four Thirds
Sensor size/type 17.3 x 13.0 mm, Live MOS sensor 17.3 x 13.0 mm, Live MOS Sensor 17.3 x 13.0 mm, Live MOS Sensor
Sensor 12.3 Megapixels 12.1 Megapixels 12.1 Megapixels
"Crop" factor 2x 2x 2x
Sensor dust-removal Supersonic Wave Filter Supersonic Wave Filter Supersonic Wave Filter
AF Sensors Contrast AF system Contrast AF system Contrast AF system
Image Stablizer Sensor shift Lens based Lens based
Metering ESP light, Spot, Centre weighted, Highlight, Shadow Intelligent Multiple, Center Weighted, Spot Intelligent Multiple, Center Weighted, Spot
HD video 720p 720p 1080i
Live-View yes, static LCD monitor yes, static LCD monitor yes, free-angle LCD monitor
Viewfinder Optional detachable optical View Finder - Olympus VF-1 (dedicated only for the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake, 0.47x) Optional external Live View Finder - Panasonic DMW-LVF1 (100%, 1.04x) Live View Finder (100%, 1,4x)
Size (W x H x D) 120.5 x 70 x 35 mm 119 x 71 x 36.3 mm 124 x 89.6 x 45.2 mm
Weight (body only) 335g 285g 385g

All is not yet lost – the inner values are the ones that really count! After the body tour on the next side our technical analysis on page three and four will figure out whether the inner values of the Olympus E-P1 are convincing. The applications section on page five is divided into five different photography scenarios (nature, macro, night, portrait as well as sport) and will give you an idea of the potential of the Olympus E-P1 in action. Finally, the last two pages of this review contain some sample shots to give you an idea of the image quality and our verdict of the Olympus E-P1, including the proven OpticalLimits rating.

Before you switch to the next page enjoy the 360 degrees of the Olympus E-P1.

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