Page 5 of 7
The following section is organized by the variety of photographic scenarios LANDSCAPE, MACRO, NIGHT, PORTRAIT and SPORTS photography.
The Olympus E-P1 could provide pretty much everything you need for outdoor photography. 534g including the kit lens and the proven Olympus dust removal system, a dream for almost all backpackers who try to minimize the weight and bulk of gear carried, but this is already where the dream ends.
As of the time of our review Olympus and Panasonic's lens portfolio lists just one "landscape"-related micro-four-thirds lens, the LUMIX G VARIO 7-14mm / F4.0 ASPH. However, Olympus offers two mount adapters, which allow mounting of two more Olympus systems. On the one hand the MMF-1 for all regular four-thirds lenses and on the other hand the MF-2 for old Olympus OM-System lenses (sold from 1972 until 2002/2003). Both extensions weigh around 80g and while AF of some regular four-thirds lenses is supported all OM-System lenses have to be focused manually.
Furthermore, the battery manages only up to ~230 shots, which is pretty inexpedient in regions without reliable power supply. The small number of shots originates in the power consumption of the display due to the missing viewfinder.
Nevertheless, beginners should be sufficiently equipped for outdoor photography with either the dwarfish kit lens M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 or the double lens kit from Panasonic, including the Lumix G 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS and the Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6 O.
Like all other LiveView cameras, the Pen offers two magnification steps - 7x as well as 10x – but the magnification ends about five millimetres at the edge of the screen so you can’t evaluate the picture margin. This is quite annoying and I really don’t understand this fact. Furthermore, the micro-four-thirds system doesn't offer any macro lenses yet. However, in combination with the mount adapter Olympus MMF-1 dedicated four-thirds macro lenses like the Olympus 35mm f/3.5 or the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 can be used but this is of course just a workaround as the mentioned lenses doesn't support the contrast AF of the Olympus E-P1 and can be focused manually only.
Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to ring- or twin-flashes as well as wired remotes as Olympus offers flash equipment for macro photography and wired remotes to avoid tripod shake.
Basically the Olympus E-P1 is suitable for macro photography but in my humble opinion it is the very last alternative on the current DSLR and micro-four-thirds market.
Just like most of the competitors, the Olympus E-P1 features bulb exposure, but unfortunately the exposure button has to remain pressed during the whole exposure without a wired remote like the Olympus RM-UC1. However, the shutter closes automatically after a predefined number of minutes, which is rather unusual.
The ISO can be set between 100 and 6400. This is quite unusual in this class and for sure too much of a good thing - settings beyond ISO 800 should generally be avoided due to exessive sensor noise. Due to the missing infrared light, the AF of the PEN struggles in low light situations and it's really hard to focus successfully. However, the PEN has a TTL controlled flash socket for the use with Olympus, Panasonic or e.g. Metz flashes.
Finally, Olympus follows with success the trend of camera build-in image stabilizers. This solution is comparable with Canon and Nikon lenses with built-in image stabilizers and offers one- as well as two-dimensional sensor shift with compensation of up to 4EV steps
High speed prime lenses are almost missing at this stage except the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, an interesting little being which feels a bit over-hyped especially considering its rather high price point but in combination with an adapter the Leica 25mm f/1.4 might be a good alternative.
Generally, the PEN provides all camera features required for portrait photography as well as a face recognition system that can be switched on. From my point of view nothing but a nice gimmick and not really needed for more serious portrait photography.
More important is the selection of special portrait lenses which is unfortunately still very modest in four-thirds and especially in Micro-Four-Thirds land. To date the system offers no high speed prime lenses between 80-90mm (40-45mm). However, Olympus states the Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 is suitable for portrait photography but it is equivalent to a "100mm f/3.5" (full format) which is not overly impressive in terms of depth of field.
Furthermore, Sigmas four-thirds 50mm f/1.4 might be a good alternative in combination with the Olympus mount adapter MMF-1, but again the contrast AF doesn't work on both lenses and only manual focusing is available.
Last but not least, the flash synchronization of 1/180s is fast enough for the typical focal lengths used for this purposes and Olympus offers different system flash units to overcome the missing build-in flash.
The maximum shutter speed of the Olympus E-P1 is 1/4000s – nothing special here, but usually sufficient for most kind of action photography and the same applies also to the X-Sync speed of 1/180s.
The PEN can shoot continuously with up to three pictures per second in JPEG-Mode, but the number of continuous RAW images is limited to only ten and this is a somewhat limiting factor within this scope.
Even worse is the continuous AF of the Olympus E-P1. As already mentioned during the body tour, the Pen keeps on focusing the lens continuously to and fro although focusing was already successful with the consequence that the image won’t be taken immediately after pressing the release button but when AF is in right position. This is more than just a limiting factor; this is a no go for serious sports photography.
It can’t get worse? Yes it can because sports photography is the photographic scenario where the missing viewfinder shows its weakness, as the refresh rate of the display after a shot is too slow to track the target and this means guessing the target's location is the only workaround in burst mode.
It is hardly worth mentioning that the sports lens portfolio is sparse in micro-four-thirds land. There is only one lens for this photographic scenario, but at least the Panasonic Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6 OIS is suitable for beginner sport photography.