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Olympus Pen E-P1 - Olympus Pen E-P1

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


The E-P1 may look like a compact camera, but it isn't particularly small or lightweight compared to most current digital compacts. It measures 120.5 x 70 x 35mm and weigh 335g body-only, about twice the size and weight a typical compact. However to put it in perspective the Panasonic G1 measures 124 x 83.6 x 45.2mm and weighs 385g body only, while the Canon G10 measures 109.1 x 77.7 x 45.9mm and weighs 350g. It's also considerably smaller and lighter than any current DSLR, which is important because it seeks to duplicate a DSLR's performance and image quality.

The E-P1's specification is certainly more like that of an SLR than a compact. It has a 12.3-megapixel 4/3rds Live MOS sensor with a claimed four stops of image stabilisation and Supersonic Wave Filter self-cleaning mechanism. It has a high speed TruePic V image processor (the E-620 has TruePic III+) and it has an extensive range of manual exposure options for the more experienced photographer. The shutter speeds range from 1/4000th of a second to 30mins in B mode, the sensitivity range is 100 - 6400 ISO in 1/3EV increments, and aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure are available.

The camera's controls are similar to those of an E-system DSLR, although styled rather differently. The main shooting mode dial is partly concealed under the left side of the top plate, while exposure control is adjusted via either the rotary D-pad or the odd roller control on the upper right of the back plate, both of which are quite fiddly to operate smoothly.

Control over the main shooting functions such as image quality, ISO setting, metering and AF mode, white balance and drive/self-timer mode is provided by an on-screen quick menu similar to the ones seen on many of Olympus's compact cameras.

Thankfully Olympus has finally seen the error of its ways and changed its main menu design, and it is a massive improvement. Menu options include fully customisable colour profiles, adjustable tone (gradation) and image aspect ratio. The E-P1 can shoot in 4:3, 16:9, 3:2 and 6:6 formats.

There is a hidden area of the menu which, once activated, gives access to an extensive list of custom functions which make it possible to set the camera up just the way you like it, including customising noise reduction, colour space and some default ISO settings.


July 25, 2009, 2:40 pm

I've always been a fan of proper Olympus cameras and it's good to see them producing cameras in the vein of the Trip and OM-10 that I already have.

It looks like a lovely bit of kit and the price isn't offputting considering I paid more for my Canon EOS 350D + lens when new. The low light performance however is a bit of a disappointment and it would be interesting to see how the camera copes alongside a Canon G10 in real world use. If they came out with a revised version with a better sensor it would be extremely appealing.


July 25, 2009, 4:59 pm

The shop was kind enough to let me have ago. i absoloutely love it :)


July 25, 2009, 11:38 pm

It might be expensive, but it appears to be selling by the bucketload, especially in Japan and the US. The only other alternative available is Panasonic's GH1, which sells for an eye watering £1200, has similar image quality to the E-P1, comes bundled with a lens with distortion problems and is also made of plastic. When you take this into account, and also the fact the EP-1 is marketed as a premium, niche object, like a Leica rangefinder, then I think it's not that badly priced.


July 26, 2009, 4:15 pm

But then the GH1, while I agree is hideously expensive (as is this), is aimed at a different market as it's pretty much a hybrid camera/camcorder.


July 27, 2009, 4:37 am

Oh come on, guys, this is every bit as much a fashion accessory as the designer compacts - but in this case designed to impress other photographers 'in the know' - just as wearing a Nikon or Canon is far more impressive than wearing a Sony or Fuji. It isn't so long ago that SLRs where referred to as male jewelary...

Right, I'll duck the flack now.


July 27, 2009, 9:21 pm

dSLR are still fashion accessories. Walk around London and everyone's carrying them. Even when they do not have the slightest clue how to use them and have the setting set to auto.


August 1, 2009, 10:51 pm

Confusion beginning to set in here - a quick whizz round other reviews puts image quality on par with DSLRs. Is your IQ rating of 8 as compared to compacts or DSLRs?


August 2, 2009, 9:16 am

I have to agree with Splogbust here. The high noise ISO results look pretty good. Compare the shots with the E-620 and they look pretty good. The E-620 earns a 7 in image quality and the E-P1 DOES score an 8, but then so does the E-420. The IQ is clearly superior to the E-420 (which also scores an 8)and so the E-P1 should be for the extra money.

The IQ rating system seems that it may be tied to price/performance rather an an objective rating. If so, the camera gets a double penalty to its overall rating by hamminging it (deservedly) with a poor value rating.

Cliff Smith

August 5, 2009, 5:26 pm

As I've stated before, my review scores aren't tricorder readings, they're just numbers summarising my opinion, based on my experience of using this and hundreds of other cameras. This is one of the reasons I've never liked the whole idea of review scores, because you're never really comparing like with like, and to get an meaningful numerical representation you'd have to have hundreds of different scores for every aspect of the product's performance, which would be incredibly tedious both to write and to read. If you want to know what I think, don't compare numbers, read the text of the review.

There's a group called DIWA that has tried to suggest a standardised test sheet for camera review scores. You can find their standard test sheet at http://www.diwa-awards.com/..., but I don't think I'd want to meet the kind of person who would willingly fill in a 200-item checklist for every single camera, and I don't believe the TR's readers want to see that kind of review.


March 8, 2010, 12:42 am

I bought mine today at Focus Exhibition for a pretty good price. Loving it already.


May 5, 2010, 12:57 am

Fashion accessory, maybe, but also a very competent lightweight camera with a range of lenses. And you can focus manually, so hunting in low light (assuming there is enough to see by) isn't really a problem. Just part exed to get one for taking on hikes/walks, and am very happy. It was the low noise (compared to theG10 I had) and the range of lenses that sold me. And the review here...

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