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Olympus Pen E-P1 - Olympus Pen E-P1

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


In other ways the E-P1 resembles a compact camera, with shooting settings including Intelligent Auto, a range of 19 Scene Mode programs, and an Art Filter setting, with some fun special effects like a high-saturation Pop Art mode, Soft Focus and a Grainy Film monochrome mode.

The E-P1 also resembles a compact camera in another way; it has no viewfinder, relying instead on its 3.0-inch 230k LCD monitor. Having used the E-P1 over the past week or so, I am increasingly of the opinion that this is a mistake. While shooting at arms length is perfectly comfortable with a normal lightweight, powered-zoom digital compact, it's an awkward and uncomfortable way to shoot with a large and fairly heavy manual zoom camera. An optional add-on optical viewfinder is available, which clips onto the flash hot shoe, but it's only calibrated for the 17mm non-zoom lens, and adds another £100 onto the price.

Another surprising omission is a built-in flash. Again a matching accessory flash gun is available, but it costs another £160. It's doubly annoying because without a flash or any sort of AF assist lamp the E-P1 has major problems in low light levels. It has a contrast detection autofocus system, which is simply not as fast or effective as the phase-detection AF system used in conventional DSLRs, and in light that is still bright enough to read by the camera frequently hunts around for a second or two and then fails to focus, and if it can't focus then it won't let you take a picture.

When it will focus however the excellent sensor-shift image stabilisation system virtually eliminates camera shake at shutter speeds as low as 1/10th of a second even at the longest setting of the zoom lens, a stability gain of around three stops.

Another very good feature is the HD video mode. It can shoot at 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps, with stereo audio recorded by two microphones positioned either side of the name badge above the lens. The video quality is excellent, as is the audio, but the microphones are non-directional, picking up sound from off-screen just as loudly as from in front of the camera. However the manual zoom can be used while shooting, as can aperture priority for depth-of-field control, and a range of art filter effects. The camera has an HDMI output for connection to a digital TV.

One interesting side-point is that the E-P1 is the first Olympus camera (as far as I am aware) to finally dispense with the expensive and unpopular xD picture cards in favour of SD/SDHC.


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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