Home / Cameras / Camera / Olympus Pen E-P1 / Olympus Pen E-P1

Olympus Pen E-P1 - Olympus Pen E-P1

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


The E-P1's performance is good for a compact, but looks a little slow compared to most DSLRs. It starts up in well under two seconds, although if you're using the 14-42mm lens you have to remember to manually extend it from its folded position first. In single shot mode the slow autofocus means that is has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 2.3 seconds. In continuous mode it shows how fast it could go, by maintaining three frames a second in both Raw and JPEG modes.

I haven't had a chance to try the 17mm f/2.8 lens yet, but the Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is excellent, producing pin-sharp detail from corner to corner at all focal lengths with barely any optical distortion and no trace of chromatic aberration thanks to the use of ED glass. There are two optional adaptors available that allow the E-P1 to use both existing E-system lenses and even OM-system 35mm lenses. As far as I know it should also accept Panasonic G-system lenses.

In terms of overall image quality the E-P1 is a bit of a mixed bag. Exposure metering is up to Olympus's traditional high standard, and in good light the results are excellent. In high-contrast conditions it has more dynamic range than any compact I can think of, with detail even in dark shadows, although even in Raw mode it blows out some highlights that a good APS-C DSLR would catch. Colour rendition is also very good, with plenty of detail even in bright saturated areas.

I was expecting the E-P1 to show similar high-ISO noise results as the Panasonic G1, but unfortunately this is not the case. While the G1 doesn't start showing any noise until 800 ISO, the E-P1 has visible colour mottling and noise in the darker tones at its default auto setting of 200 ISO, getting progressively worse, although overall colour reproduction remains reasonably good right up to 3200 ISO. JPEG images also show some over-sharpening, but at least the compression rate is nice and low, with fine JPEG mode producing files of around 5.5MB and Raw files of around 12MB.


The Olympus E-P1 is an interesting and innovative camera, and as a first model in what will probably be a series it has some very nice features. Build quality and finish are of an exceptionally high standard, and image quality and performance are safely superior to the vast majority of compact cameras. However the enormous cost compared to a good DSLR, and the lack of either a viewfinder or built-in flash will put many people off.


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...

comments powered by Disqus