Home / Cameras / Camera / Olympus Pen E-P1

Olympus Pen E-P1 review




Our Score:


User Score:

A little over seven months ago I reviewed the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, an SLR-like camera using a new lens mount and body design that eliminated the bulky reflex mirror and optical viewfinder that had been a feature of all SLR cameras - film and digital - since 1949. The result was a camera not much bigger than an average super-zoom, but with an SLR-sized Four Thirds sensor and a range of tiny, lightweight interchangeable lenses.

The Micro Four Thirds lens mount and the Four Thirds sensor format were co-developed with Olympus, with the latter being used in Olympus's E-system digital SLRs, and now Olympus has also launched a camera employing the new format, the Pen E-P1.

The camera's unusual name and retro styling are a reference to the original Olympus Pen, a series of half-frame 35mm cameras first launched in 1959 and continued in one form or another until the early 1980s. The model on which the Pen E-P1 is styled is the Pen F, an innovative half-frame SLR that used a rotary shutter and porro prism viewfinder, launched in 1963 and manufactured until 1972. The Pen series were nice cameras and sold well for a half-frame, but they are hardly the sought-after classics that Olympus seems to want us to think. You can pick them up on eBay for less than £20.

Classic or not, there can be little dispute that the E-P1 has an attractive design, indeed with the 17mm "pancake" prime lens that is available it could easily be mistaken for a 1970s-era 35mm compact camera. The body is all aluminium and beautifully finished in either white and tan or the silver and black shown here, which has a nice brushed metal surface. The finger grip on the front panel is hard plastic with a retro leatherette texture.

The E-P1's overall build quality is fantastic, and it has the solid feel of a quality camera, but then it would need to have. The Olympus E-P1 is currently on sale for a rather breathtaking £598 body only, or £699 including the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens shown here. Choose the lightweight 17mm f/2.8 lens instead and it will cost you £749, while a twin lens kit will set you back a whopping £849. By comparison you can get the excellent Olympus E-620 DSLR, featuring the same sensor as the E-P1, for £498 body-only, or £674 in a twin-lens kit. Style clearly comes at a price.


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/pre..., 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