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Olympus Announces Pen E-P1


Olympus Announces Pen E-P1

When Olympus first announced the Four Thirds sensor and lens mount system at the Photokina camera show in 2002, it was with the intention that this designed-for-digital system would result in smaller, lighter cameras and lenses without compromising on quality. Olympus has used the Four Thirds technology in its successful series of digital SLRs, but while these cameras are certainly of excellent quality, the size advantage of the smaller mount and sensor has been offset by the need for conventional SLR components such as the reflex mirror and optical pentaprism viewfinder. It wasn't until Panasonic launched the Lumix G1 last year, an interchangeable-lens camera with an electronic viewfinder, featuring the new Micro Four Thirds standard, that the full advantages of the system began to be realised. Even so the G1 isn't that much smaller than a conventional APS-C digital SLR.

Now however Olympus has announced a camera that could really get the ball rolling for the system. The Pen E-P1 is a beautiful new retro-styled compact camera featuring interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lenses and a Four Thirds format 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor. It has no viewfinder, instead using a live monitor display like a compact.

The Pen E-P1 is styled after the popular Olympus Pen 35mm compact camera from 1959. Designed by Yoshihisa Maitani, the original idea was for a camera that was as easy to use and carry as a pen, hence the name. The new Olympus Pen may be a little more complex than the original, since features include built-in sensor-shift image stabilisation, HD movie recording with stereo audio and HDMI output, 3fps continuous shooting and apparently Raw mode as well. It has 20 shooting modes, face detection, shadow adjustment, multiple aspect ratios, Art Filters and presumably also optional manual exposure, although the press release I received makes no mention of it.

What is clear however is that the E-P1 is a stunningly gorgeous camera, and is available in either silver and black, silver and silver or tan and white, with optional accessories including a leather "body jacket", the VF-1 hot-shoe mounted optical viewfinder, FL-14 flashgun and the MMF-1 adapter allowing the camera to use all existing Four Thirds lenses. The E-P1 is being launched in July in a number of kit configurations with a 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens, a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, or both. The body-only price is £599.99, the 14-42mm zoom kit is £699.99, the 17mm kit is £749.99, while £849.99 gets you the E-P1 and both lenses. So it's a bit expensive then.



June 20, 2009, 3:35 am

"So it's a bit expensive then"

... but look at it. the only thing that spoils the camera's gorgeous looks is all that silly text and adverts on this site. in fact, that whole page should be blank and just have the camera's picture on it.

if image quality is good enough, i'll make a note to pick one up. 600 of my hard earned pounds can happily go towards this rather than that silly iphone. /end rant.


June 20, 2009, 4:37 am

I must have missed it; when did cameras become a fashion accessory?


June 20, 2009, 5:12 am

@smc8788 - ever since the emergence of the compact market... so decades!


June 20, 2009, 5:58 am

@smc8788 - I associate cameras becoming fashion accessories with the emergence of the Olympus Mju range. When I first set eyes on the first Mju I thought it was the most stylish camera ever produced. The design is still attractive, but I'll never understand how this model looks good.

When it comes to style cameras like this and the Canon G10 look horrendous, yet because of the history and feature set, people call them attractive. It seems strange to me that as price points go up, compact cameras look increasingly ugly.

David Chamberlin

June 20, 2009, 2:35 pm

Come on guys - it's gorgeous! I had a Pen EE-3 1/2 frame for several years, and it was a wonderful little camera. It weighed a ton, and it was built like a tank, but looked very cute, and most of all took good photos at 72 per roll of film. This camera is clearly styled for people who hark back to simpler days of well-engineered point and shoot loveliness. I can't remotely afford one, but perhaps I'll wait a while until the price comes down ;-)

Luan Bach

June 21, 2009, 1:43 am

No built-in flash ?


June 21, 2009, 5:22 pm

Yup, no build-in flash. Fine by me, I try to avoid using the one on my compact whenever possible, anyway. If you want to take reasonable photos with a flash, you'll want to use an add-on flash, anyway.

This camera is to DSLRs what the Lumix LX3 is to compacts.


June 21, 2009, 6:27 pm

Agree re. flash. Bought g9 for wife as she can shoot raw in p mode - almost auto, I can process afterwards. Would love to replace the bulky and noisy g9 with this, but for social events where we'd use it, built in flash would have been very useful.

I'm not a fan of badly lit, available light images; would prefer direct flash. Plus won't pay over £100 extra for an accessory flash that can't bounce!

Even so, this seems a beautiful option. Could do with a 25mm pancake.


June 21, 2009, 9:01 pm

We'll have to see if the AF is usable. Panasonic didn't share their excellent contrast AF system from the G1 and GH1, and testing on (albeit pre-production) E-P1s found that the liveview AF on the olympus was abysmally slow, even slower than on compacts.

Let's hope Olympus has fixed that before launch.


June 22, 2009, 2:44 pm

@morsch: Well metered flashes can give decent results even on a compact. My Canon 850IS produces great results with its built-in flash.

Not sure what you mean about this being for SLRs what the LX3 is for compacts. The LX3 is a large compact, the EP1 is a small SLRtypething. They may border each other in terms of where they stand in the market but they're not respective camera-type equivalents.


June 22, 2009, 3:58 pm

Okay. Well there used to be this huge impenetrable barrier between compacts and SLR-class cameras. You could basically chose either to have horrible low-light performance -- among other things -- or to lug around a big SLR. Right, the barrier is still there, but cameras like the LX3, which I'm sure you'd agree is more than just a "large compact" on the one hand and Micro Four Thirds cams dropping the Reflex on the other, the barrier is getting smaller.

Re: Flash, maybe I'm doing something wrong then, but I've never had photos from my (aging) Lumix FX01 taken with a flash that weren't overexposed or terribly harsh in some other way; the same goes for all other compacts I have tried (not so many), and they never have manual correction of the flash, either.


June 22, 2009, 4:08 pm

@morsch: That's what I was saying, they're close to each other but that doesn't mean "This camera is to DSLRs what the Lumix LX3 is to compacts." Those two observations are subtlety different.

Don't think you're doing anything wrong. Most flashes are horrible. However, if a company has taken particular care to really tweak how a camera controls its flash it can produce decent results.

Mike Bell

June 22, 2009, 5:35 pm

Why not in black? I don't like the white one, not too keen on silver and I prefer unobtrusive black especially for street photography.

Luan Bach

June 22, 2009, 8:45 pm

Sometimes you want just to carry a camera around and not need the extra bits to take pictures. I mean, my SB800 is nearly a big and heavy as my D70s so I quite often just carry the D70s on its own and only the SB800 when I know it's going to be really needed as the onboard flash is good enough.


June 23, 2009, 3:10 am

Very interesting camera body, but Panasonic and Olympus are still deliberately crippling the Micro four thirds with the lack of a proper set of fast lenses. How about a basic-meat and-potatoes 18-50mm F2.8 lens for example? That would get sales going. if they were really serious, that should have been available at platform launch - it wasnt then and still isnt now!!

Cliff Smith

July 2, 2009, 5:31 pm

Kanu - The Micro Four Thirds system has a sensor crop or "conversion" factor of 2x, rather than the 1.5x of an APS-C sensor, so the 14-45mm standard zoom lens covers roughly the same focal length range as an 18-55mm lens would on an APS-C camera (approximately 28-90mm equivalent).

I totally agree that the Micro Four Thirds system needs a wider choice of lenses, but remember it is a relatively new system, so you can't expect it to compete with Canon or Nikon overnight. More lenses will no doubt be developed, and hopefully third-party lens manufacturers like Sigma or Tamron will produce some too.

Jim Andrews

July 7, 2009, 6:10 pm

Cliff - when are you planning to review this - I've just put my plans to buy an LX3 on hold until I find out more.

I was also wondering if anyone knows whetehr Panasonic are planning something similar to this in the Micro 4/3 format? By all accounts their AF system is better than Olympus, so I wonder if they will be the people to watch?

Cliff Smith

July 21, 2009, 1:08 am

Jim - I've had an E-P1 to test for the past week, and will be reviewing it very soon. Watch this space!

Jim Andrews

July 21, 2009, 7:22 pm

Can't wait.....thanks for the update!

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