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Olympus PEN E-P1 micro-four-thirds camera bridges compact & DSLR

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Will_B, Jun 26, 2009.

  1. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    I truly believe this is the beginning of a revolution in compact cameras, so pardon what may seem to be my unbridled enthusiasm for the new Olympus E-P1 "Pen" camera.

    The Olympus E-P1 is the first of the new "micro-four-thirds" standard camera with interchangeable lenses (another company produced one earlier, but it wasn't flexible).

    [​IMG]

    The concept is that a large, nearly-DSLR-sized sensor is now within a compact camera body. The body itself essentially started with a DSLR and then had the mirror assembly deleted. Depth was depleted per specs that the new micro-four-thirds standard has developed, as well. Even the lenses are smaller, per the micro-four-thirds standard (which I should add is not an Olympus exclusive standard, other companies will be making micro-four-thirds this year and next also).

    [​IMG]

    Olympus President Kikukawa earlier stated the E-P1 carries forward the philosophy of the original “PEN” compact film camera from the 1960s -- a full featured camera is a compact size. Mr. Kikukawa explained, “Among users of compact digital cameras, more than 30% want to use a DSLR. However, many do not step-up to the DSLR due to the price, size, weight, or difficulty of use. We are aiming for these users. We intend to revolutionize the picture business through our advancements in the MicroFourThirds system.”

    In keeping with the retro associations, the E-P1 is being launched amid an advertising campaign that is wonderfully late-1950s/early-1960s (see images below), and the camera itself will be available in a chic white as well as the more traditional silver. If you search flickr you'll see that at the launch event, they gave out the camera and had many models dressed similarly, and antique vehicles, and other fun stuff to help drive home the point that this camera both looks cool and is cool.

    My personal fave is the white body with silver lens. Some say it is too feminine but I don't care.

    [​IMG]

    There's even white straps available to match! Party doll a go-go!

    [​IMG]

    Notice that there is no viewfinder; since the intent here is to make a large-sensored camera in as small a body as possible. Olympus appreciates that many people don't use viewfinders anymore, indeed, it is sometimes seen as a bit rude to hold a camera in front of your face. There's a 3" LCD on the back with live-view. An add-on viewfinder is available, in any case.

    The large sensor is a 12.3 Megapixel Live MOS imager, to provide nearly-DSLR quality images (their promo materials says "DSLR quality images" but I'll say "nearly" because the sensors in, say, a Canon Rebel XSi are a bit larger still). The E-P1 has three modes of In-Body Image Stabilization. It has video, 720p, if anyone cares.

    The two lenses available now for the launch are the M.Zuiko 17mm f2.8 -- which should be the choice of serious photographers who want the faster speed --- or the 14-42mm f3.5-4.5 zoom. If you get the 17mm, there's an optional clip-on viewfinder (very old fashioned!).

    A large gamble Olympus took (which I disagree with) was trying to accentuate that this camera works well enough in low-light to not need a flash. Either that or they just couldn't cram it in there without causing red-eye. In either case, if you want a flash, you need to attach a high quality one -- the FL-14 Flash is made for the E-P1, and it is nice and small, but still, from a marketing perspective even a cell-phone-sized flash in the corner of the camera for emergencies would have been nice. Granted, people will get much better flash quality with this hot-shoe mounted flash, but, it's another gizmo. Fortunately, the sample pics of low-light are impressive.

    [​IMG]

    Lastly, here's the configurations available now (or in a matter of days):

    The Olympus Pen E-P1 is available in the following configurations:
    • E-P1 Kit Silver/Black
    (E-P1 body silver & M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens black)

    • E-P1 Kit Silver/Silver
    (E-P1 body silver & M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens silver)

    • E-P1 Kit White/Silver
    (E-P1 body white & M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens silver)

    • E-P1 Pancake Kit Silver
    (E-P1 body silver & M. ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake lens silver & VF-1)

    • E-P1 Pancake Kit White (harder to find)
    (E-P1 body white & M. ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake lens silver & VF-1)

    • E-P1 Double Lens Kit (not available in the United States)
    (E-P1 body silver & M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens silver & M. ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake lens silver &
    VF-1)
     
  2. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    And for comparison, here's the real Olympus PEN, 1966 model, that Olympus says inspired them:

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    Dimensions via Amazon.com

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    Not that I can afford it this year, but, on the heels of Olympus' lovely but flawed EP-1 camera comes Panasonic's response: the GF-1.

    For everyone who did not rush out and buy the EP-1, who either lacked the cash or decided it was sensible to wait to see how these new kind of cameras would evolve, we are seeing that evolution now. Panasonic's new GF1 is essentially identical to the EP-1, but their PR department made sure to stick it to Olympus' failure to include a flash in the EP-1 by mentioning "a built-in flash" in the very first sentence of their press release for the GF1.

    Myself, I am waiting for Olympus' response... for the EP-2 (or whatever it may be called), which will surely correct the mistakes Olympus made with the EP-1. Because even if the Panasonic GF1 may have trumped the EP-1 in terms of flash and focus speed, I have high hopes that the EP-2 will have the same beautiful retro-futuristic style that the EP-1 has, and that counts for a lot in my book. In contrast, the Panasonic GF1 is rather ugly -- although it too will be offered in white.

    In summary, I'm waiting for Olympus, and am excited by the tit for tat process of this competition. (If Olympus fails to deliver an improvement this December, then Panasonic wins with the GF1, because in addition to providing a flash (which is hidden inside the corner -- it pops up when needed), the Panasonic has a higher resolution lcd screen on the back, a faster autofocus, and a better wide angle lens.)

    The new Panasonic GF1 (available in several colors, including white. Looks similar to the recent Olympus EP-1, doesn't it? But less 1960s, and more Space:1999:
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Make it $300 and have a Nikkor Adapter and I am in. 2x crop factor hurts on the wide end tho!
     
  6. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    I agree! Make it $400 and I'm in. These things -- both the EP1 and the GF1 -- are more like $800 since they're such new technology. That's more expensive than a DSLR. But they're so shiny!

    One nagging concern about the micro4/3rds cameras such as the EP1 and the GF1 is that even though the sensor is much larger than any previous compact camera, it is still only about 2/3rds the size of the sensor found in DSLR cameras. So there will always be the lingering awareness that you've sacrificed a bit of image quality. For those who don't like that feeling, Samsung is due to introduce a camera line with a full-size sensor. But... it won't be as pretty as the EP1.

    The Samsung NX line will resemble a slimmed-down DSLR camera more than it will resemble a compact. The useless mound on the top that, on an SLR, contains a viewfinder you put your eye up against, has been reduced in size. (I wish it had been removed completely.) It still looks too much like an SLR to me, but, it is another indication that the effort to put large sensors into smaller bodies is well underway.

    No info on pricing yet, but previews abound. If they make a version without the mound, the NX series may compete with the EP1 and GF1. If they don't, it will still steal some EP1 ad GF1 customers away simply on the strength of the larger sensor.


    [​IMG]

    With Samsung, Leica and Ricoh about to prove that you can in fact fit an APS-C sensor into a compact body, the only way the micro4/3rds format will survive is by dramatically lowering their prices to compete with consumer compacts. And that is unlikely to happen this soon into the launch of the micro4/3rds concept. The investors will resist reality.
    Please know, I was totally supportive of the Olympus EP1. I wanted one. But I only wanted one when the alternative was a full size, bulky DSLR.
    That isn’t the situation any more. The micro4/3rds is going to become a niche product, very quickly, if it does not revise its strategy and pricing.
    APS-C sensors in compact bodies is the real revolution. Micro4/3rds was a false start.
     
  7. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Originally Posted by Sam Posten

    _Man_
     
  8. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I'd buy that for a dollar!
     

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