Thursday, 25 June 2009

Olympus E-P1 Launch & Hands-on

The official UK launch of the highly anticipated and long awaited m4/3 camera from Olympus was today. Judging from the high interest the camera generated in forums and on various photography websites and blogs I expected a lot of people to show up and so it was.
The people I spoke to all wanted the same, a compact camera capable of producing dSLR like image quality but also allowing them to swap lenses. The Olympus E-P1 certainly is the first camera to deliver on both counts.

Although it was busy and most people wanted some hands-on with the camera, I managed to try out a few samples and will try to give a quick summary of my impression or read the full report here.

The first thing I noticed was that the camera is actually a bit bigger than I expected, especially with the zoom lens attached and if you extend the lens it becomes even bigger. With the pancake lens it becomes a lot smaller though and it is jacket pocketable but you need solid pockets as the camera is heavy.

Speaking of the weight, you might have seen the pictures of the all plastic insides posted in various forums recently and while the insides might be plastic it surely weights a lot and the outside is solid metal. It feels very solid and I would say it is as solid as the GRD II and the Olympus dSLRs they had around. The feel of the camera is great, Olympus made sure the camera feels great to hold. The handgrip is also nice and does make holding it much easier and more secure.

There have been concerns expressed regarding the low resolution of the LCD screen. While the resolution is not really as important in my view as the refresh rate and the viewing angles, I found it comparable with the GRD II screen and so very good.

The controls are all intuitive and work very fast, having two wheels is a good idea although the 4-way navigation pad could be a bit bigger to avoid accidental presses.

The AF has also been highlighted as a potential problem in a few reviews. I have to say, it is not lightning fast but it is slightly faster then the AF on the GRD II. The zoom lens takes also longer to focus than the pancake lens. Overall I would rather get the E-P1 kit with the pancake lens as I was not overly impressed with the zoom lens.

I have also tried the OVF and it is ok though as good quality as the Ricoh OVFs. It feels a bit flimsy and it is not as bright as the Gv1 for example.

In the end, I walked out without buying a E-P1 although I was very tempted. The E-P1 looks and feels like a great camera and I really like the design but it is too early to buy. The camera is a bit too big and I would like to have at least one good wide angle lens available for it.


  1. Cristian,

    Many thanks for the mini review, at last a reviewer with some sensible comment!

    I have a number of Olympus DSLRs as well as a GX100. The GX100 goes with me whenever the DSLRs are too big and inconvenient, which is a lot of the time.

    I send images to stock agencies and the GX100 can (just) produce the IQ required at least in favourable conditions.

    I would love a small size camera that could produce the IQ the DSLRs but I think the E-P1 is not it.

    For me the lack of an EVF is the real show stopper. In bright light (when the GX100 does it best) I have to use the EVF to make any meaningful framing.

    Oly say that a later m4/3 camera will have an EVF, so I will wait to see what that is like. In the meantime perhaps we will get a GX300 with much improved performance which would be an attractive prospect for me.

    My problem with the LCD in bright light is reflections rather than lack of screen brightness/contrast.

    Do you know of/use LCD screen anti-reflective plastic covers. If so are they any good?

    Thanks again for the review.


  2. Told you what to do, Cristian, put your money in a 60 day Deposit A/C or better still a 90 day A/C. :)

  3. Thanks Peter, glad you like the review and find it usefull.

    I agree that having a compact camera with great IQ is what everyone is after. The EP1 while a great step in the right direction is not quite it.

    I am not sure about any screen covers, I have none on my cameras or just some simple scratch protection which actually adds to the reflections. The CX1 and GRD II screens have a better anti-reflective coating and this works very well. You should ask Pavel in the Ricohforum, he has a good screen protector for his GRD II.

    Yesbuts, you are right, this is what I am doing and will wait to see what comes out next before buying anything. I don't need a new camera now and can wait till my Cuba holiday in November.

  4. Cristi,

    Thanks, good idea I'll post a question on the Ricoh forum.


  5. Nice mini-review, was also tempted.
    But finally it`s just an Olympus, they never achieved to get me with they`r products...

  6. Thanks Neos66! You are right, Olympus seem to always miss out something in their products.