Olympus E-P1 Micro Four Thirds Rangefinder-style Camera First Thoughts and First Specs

Olympus has introduced their first Micro Four Thirds camera – the Olympus PEN E-P1.

The compact new Olympus PEN E-P1 has a 12.3-megapixel sensor and it’s Olympus’ first changeable lens camera to offer a movie mode (720p HD).

The Micro Four Thirds format was announced last August and since then we’ve been anxiously waiting to find out what Olympus would do with it. Panasonic has introduced two Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Lumix G1 and the GH1 with HD video. But until now, the only Micro Four Thirds action we’ve seen from Olympus was behind glass at tradeshows. But now there’s an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera we can bank on – and it’s not just a list of specs and features, either.

Olympus PEN E-P1 Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera

The Olympus PEN E-P1 was named in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Olympus Pen half-frame film camera. The lines of the E-P1’s sleek metal body are an obvious nod to that heritage. And like the Olympus Pen-Series, the Micro Four Thirds format E-P1 offers high-performance in a smaller camera body. Basically, the Micro Four Thirds format eliminates the SLR mirror so the camera and lenses can be smaller and lighter (for more on the Micro Four Thirds format, read our Micro Four Thirds Introduction article).The Olympus PEN E-P1’s stainless steel and aluminum body is comparable in size to a 35mm rangefinder and has a solid, metallic feel that traditionalists will love. Unlike the Panasonic Lumix G-Series Micro Four Thirds cameras, which have electronic viewfinders (EVF), the Olympus E-P1 only uses only a 3-inch, 230k-pixel LCD for viewing and composing, allowing them to make the camera even smaller. That allowed Olympus to make the E-P1 the smallest 12-megapixel digital camera with changeable lenses. It’s as if you chopped the top off one of the smallest digital SLRs and then squished the body front to back (see below). Lens diameters are also smaller and less glass makes the camera even lighter. The Olympus PEN E-P1’s size feels closer to high-end compacts like the Canon G10 than a digital SLR. But the EP-1’s 12-megapixel Four Thirds sensor is much larger than the G10’s and can deliver far better image quality.

There is one detail to note about image quality – the new True Pic V image processor is supposed to have a significantly better signal-to-noise ratio and that should mean better high-ISO image quality (the E-P1 maxes out at ISO 6400). Since the Four Thirds sensor is smaller than APS-C sensors in most DSLRs, it’s a bit much to expect the E-P1 (as well as Four Thirds digital SLRs) to match their image quality. The E-P1 has an image-stabilized sensor so image stabilization is available regardless of the lens you use.

If you’ve got Leica M-rangefinder lenses you can get a Micro Four Thirds M-mount adapter and you’ll be able to shoot image-stabilized photos with Leica glass on the E-P1.

Excellent reference to the Olympus E-P1 can be found here:

The Olympus PEN E-P1 is available for ordering now and is priced US $ 799.99.


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