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Customer Review

195 of 201 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small camera, big performance, July 6, 2009
This review is from: Olympus PEN E-P1 12 MP Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens (Silver Body/Black Lens) (Electronics)
This past holiday week-end I made the decision not to take my Nikon DSLR with me on a 3 day road trip to Minneapolis. The majority of my time was spent wandering the Mall of America, and the E-P1 was an absolute delight the entire time.

This little camera makes me smile each time I use it!

If you don't care to word a long, winding review let me summarize it. The E-P1 doesn't have to make any apologies for being petite, its a full fledged camera on its own merit.

* Great photo quality!
* Built in image stabilization (works pretty well too)
* Customizable and responsive interface/buttons
* HD movie mode with autofocus
* Low profile, doesn't get you noticed
* Quiet. I'd say quieter than my old rangefinders and way more quiet than my DSLR's

Could be better
* Battery life
* Perhaps almost too customizable (pretty good learning curve). Keep the manual handy!

I'm not a people shooter and certainly not a "street" shooter but my week-end was spent at the Mall of America, which is enormous but all in doors. It was an interesting challenge. I found that although I fumbled with the interface and settings a bit, it became very engrossing and almost mesmerizing to shoot publicly with the E-P1. It never drew attention, not once, where as I saw people clearing out from the obvious DSLR guys like fish around a barracuda in the reef.

Lens: My only lens is the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, which doesn't sound too exciting. However in practice it has been a great general utility lens that has rendered quite nicely, showing nice resolution and sharpness. I can only anticipate what the E-P1 will do with a quality, wide aperture prime. I'm up in the air about my next move, but the 50mm f/2 sure looks tempting. But then again it would be great to try OM mount too! Arg....

Auto-Focus: I've read some questions about the auto-focus performance of this camera, but in normal operation haven't see an issue yet. Granted I haven't tried to shoot a basketball game or dance recital yet so take this with a grain of salt. For my people shooting in the mall the AF performance has been wonderful and spot on. When I've gone to outdoor settings or even just trying to snap something quick from my car, I've found that the autofocus is quite a ways behind my D90. I think it is real world quick, but it is probably a step slower to focus than any DSLR on the market. Not saying that's a bad thing, some worth knowing.

Sensor: The sharpness I see from this camera is well beyond what I expected, so there may be something to the talk that Olympus removed the strong anti-alias filtering most DSLR's are plagued with. The jpg results thus far haven't required any post process sharpening and the Olympus color engine is a breath of fresh air in my opinion.

Handling: Coming form a DSLR will make you take a little time to get used to the difference. Getting used to shooting with a LiveView display will also take some getting used to. There isn't a front/rear two wheel control system as I'm used to with the D90, but there are two primary controls for manual shooting and they can both be worked while shooting one handed. Very nice design! The buttons and functions are all fully customizable but expect to be nestled up with the manual a wee bit to do it. All in all composing from the LiveView LCD became very natural and fluid after a day. High marks to Olympus in designing such a usable system. The only thing I still have to figure out is a button to disable auto-focus so I can go fully manual.

Results: The bottom line to any camera is what it can produce. The E-P1 is not a D700, A900 or 5DII. Those are different kinds of cameras that excel at higher ISO and extreme resolutions. What the E-P1 is to me is a system capable of going toe-to-toe with any DX sensor system on the market in terms of deliverable results. No it doesn't shoot 8 frames per second. Again not that kind of camera.

This is a practical camera whose size and form factor make it usable in places that larger cameras wouldn't work as well or possibly not at all. I'm seeing very detailed and sharp results up to ISO 1,250. After years of shooting 35mm, DSLR and even large format I'd have to say this is the most fun I've had with any camera I've owned. Its a camera guy's camera that the beginner can use as well.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 9, 2009 5:58:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 9, 2009 6:04:22 AM PDT
Joseph Jones says:
Thanks David, for your review. I can't wait to get an E-P1 of my own, hopefully sometime next week. And I will approach it in the same manner you have, and fully expect it to be every bit as good as your review suggests. I know there were some concerns about shutter lag, but learning of the 3 fps burst rate, I don't imagine it would be any worse than my nikon D80, has this been your experience?

Again, a very helpful review. Thanks for sharing.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2009 6:49:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 9, 2009 6:50:45 AM PDT
I have found that the E-P1 isn't as responsive overall as my D90, but didn't really expect it to. Autofocus is surprisingly spry considering its using a totally different method from a classic SLR/DSLR. In my testing the noise levels are elevated from the D90 but not to objectionable levels and this is perfectly fine too since the D90 is probably pound-for-pound one of the best DSLR systems out there at the moment. I believe you will find the overall photo IQ very similar to the D80 but in a body that is way more low key and portable.

One positive I didn't cover is that think Olympus does jpeg shooting better than Nikon and the photos have a wonderful sharpness about them and great color without being over the top with regard to saturation. The jpeg engine can be tuned up a lot like the D90 through custom photo settings (saturation, contrast, sharpness). I like that you can set multiple levels of noise reduction in jpeg mode, including off. I've found that the "low" setting drops noise nicely while not smearing details so that is what I use in daily shooting.

I haven't tried sustained high speed shooting yet. It probably won't excel at this in the default configuration but can be made to do a respectable job by turning off face detection, noise reduction, and reducing the jpg quality from super high to a lessor setting.

This camera makes a great tandem to my DSLR and that is how I plan to use it. But I think someone could do very impressive work with the E-P1 on its own as well by taking the time to fully understand all the various settings, but this will require a pretty good understanding of digital photography and careful study of the E-P1 manual.

Hope that helps!

Posted on Jul 25, 2009 6:37:28 AM PDT
R. Chase says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2009 8:28:01 AM PDT
Sorry but I disagree. More megapixels aren't always the answer and there is no compact camera that competes with this camera. As of the time we are discussing this the highest quality sensors in APS-C or smaller size is arguably 12 megapixels (if you look at dynamic range, noise, etc.). The attraction of this camera isn't that it has a super high tech sensor, its that it has a very competent sensor that is packaged in a creative way. I'm a Nikon shooter for the most part but neither them nor Canon has been able to answer the call for a high quality, compact camera. While the E-P1 is not a super compact package it is a great deal different than a DSLR. In the past couple weeks I've grown to treasure the small size, low weight and high quality output even more than my initial impression. If you want the utmost, killer photo "IQ" and resolution then look to the Nikon D700, Canon 5D Mk II or Sony A900 (especially the 5DII/A900 if you are solely into mexapixels). If you want the best compact camera on the market today then I don't see any alternative that is as capable as the E-P1. Its not a perfect camera, but it is a darn good one.

Posted on Jul 27, 2009 3:10:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 19, 2009 3:42:37 AM PDT
I've seen videos that the E-P1 took, and it seems to have an awful lot of auto-focus noise. Can you confirm this?


OK, so nobody can answer my question, and yet people seem content with marking my post as "unhelpful"? Oh, the irony of the internet....

Posted on Aug 11, 2009 7:14:45 AM PDT
Scott Chou says:
is the video autofocus continuous like it is on the Panasonic GH1 or just once at the beginning when you press the shutter like on the Nikon D90?

Posted on Aug 9, 2010 8:08:03 AM PDT
Kelly Olsen says:
I just bought one of these, and I love it. To get to the manual focus option, push the left side of the black dial and scroll to MF (third option). It's a bit tricky using the lens focus ring to get it to show up, it zooms in to show you whether or not you are focused, and it makes you a bit dizzy until you practice a few times. It's taken some practice, but I think I have it down after about a week and have been taking some great photos ever since.
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