Olympus E-P1 PEN Preview

By Michael Gakuran | | Photography | 32 Comments |

Oh yes! Finally we get information about the highly anticipated Olympus micro 4/3 camera offering. All the benefits of a DSLR camera encased within the pocket-sized goodness of a compact body. It looks like this summer may turn out to be extremely expensive…

olympus-ep1A quick explanation of why this camera matters: In short it matters because it does away with all the bulk of Digital SLR cameras, but keeps the image quality, functionality and (hopefully) performance. It’s slightly larger than the highly popular Lumix LX3, but it has a sensor equivalent to a DSLR camera and retains interchangeable lenses. How does it do this? By removing the optical viewfinder on top of the camera, the mirror inside the camera and the DSLR-style AF (autofocus) unit. (The camera does have autofocus – it just does it in a different way to current DSLRs). Check out the image below for a better understanding of the differences:

mirrorlesscamera

Why call it the ‘PEN’? Because it is based on the classic PEN series of Olympus cameras back in the 1950s. The design and classic feel of this camera are all paying homage to the classic look and feel of that series.

So how it is comparable to a DSLR in quality? Basically, because it has a DSLR-sized sensor and pro-level features to use. Here’s Myfourthirds with a superb explanation on sensor sizes and why this camera has the ability to shoot in low light without the grain and poor performance that virtually all consumer point and shoots cameras suffer from:

A Four Thirds sensor is 5.6 times larger in area than the largest of digital P&S camera sensors. At the same time, the Four Thirds sensor is greater than 1/3 the size of a 35mm sensor used in cameras starting at $2699 USD. This means the top P&S camera has a pixel density of about 34MP/cm2 (Canon G10) and the top DSLR has a pixel density of about 2.9MP/cm2 (Sony A900). Less is more for our purposes because what allows photographers to capture a top quality image is the quality of a pixel. Squeezing 34MP/cm2 means less light and less data for the sensor to capture. On the other hand, the size of the pixels capturing light at 2.9MP/cm2 are much larger leading to a much cleaner image. In conclusion, the pixel density on the Olympus E-P1 equals 5.1MP/cm2 meaning you’ll get all the quality and quantity of pixels you’ll likely ever need to achieve your photographic goals. The only people exempt from this statement are professionals who make a living with photography – who we ironically expect to write articles in the coming months stating they will be using it as a carry-around or street photography camera.

olympus0e-p1

So, is this really DSLR quality in a compact camera? In a word – yes. Whether or not it can deliver SLR level functionality is another matter that will become apparent over the next few weeks as the camera gets reviewed. I hope and hope that it does – it would be such a shame to have come this far it it can’t deliver in performance as it does on paper. Note that there is a hotshoe flash available (no shoddy flash built into the camera) and also a hotshoe OVF viewfinder available separately, in case you are a traditionalist at heart and love to look through one :).

olympus11e-p1

Here’s a brief technical specification. If you want any more information, just follow the links at the bottom of this page to photography sites that explain it all in detail. Engadget (also where the top image is from) summarises it as follows:

We’re looking at an image stabilized (sensor-shift) 12.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor with TruePic V image processing, ISO 100-6400 sensitivity, a 3-inch LCD, 20 shooting modes (5 exposure, i-Auto, and 14 automatic scenes), an SDHC slot, and HDMI TV-out for playback of 720p (1280×720 pixel) recorded video at 30fps. The 14-42 lens kit retracts into the barrel when not in use and Olympus’ Supersonic Wave Filter helps keep dust under control when swapping-out the lens for Micro Four Thirds, Four Thirds, or OM lenses.

And finally, what about the release date and price? According to the Japanese Olympus website, it’s set for the 3rd July! Price is likely to be around $800 including kit lens, according to several sources I’ve seen. Righty, who’s gonna be buying me one as a graduation present? :D

Other sources:

Official Olympus PEN page
Myfourthirds
DpReview Preview

32 comments on “Olympus E-P1 PEN Preview
  1. NRecob says:

    That “1978” should be “1971”.

  2. NRecob says:

    That “1978” should be “1971”.

  3. NRecob says:

    Good on ya Olympus for changing things up AGAIN (first time circa 1978 with Maitanti’s OM-1)

  4. NRecob says:

    Good on ya Olympus for changing things up AGAIN (first time circa 1978 with Maitanti’s OM-1)

  5. Jip says:

    This is long overdue.

    Film rangefinder cameras have been rivalling film SLRs for a very long time -different, but not inferior for image quality.

    Its about time we had this – a good size sensor in a compact digital body, with interchangeable lenses.

    Kudos to Olympus. I always liked them, in some ways better than the heavywigth guys of Nikon and Canon.

  6. Jip says:

    This is long overdue.

    Film rangefinder cameras have been rivalling film SLRs for a very long time -different, but not inferior for image quality.

    Its about time we had this – a good size sensor in a compact digital body, with interchangeable lenses.

    Kudos to Olympus. I always liked them, in some ways better than the heavywigth guys of Nikon and Canon.

  7. karatedog says:

    If it can take about 3 shots/sec then I’m a buyer. If it lags, like the P&S cameras, I’ll stick to my D40.

  8. karatedog says:

    If it can take about 3 shots/sec then I’m a buyer. If it lags, like the P&S cameras, I’ll stick to my D40.

  9. jamesdean says:

    One up for Olympus. This latest patented invention will certainly make Olympus to be the leading brand ahead of Canon and Nikon.

  10. jamesdean says:

    One up for Olympus. This latest patented invention will certainly make Olympus to be the leading brand ahead of Canon and Nikon.

  11. Larry Ikon says:

    Just got the Oly E3. Sold my Lumix LX3 because I have the ZS3 that simply takes better pictures! This frees up coins for the Oly EP-1 that I simply Must Have! LOL!

  12. Larry Ikon says:

    Just got the Oly E3. Sold my Lumix LX3 because I have the ZS3 that simply takes better pictures! This frees up coins for the Oly EP-1 that I simply Must Have! LOL!

  13. EP-1 says:

    Want it unless they haven’t solved the live-view af issue.

  14. EP-1 says:

    Want it unless they haven’t solved the live-view af issue.

  15. nihonjon says:

    俺も買って貰おうかな。。。

  16. nihonjon says:

    俺も買って貰おうかな。。。

  17. darg says:

    Sigh… man that looks nice. Too bad I’m broke too, I feel your pain.

  18. darg says:

    Sigh… man that looks nice. Too bad I’m broke too, I feel your pain.

  19. James says:

    That is one sexy piece of kit, very retro looking. But can a DSLR that small really be all that? Just sold my old snap and shoot to sofmap for 7,000 yen… so am in the market for a camera.

    Hey does this mean those big hulking huge ones will come down in price?

    • Mike says:

      Hey James,

      It’s not the size of the camera, but the sensor size and functionality that counts. According to the specs, this camera matches DSLRs in both those respects. It’ll be reviewed properly in the coming weeks, so hopefully then we’ll find out if it can match conventional consumer DSLRs in performance too :)

      As for the big, hefty DSLRs coming down in price… I’m not sure they will. This camera marks the beginning of a new type of camera – it’s in a niche of its own, aimed at consumers who want DSLR quality and interchangeable lenses without all the bulk of it conventional DSLRS

  20. James says:

    That is one sexy piece of kit, very retro looking. But can a DSLR that small really be all that? Just sold my old snap and shoot to sofmap for 7,000 yen… so am in the market for a camera.

    Hey does this mean those big hulking huge ones will come down in price?

    • Mike says:

      Hey James,

      It’s not the size of the camera, but the sensor size and functionality that counts. According to the specs, this camera matches DSLRs in both those respects. It’ll be reviewed properly in the coming weeks, so hopefully then we’ll find out if it can match conventional consumer DSLRs in performance too :)

      As for the big, hefty DSLRs coming down in price… I’m not sure they will. This camera marks the beginning of a new type of camera – it’s in a niche of its own, aimed at consumers who want DSLR quality and interchangeable lenses without all the bulk of it conventional DSLRS

  21. Carol Downey says:

    Graduation present??? We are in the midst of a “crunch” or haven’t you heard;)))*grin*

  22. Satoshii says:

    Damn you, you’re making me want one of those and you know I haven’t got the money!! *shakes fist*

  23. Satoshii says:

    Damn you, you’re making me want one of those and you know I haven’t got the money!! *shakes fist*

  24. C says:

    Graduation present??? We are in the midst of a “crunch” or haven’t you heard;)))*grin*

  25. Rrabano says:

    Sexy looking. Need to see this in BB when it comes out July.

  26. Rrabano says:

    Sexy looking. Need to see this in BB when it comes out July.

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