The Olympus E-P1 - the company's first Micro Four Thirds camera, with its design based on the original Olympus PEN. But does the EP1 have the potential to become as popular as the 1959 classic? The What Digital Camera Olympus E-P1 review lifts the lid to bring you the verdict...
Image Quality & Value
Olympus E-P1 review – Image Qualiy
Tone and Exposure
The camera’s metering system successfully delivers a balanced tonal range using the ESP metering system. This does occasionally lose highlights in the most high-contrast scenes but the overall image is kept well exposed. The highlight and shadow spot modes can always be used when it is essential to maintain detail.
Colour and White Balance
Outdoors the EP-1 delivers bright and colourful results. Indoors, though, particularly at higher ISO values, the Auto White Balance tends to verge on a more yellow colouring. The range of white balance presets, however, is fairly extensive, offering an incandescent, three fluorescent, a custom setting, and even a one-touch setting that allows you to take your own reading.
Detail and Sharpness
Using the supplied 14-42mm kit lens, results are well detailed and of adequate sharpness, though this lens doesn’t get the very best out of the sensor. That said, detail is maintained at higher ISO values with the help of noise reduction and noise filters, and fringing is, at most, minor in appearance.
Noise and ISO
Noise levels become evident above ISO 800 and above ISO 3200 becomes fairly heavy. This noise is fairly monochrome throughout, however, and, by using the camera’s own noise reduction and noise filter systems, can be controlled very proficiently even at the highest ISO 6400 setting to produce a usable image.
Even at 300% magnification it is really difficult to see any differences between the Raw and the JPEG files from this camera. If anything, when left at default settings using the Olympus Master 2 software, the JPEG image seems slightly crisper but the Raw image obviously offers a greater opportunity to make adjustments to the exposure, remove noise and add sharpness without degrading the image.
Olympus E-P1 review – Value for Money
Though not aimed at the budget buyer the E-P1 is not overly expensive. It is pitched as a premium product and will undoubtedly attract attention due to its looks, but considering it costs £699 with the 14-42mm, it is nearly half the price of the Lumix GH1, and just over £200 more than the Lumix G1. And in retro terms it is a relative bargain when placed alongside the £3,000 Leica M8. Put on a broader comparison, it is £130 more than the Canon’s G10 creative compact, and £100 cheaper than the Nikon D5000, based on recommended prices, though both of these can now be found on the high street much cheaper.
So, it’s not the cheapest option on the market but its unique looks and retro appeal will no doubt bring it a decent audience willing to pay the price, and considering the price it is a pretty impressive camera. However, at its current price it is unlikely to gain the mass-market sales of the original Pen.