Olympus PEN E-P1 Micro Four-Thirds camera
Grown-up compact for DSLR lovers?
Review Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. We used to looked back at past technologies with fond memories, but be grateful that we lived in the modern world. Now, it seems, some of us want a piece of both the past and the present, with gadgets combining an old exterior with a modern interior.
Olympus' PEN EP-1: not your dad's camera - even though it looks like it
Take the number of DAB radios designed to look like products from the 1950s. And take the Olympus PEN E-P1, a camera that looks like something your parents would have used back in the 1960s, yet one that uses one of the latest digital camera technologies, Micro Four-Thirds (MFT).
Developed by Olympus and Panasonic, MFT cameras use a 4/3in image sensor with an effective imaging area of 17.3 x 13.0mm. This is smaller than the sensors found on digital LSRs but much larger than those used by compact cameras.
Like DSLRs, the MFT format uses interchangeable lenses, but it reduces the camera body size by eliminating the single-lens reflex mirror box and using an all-electronic viewing system. In other words, the PEN E-P1 is aimed at the enthusiast looking for DLSR-like performance from a smaller, more portable camera. You can find out more about Micro Four-Thirds here.
When we looked at Panasonic’s MFT camera, the Lumix DMC-G1 - reviewed here - we noted how the company had designed it to look like a DSLR. Olympus has gone even further, basing the PEN E-P1’s design on the PEN half-frame 35mm camera launched in 1959. If you like the retro look, you’ll love the PEN E-P1’s appearance.
Missing in action: there's no electronic viewfinder
We happen to think it looks and feels great, with our sample having a chrome body, brown leather shoulder strap and fake leather finger grip at the front. The photos show the general control layout. Underneath is a 12.3Mp (effective) sensor and a "Super Sonic Wave" dust cleaning system. The shutter speed runs from 1/2000 to 60 seconds, ISO from 100 to 6400.
Use it with Leica Lenses, Novoflex adapter and Voigtlaender optical viewfinder
I have been looking for a camera like this for some time. The Sigma DP-1 looked nice on paper, but received bad reviews. So, this was out. The Olympus Pen looked promising, too, got favourable reviews (mostly) but needed some time to mature, in my opinion. Meanwhile, the PANASONIC GF-1 was introduced, competing with the Olympus Pen.
The reason I bought the Olympus was the somewhat better image quality (in reviews) and the metal body. I use it with my Leica M6 Summicron and the Tele-Elmarit, attached to the German Novoflex adapter. I do not need an internal flash, because of the high ISO ratings of the Pen for available light photography. The slow autofocus I do not care about because my lenses are manual anyway, and I want it for landscape pictures. My viewfinder is an optical one from Voigtlaender I happened to have.
What I like about this camera is the almost Leica-like feeling of quality and the image quality.
For me, it is a pleasure to touch and use. The adapters support a wide range of quality lenses from Zeiss, Voigtlaender and Leica. I have other cameras, too, DSLRs from NIKON, for example, which are also quite useful.
What I have been missing over the years, however, is the feeling of quality I enjoyed with my Leica M6, and my Rollei 35s.
So I am happy. - The question is, how long. I hope the Olympus Pen will keep me from getting a Leica M9, the price of which is a bit steep.
Amidst all the photo-nerdery, you've all failed to notice who the review was written by- George Cole, from TV's Minder!
It's lovely to see you (how's Terry by the way?), and all but why are you here doing this?
The old Liquid Gold account finally run dry?
@AC at 11:14
Yeah, I know that - I actually have a 5"x7"/half-frame Gandolfi Universal large format btw. (Interesting note - it's either 5x7 or 7x5 depending upon what side of the Atlantic you happen to inhabit!). And while I don't shoot with it that often anymore (daylight developing large sheets is a pain and I don't have a darkroom at home), it is entirely for DOF and resolution that I do so. Scan with an Epson 750 and voila - a 50mpix resolution "digital" photo with enormous DOF.
I wanted to keep it simple for an El Reg audience, not the Steve's Cams or dpreview audience, or even the Ken Rockwell audience.
And the desire to crop the frame is EXACTLY why I prefer squarer formats - they give you the most flexibility to crop in any direction whilst using the most of the image circle of the lens...I suspect we are violently agreeing!