In terms of performance, the PEN E-P1 proved to be impressive in some areas, but less so in others. Let’s start with the positive. This camera is capable offering excellent image quality, with sharp, clean images and vivid colours. We especially liked its performance when taking landscape shots. Noise levels are also low, even at ISO 800. The lens quality is superb, with minimal chromatic aberration or distortion.
The compact 14-42mm lens does not make for fast shooting
The 3f/s continuous shooting mode isn't the fastest around, but it worked well and you can take an unlimited number of JPEG shots - RAW files are restricted to ten frames. The image stabilisation system is highly effective, offering around three stops of compensation.
But the camera is let down by a sluggish contrast-detection AF system, which takes a while to settle down. When taking a close-up shot of our euro coin, the AF system often took ages to lock onto it.
The AF system also let down the PEN E-P1’s video performance, with the continuous AF mode having problems tracking objects. You do get a good range of high ISO settings for low-light shooting, but picture quality soon tails off after ISO 2000.
When we looked at the Lumix DMC-G1, we asked whether the MFT system was in danger of falling between two stools. The PEN P-E1 merely confirms these fears. It’s too big to appeal to the compact camera user looking to upgrade, and the lack of a built-in flash will also put off a lot of potential buyers from this camp. Conversely, it doesn’t offer a massive size advantage over a DSLR, and while many enthusiasts won’t be put off by the lack of a built-in flash, they will be deterred by the absence of a viewfinder and a shortage of MFT lenses.
This is a shame, because the PEN P-E1 has the makings of a fine camera, although some of its ergonomics need fixing. The problem is that MFT manufacturers seem to be trying to make cameras that will appeal to purchasers from both the compact and DSLR camps, and in the process, they are in danger of appealing to no one. ®
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Olympus PEN E-P1 Micro Four-Thirds camera
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!
Its nice but no full slr by a long shot
I was recently looking for a smaller compact camera that allows me to stick it in my pocket and not carry my e510, 3 lenses, flash, ect ect but still allow me to stick say, my compact zoom lems. So when i saw this was a four/thirds i thought way hey, here we go. But no.
Its a smaller!!!! 4/3rds. So unless there is an adapter (no doubt hideously expensive) i'm no better off.
Oh well, fail for all the right reasons.
When I first heard about these middle range cameras I thought they might be interesting, however they are just too expensive. You could pick up a very nice DSLR for that money.
Does anyone that the smaller form factor appeals to really want/need to be able to change lenses? Surely a little compact with a built in zoom would be far better for them... I used to get great pics from my little Olympus C770 UZ, and that had 10x optical, and an electronic viewfinder, not to mention a flash. Pity about the battery life, but apart from that a great little camera.
These days I have 5mp on my phone for general snaps and 12mp on my big Nikon for the more artistic pics.
Oh, and sometimes size is important.... People get out of the way of my Nikon D300 with the f/2.8 zoom lens on the front, it demands respect and threatens concussion if they don't duck fast enough!