Thursday, 25 June 2009

Olympus E-P1 Launch & Hands-on

The official UK launch of the highly anticipated and long awaited m4/3 camera from Olympus was today. Judging from the high interest the camera generated in forums and on various photography websites and blogs I expected a lot of people to show up and so it was.
The people I spoke to all wanted the same, a compact camera capable of producing dSLR like image quality but also allowing them to swap lenses. The Olympus E-P1 certainly is the first camera to deliver on both counts.

Although it was busy and most people wanted some hands-on with the camera, I managed to try out a few samples and will try to give a quick summary of my impression or read the full report here.

The first thing I noticed was that the camera is actually a bit bigger than I expected, especially with the zoom lens attached and if you extend the lens it becomes even bigger. With the pancake lens it becomes a lot smaller though and it is jacket pocketable but you need solid pockets as the camera is heavy.

Speaking of the weight, you might have seen the pictures of the all plastic insides posted in various forums recently and while the insides might be plastic it surely weights a lot and the outside is solid metal. It feels very solid and I would say it is as solid as the GRD II and the Olympus dSLRs they had around. The feel of the camera is great, Olympus made sure the camera feels great to hold. The handgrip is also nice and does make holding it much easier and more secure.

There have been concerns expressed regarding the low resolution of the LCD screen. While the resolution is not really as important in my view as the refresh rate and the viewing angles, I found it comparable with the GRD II screen and so very good.

The controls are all intuitive and work very fast, having two wheels is a good idea although the 4-way navigation pad could be a bit bigger to avoid accidental presses.

The AF has also been highlighted as a potential problem in a few reviews. I have to say, it is not lightning fast but it is slightly faster then the AF on the GRD II. The zoom lens takes also longer to focus than the pancake lens. Overall I would rather get the E-P1 kit with the pancake lens as I was not overly impressed with the zoom lens.

I have also tried the OVF and it is ok though as good quality as the Ricoh OVFs. It feels a bit flimsy and it is not as bright as the Gv1 for example.

In the end, I walked out without buying a E-P1 although I was very tempted. The E-P1 looks and feels like a great camera and I really like the design but it is too early to buy. The camera is a bit too big and I would like to have at least one good wide angle lens available for it.

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