The Olympus E-P1 is a compact camera with a 12.3 Megapixel DSLR-sized sensor and removeable lenses. Announced in June 2009, it’s the first Olympus camera to employ the Micro Four Thirds standard the company jointly developed with Panasonic. Unlike the modern designs of Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds models though, Olympus has adopted the unashamedly retro-styling of its classic PEN film camera, celebrating its 50th Anniversary. ‘Olympus PEN since 1959’ is proudly but discretely inscribed on the camera.
Micro Four Thirds was jointly developed by Olympus and Panasonic to target those who want the flexibility and quality of camera with a large sensor and interchangeable lenses, but who’ve been put-off by the size and weight of traditional DSLRs along with their perception of difficult operation. Micro Four Thirds addresses this by taking the sensor size of the existing Four Thirds DSLR standard, but dispensing with the traditional SLR mirror and optical viewfinder to allow a much shorter lens to sensor distance; this in turn enables smaller and lighter cameras to be built, and the E-P1 is certainly compact considering the size of the sensor within.
Indeed in theory it’s the camera many enthusiasts have been praying for: a compact with uncompromised high sensitivity performance and the flexibility of different lenses. As such the level of interest around the E-P1 (along with Panasonic’s similarly-sized Lumix GF1) has reached fever-point in some circles, so the big question is whether it delivers the goods in practice.
Read-on to find out in our full review where we’ll compare its quality and performance against both top-end compacts and DSLRs, along with seeing how its new rival from Panasonic measures-up. Note: we tested a final production sample, initially running firmware 1.0, and later updated to version 1.1.
We tested a final production Olympus E-P1 initially running firmware version 1.0 in its body and kit lens, although updated both to version 1.1 for updated test results. Following our convention of testing cameras using their factory default settings unless otherwise stated, the E-P1 was set to Large Fine JPEG quality, Auto White Balance, ESP metering and the Natural Picture Mode with Normal Gradation; Noise Reduction and the Noise Filter were set to their ON and STD settings respectively. In-camera Image Stabilisation was enabled for all handheld shots and disabled for tripod-based tests.