Olympus E-P1 Hernando MS

As a second camera for an SLR shooter, or as an advanced camera for the photographer who wants more than a point-and-shoot, but really needs the smallest camera possible, the E-P1 is a very good choice.

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Olympus E-P1

by Ben Long , Macworld.com

While many digital camera manufacturers are adding features to their SLRs and point-and-shoot cameras, Olympus (and Panasonic, with its Lumix DMC-GF1 ( ) created the E-P1 , a camera that delivers SLR-like quality in a size that’s closer to a point-and-shoot. In the process, the E-P1 created a new segment of the camera market.

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In a nutshell, the E-P1 (also called Pen) is a fairly small camera (the body is roughly 4.75-by-3-by-1.5) with interchangeable lenses, and an image sensor that’s larger than what you’ll get on a point-and-shoot, but not as big as what you’ll find on an SLR. The practical upshot is that it’s a camera that functions more like an SLR, but that you can still probably fit in a pocket.

Like the Lumix DMC-GF1, the E-P1 conforms to the Micro Four Thirds specification, a standard developed by the consortium of Olympus and Panasonic. An offshoot of the same consortium’s Four Thirds format, Micro Four Thirds cameras specify a sensor of a particular size, and all use a common lens mount, so you can readily exchange lenses between vendors.

Since Micro Four Thirds sensors are larger than what you’ll find in a point-and-shoot camera, they yield images with less noise than those produced by point-and-shoots. Since the specification calls for the lens to be very close to the image sensor, the cameras and lenses can be made much smaller than an SLR. However, the small size also precludes the use of an SLR-like mirror system, so you can’t have an optical viewfinder that looks through the lens.

Olympus E-P1

Ultimately, these cameras are more evocative of an old 35mm rangefinder camera, and Olympus has appropriately chosen a retro style for the E-P1 that is very attractive. Clad in silver, brushed metal, with a black, leather grip on the front, the camera is very eye catching, as well as small and comfortable to hold.

For the user who is a stickler for image quality, and who likes the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, but doesn’t want the bulk of an SLR, the E-P1 may be the ideal camera.

The camera ships in two configurations, one with a 14mm to 42mm, f3.5 to f5.6 zoom lens, and the other with a 17mm, f2.8 lens and a clip-on viewfinder (more on this later). The Micro Four Thirds system has a 2X focal length multiplier, so you can simply double those focal lengths to determine their 35mm film equivalents.

Of course the camera is also compatible with lenses from Panasonic, and any other Micro Four Thirds vendors that turn up.

Ins and out

The E-P1 packs 12.3 million pixels and offers a fairly simple control layout. In addition to the shutter and power buttons, the top of the camera sports the expected mode dial, as well as an exposure compensation control. The back o...

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