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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus E-P1


Olympus E-P1 Review

Review Date: Nov 23, 2009

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Olympus  E-P1

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Digital Interchangeable Lens
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Digital Interchangeable Lens


The Olympus E-P1 is targeted to beginner and serious amateur photographers, leaning more toward the "enthusiast" crowd. It features 12.3 megapixel resolution on a Four Thirds 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS Sensor, Sensor-shift Image Stabilization, Dust Reduction, a large 3.0-in. LCD (230K dots) and HD Movie (1280×720 @ 30fps) with stereo sound.

We find the overall image quality of the Olympus E-P1 to be very good at ISO 100 with low noise and good image detail. Image quality is very good up to ISO 800, and ISO 1600 is very usable; at higher ISOs, images suffer from noise and loss of detail.

3x Wide Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 28 mm Tele 84 mm
Wide-angle 14mm
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 42mm
(84mm, 35mm equivalent)

There are two kit lenses currently available for the E-P1: a 17mm pancake lens and a 14-42mm zoom lens.

The Olympus 14-42mm (28-84mm equiv.) kit lens is a 3x wide-angle optical zoom lens. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 28mm and 84mm. Sensor-shift image stabilization helps reduce camera shake at the long end of the telephoto and when using slow shutter speeds, though you won't be able to see the effect on the LCD. The lens has a very good manual zoom ring for fast and precise zooming.

The 17mm pancake lens accepts 37mm diameter filters and the 14-42mm lens accepts 40.5mm diameter filters.

"Macro" (Sharpened)

Though Olympus labels the two kit lenses as "Macro", the closest focusing distance is 20 cm (7.9 in.) for the 17mm pancake lens (minimum field size 118.2 x 158.3mm) and 25 cm (9.8 in.) for the 14-42mm lens (minimum field size 51.4 x 68.5mm). If you are into close ups, consider adding a real macro lens.

There are 5 metering modes: Digital ESP metering, Center-Weighted Average and 3 types of Spot metering (Spot, HI Spot and SH Spot). Use HI Spot (Spot Highlight) when the background is very bright; use SH Spot (Spot Shadow) when the background is very dark.

Auto White Balance Indoors
AWB Custom WB
AWB Custom WB

As the above two pictures show, the Auto White Balance (AWB) is not accurate indoors under artificial lighting [I have two energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs on the ceiling]. The Olympus E-P1 allows WB to be easily set manually [not thru the MENU, but using the Fn button set to One touch WB] and this brings out the real colors. AWB works very well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 100
ISO 100
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400
ISO 3200 ISO 6400

You can set the ISO on the Olympus E-P1 from 100 to 6400. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate that noise at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800 is under control. Noise starts to be visible at ISO 1600 but is still very usable. At ISO 3200 and above, the presence of noise is visible at full image size and with increasing loss of detail, but usable in small prints and for Web display only. This low noise high ISO characteristic is comparable to that of DSLRs.

Chromatic Aberrations

CA is not a problem in everyday shots with the 14-42mm lens. In the above photo, the area delimited by the red square, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows minimal purple fringing.

You can shoot in RAW as well as RAW + JPEG, with a choice of JPEG resolution.

ART Filters
Pin Hole Grainy Film
Pin Hole Grainy Film
Light Tone Pale & Light Color
Light Tone Pale & Light Color
Soft Focus Pop Art
Soft Focus Pop Art

There are six Art Filters, selectable from the Mode Dial. You do want to match your scene with the appropriate Art Filter for maximum impact. Art Filters can also be used in Movie mode though some of them affect the frame rate.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
33mm [66mm], Aperture-Priority, Pattern, 60 sec., F20.0, ISO 100
Custom WB, Self-Timer (2 sec.), Tripod Used

The Olympus E-P1 allows the use of a long shutter speed of 60 sec. in PASM modes (which any advanced photographer will tell you makes this camera a joy to use no matter which shooting mode you prefer to use). This allows us to take some very nice Night Shots. The Olympus E-P1 has noise reduction (NR) and you will notice the time needed to process and save a picture to approximately double.

Since the E-P1 lacks an AF-assist Illuminator, we shine a flashlight briefly on Bamm-Bamm's face to simulate AF-assist and obtain focus lock (using AE-L/AF-L set to lock focus only), then allow Aperture-Priority AE to do its job. This outstanding exposure flexibility (of having the whole range of shutter speeds and apertures available in all PASM shooting modes) puts many "serious" cameras to shame.

A histogram can be displayed in Shooting mode and Playback mode. You can also display blinking highlights.

Overall, the Olympus E-P1 delivers very good image quality that matches what you would expect from a DSLR.

The pictures in the Olympus E-P1 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 4032 x 3024 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version).

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!


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