Gadling gear review – Olympus E-P1 – the second week

It has been two weeks since I first got my hands on the gorgeous Olympus E-P1, and I think the time has come to give my honest opinion of how this retro Micro Four Thirds camera performs in some day to day photo work.

As I mentioned in the previous reviews (Introduction and “the basics“), the E-P1 shoots in 12.3MP and the version I have comes with the M.Zukio Digital 14-42mm lens. I also have the matching retro flash.

Lets go over the good and the bad with the Olympus E-P1.

We’ll start with the good:

Quick startup time and fast power-on till first photo. Sure, this won’t be as quick as some P&S cameras, but it is still snappy enough to reach for the camera and take a photo before the opportunity is gone.

Fantastic photo quality.
Seriously, what good would a camera be if it couldn’t take awesome photos? The E-P1 does not disappoint, even though I am by no means a pro, I’ve made a whole bunch of photos that look better than anything I ever made in the past.

Settings, settings, settings… This is almost my favorite part of the camera. This thing is filled with so many cool features, that I’m still finding fun things to do with it, even after 2 weeks. The basics are easy to find (like the awesome art shot modes), some others are hidden away in the menu structure (like a fun multiple exposure mode).

The looks. I’ve read quite a few reviews of the E-P1, and not a single person has anything bad to say about its looks. Every part of the E-P1 oozes good looks. Olympus really did find a perfect balance between retro and modern. Without a doubt, this is the best looking camera I have ever had the pleasure of using.

Video quality.
Video quality on the E-P1 is surprisingly good, and makes all those cheap handheld flash HD cameras look like toys. When you hook the E-P1 up to your HD TV using a (optional) Mini HDMI cable, you really see how well it captures video. Not only that, but since it records stereo audio, things don’t sound too bad either.

The bad:

No optical viewfinder. In order to make a camera this small, and still manage to fit the large sensor in its body, it is obvious that some concessions were made. But understanding that does not make it less annoying that there is no optical viewfinder in the camera. It is just something you need to learn to live with.

No built in flash. This one is not as annoying as the previous one, but it still means I need to carry the flash around with me wherever I take the camera. Also, the flash is an optional extra, so once you buy the camera, you’ll need to spend another $100 for it.

That’s it – only 2 things really annoy me about the camera, but both issues are so minor that they have not really made the experience with the camera negative in any way. In fact, for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to get more and more interested in photography, and will probably be spending some time taking classes on how to take better photos. I already started getting tips when I was in New York, as I was surrounded by professionals who looked at me like a real “work in progress”.

The only remaining thing that will obviously be of concern to some is the price. There is no denying that $799 for the body and the 14-42mm lens is steep. Once you add a second lens, a flash, some memory and a spare battery, you are already creeping towards $1250. That is a lot of money, and obviously puts the camera in the price range where it won’t be an impulse purchase.

That said; I’m of the opinion that anyone in the market for a new camera should look at the E-P1. If I were to make the choice between a mid-range DSLR or the E-P1, I’d pick the E-P1. Having the features and quality of a large camera in a package this compact (and pretty) really is a treat.

I’ll close with a video demonstration and a selection of photos I made using the E-P1 – when you look at them, remember that I have been a P&S photographer all my life, so I’m naturally quite proud of the results. The video was about the most challenging thing I could throw at the camera – on the wild “tilt-a-whirl” at Coney Island, and you’ll clearly see that even with that much action, it did a very decent job.

Olympus E-P1 video demo from Scott C on Vimeo.