Test-drive the Olympus E-PL1 through the power of augmented reality

Interested in testing the Olympus E-PL1 without leaving your desk? If you have a computer with a webcam, you can head on over to the Olympus PEN 3D site for the first online augmented reality camera test-drive.

To get the test-drive started, you’ll need a “camera card” – these will be included in the June issue of Wired and the July issue of Popular Photography. Alternatively, you can just download the PDF and print one of your own.

Once you have the paper camera, install the browser plugin and hold it up in front of your webcam – augmented reality will turn the flat paper card it into a 3D model of the E-PL1, and you’ll be able to play around with all the features of this amazing camera.

Once you’ve learned about the features on the camera, you can even enter to win one of five E-PL1 cameras and $5000 cash! One lucky winner will be invited on an all-expenses paid trip to New York, where they’ll get to show their creation on a giant video screen at the US Open! The contest (and rules) can be found here.

Olympus announces the E-PL1 Micro Four Thirds camera

Olympus just announced their latest Micro Four Thirds digital camera – the E-PL1.

The E-PL1 combines the high quality 12.3 megapixel image sensor of the E-P1 and E-P2 in a more compact body, but also manages to find room to add a pop-up flash.

In addition to the flash, the E-Pl1 also features the accessory port found on the recently released E-P2 allowing for users to add the optional viewfinder and microphone adapter.

Best of all, the E-PL1 is the first sub-$600 Micro Four Thirds digital camera, retailing for just $599.99 when it hits store shelves in March.

The camera loses some of the metal bulk of the first two PEN cameras, opting for a little more plastic in its exterior. While the camera feels a little cheaper, it still has plenty of weight to give you sense that you are holding a semi-professional camera.

One other cool feature worth pointing out is an array of “live guide” tips. If you are just beginning to enter the world of digital photography, you’ll love these. The tips assist with every aspect of making good photos, explaining how to control brightness, focus, white balance and more.

As can be expected from any camera in this price range, the E-PL1 shoots video in 720p HD, and offers a one-click way to switch to video mode, making it really simple to capture spur of the moment videos.

The E-PL1 weighs just 10.4 ounces (about three ounces lighter than the E-P1), and measures 4.51″ x 2.84″ x 1.63″.

The $599.99 package includes the camera body, the fantastic M. ZUIKO 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds lens, a battery with charger, usb and video cables, shoulder strap and software CD. It’ll be available in three colors; black, Champagne Gold and Slate Blue.


Four new travel friendly cameras from Olympus

Good tech news tends to happen in the middle of the night. Take for example these four new digital cameras from Olympus. Not only did they make four good looking shooters – they made four great new cameras for travelers.

Two of the new cameras offer ultra-zoom lenses, and two of them let you take your camera underwater for some fantastic photos of HD video. Best of all, two of them will be available later this month!

The four new cameras are:

  • The SP-800UZ 30x ultra-zoom
  • The SP-600UZ 15x ultra-zoom
  • The Stylus Tough-6020 waterproof / dropproof / freezeproof camera
  • The Stylus Tough-8010 waterproof / dropproof / crushproof / freezeproof camera

The SP-800UZ 30x ultra-zoom

The first of the new cameras in this lineup is by far the most impressive. Olympus managed to design the world’s smallest camera with a 30x optical zoom. The SP-800UZ makes photos in 14 megapixels, and video in 720p. Its 5.0 – 150mm (28 – 840 35mm equivalent) lens is built with 15 separate internal lenses in 10 groups.

Photos can be enhanced with a variety of “magic filters”. The filters include the following effects: Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fish-Eye and Drawing (creates sketch outline photos).

The camera features a built in pop-up flash, MiniHDMI output for watching HD content on your TV and 2GB of internal memory (memory can be expanded with SD/SDHC cards).

The SP-800UZ will be available in March for the surprisingly low price of $349.99.

The SP-600UZ 15x ultra-zoom

The new SP-600UZ offers most of the features found on the SP-800UZ, but with a 15x optical zoom and a 12 megapixel sensor. One other handy difference is its ability to operate off regular AA rechargeable batteries. It will also be available in March, for just $249.99.

The Stylus Tough-6020

Olympus has always been at the forefront of tough cameras – their waterproof, freezeproof (down to -14F) and crushproof cameras are world-renowned for their durability.

The new Stylus Tough-6020 shoots in 14 megapixels, with an integrated 5x optical zoom. This camera is also the first in the Stylus lineup to offer HD video recording (720p). It is waterproof up to 16 feet of water, and can survive drops up to 5 feet. Thankfully, the Tough-6020 takes SD and SDHC cards – I was never a fan of the xD cards used in previous models.

The Stylus Tough-6020 will be available this month for $299.99.

The Stylus Tough-8010

The Stylus Tough-8010 is the tougher brother of the Stylus Tough-6020. It takes waterproofing down to 33 feet of water, drops up to 6.6 feet and is crushproof up to 220 pounds of pressure. It also adds an extra gigabyte of internal memory (2GB).

The Stylus Tough-8010 will be available this month for $399.99.

Gadling gear review – first look at the new Olympus E-P2

Santa visited my house early this year, and dropped off the new Olympus E-P2 Micro Four Thirds digital camera. The first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, the E-P1, passed through Gadling earlier this year, and left me mighty impressed, so in this first (and very brief) look, we’ll see what the E-P2 has to offer.

At first glance, the E-P2 looks identical to the E-P1, albeit in a slightly different color. The E-P1 is available in silver/black and white/tan, and the E-P2 only comes in black. It takes a bit to find any differences, but once you reach the flash hot shoe in the middle, you’ll notice a small connector port below it.

This port is in essence the biggest difference between the E-P1 and E-P2. One of the biggest drawbacks of the E-P1 is its lack of a viewfinder. An optical viewfinder is available for using with the 17mm pancake lens, but it won’t work well with the 14-42mm lens.

The connector on the E-P2 works along with the included electronic viewfinder and an upcoming microphone adapter.

The VF-2 viewfinder slides onto the hot shoe, and can tilt upwards. Of course, with the viewfinder attached, you can no longer use the flash, but you obviously won’t need the flash in those situations.

Other changes are all inside the camera – the E-P2 features a new live focus tracking mode, which works for photos and in video mode. It also adds two new art settings (diarama and cross process). The camera also allows for manual control when in video mode, and adds HDMI control when hooked up to a compatible HDTV .

All in all, great changes, but the new viewfinder and additional software tweaks add $300 to the price (the E-P1 is $799.99, the E-P2 will retail for $1099.99). In the coming week, I’ll take the camera for a real test, and determine whether the $300 is easy to justify, or whether it finally prices itself out of where it should be.

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.