It was about a week ago that I received an invitation via the Olympus Malaysia official Facebook account, as well as an announcement on the mychiaroscuro.net (Olympus users forum) to an exclusive event in conjunction to the recent launching of the new breed of camera: Olympus Pen. I quickly sent in my RSVP and fortunately I could grabbed myself a place since it was only opened to the first 50 registrations. Free lunch gathering, being the first to touch and play with the new Olympus E-P1 and having the chance to be part of the unique and awesome group of Oly users, how can I say no?
OLYMPUS PEN since 1959 E-P1
PANCAKE 17mm F2.8
UTTERLY SEXY BACK
A little introduction to the Olympus E-P1, for those of you who have not heard much of it yet. Basically, what makes DSLR so much more superior in picture quality in comparison to compact cameras? Why can't the most capable and most expensive compact camera match up eye to eye with even the lowest ranked entry level DSLR in the market now? There are primarily two main reasons:
1) Sensor size of DSLR is a lot bigger than the compact camera, and
2) Quality of the lens used, and the ability of interchanging lenses.
If you care about the image quality, you would definitely fork out more cash and go for DSLR. Nonetheless, there are many people out there who would really appreciate the light-weight and very portable size of compact camera, obviously for mobility solutions.
Olympus is smart enough to address this problem by constructing a camera the size of a compact, but with the full capabilities of producing image quality similar to a DSLR. How is this possible? By addressing the previous-mentioned two reasons:
1) slamming a DSLR sized super huge sensor into the tiny compact body, and
2) packing a lens mount allowing for interchanging of lenses, providing the benefits of using very high quality lens, far more superior than the "built in" lenses of other mere compacts.
This new creation is part of the Micro Four-Thirds system (a branch out my current DSLR E-System) and all that are being consolidated into one very interesting package: the new Olympus E-P1. The codename for this camera is PEN which pays homage to the highly successful film half frame camera system.
And I had the privilege to try it out first even before the camera hits the shelves of any camera shops!!!
Coolness, I dare emphasize.
SUCH A COMPACT SIZE
VERY SMALL IN HAND
LCD LIVE VIEW with ART FILTER
I went with a friend, Frederick who has just recently switched over from his pro-sumer camera to Olympus DSLR system, and thanks to Shivan who drove us all the way to the event. Amongst the crowd there were many new faces as well as old ones, many I recognized from the forum Mychiaroscuro.net which housed very strong Olympus fans and supporters. Brandon, whom I went shutter therapy with while I was in Kuching not too long ago happened to be in KL for the weekend, and was also there !! It was really great catching up with many friends and also, making new ones.
Before I jumped to my thoughts and impressions on the Olympus E-P1, there is one particular subject I must share with all of you.
Frederick has a DSLR with a kit lens 14-42mm which he got from a forum buy-sell deal, but unfortunately the deal did not come out with no flaws. There was a filter ring attached to the lens, which we failed to notice and it could not be removed by hand. We tried several methods to remove that filter ring, but we dare not force it open since the front element of the lens is extremely fragile. The thick filter ring being stuck on the front causes severe vignetting and cut-offs at image corners, which was very displeasing. Sticking on more filters such as close-ups or polarizers can aggravate the dark edge effect even more.
PEOPLE ARRIVING @ MARNALADE CAFE, MONT' KIARA
BRANDON EU from http://brandoneu.blogspot.com
MWKY Testing Out the E-P1
We spoke to Magdelene (one of the marketting staff) and she referred us to the technical personnel (sorry dude, forgot your name... I gotta train my head to remember names next time) and as we were explaining our problems with the stuck filter ring on the lens, I was half expecting him to say: hey our service department is closed now, please come back on Monday. Surprisingly, that was not the case !!
He grabbed the lens from us, and told us that he would see what he could do. In less than 15 minutes, he got back to us with the stuck ring filter completely removed !!! Problem was solved, there and then on the spot, with no charge or fees. With very genuine smile, and seriously guys... If this is not good customer service, and after-sales services, or whatever support services you guys call it out there, I do not know what good service is !!!! Super-darn unbelievably efficient. I am sure now Fred did not regret choosing Olympus after all. I have heard stories of friends in C and N and S having the need to send in their lenses for repair and took horribly WEEKS or even MONTHS, and we had our problem resolved in just... MINUTES.
Alright, lets move on to the attention of the day: Olympus E-P1.
The main specifications:
12.3 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor
Two new kit lenses (14-42mm M.Zuiko and 17mm F2.8 Pancake)
TruePic V image processor
3.0" LCD screen (fixed, 230k dot resolution)
HD movies (720p) with stereo sound
Linear PCM sound recording
3.0 fps sequential shooting
Built-in IS with max. 4 EV steps efficiency
Optional Adapters for all ZUIKO DIGITAL & OM lenses
Newly developed GUI for easier operation via Live Control
Automatic recognition of common scenes possible with i-Auto
Dual control dials
Face Detection & Shadow Adjustment
Art Filters, multi-aspect ratios, multi exposure
In-camera raw conversion (including application of Art Filters)
Small & stylish design
For full speficcations please go here. For professional preview and sample images, go to dpreview (click).
When I held it my hands, it felt really "dense". There was a reassuring weight on it, not heavy, but you can feel that there are components being packed in tight inside the camera, and the solid feel just screams confidence. The body is all metal in construction, with leather-like texture on the front finger-grip contact areas.
The large LCD screen provided really good resolution, and it was the main image-finder of the camera. The buttons were plenty, but not clutters, with very strange never-seen before dials which worked pretty cool. The flash is absent from this model, hence if you do need flash, and I can tell you do really need one sooner or later, you will have to opt for an external flash unit. the front of the camera allows for lens interchanging, but so far Olympus has only produced two lenses: 17mm F2.8 Pancake, and 14-42mm standard zoom lens. There are other manufacturers supporting micro 4/3 system, and lenses from Panasonic are fully compatible with Olympus bodies too. Lots of flexibility here for future growth and expansion.
FL50R FLASH on EP-1
FACE-DETECTION on FRED
I LOVE STYLE
There was this cool green light LED encircling the power button that is just so plain sexy. I tried the Autofocus, and it was really fast, considering I was shooting indoors with poor light conditions. It was quick to snap on focus, and exposures come out very pleasing. It took some time to get to the system since the layout is pretty much different, but this just needs a bit of time to get used to. There were full manual controls, such as PASM (Program, Aperture, Shutter and Manual auto-exposures) and many other creative control options. It simply packed in almost everything that the Olympus E-System DSLRs can do into that tiny piece of body. Very impressive, what the small E-P1 can actually deliver.
Image quality wise, it was hard to tell since I could not view it on my own computer screen. Nevertheless what we saw from the LCD preview, they turned out generally very good. Frederick pushed up the ISO setting to 2000, and as we zoomed in the image preview to spot the noise, we could hardly find any. Either this was due to the excellent noise control of the new JPEG processing engine, Truepic V, or simply due to high noise reduction by smudging of details, I could not tell just yet. But even so, being able to use ISO 2000 with such results was nothing short of stunning, for such a small camera !! This certainly puts Panasonic Lumix LX3 to shame. What good high ISO performance, wait till you see what this Olympus E-P1 can do. I sm not entirely sure but I do have a feeling it could even surpass my DSLR, E-520. No, I am not kidding.
Now there is one thing this camera can also do: High Definition (HD 720px) Video recording, with PCM Stereo sound. There was a short video presentation which was produced by one of Malaysia's Olympus prominent photograper, Sanjitpaal Singh. He went into one of the rainforest, stayed in there for 2 nights (or was it three) and shot videos of the natural enviromenment, with flowing fresh river water, lots of greenery, wildlife such as birds and insects, and of course some native people nearby. The video illustrated very impressive definition, and after the presentation, one of the audienced questioned Sanjit: "what lens did you use for that video recordings?" Sanjit's response was jaw-dropping worthy.... "It was the kit lens 14-42mm". For a moment, it was almost unbelieveable. But if you are an Olympus DSLR user, you will most definitely be well aware of how awesome the kit lens
ROBIN and E-P1
All in all, I do believe that this new breed of camera: the pioneer being the E-P1 can go really far, could have been revolutionary I dare say. Imagine the possibilities, if the cards are carefully played, this system can pose serious threats to compact cameras and even DSLRs. Nevertheless, this was not the original Olympus intentions, the marketing was strongly targeted towards the audience who lusts for more power and quality from their camera, but not willing to trade the compactness and lightweight off for the monstrous DSLR. Do bear in mind that this is just the first generation, I will see how things go from here.
Perhaps, if all is well, I might actually sell everything off, and migrate over from Four-Thirds to Micro Four-Thirds system.