Sunday, July 05, 2009

Olympus E-P1 Lunch Gathering @ Mont' Kiara


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

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PANCAKE 17mm F2.8

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UTTERLY SEXY BACK

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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

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VERY SMALL IN HAND

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LCD LIVE VIEW with ART FILTER

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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

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BRANDON EU from http://brandoneu.blogspot.com

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MWKY Testing Out the E-P1

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MYCHIAROSCURO.NET GANG

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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.

Astonishing.

SCRUMPTIOUS BUFFET

*click* image to see its awesomeness

*click* image to see its awesomeness

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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

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FACE-DETECTION on FRED

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I LOVE STYLE

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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
can be.

ROBIN and E-P1

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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.

22 comments:

  1. migrate to canon.. ^_^ lol.. jkjk..
    hmm.. use both cameras lol! LOL!

    PEN looks cute.

    ReplyDelete
  2. hey allen,
    ahahha, dun think canon is gonna happen considering how much I have invested on Oly.
    Of course, Pen is cute, and sexy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. nice to see malaysia have it already. only problem with this is that panasonic/leica will have a better unit out that will address the hardware shortcomings of the pen. early adopters will be burned even by olympus since they will release follow ups soon but problably lower spec'ed units of the ep1.

    ReplyDelete
  4. hey anonymous,
    It is hard to say the "better" part of the camera until it is fully reviewed, since the pen is still very new. But to address the hardware shortcomings, I am sure you are aware that the pen can utilize pana-leica lenses as well, meaning that whatever lenses panasonic comes out with, it benefits the oly pen too, since they are FULLY compatible.

    ReplyDelete
  5. the FL50R flash on the P1 looks downright ridiculous imo. (@.@)

    omgomgomg, i can't wait to own one!! ya la, have to wait for olympus to address the issues that the P1 has BUT! i still can't wait. :p

    right now, panasonic and olympus are right up there in my "to own" list. rofl~

    ReplyDelete
  6. hey feli,
    thats why they designed a special flash unit just for the EP-1. smaller but still very usable.
    yeah, wait for the price to drop a bit, or the second generation. It is still too soon for now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. it looks very good and classy! i feel like buying it cos compactness is very important to me. but like u said, its the first of its kind and i'm a bit skeptical. maybe give it more time for olympus to iron out the technology before i dive in?

    -Marcus

    ReplyDelete
  8. What's this on the top there?
    http://lh4.ggpht.com/_uBYM9g_jpHg/SlBG2sPxbQI/AAAAAAAALLM/SYlKgIiRdPw/s800/P7040090.JPG

    Hehe..Agree with Silveraven. It looks pretty weird. :P

    ReplyDelete
  9. hey marcus,
    Yeap, the model looks very promising, but definitely if you can, just wait for the second generation. The first of anything would have slight flaws, and of course, the next generation would have improvements/enhancements.

    hey allen,
    that is why they designed a special flash unit just for the pen lah. the FL50 is not for Pen but hey, the compatibility is actually a bonus.
    That is an optical viewfinder.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hhmm... Since there's no mirror in the body itself, correct me if I'm wrong, technically speaking, there's higher risk of exposing your sensor to dust while you're changing lens. Am I right?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey chong,
    even if theres mirror there is still high risk of dust exposure. It all comes down to how effective the dust reduction is,and olympus is just the best at that! So there should not be a dust issue. But lets find user feedback a year down the track maybe.

    ReplyDelete
  12. LOL was just about to find you onlie and ask you about this..

    mana tau dah blog bout it..

    Btw, I know you like it.. XD
    dont hesitate..d XD

    ReplyDelete
  13. hey akiraceo,
    ahahaha you know me lar, most of the time I blog very fast one, so that my updates stay very fresh !!
    I want one, but obviously cash is an issue. aahhaha...
    sadness...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Robin, two things:

    1) ZOMG FINALLY A POINT AND SHOOT-SIZE CAMERA WITH DSLR QUALITY!!! (I'm into street photography, which is really the domain of the rangefinder and not the dSLR {I carry the dSLR around and PFFT it spoils whatever moment I'm trying to secretly capture}, and this is a very nice middle ground between the two).

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh OH I forgot, 2nd thing: that flash mounted on the E-P1 looks so surreal it's actually kinda scary. Like a big dick on a tiny guy. Err, okay I didn't just say that. XP

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hey dienasty,
    yeap the hybrid camera is just the right thing for street photography!
    Dude that flash is Not designed for E-P1 lah! The purpose of that picture is to demonstrate full compatibility with the brother dslr system. It should be an advantage not the other way round.

    ReplyDelete
  17. wow~~~~ so cute & sexy!

    I wish i can attend the launching, grab it on hand then... cabut! kakakaka...

    ReplyDelete
  18. hey anston,
    yeah man, you should join next time !!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. how much?
    worth to buy?

    ReplyDelete
  20. hey andy,
    a little pricey at the moment, wait for the price to drop a bit first.

    ReplyDelete
  21. hello robin..enjoying the PEN?
    very nice camera, basically targeting those who like compact camera but want high quality images....based on this this website, the image quality of the PEN at high iso is even better than the E-30..
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EP1/EP1A.HTM

    and the sensor also closer to the lens mount making it easier to clean in case it got dirt..

    -roger-

    ReplyDelete
  22. hey roger,
    I am enjoying the PEN to bits !! Yeah I have tested the high ISO, judging from the camera screen it seems like the ISO performance is very, very good indeed. Surpassing my E-520 I would say.
    LOL.. I think the sensor dust should be alright, the SSWF should do the job just fine.

    ReplyDelete