updated 08:05 am EDT, Tue June 16, 2009
Olympus E-P1 Camera
Olympus today finally launched the E-P1, its first camera using the Micro Four Thirds system and the first to adopt a non-SLR profile. Meant to recall the company's PEN cameras, it has a consciously retro but compact design that allows a large DSLR sensor and removable lenses but without the depth needed with a conventional mirror box or large optics. In a unique approach, Olympus doesn't have a dedicated electronic viewfinder beyond the 3-inch LCD but does give the choice of an optical add-on viewfinder.
The 12-megapixel camera still has many of the features of its better cameras in spite of its size and, like Panasonic's Lumix GH1, can shoot 720p video for up to the 2GB file limit of AVI, or about 7 minutes, and brings stereo audio. A new TruePic V imaging engine helps the camera capture a relatively wide ISO range between 100 and 6,400, improves the dynamic range for highlights and shadows, and to play visual tricks with Olympus' Art Filters as well as multiple overlaid exposures. Image stabilization and dust removal are built in, while the same hot shoe supports both the optical viewfinder and flashes.
Where Panasonic has always shipped its Micro Four Thirds cameras with lenses, Olympus plans to ship the E-P1 in July with a body-only version that costs $750. A more typical kit version at $800 adds a 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 lens; at $900, photographers get a 17mm f2.8 fixed-zoom lens as well as the optical viewfinder.