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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Comments

Is this the DMD, finally?

This is my next camera. Too bad there doesn't seem to be a black body option. Will have to use lots of tape on this one.

Those of you waiting for the digital Leica CL, your ship has come in.

Well Olympus looks like they have rocked the digital boat with this one! A camera with a good range of starter accessories for those who can shoot without the need of a traditional viewfinder.
Let the show commence!

ooo..... pretty.

would like a finder, but if there isn't much lag then I'd learn to use the LCD.

Who's the most adorable little absurdly retro piece of fanservice for digital camera geeks with weak wrists and a reactionary streak? Is it you, little Olympus E-P1? Yes it is! Yes it is!

40.5mm filter, now I can share my m-rokkor filters (and lenses) with those on this camera. It will go well to replace my Minolta CLE in so many respects.

Well, I've just nerded my way through the camera functions list and I'm impressed - this is very close to my dreamed-of fully programmable camera. It seems it can be set up to work just the way one wants. And it has square aspect ratio.
Of course, the proof is in the picture pudding but I'm getting quite excited (and late for work).

So Mike, are we getting closer to that elusive DMD?

Is it just me or did they look at the old Pen F styling when they designed that 14-42mm lens lens?

The pattern on the focus ring is a perfect match with those old lenses.

As an Olympus lover who has owned a number of their rangefinders and the OM-1 (which makes me wanna cry each time I look through the big, bright viewfinder, then try to squint through one of my Nikon dSLR's) this has got to be one of the more interesting cameras that has been introduced in the last few years. I only hope it performs. And if it accepts my old Zuiko lenses, it's just icing on the cake.

Two things: a very detailed review is up at DPReview, and it's available for pre-order at Amazon for $900 with the 17/2.8 (and, I gather, the accessory finder). DPR has sample shots at ISO 3200 that look shockingly good, and the kit lens is a half stop faster than the Pentax 21 Limited! Wheeeeeee!. After years of digital cams that did not appeal too me we get the K-7 and E-P1 in the same month... !

Give it to me in black and with multi-aspect, and I'm sold.

But heck, I'm pretty close to sold already. Bring on more glass!

Seems like this is a more likely (reeetro looking 4/3) candidate to marry my chrome older version SM or M-lenses with rather than the Lumix GH-1.

Dan K.

*drool*

what happens to an adapter-less 70-300?

As far as I can tell the $900 price on Amazon does not include the finder, which they maintain is optional.

Is it a true manual-focus ring on the lens?
What frame-lines are shown in the viewfinder?

Speaking as someone who keeps an Olympus Pen FT locked away in a cupboard, only to be release every now and again so I can remind myself just how gorgeous it really is, the EP-1 really is one hell of a looker.

But for me there are a couple of issues that are potential deal breakers: The first is the lack of an eye-level finder. Even an electronic one like Panasonic has on its cameras is better than holding the camera 18" away from your face to use a viewing screen. OK, users of the 17mm lens get a very nice accessory viewfinder, but users of the zoom get only an old-fashioned, low resolution (230k pixels apparently) viewing screen on the back.

The second is the focusing. DPReview have posted a hands on preview, and of course this was with a pre-production model so we will have to reserve final judgment, but it seems that this camera uses a contrast detect system pretty much straight from a normal compact camera. Panasonic doesn't seem to have shared their rather impressive new-generation contrast detect system with Olympus.

My initial impression is that this is still an immensely desirable camera, but I would have to convince myself I don't need an eye-level finder, and I'll be keeping a close eye on focusing issues when the full reviews start rolling in.

One final point, the photos posted here don't reveal the full extent of Olympus's heavy Pen branding for this camera (which goes a lot further than just the 'P' in the model name!).

A few years ago I traded the majority of my then Nikon SLR outfit for a Contax G1 and 4 lenses - including the fabulous 21mmm - and it was the best trade in a long road I ever made. I thought my journey had all but petered out, because I'm not a digi-gearhead, but now my D80 is looking very vulnerable.
By the way, presuming the hotshoe is of the universal size, I would use my existing inexpensive Russian viewfinders covering 28 to 105 and the Contax 21 VF for the primes I would like and be happy to compensate for the frame ratio if tiny strips of tape didn't prove satisfactory. Is my presumption correct ?

I do feel it's closer to that elusive DMD than anything else around, and I fear I'm buying it (but not the 17mm, I'd rather wait for the Pana 20mm f1.7 - well, assuming that it *does* come)

I do have one *major* gripe: if all we're getting as interface with the camera and its images is the 3" screen, then, I'm sorry, but 230K pixels just smacks as really poor, and cheap on Oly's part. Any pocket digicam worth a fraction of the price includes 460K pixels.

I will probably buy it anyway because I've been pining for a smaller-body, larger-sensor camera for years, but, really...

(Oh, and a small fill-in flash and even crappy viewfinder would have been nice for those days when the screen won't cut it. The G10 or LX3 manage to include both on bodies smaller by almost 1 cm all round.)

In all, I am really afraid I'm sold on this for the sheer always-with-me factor. But it's still not your elusive DMD, alas :)

(And please please please *don't* discipline yourself and let the wisecracks flow because, really, Oly is begging for them for including "art filters" on RAW files as well, if other sources are to be believed :))

Since initial reports are saying the auto-focus system is not on a par with that of the Panasonic G1 (at least in terms of speed), it will be crucial to see how the rear screen is for manual focusing. The external OVF can come in handy for framing in strong daylight, but I do not suppose it gives any sort of focus confirmation / feedback, so you will rely on the LCD for focus. Perhaps they should also offer a detachable EVF like Ricoh.

Reading the Olympus press release I couldn't help but wonder how Mr. Maitani feels about being called a "renowned style guru". The brilliance of his camera designs of course had nothing to do with style, and everything to do with function. But evidently this is what Olympus figures it takes to mass-market the E-P1 ("a must have for style hounds").

Anyhow I hope they sell boatloads.

I'm going to look a little silly at work today, what with having to borrow one of my daughters' bibs to prevent drool running all over my suit...

Adam

P.S. A few more things to note:

(1) Via an adapter, you can use the Olympus (non-micro) Four Thirds 50mm f/2.0 macro lens, which by all accounts is an excellent performer (save in one respect, see below). This give you an excellent 100mm-e f/2 lens. Autofocus and metering will be retained.

(2) According to preliminary reports based on pre-production samples, autofocus is slow. I look forward to Eamon's report on this. This could prevent the EP-1 from being the perfect DMD, but if manual focusing is well implemented, it need not be. Note that according to DPReview, their pre-production EP-1 focused equally slowly with all lenses, so the one drawback to using the 50mm f/2.0 macro, namely slow autofocus, becomes less of a liability relative to other lenses.

(3) The LCD screen "only" has 230,000 dots, even though it is a 3" screen. This is a very surprising choice. By contrast, the small-sensor luxury compact Canon G10 and Panasonic LX3 both have 3" screens with about 460,000 dots and many recent dSLRs have 3" screens with 920,000 dots. For a camera without a (built-in) optical viewfinder that presents itself as a luxury product, this seems bizarre. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I'll wait to see what Eamon has to say on this, too.

(4) I look forward to using my Nikkors on this thing! [Not to take anything away from the two new lenses, which both look fairly innovative. BTW, I hope the performance of the 17mm lens significantly exceeds that of Olympus' 25mm f/2.8 pancake, which seems to be the only disappointment in Olympus' otherwise excellent lens lineup.]

Well so far this sounds like my next digital camera. The in-body stabilisation is ideal as far as I'm concerned (let's face it, you're unlikely to be sticking huge lenses on this), and as someone seemingly incapable of getting horizons straight the built-in level sounds good too.

It'll be interesting to see what other lenses they bring out and when. A nice wide angle would be good, and a decent tele. Although if the M adaptors are good to go, then I've got a 75mm color heliar (thread mount, but I've got the adaptor) which would make a sweet little 150mm tele.

I found myself awake at a really odd hour (for me: 3:30), and looked in my mbox, and there it was! An announcement from Olympus!

Thoughts:

Love the recessed mode dial: it shouldn't get accidentally shifted in the bag. Also, the fact that "scene" is just one location.

Two command dials on a camera this small? Cool. Two bad its nigh impossible to work both at once ;-(. Maybe next year.

I'd really like IS in movie mode. And autofocus.

Olympus has skipped "TruPic IV", in true Japanese fashion.

Digital level? Awesome. A feature that I really need.

Damn that AVI format. Still, mjpeg is easier to edit that avchd.

Audio to go with stills? Great! I can record notes! But what will Aperture do with the audio?

Bottom line: Want.

I had a Pen F. The Lines are similar. The prism housing on the Pen F was very small.

It is cute.
No EVF? Oh, well. They almost got me.

I never was an Olympus fan but this little new "toy" is lovable.. I think it's gonna be my after-summer buy..

Oh, finally! A camera that, at least on paper, doesn't make me say "What a boring piece of silly electronics." If they make a bunch of primes like Pentax does, it might be just perfect. Let's hope the output is as good as the look.

Is the DMC-LX5 Panasonic's response?

http://blog.livedoor.jp/e_p1/archives/51229143.html

Awesome

Very tempting, but will it be able to autofocus satisfactorily ?
(Panasonic aren't sharing their AF system with Olympus.)

I may have to wait for the EP-2.

I wonder if it shoots the different aspect ratios in RAW or if you can only shoot with them in JPG. on the G10 it has a 16:9 aspect, or something like it, but you can't shoot in RAW. With that ratio it is JPG only, I know you can crop later but it would be cool to see the pen shooting square format in raw.

Gorgeous. I have no discretionary spending power right now, but this is going to be hard to ignore if they produce a 10mm (or 12mm) lens to go with the 17mm.

I find this far more appealing than any DSLR on the market.

Does the viewfinder have brightline framelines for other focal lengths by any chance?

Mike, I know accessory viewfinders cost a pretty penny, but is there any reason they should? They are simple triplet lenses, AFAIK, and don't have to be as highly corrected as lenses that make pictures.

Somehow, I'd have been happier with a built-in viewfinder. Oh well, high marks to Olympus, nonetheless, for trying to break the stranglehold of the DSLR on the quality digital image market. But what's with the whole retro thing?

I think I'm selling my G9 and G10 to help fund this camera. This looks like a great carry with me everywhere camera. Wow.

Where is the viewfinder?

"Is this the DMD, finally?"

"OMG!! The DMD??"

"So Mike, are we getting closer to that elusive DMD?"

We seem to be getting closer, but we're by no means there yet. In case everyone has forgotten, here’s the brief brief:

Bazillion digital point-and-shoots currently inundating market: tiny sensor, slow zoom.

DMD: large sensor, fast prime.

What do we have with the E-P1?

Large sensor, slow prime.
To be fair, if you read Mike's original DMD post, the E-P1 matches many of his criteria. Except for the (fast) lens, the large, deep handgrip, and the color ("Henry Ford black. Or nondescript dark grey. About Zone III. With minimal lettering and numeral-ing. The better to sneak up on you with, my dear."). White with beige trim? Silver with black trim? I don't think so.

Guess we'll have to wait a few months until Panasonic releases their 20/1.7 prime. The E-P1 plus a 20/1.7 might be as close as we're likely to get to the DMD.

That's a good deal for the 17mm kit if it really includes the viewfinder!

The Amazon page has the following under "What's in the Box":

* PEN digital camera
* Li-ion battery BLS-1
* Li-ion battery charger BCS-1
* USB/Video Multi cable
* Shoulder strap
* OLYMPUS Master CD-ROM
* Instruction manual
* Warranty card

So no viewfinder according to that. Still, I placed my pre-order (via your affiliate link) and will hope to get lucky with a viewfinder included in the kit!

According to an interview with an Olympus person posted at DPreview, an upcoming model will be somewhat larger & have an EVF.

hmmmm....

If you don't have to clear a mirror box think of the possibilities for really wide and really compact glass?
How about a 6mm non fisheye manual or fixed focus pancake lens?
Street shooters would go nuts.

Jonathon, re: that 20/1.7 - I keep seeing "rumors" that it may not even come (if so - why?) but yes, I'm also lusting after it after being frustrated time and again on photo walks when i had to stop shooting and all my friends with their 50/1.4 happily kept at it :) I really hope those rumors are just that!

I can't say how refreshing it is that we've gone from people declaiming that they'll never buy an interchangeable lens camera without a TTL optical finder to a chorus of "What, no EVF???"

The disappointments are clear. Underspec 230k screen and average AF performance (the AF system comes from the E-620, so it's OK, but not the fast AF of the G1).

The 17 is looking very nice, I'd like to see the solo pricing for it as I'd want one for my G1 no matter what.

Looking at the DPReview test shots, high ISO performance seems to be improved over the G1. 6400 looks like 3200 does on the G1. Combine this with body-IS and the E-P1 could well be a better low-light camera than the G1.

I'm mildly interested in the E-P1 (I really need an E-30 first). But the 17 will be in my bag if the pricing is even vaguely reasonable.

Also looks like Olympus's pricing on the MMF-1 and MF-2 (4/3rds and OM) adaptors is silly. $209 for the MMF-1? The identical DMW-MA1 is $139 at B&H.

I got used to the EVF using the Fuji bridge cameras,(s9100 & s6000).
They were my first digital still cameras. Still use the s6000 despite also using DSLR's TLR's, etc. A well done EVF can be very nice.

This camera is just the opening move in what is bound to be a long, fruitful game.

Remember, Panasonic and Leica are both 4/3 and M4/3 charter members -- there is bound to be a rangefinder-esque Panasonic offering soon, and of course, it's inevitable twin sporting a red dot.

All in all, this is going to be really cool.

Oh -- one more thing --

NO MORE XD CARDS!!!!! HOORAY!!!!!!!!

:)

Thanks to the micro-4/3's short lens register and the E-P1's body shape (slim, with minimal protrusions), I think my quest for a "poor-man's digital back" for my view camera is soon to be realized.

The 3" LCD isn't too much smaller than the 6x9 groundglass of my Toyo 23G and Galvin medium-format view cameras, through which I happily exposed a few hundred rolls of 120 rollfilm over the course of nearly a decade, and the short lens register and built-in shutter mean I should be able to adapt some of my favorite 35mm manual-focus lenses to work as well, because their 43mm diameter image circles should be plenty roomy for the 4/3 format sensor.

True, the 2X multiplication factor is longer than I'd like, but a quick four-image flat-stitch job should allow me to take back most of that as well as produce a much larger file for printing without any loss of resolution due to the use software to tweak the pixels to correct for parallax errors and otherwise blend the individual images together.

And perhaps best of all, when I'm not using it on my view cameras, I can carry it around with me day-to-day as well, making it potentially the best of both worlds. Needless to say, I pre-ordered one as soon as Amazon's link became available earlier this morning.

Anyone else wish that the flash clipped on the side, Olympus XA-style?

I thought Olympus were onto a winner until I looked at the B/W sample images on DPreview's preview. I might be mistaken, but for 200asa pics aren't they just a little contrasty and grainy. The focus ain't great either, for that matter. It couldn't be one of the "art filters" Mike has been refraining himself from commenting on?

This is why I love your blog; aside from the great posts, the commenters are really helpful in picking through the nuance of all the details.

I'd say this is the camera I was looking for when I made the DSLR leap to the e-420 from point and shoot, and I may get it, although I love the e-420 right now. I can adapt my current lenses to this camera, but not the other way, which gives me pause. I want to be able to switch back and forth. I dunno why. I just do.

But the size! Ah, heaven.

Chris, I think that b&w image is the product of one of the "art filters". I wouldn't judge the b&w image quality based on that.

I think resistance is futile. I'm going to have to pre-order.

Chris, I'm sure that's the "grainy film" filter. DPreview's preview (god, that feels clunky to write) stated that they had used some art filters on some of the photos, but conveniently ignored stating that in the details for each individual picture.

Hey Chris: Those grainy b&w shots are with the "Daido" Art Filter.

I wonder why, and how, amazon apparently became the exclusive pre-seller for this camera? I've not found it even referenced anywhere else at this writing.

I too was disappointed by the lack of EVF/OVF (even as an accessory like the Ricoh models) - though the low-res screen is more of a bite than anything.

But, I was reminded that for many years people happily shot with 35mm point and shoots (including the vaunted Oly Stylus and Ricoh GR1) where they had only a crude VF and no way to confirm focus except for to trust the camera and a hell of a lot of in-focus pics were taken then. AF has come a long way since and I'll put my trust in it - I have with SLRs. As for holding the arms out...I think the built-in IS compensates for that somewhat.

If this camera has a quick-snap/hyperfocal mode, I'm going to be one happy camper.

Hi ISO samples on DPReview are not as low as some of the SLRs out there, but they're good enough.

For what this camera is meant to do, I'm very impressed. It's a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I'll do it.

Me wantee!

P.S. I love the design, but the white strap version looks like something only WKRP Sales Manager Herb Tarlek would love.

Chris,

Without having seen the picture you are referring to, I am almost positive that one of their "Art Filters" has been applied to the picture. I believe one of them is called "Grainy B&W Film" or something like that.

Best,
Adam

I'd rather have two custom banks on the mode dial than two control dials to change aperture and shutter speed.

In digital, the latter method is slower because of all those intermediate shutter speeds.

This page shows a black body:

http://tr.im/oIwR

BTW, notice how small the sensor still looks in the body. I wonder if the cameras (not necessarily M4/3) can get much smaller yet with the same sensor size?

So what are the other four of the "new breed of large-sensor compacts"?

Is it only me that feels uncomfortable that a "feature" of the MFT format is obligatory distortion correction:

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0906/09061600watanabeinterview.asp

Jason: Sorry if I seem to be repeating this over and over again. But: put the camera strap around your neck. Grasp the two sides of the camera firmly, one with each hand. Pull your elbows in to your belly. Push the camera gently out until the strap is pulled taut around your neck.

NOW try to tell me it's unstable to hold a camera out where you can see the LCD; according to my tests, that's better than I can do with the face-hugger grip needed for an SLR, and I've practiced that for 40 years.

"So what are the other four of the 'new breed of large-sensor compacts'?"

Sigma DP1 and DP2 and Panasonic G1 and GH1.

Mike

@ David Dyer-Bennet: Jason obviously has never fired a pistol. The turret technique currently taught in most police academies is identical: grip the pistol with both hands. Push it forward untik it stops. Use the sights. Squeeze the trigger.

It works.

"Is it only me that feels uncomfortable that a "feature" of the MFT format is obligatory distortion correction"

It's a very foolish thing to worry about. This sort of correction is becoming ubiquitous in high-end scientific imaging, from the highest performance light microscopes used in the life sciences to the newest and largest telescopes used in astronomy. Every optical system introduces a variety of aberrations. We now have the ability to accurately model these aberrations and remove them.

It is absurdly hard and expensive to optimize for everything. It only makes sense to optimize optics so as to optically correct the difficult aberrations, leaving the simple ones for computational deconvolution. This is the 21st century. It is asinine to design a digital imaging system in any other way.

I belong to the camp of eye-level viewfinders, be it electronic or optical. I'm 55 and I have to hold the camera 18" away or take off my glasses and hold it 4" away, either isn't what a DMD should be.
What a pain to see such an attractive and innovative product with such major flaw!

Bravo Olympus! Big sensor, small camera - love that 17mm combo. While some people will have little niggles about the camera that may keep them from buying it - this is a huge step in the right direction and will likely be my next purchase. Personally, as another evolution of this design, I'd love a decent fast fixed lens in the 35-45mm range built into the body to make it even smaller and pocketable along with a small on-board flash to get utility snaps at less than 10 feet...drool.

Thank God I just got a new job. Now I can afford to go out and pick up one of these and a new K7.

Thanks guys. Daido art filter, huh! In my day that would have been called bad processing. I'd swap the "art filters" for a good OVF any day of the week.
Chris

I think I'm being incorrectly maligned for something. My disdain with the lack of VF was only a matter of personal taste.

I was trying to say that the IS should soothe the nay-sayers who are upset about the lack of an OVF/EVF and the ability to steadily hold the camera.

I've got no issue with the LCD compose method.

I'm quite familiar with those tricks Mssrs Bennett and Norman - I used to shoot .22 silhouette pistol and rifle, practical pistol (although I was more of a Weaver Stance guy than isosceles) and skeet. I'd argue that breathing is actually the key factor in stabilization.

Nice looking camera. Let's hope that it's going to force other manufacturers to think outside the DSLR-box.

But... What really keeps me amazed is f/2.8 lens repeatedly being called "slow". In my book f/2.8 is fast enough.

Sergey - Agreed on the f/2.8 thing - seems fast enough for me. There are two possible reasons people want faster lenses though :

1) They are used to trying to use film and keep the ASA rating really low. This is mitigated to a large extent by the higher ISO capabilities of the camera.

2) They want very shallow DOF. Smaller sensors create larger DOF for a given aperture. That's why it's difficult to get a BG blur with a P&S even at something like f/2.8. This sensor isn't nearly that small, so it should be OK in this regard, but not like 35mm or a full frame sensor.

And even if you think 2.8 is fast enough, you could probably make use of something faster in certain situations, so faster is rarely a bad thing in and of itself.

This would be a nice camera if it had a viewfinder.

David, thank you for your comment.
But why should anyone expect shallow DOF from a 17mm lens? That's what longer lenses are for. When I'm out shooting with 35mm lens on my Zeiss Ikon or with my 90mm Fuji GW I do not aim for any background blur. Instead I expect to get reasonably sharp coverage of a reasonably wide FOV.
BTW, 35mm (give or take) is my only focal length in any format (35mm in 135, 90mm in 6x9 and 135mm in 4x5).

About f/2.8. I remember when Sigma DP1 first came out there were cries "why only f/4 and not f/2.8". And now f/2.8 is not enough too :).

Regards,
Sergey

Sergey - If you are close to your subject with a wide angle, you may still want some blur for subject separation. I'm not necessarily talking about a smooth colored BG - but just enough to draw focus to a subject. But I agree that in a lot of situations, you're probably not going to care, or you'll want more DOF.

And maybe you weren't getting at this, but the DOF from the 17mm will be exactly the same as a longer lens at the same aperture, for a subject at a given size in the frame. It just isn't as apparent because of the wide view (which is probably what you WERE getting at).

David, you are right again. That's exactly what I was getting at. I wish I could be more articulate in my rants. But when your English is self-taught it means that your teacher was very bad :) .

One last grumbling about this f/2.8 lens: to call some lens "slow" we must have some more faster lens to compare it with. But is there anything faster? To my limited knowledge this 17/2.8 is the fastest 17 lens on the market in any format and as such it should be called not "slow" but "an achievement" :).

Definitely a great first approximation to "the DMD". Really a shame they could not put in a high ISO capable sensor, that would have ensured a runaway success. Low light capability would have been the complete package.

Well, I'll wait for the E-P2 or maybe P3 iteration. Unless Oly has some sort of upgrade scheme whereby they buy back the P1 for a substantial discount on the next model.

Some of the details not often mentioned in the press were given by A. Watanabe, Oly's point man on the digital Pen, in a French interview. Salient points: they are really focusing on the electronic viewfinder, although not closing the door on the optical one. And definitely P2 is coming.
Took a stab at translating most of this Q&A session there, FYI:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/3695960422/

I hear that the Ep-1 will come with an external EVF in the future. Excellent idea. If it has the resolution of the Panasonic G1 and provides framelines for their square format option, it will be a hit.

With image stabilization in the body and the ability to shoot square format with a wide angle lense you could do some really exciting work.

The Panasoni G-1 had an excellent lense that is almost distortion free at 14mm. If Olympus can produce a distortion free 14mm lense the combination with square format on the Ep-1 will fly off the shelves even faster.

Panasonic put image stabilization in its lenses for the G1 -very unfortunate.

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