Olympus is taunting tigers at the zoo with its new digital “Pen” camera, the E-P1.
The “tigers” in this case are the self-appointed camera snobs, who will undoubtedly maul this bold, retro-styled shooter for not being expensive enough, powerful enough or big enough to qualify as a “real” camera.
But the ambitious consumers at whom it’s aimed will have a hard time understanding this strange new device’s appeal without first hearing a 10-minute lecture about sensor size, interchangeable lens mount standards, optical viewfinders and high ISO speeds.
The resulting camera is beautiful, fun to use, yet not entirely practical. It’s pricey too. As a result, it probably won’t become a massive bestseller, but that’s beside the point. What it will do is win design awards, turn heads, and kick-start camera makers to put a little more thought into their designs, rather than mindlessly churning out variations on the same tired theme year after year.
The elevator pitch for the E-P1 goes something like this: Let’s create a camera with an 18-x-13.5mm sensor that’s much bigger than most point-and-shoot cameras, giving it better image quality. But we’ll still make it smaller than the full-frame imagers on many single lens reflex (SLR) cameras. We’ll also eschew SLR optics in favor of a viewfinder-less (and shutter-less) body. Here’s the best part — it’ll be physically smaller than any SLR while offering the artsy appeal of interchangeable lenses.
The result should be a camera that is both compact and well-suited to photographers who want to play with cool lens effects — like opening the aperture wide so that only a thin plane is actually in focus — that are difficult or impossible to do with a point-and-shoot. Can’t get the shot you want? No problem: Just twist on any lens that’s compatible with the Olympus-backed standard or, with an adapter, use any Olympus or Leica lens.
And in fact, the Olympus Pen is a lot of fun to use. It looks like a camera your dad might have had, and that’s no coincidence: Olympus had a hit in the ’60s and ’70s with a line of film-based Pen F cameras that served as a bridge between Instamatics and 35mm SLRs. It’s attractive and flashy while the shiny metal body feels dense, solid and more real than a plastic compact camera.
The three-inch LCD is clear and bright, and that’s good, because with no viewfinder you’re relying on it to compose your shots. That can make manual focusing an exercise in Heisenbergian ambiguity: You can either be in focus or have a well-framed shot, but not both. When you turn the focus ring, the viewfinder zooms in to a tiny detail of the frame, letting you easily judge the clarity, but also robbing you of the ability to see the whole picture. It’s like composing shots by looking through a long cardboard tube.
The focusing dilemma is even more painful since the camera doesn’t always lock focus on what you’d like. If you want to take advantage of the 14-42mm, f3.5-5.6 kit lens’s ability to shoot with a fairly narrow focal plane this will drive you up the freaking wall. The best solution we found was simply to trust the autofocus, use the prefocus trick of pushing the shutter button down halfway and re-centering, and take bunches of shots.
The E-P1 will shoot extremely detailed 12.3-megapixel images as JPEGs, Olympus RAW format or both simultaneously. Image clarity is excellent up to ISO 1600, with noticeable graininess at 3200 and serious grain at the maximum ISO of 6400. Built-in image stabilization helps compensate for the fact that you can’t brace the camera against your cheekbones as you can with cameras that have viewfinders.
A series of “art” filters can give your photos a little on-the-spot post-processing, turning them black and white, vignetting them as if they were shot with a crappy Russian plastic camera, or making them soft-focused and washed-out as if they’d been shot in a Sears photo studio. The post-processing slows down shooting a great deal, though: You’re better off using Photoshop or Picasa.
The E-P1 also shoots excellent HD video (AVI format, 1,280 x 720 pixels, 30 frames per second) though recorded sound is only so-so and the internal microphone will pick up noise from the lens if you zoom in and out.
The usual complement of automatic shooting modes make it easy to take snapshots on the fly, and the E-P1 is fairly fast at focusing and shooting. For more manual shooting, you’ve got full control over aperture, speed, exposure compensation, white balance and more, all using an easy-to-navigate menu system via a control wheel and spinning knob in the upper right of the camera’s back.
In the end, would you really be willing to drop $800 on a flashy camera when an enthusiast model like the Canon G10 will take comparable pictures, weighs less, has a retracting lens and costs at least $300 less? That depends on the importance you accord to sensor size, style or the ability to swap lenses. If any of those carry weight with you, you should at least make a visit to your local camera store to test out the E-P1. It’s an impressive camera, and we hope it kicks off a new trend.
WIRED Mighty Four Thirds sensor dwarfs the imagers used in all other compact cameras. Interchangeable lenses give flexibility, arty possibilities. Shoots fast. Image stabilization + wide ISO range = ability to shoot in low light. Solid, comfortable feel in the hand. Shoots excellent HD video (AVI format, 1,280 x 720 pixels, 30 frames per second.) Retro looks will trigger salivating in photo geeks and design fans.
TIRED Manual focusing is confusing and difficult without an optical viewfinder. Autofocus not entirely reliable. No included flash. Maximum aperture of f3.5 in the kit lens is disappointing. Kit lens requires a manual “press and twist” maneuver to extend it into shooting position. Recorded sound is so-so; internal microphone will also pick up whirring from the lens if you zoom in and out. Camera is a bit bulky with lens attached.
- Style: Compact/Ultrazoom
- Resolution: 10 megapixels and up
- Media Format: SD Card
- Manufacturer: Olympus
- Price: $800 (as tested)
Fonte: Revista Wired