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Olympus E-P1 Review Diary

review diary by Uwe + Bettina Steinmueller


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Note on image processing:

As usual we work only with raw files (Olympus Studio 2 and RAW Developer).

All images are also treated with our new DOP Contrast Plus and DOP EasyDS Detail & Sharpness Resolver.


8/28/2009 Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic G1/GH1 compared



Panasonic TZ5 & G1, Canon G9 and Olympus E-P1


The G1/GH1 is slightly bigger and has more of a DSLR look. The E-P1 form factor is very attractive (SLR kind of features disguised like a P&S camera.

AF (Auto Focus)

The G1/GH1 wins hands down in terms of AF speed. Even with Olympus lenses it is faster.


The E-P1 allows AF (though often very slow) with more Olympus 4/3 lenses.


We like the G1/GH1 EVF and miss one for the E-P1.

Image Quality

Very close as they share about the same sensor.

IS (Image Stabilization)

The E-P1 feature in body sensor image stabilization and the G1/GH1 has a lens image stabilization (Mega O.I.S.. Both have their advantages.

Use of legacy lenses

The E-P1 and the G1/GH1 can both use (with adapters) many 35mm lenses. This can be very attractive. The in camera IS works also for these manual lenses while the G1/GH1 have no IS with such lenses..

Drawing attention

With the G1/GH1 (looks more like a DSLR) you draw more attention than using the E-P1 with kit lenses and the LCD as framing device because you look like one of the many P&S shooters.


The E-P1 does not have a built-in flash. The G1/GH1 has an internal flash. Not essential for us but nice to have it in some situations.


The E-P1 can take nice 720p HD videos. Unfortunately with hardly any control about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The G1 does not have HD video capabilities. The GH1 is in a complete different league with its 1080p 24fps and 720p 60fps modes. The GH1 allows faster AF during video, silent lens motor and full manual control.


If you want a viewfinder, good zooms and a snappy AF the G1/GH1 wins. If you like the LCD for framing and want a smaller package use the E-P1 with the kit lenses. With the 17mm the E-P1 can be a lot of fun. Overall we personally prefer to have an EVF (G1/GH1).

8/3/2008 San Juan Bautista "Living History" Video (toned version)

We finally settled with a toned version (neither B&W nor full color):

San Juan Bautista: Living History (toned) from Uwe Steinmueller on Vimeo.

We performed the toning in Adobe After Effects.

8/2/2008 San Juan Bautista "Living History" Video

This is kind of our first complete video as part of our learning process. Our goal is to create a nice video about the San Juan Bautista State Park over the coming year. This video is a first "real" step.

San Juan Bautista: Living History from Uwe Steinmueller on Vimeo.


  • San Juan Bautista is 10 miles from our home. We left Hollister in overcast in the hope to have the same weather in San Juan. Just as we arrived the sun broke through. With these kind of projects you have to take the light as it comes.
  • Watch the Bar scene because this is quite a dark room. There is of course noise but overall not too bad for the E-P1.
  • This time everything was shot from a light carbon fibre tripod. We will get a fluid head this week and hope to get better pans.


  • Browsed the clips in Olympus Master 2 to delete unusable clips
  • Converted clips with QTAmateur
  • Import into Adobe Premiere Pro CS4
  • Corrected clips for:
    • Brightness
    • Noise
    • Perspective
    • White Balance
    • Shadow/Highlight
  • Added title, section names, credits and music
  • Export to MPEG4 for Vimeo


Lessons learned

  • Pan needs improvement
  • Better to underexpose and then briten later in the editing process. Unfortunately the E-P1 iis not really a low light master (bau also not too bad either)
  • Tripod is essential


7/31/2009 Our second video

This time we shot from a tripod.

The video opens with a 360 degree sequence. We normally don't like this much but the San Juan Bautista Plaza (last Spanish Plaza in California) has a very unique 360 degree view.

1. North: Trees towards Silicon Valley (here is actually the San Andreas Fault)

2. West: Mission

3. South: Plaza Hotel (now historic museum and State Park)

4. East: Plaza Hall and Stable (now historic museum and State Park)


San Juan Bautista State Park (first version) from Uwe Steinmueller on Vimeo.


B&W version (converted to B&W in Premiere Pro CS4)

San Juan Bautista State Park B&W (first version) from Uwe Steinmueller on Vimeo.


  • Browsed the clips in Olympus Master 2
  • Imported selected clips into iMovie 9
  • Some exposure corrections in iMovie
  • Export from iMovie to Quicktime movie at 720p
  • Import into Adobe Premiere Pro CS4
  • Added title and music
  • Export to MPEG4 for Vimeo

Lessons learned

  • Check that no art filter is selected if you don't want it (this ruined quite a few clips because we did not want to use any art filter.
  • Smother 360 degree panning needed (head was not smooth enough)
  • Better control of exposure (may need ND filter)

Because we like San Juan Bautista this will be an ongoing learning experience.

7/30/2009 Capture One now officially supports E-P1

The new version 4.8.2 of Capture One now officially supports the E-P1. No need for the hack anymore.

7/29/2009 Lessons learned from our first video with the E-P1

We know that video is a different world from still photography. This does not mean that we won't start learning at least a bit doing own videos. Here is the result from our trip to Monterey (consider this as our first steps):

Monterey Impressions with the Olympus E-P1 from Uwe Steinmueller on Vimeo.

We used the E-P1 with the Olympus 14-42mm kit lens and did no focusing during shooting.

Our workflow (work in progress)

  • We used Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 for the Mac as the main editor
  • Premiere Pro cannot import the E-P1 videos directly. This is very disappointing.
  • We converted the video files in iMovie and then did the editing in Premiere Pro CS4
  • We did not realize that iMovie already down sampled our footage.

Lessons learned

  • Shooting video requires the use of a tripod in nearly all cases. Camera image stabilization does not help much in our experience. We tried to fight some camera shake by using a Gorillapod like shown here:

It clearly reduced some shake but still a tripod would be better

  • The built-in microphones of the E-P1 catch too much hiss from even the mildest of wind
  • When you film you have to watch for noise all the time. At busy places like Monterey noise from tourist, ourselves and planes happens all the time.
  • Actually sound is a major challenge for your own videos
  • Some clips in the video are too short and some maybe too long. For this kind of videos "too short" is more a problem.
  • Pans need to be way smoother
  • The pure image quality of the E-P1 videos is not bad at all

7/28/2009 Lightzone 3.8 now works with E-P1 RAW files

Lightzone (our review) now supports the E-P1. Check out what the Lightzone Relight tool can do for your images.

Lightzone 3.8 can be downloaded from here.

Lightzone is now available at a special price and our readers even get a discount:

7/27/2009 Mike Kobal on E-P1 Video

The Olympus P E-1 records 720/30 Hd video and offers a few creative video modes. The effect in ART6 mode is quite appealing, no idea what frame rate the camera records at, my guess is as good as yours.

Summer Fun: shot with Olymplus E P-1 from Mike Kobal on Vimeo.

The Good

  • Aperture control in video mode, creative pre-sets.
  • Original and 3^rd party adapters to use lenses from Nikon, Canon, Olympus etc....
  • Record until card is full

The Bad

  • No full manual controls in video mode.
  • Noisy lens, during focusing, built in mic will pick up the lens sound during focus search.
  • No controls for sound. Low resolution LCD compared to its competitors.
  • Avi file compression.

The Ugly

  • No AE lock in video mode. This cripples the video mode of this otherwise very capable compact camera for serious shooting.


This small camera is a pleasure use, menu access and LCD are alright. The creative video modes are fun to use and the camera captures very nice still images. The best in a camera of its size.


7/21/2009 Olympus E-P1 and E-620 Compared

This note compares the E-P1 to the Olympus E-620. A future note will compare the E-P1 to the Panasonic G1.

Here a little story: I planned to take the E-P1 with me all the time. But then I grabbed the wrong bag (with the E-620). And this time I really needed a camera. Took the E-620 with the 12-60mm and got my shots. Because I used the E-P1 for over 2 weeks now nearly exclusively this change of camera made me much more aware of the differences between the E-P1 and the E-620.

Lesson learned:

1. AF much faster and fun with E-620 compared to E-P1

2. Faster handling of the E-620

3. Viewfinder a big plus (yes the E-P1 could need an EVF like the G1)

4. The E-P1 can only show that it is so much smaller if we getbetter zooms in smaller size. We like the Olympus 12-60mm lens a lot but it does not handle as well on the E-P1 and also the AF is very slow with this lens on the E-P1.

Here is our comparison in more detail:

Note: We only look at the still camera aspects of theses cameras.


E-P1 with Olympus 4/3 14-54mm and E-620 with Olympus 4/3 12-60mm

E-P1 with Olympus m4/3 17mm and E-620 with Olympus 4/3 12-60mm

Size depends very much on the lens used. There are right now only few real m4/3 lenses. Using 4/3 lenses adds bulk to the E-P1 and voids the size benefit. With top 4/3 zooms the E-P1 is not much smaller than the E-620. With kit lenses the E-P1 is quite a bit more compact than the E-620.

AF (Auto Focus)

Overall the E-P1 AF is pretty slow while the E-620 AF works fine (although if we would use the contrast AF on the E-620 in live it would be slower) with good zooms. The slow AF is one of the major issues with the E-P1. The Panasonic m4/3 lenses focus slightly faster on the E-P1 than the Olympus lenses but still not really fast.


Olympus has good offererings for the 4/3 system while there are no real top m4/3 lenses as of now (maybe the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 lens is an exception, seems to be good for this range). This means if you use the 4/3 lenses the E-620 has clearly an advantage.

The E-620 offers clearly more fast lenses and zooms. These lenses seem to have a very slow AF speed on the E_P1 (this lens had not been optimized for contrast AF).


The optical viewfinder of the the E-620 is small but very useful. After some time of using the E-P1 we started to miss an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). Our trick with the HoodLoup (see below) works but is no real replacement for a good EVF.

Image Quality

The sensors are close to be the same. The E-P1 may have some improved in camera processing.

IS (Image Stabilization)

Both cameras feature in body sensor image stabilization.

Use of legacy lenses

The E-P1 can use (with adapters) many 35mm lenses. This can be very attactive. The in camera IS works also for these manual lenses.

Drawing attention

With the E-620 you draw more attention than using the E-P1 with kit lenses and the LCD as framing device because you look like one of the many P&S shooters.


The E-P1 does not have a built-in flash. The E-620 has a built-in flash and also allows to control larger Olympus external flash units.


If you want a viewfinder, good zooms and a snappy AF the E-620 wins. If you like the LCD for framing and want a smaller package use the E-P1 with the kit lenses. With the 17mm the E-P1 can be a lot of fun.

7/13/2009 17mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens

17mm lens mounted (compared with the kit lens)

There are quite a few aspects that make this lens attractive:

  • Very small
  • Complements the E-P1 retro look
  • At f/2.8 the fastest Micro 4/3 lens on the market
  • At 34mm (in terms of 35mm equivalent) it can be a very attractive angle of view.
  • Sharpness is not bad

Note: If asked to use only one fixed focal lens I guess 35mm would be very high on my list.

There are also some not so great aspects of this lens:

  • All plastic (but this makes it light)
  • Quite strong barrel distortions (can be fixed in Capture One)


Original photo with barrel distortions and fixed in Capture One

Note: The distortion correction in Capture One is a manual process. But you can save a preset and recall it later any time because the distortion does not change over time.

  • Quite visible CA (can also be fixed in Capture One)

We actually did not expect to like this lens much. But once we found out that we can work around its limitations this lens started to grow on us.

We either use the E-P1/17mm combo with our HoodLoupe (see below) or we use the E-P1 like a typical P&S camera. Here is an example:

The E-P1 LCD is actually well visible in strong off angles (e.g. over your head or to the side like in the above example). This allows us to hold the E-P1 in angles that would not allow to use any kind of viewfinder (like in the above example). Here is the resulting photo we took:

Also the fact that this is a f/2.8 lens helps in more low light situation to keep the ISO level low.

f/4, ISO 400, 1/60 sec

In this case we also benefited from the following factors:

  • Extended DOF of 4/3 sensors because of its smaller size (of course if you want to have more shallow DOF this also can become a problem)
  • In camera image stabilization helps


  • Optics: Barrel distortions, Medium CA, OK sharpness
  • Price: Not cheap
  • Size & Weight: Very small and very light
  • AF-Speed: not too slow
  • F-Stop: f/2.8
  • AF works on Panasonic G1: YES
  • Fun factor: A lot of fun to use
  • Will it find a place in our bag?: Clear YES

7/12/2009 E-P1 Color Gallery #2

We created a second gallery because the first one got to large. We now also mark most images with additional information:

  • Lens used (we use many lenses on the E-P1)

Note: We plan to cover many lenses for the E-P1 in more detail as part of this diary.

  • Processing
    • JPEG: we started with a JPEG from the camera
    • C1: RAW image converted in our (hacked) version of C1
    • OS2: RAW image converted in Olympus Master 2

Note: All images we finally treated in Photoshop with our DOP Contrast Plus and DOP Easy DS al low settings.

7/10/2009 E-P1 B&W Gallery

Some of these shots are from RAW and converted to B&W. Some others are slightly processed B&W images from in camera JPEGs (we shoot now RAW+ LJPEG with processing set to B&W).

7/9/2009 E-P1 Shot of the day

This photo was shot with the simple Olympus 40-150mm kit lens and a 4/3 to m4/3 adapter. We like the mood a lot. More photos can be found in our SmugMug galleries.


7/9/2009 Hack to open E-P1 images in Capture One reported

We normally do not report about any hacks and also in this case you are on your own (we just link what other people report, but can confirm that it works quite well for us). But the RAW support for the E-P1 was one of our main problems:

  • Olympus Studio 2 SW is just way too slow
  • Capture One 3.8 is once again one of our favorite RAW converters

You can discuss of course this issue in our forums but please do not ask us for help. Helping other people with hacks is for us an open can of worms. If you understand what you do you will find your own way. Here are some tips from the internet.

7/7/2009 E-P1 Level Gauge

A very nice feature is the E-P1 Level Gauge. I personally tilt very easily and here this view can help. Also great if you use more extreme WA lenses.

Level Gauge view

We would like to have the option to see at least aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

7/5/2009 Wish Lists

Why wish lists (plural)? We think there are different audiences for the E-P1:

  • (Group A) Photographers who upgrade from a P&S camera to get better ISO performance and want interchangeable lenses (but no bulky DSLR).
  • (Group B) Photographers who want a small backup camera for their DSLRs or like the idea of a Leica with auto focus

We try to compile a list of changes that both groups want the most. We also want to mention what videographers would like to see improved.

Group A:

  • Built in flash because all P&S camera have it
  • Some may also like an EVF because they feel the LCD is a limited framing device (especially in bright light)

Group B (this is more our own personal perspective):

  • They require an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). Here Olympus should be creative. An optional EVF on the flash hot shoe like the Ricoh GX100 (our review) could be a solution. It should show a larger image though than the GX100.

  • Top m4/3 zooms and primes. Right now the E-P1 is quite limited with m4/3 lenses. There are nice Olympus 4/3 lenses but they feel to bulky on the E-P1.
  • Swivel LCD. Although this may make the E-P1 thicker.
  • Improved AF speed (here the E-P1 body seems to be ok but the current Olympus lenses slow the camera down)
  • Better support for AEB bracketing (more exposures and larger EV steps)
  • Would like to see a mechanical switch for AF. Right now quite a few button clicks to get from MF (MF zoom preview) to S-AF.
  • Support for manual focus at very low light (m4/3 lenses don't support to set the distance by meter or feet or at infinity)


  • Socket for an external microphone
  • Silent AF lens operation (it seems the Panasonic 14-140mm lens archives this)
  • Better AF during recording
  • Better wind noise filter for the the built in microphones
  • More efficient compression to get longer clips on the card (e.g. AVCHD Lite supported by the Panasonic GH1).

Me :-)

  • Would like a black body

Send us a note if you request features we did not mention.

7/3/2009 RAW Developer supports E-P1

RAW Developer now supports E-P1 RAW format.

7/2/2009 Diary Start

From the moment Olympus and Panasonic announced the new Micro Four Thirds standard we waited for the first Olympus offering. Panasonic made quite an impression with its m4/3 Lumix G1. The G1 looks more like a smaller DSLR. Olympus has chosen a different path. The new E-P1 (P stands for the Olympus tradition of their Pen cameras) is styled like a Rangefinder camera and is even smaller than the G1. The E-P1 looks more like a larger P&S camera. But this is no P&S camera by any means:

  • Interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lenses (Olympus offers initially the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and 17mm f/2.8 - in 35mm equivalent you have to multiply by 2x).
  • Large 12MP sensor (compared to P&S cameras and not that much smaller than APS-C sensors) that should be close to the sensors in the Olympus E-620 and Panasonic Lumix G1.
  • HD movie mode (720p at 30 fps)
  • Sensor image stabilization. This is clearly a very strong point as it also helps with all manual lenses that you can attach.
  • 3" LCD with 230,000 pixels (maybe one of the weaker aspects of the E-P1)
  • Contrast AF.
  • Automatic sensor dust removal (Olympus pioneered this technology)
  • Provides four different aspect ratios
  • Digital Level Sensor
  • High quality stereo audio (uncompressed 24 bit/96kHz Linear PCM ). Olympus also produces small high quality audio recorders so they understand this field very well.
  • Multiple exposures like in the E-620 and E-30
  • Art filters also like in the E-620/E-30
  • Records to SDHC media cards (finally Olympus is using SD cards!).

In some way the E-P1 handles like the Olympus E-620 from the menu structure. That is why we had no issues to get started. On the other side we need to compare it to the Panasonic G1 because they are both the only Micro 4/3 cameras right now.

Note: We bought the camera we review because we did not get any review sample in time. We find this camera too important to wait.

Here are a few questions we want to answer (over time of our diary):

  • Camera size (compared)
  • AF speed
  • Manual focusing
  • No EVF
  • LCD quality
  • Bracketing
  • Use with other 4/3 lenses
  • Use with manual lenses (e.g. Leica)
  • No Flash
  • Image quality
  • Lens quality

Camera Size (compared)

Panasonic TZ5 & G1, Canon G9 and Olympus E-P1

Note: The Panasonic TZ5 is about the size of the Panasonic XZ3 and the Canon G9 is like the Canon G10. The E-P1 zoom can be collapsed for transport:

Zoom collapsed

Zoom expanded

We think the image of the 4 cameras shows that the E-P1 is not really a pocketable camera (read our XS3 and G10 comparison). The E-P1 is smaller than the Panasonic G1 and also smaller than all DSLRs. If you want a larger sensor (means not as tiny as P&S sensors) and the choice of interchangeable lenses the E-P1 is the smallest option today.

As you can see the E-P1 is not really very small but this is also a benefit because it handles better than P&S cameras. Small & light is not really better for handling but a big plus for transport.

AF Speed

The AF speed is slow (compared to the G1 or DSLRs). It actually is quite a bit faster with the Panasonic 45-200mm m4/3 lens. For action photographers this is an issue but not so much for our style of working.


A couple of months ago this would be a show stopper for us. But recently we started to use the HoodLoupe as a pseudo EVF for P&S cameras (read our full article):

Today we like this method a lot.

Note: This technique is slightly more complicated with the E-P1 than with P&S cameras. P&S cameras control the zoom via controls on the body (most P&S zoom controls suck by the way) while we need to handle the HoodLoupe and using the zoom ring at the same time for the E-P1. In the end still no show stopper.

LCD quality

We were very worried about the LCD quality (at 230K pixels). To our surprise we have no problems using it with the HoodLoupe.


At 3 fps he bracketing speed is much faster than the G1. Olympus is still not supporting EV bracketing beyond 1 EV steps (read our request list for bracketing).

Use with other 4/3 lenses

Work just fine with a 4/3 to m4/3 adapter (we use the one from Panasonic). Because the E-P1 has sensor image stabilization it helps with all lenses. Handling of the E-P1 with some bigger 4/3 lenses is not so great. That is why we hope for more quality m4/3 lenses soon (we know this means at least one more year :-)).

Use with manual lenses (e.g. Leica)

Works just fine. The preview magnification is even working easier than with the G1.

No Flash

In the end we think a tiny built-in flash would not do that camera any justice.

Image quality

We will discuss this in later installments. So far we think that the image quality is nice and likely even better than the E-620 (and we like using E-620 a lot). We also need to wait for some more RAW converter options as the Olympus Studio 2 is too slow for our usual workflow.

Lens quality

Over time we plan to have a look at quite a few lenses. Here are the lenses we used for our initial test.

Kit lens: 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6

Nice for a kit lens but of course slow. Shows barrel distortions at the wide end and some Chromatic Aberrations (CA). Both can be likely corrected in future RAW converters supporting the E-P1. The lens cap is likely to get lost soon and we miss a decent lens hood.

Note on Olympus Studio 2 RAW converter: The workflow is way slower than using Lightroom, Capture One or RAW Developer.

Panasonic 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 Mega O.I.S.

First tests look nice. Maybe nicer than with the Panasonic G1. As mentioned before the auto focus is also more snappy than with the Olympus lenses.

Olympus 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0

To our surprise even AF works. AF is slower than with the kit lens but still usable. The only issue we see is that this lens is too big for the small body to balance well. We hope Olympus makes this zoom also for m4/3.

Note: The Panasonic G1 does not work in AF with this lens. The camera will prevent you from doing so.

Summicron-M 50mm f/2

Works very well in MF mode with our Novoflex adapter.

First Conclusion

We are at a good start here. Right now for us the weakest point is the slow AF with the Olympus lenses. We need now to integrate this camera into our normal work.


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