Olympus has finally taken the wraps off its first Micro Four Thirds camera – and it’s quite different from the orange and grey prototype shown at Photokina last year.


June 16, 2009: Olympus has finally taken the wraps off its first Micro Four Thirds camera – and it’s quite different from the orange and grey prototype shown at Photokina last year.
The new Pen E-P1 features a mirror-free design that leverages the heritage of the popular ‘Pen’ series cameras, which were launched in 1959 and sold more than 17 million units by the time the line was terminated in 1981. However, unlike compact digicams, the Pen E-P1 has a much larger image sensor, which promises better image quality. It’s designed to be as easy to use as a compact digicam and includes Intelligent Auto and Live Control functions that enable users to adjust camera settings easily by selecting icons displayed on the LCD panel.


The new Olympus Pen E-P1 with the 17mm prime lens that will be offered with the camera body. (Source: Olympus)
As in the Pen days, the design rationale for the new camera – to quote Olympus – has been to produce a compact sized camera “for everyone to enjoy exceptional image quality whilst carrying like a pen”. In fact, the Pen E-P1 is a lot larger than a pen and its metal body is comparatively heavy (see Specifications, below). Also, it’s jacket-pocketable, rather than shirt-pocketable.


Top view of the Pen E-P1 with the 17mm prime lens. (Source: Olympus)
The Pen E-P1 comes with a Four Thirds format, 12.3-megapixel (effective) Live MOS image sensor that supports both still and HD video capture. It features a new TruePic IV image processing chip, a new two-curtain mechanical shutter and a re-designed image stabilisation unit that claims up to 4EV of shutter speed advantage. The Olympus SSWF dust-removal system has also been re-designed to suit the Pen E-P1’s body, providing dust-free images, regardless of how many times the lenses are changed.
One feature most photographers will appreciate is the support for SD and SDHC memory cards, required by the inclusion of video recording. As well as supporting both JPEG and raw file formats for still shots, the Pen E-P1 can record both 720p HD video and VGA video clips at 30 frames/second with stereo sound using the widely supported AVI/Motion JPEG format. A maximum clip size of 2GB (equivalent to approximately 20 minutes) applies to HD video files and electronic image stabilisation is available for shooting video.


Rear view of the Pen E-P1 showing the 3-inch HyperCrystal LCD monitor and control layout. (Source: Olympus)
There’s no built-in optical viewfinder; users must compose and review shots and adjust menu settings via the 3-inch, 230,000-dot LCD screen. A level gauge can be displayed to assist shot composition. In addition, a separate optical viewfinder can be clipped onto the hot shoe, if required. Olympus’s Art Filters are included in the camera’s menu system – and they can be applied to both still images and video clips.
The new camera also includes a special “e-Portrait” scene mode that includes ‘soft skin’ processing. When e-Portrait is set before shooting, the camera saves two images as both before and after compensation shots. The e-Portrait effect can be applied to images in the camera’s edit mode after the picture is taken. The PEN E-P1’s Face Detection function detects up to 8 faces and optimises focus and exposure accordingly. Shadow Adjust Technology (SAT) combines with Face Detection to optimise exposure of human faces and background scenery. Face Detection can also be applied in playback mode.
Multi-exposure compositing is supported for both image capture and post-capture editing of raw files in the camera. In the former mode, users can superimpose two sequential frames and the camera will adjust brightness and contrast levels accordingly and save the result as a new image file. Post capture processing allows two stored raw files to be superimposed and re-saved. Users can build up additional exposures by overlaying another shot and re-saving.


The new Olympus Micro Four Thirds System lenses: the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 (left) and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (right). (Source: Olympus)
Concurrent with the launch of the Pen E-P1, Olympus will release two new lenses: the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6. The former is a slim, pancake-type prime lens with a design based on the classic double-Gauss formula. It has a minimum focus of 15 cm. Weighing just 71 grams, it accepts 37mm filters. The 14-42mm zoom lens is a compact standard zoom with double-sided aspherical elements. Featuring a collapsing design that reduces the barrel length by almost 50%, it will focus to 25 cm. Both lenses are multi-coated and both feature circular iris diaphragms for smooth bokeh.


The VF-1 optical viewfinder for the Pen E-P1. (Source: Olympus)
Other new accessories include the VF-1 optical viewfinder, which will be included in the kit with the 17mm lens. The new FL-14 external flash unit features a slim, lightweight design and operates with two AAA batteries. Offering a GN of 20 at ISO 200, it is compatible with all lenses the new camera can use. Adapters will be available for mounting Four Thirds System lenses (MMF-1) and OM system lenses (MF-2) on the new camera’s body. Finally, body jackets in white (CS-10BWT) and brown (CS-10BBR) and matching shoulder straps will be offered to complement the camera body.


The Pen E-P1 fitted with the optional FL-14 external flash unit. (Source: Olympus)
The Pen E-P1 will be offered initially with the 14-42mm lens or the 17mm and 14-42mm lenses. Pricing will be announced in July 2009 when both kits go on sale. The body alone will be available in September. For more information visit www.olympus.com.au.



Image sensor: 4/3-inch (17.3 x 13.0mm) Live MOS sensor with 13.1 million photosites (12.3 megapixels effective)
A/D processing: 12-bit