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Olympus E-P1

Everybody else has given their opinion. Here’s mine.

in Olympus E-System , Friday, July 24, 2009

Weird, isn’t it ? For years, Olympus release a fantastic series of DSLRs coupled with superb lenses, and they get either damned with faint praise, or reviews which focus on weaknesses which are completely irrelevant to the vast majority of real world photographers. Then they bring out a neither here no there, seriously compromised but pretty gewgaw, the E-P1, and, hey, it’s “welcome Jesus Camera”.

Here’s how I see it: a small DSLR with the mirror and viewfinder lopped off, coupled with a small zoom lens, which, when switched on, is actually not a lot smaller (and arguably considerably more distracting) than its “full size” brother. It introduces the confusion of two parallel and essentially incompatible lens ranges (yes, you can bolt the ZD 7-14, 50-200, or indeed 300mm on the front of the E-P1, but for heaven’s sake, why??). It produces seriously distorted images which can only be corrected in-camera, baked into JPGs, or in Olympus’ own awful Studio software. And it skirts with being seriously over-priced.

Addressing the issues like the viewfinder and producing the promised “pro” version is most likely going to produce something only marginally smaller than the E-420 or E-620.

Ok, I get the plus points: it has workable Live View (which is just as well), it’s pretty, and you can stick all sorts of exotic, obsolete and expensive lenses on the front and get results almost as good as the kit zoom.

Hopefully having failed to make much money from an excellent series of E-System cameras thanks largely to the pixel-peeping mindset prevalent with all reviewers, Olympus will now cash in big time on selling this new set of Emperor’s clothes to the same people, and then invest the proceeds in a worthy successor to the E-1. Yes, I know, you’ve also got a tower in Paris you can sell me.

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I want a small camera with interchangeable lenses, but I don’t want a crippled DSLR with the top sawn off. The original PEN, and the half-fram Pentax mini-cameras actually compromised by using a smaller format. We’ve heard enough about with the 4/3 format is equal to APS or even “full frame”, and in most cases I agree. So, why not go to the logical conclusion and use a “half 4/3”, larger than the standard digicam, but smaller than DSLRs ?  Then we could see a genuinely small system camera. My feeling is the only company with the guts and vision to try this is Ricoh. Now there’s a thought - a Ricoh GR-D with interchangeable lenses. Yes please!