photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Why the E-1 ?

in Olympus E-System , Wednesday, January 21, 2004

So why choose the E-1 ? Well first of all, I defy any photographer to pick one up and not instantly recognise that it just feels right, in a way that no other DSLR - and very few film SLRs - does. I don't believe this is an accident. It has clearly been very well designed by people who understand what a camera is for. I'm not saying that Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Pentax or other engineers have no idea, but the Olympus team is clearly top quality, and of course they had the considerable advantage of not being tied into a legacy 35mm system.

But that isn't enough. There are some serious factors weighing against the E-1, and they are mainly to do with the sensor. Really, 5 megapixels is right on the resolution limit. And the noise issue, which seems to affect all sensors produced by Kodak, whilst over stated is should still be considered. The 4/3 side doesn't bother me at all. I like working with squarer formats, alongside my Xpan work, and replacing most 35mm work with 4/3 is going to give my creativity a boost.

So what are the other good things ? Three points: lenses, lenses and lenses. The quality / price ratio of the E-system lenses is second to none, and I don't know how often I've read that you should choose your system on the basis of the lenses you want. Again, nothing wrong with the competition on that front - so long as you accept, largely, that you'll have to compromise because the designs on offer were conceived for 35mm, and also that you're going to pay a very high price for a lens which is capable of extracting the full potential of the sensor. People who should know agree that the Olympus Zuiko lenses are on a par with Canon L glass - that's good enough for me.

On the quality / resolution side, finally I made up my mind by downloading some RAW files from a few web sites who's owners were good enough to post them. I processed them using Photoshop CS, which does not yet fully support the E-1. The real clincher was when I printed out an image at A3, compared it favourably with a good 35mm print, and then discovered after the event that it was taken at 800 ASA - which, as web lore has it is noisy as hell. Well it isn't. Probably a pixel pusher would take issue with this, but a photographer would soon work out what is relevant and what isn't.

Of course I went over endless reviews on the web. The two that convinced are well known, but worth mentioning: the first by Michael Reichmann at The Luminous Landscape - as well as his review in his Video Journal DVD, Issue 9 - and the diary by Uwe Steinmueller at Digital Outback Photo. Both are intelligent reviews, both list pros and cons. After reading these, and of course others (apart from the specification sheet regurgitators), and based on my own first hand experience, I decided the E-1 was for me.

The Canon 10D was a very close second. It lost out on ergonomics (minor issues) and, mainly, cost and weight of appropriate lenses. Obviously if I already had an EOS system it would have won. And had I had a Nikon system, probably I'd be writing about the Fuji S-2 now.


Older Comments

from tok on Fri, January 23, 2004 - 3:48

Hi - nice website and blog!

I’m on the verge of going for the E1, and like yourself, have read a good many reviews and discussions on the camera. However, I’ve not seen any prints ‘in the flesh’ so to speak!!

I was wandering if your A3 print that helped ‘sell you’ the camera had been rezzed up using genuine fractals or some other similar software - or was it straight from the camera (or processed RAW) ?


from david mantripp on Fri, January 23, 2004 - 4:01

Thanks for the compliments!

The trial photos I worked with were RAW - I processed them myself in Photoshop CS. I tried scaling in conversion, also the new bicubic smooth interpolation.  I tried Genuine Fractals on a earlier image. So far I have to say that all approaches seem to work. I’ll post more on this once I have my own photos….

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