Well, I caved (very rapidly) and bought myself an Olympus E-P1 last Saturday. Judging by the week I’ve had to play with it so far, it was definitely the right buy for me. Because it’s so light and portable, I’ve been happily toting it around with me all week – perfect for travelling. The camera fits very nicely in the hand, it feels solid but not heavy and nicely balanced with the compact 14-42mm kit lens attached. My only gripe with the build is the lens cap being totally detachable – it’s fallen off in my bag once already and I imagine I’ll lose it fairly soon.
The camera’s start-up time is very fast, ideal for spontaneous shots. It’s easy and intuitive to use, and having owned an Olympus digi before, some of the controls feel familiar. You can reach all the main functions/options using two dials on the back (as well as alternatively accessing them through on-screen menus); shooting mode is chosen on the top dial. The on-screen options are simple to read and manipulate. A great feature of the camera is the live preview on the large LCD screen, so you know exactly how your shot will turn out, and see how the shot changes with different settings applied.
Being a newb to the world of DSLR, I’ve mostly just been using the iAuto mode which auto-selects the optimum settings for your shot – and actually produces really good results in most cases. I’m especially impressed with how it functions indoors and in low light – you can pump the ISO up with very little noise and it has several useful pre-programmed White Balance settings to neutralise artificial light.
The autofocus in iAuto mode is excellent, fast and sharp, and the image stabilisation does a good job reducing blur.
I found that in very bright sunlight (as we’ve had in London this week) it casts rather dark shadows, but it has an in-built editor to lighten them up, which does a good job.
I’ve also tried out Aperture Priority mode for macro shots – even though it only came with a 14-42mm kit lens, you can get in pretty close to a subject with sharp focus.
I like the slightly cheesy Art filters; the Pinhole one actually creates quite authentic Lomo-esque results, and Grainy Film does indeed look like a noisy old black and white film. It also has an e-Portrait mode which airbrushes out imperfections on portraits! The results are quite effective but a little creepy – I’ll probably stick to Photoshop for retouching as and where it’s needed.
Perhaps most impressive is the quality of video recording. The E-P1 records in HD with stereo sound, and you can zoom in and continually auto-focus while recording. (You can also use the Art filters for video but I found this produced a very jerky playback.) I think HD video recording caps at around 7.5 minutes of continuous shooting which is more than enough for my needs. The image quality is excellent and looks great played back through a screen.
All in all, I love this camera, it’s hardly left my side for the last week and I’m looking forward to learning how to use it properly and getting some really great shots out of it. Check out my Flickr set and Vimeo for lots more photos and videos from this week.