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Friday, June 19, 2009

Olympus E-P1 PEN - "Digital Pen"

Well Olympus has finally announced the "Digital Pen", the digital version of the much loved PEN family of cameras. As Olympus says, the Pen has the "photographic optics of an SLR and the size and simplicity of a point and shoot."

A camera with these type of specs has been top on the wishlist of a lot of photographers. Mike Johnston of TOP (The Online Photographer) has termed this type of dream camera a DMD, or Decisive Moment Camera. Basically, we're talking about a camera small enough to fit in your pocket and take anywhere, with the image quality and optics of a DSLR.

Does the new Olympus PEN fill these requirements?

It looks promising.

In the size category, the PEN obviously makes the cut. It's a SMALL camera. At 120.6 mm (W) x 69.9mm (H) x 36.4 mm (D) (excluding protrusions), and weighing in at only 335g, the PEN is tiny and lightweight.

The PEN has a 12.3 MegaPixel sensor, which is more than enough megapixels, and should offer excellent image quality (at least at the lower ISO settings... IMHO the Olympus 4/3 sensors have never been very good at the higher ISO settings, so it remains to be seen how the PEN's image quality holds up at high ISO). DPReview has quite a few sample images from the PEN on their site, but very few of them are at high ISO. The few I did see appeared to exhibit the typical loss of detail and heavy noise reduction I'm used to seeing from the Olympus Four Thirds.

The PEN has a new Micro Four Thirds Mount compatible with the new Micro Four Thirds Lenses as well as all the Olympus Four Thirds System Lenses with the use of the MMF-1 Adapter. Olympus optics are excellent, so I give the PEN a big checkmark here for optic quality, especially since the PEN can use the full Four Thirds Lens line-up with the adapter.

The Digital Pen does have a nice feature list. Here's the Pen features that are most significant to me.

Size and weight. Already covered above, but I have to mention them again as they are perhaps the Pen's biggest features (combined with the optics and image quality).

Image Quality. The 12.3 MP sensor will be more than most need. I have my reservations about the high ISO, but it should still suffice in a pinch (a great time to have an SB-26 available as off-camera flash :)

Optics. Don't really have to say much here. Olympus has great optics.

AutoFocus Live View. Really cool. A handy feature that will get lots of use by almost all photographers I'm sure.

3 Modes of Image Stabilization. Really cool again. Every camera should have IS by now. It's a no-brainer. Luckily, the PEN has it in spades. Not just IS, but 3 different modes of IS. Can't complain here.

Face Detection. Another really cool feature that is making it's way into a lot of digital cameras these days. It's pretty neat to actually see it in operation.

Dust Reduction. Again, every digital camera should have this these days, but not all do. The Olympus dust reduction system is arguably the best out there. Nikon and Canon could learn from Olympus.

Full Manual Control. Seems kinda' funny to include this in my list of features I like, but it's a biggie if you don't have it, and a make or break feature for most photographers who will be interested in a camera like the PEN.

All in all, the new Digital PEN looks to be the perfect pocket camera for photographers who require DSLR like image quality and optics. I'll be interested to see the hands on reviews as they appear on the web. Real shooters taking real pictures will tell the real story.

Olympus says... Not a Point and Shoot. Not an SLR. It's a PEN. What will you create?

What WILL you create?

Full Specs, Features, and Stuff over at the OLY website

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