Olympus E-P1, A Class of It’s Own.

Olympus PEN E-P1, image taken from dpreview.com

Olympus PEN E-P1, image taken from dpreview.com

I’ve been a professional photographer for more than 12 years, specializing mainly in portraits, weddings, people photography, whether choreographed or on-the-move. I have been a fervent Canon and Nikon user for years. But never have I encountered a small camera like the Olympus E-P1 that produces such quality in it’s size with such user-friendly features.

Talking about “Making Photography Easy”. For years, since the camera was invented, the world has been wanting to make photography easy. A view-camera needs about 11 adjustments in order to take a picture. Then came the Nikons and Canons that only require THREE adjustments: Aperture, Shutter Speed and Focus in order to take a picture. And if this wasn’t easy enough, cameras that came later began to even do all THREE adjustments for us – the Program Autofocus SLRs!

To read a detailed article on the above, click here.

Olympus E-P1, shot through car windscreen in a rain, B&W art filter

Olympus E-P1, shot through car windscreen in a rain, B&W art filter, 16:9 format.

Olympus E-P1 set to manual focus, b&w art filter.

Olympus E-P1 set to manual focus, b&w art filter, 16:9 format.

This shot shows that E-P1 is quick enough to capture action. My son did this action in a split-second. Tough not as fast as a DSLR, it is not that bad afterall.

This shot shows that E-P1 is quick enough to capture action. My son did this action in a split-second. Though not as fast as a DSLR, it is not that bad after all.

I often ask myself, “Why do camera-designers always want to make things easier for us?”

Especially as a earning professional photographer, doesn’t it seem obvious that as photography gets easier and easier, our commanding prices go lower and lower since more and more people think that they can “do-it-yourself” anyway?

But if I think as an artist, I just want to focus on my feelings, my imaginations, my visions and indulge in all my five senses when I go out and create images with my camera.

Isn’t it so much easier to have a camera that doesn’t interfere with my thoughts, by introducing questions like what aperture to use and what shutter speed to set or whether the image is in focus?

Okay, you may disagree with me on this cause deciding how blur the background we want it to be or whether to use a slower shutter speed to depict movement, or whether to set it off-focus in order to create some abstractness do play a part in our creativity process.

But my point is, sometimes it really helps if you just indulge in all your five senses without being distracted by technical functionalities, and shoot what you feel!

 

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter. I pre-focused the camera to infinity before reaching out to shoot the birds returning to their home using the grainy black and white art filter mode.

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter, 6:6 format. I pre-focused the camera to infinity before reaching out to shoot the birds returning to their home using the grainy black and white art filter mode.

Who says you can't see beautiful sunset downtown KL? Shot using "Sunset" Mode in Olympus E-P1

Who says you can't see beautiful sunset downtown KL? Shot using "Sunset" Mode in Olympus E-P1, 16:9 format.

Shot using "Pop Art" art filter, Olympus E-P1. This is a spontaneous shot, again done within seconds spotting the chef's head covered by a bunch of roast pork

Shot using "Pop Art" art filter, Olympus E-P1, 16:9 format. This is a spontaneous shot, again done within seconds spotting the chef's head covered by a bunch of roast pork

Olympus E-P1, shot using "landscape" mode. It really does make the sky much nicer.

Olympus E-P1, shot using "landscape" mode. It really does make the sky much nicer., 6:6 format

In today’s digital professional photographer’s context, things have just gone a lot worse! Our modern DSLRs contains at least 100 menu and function options! It throws you questions like “D-Lighting Off, Default, Auto, On, Normal?”, followed by trick questions like “Compression: Lossy or Lossless?”… etc. and etc.

Today, many professional digital photographers began to take pride in “setting their camera professionally” rather than concentrate on creating excellent images. Photography seems to have “developed more professionally” in recent digital days, cause to operate a DSLR is 100 times more difficult than an old film SLR!

And so we started thinking, maybe we can charge our clients more, since photography has gone so “difficult”! We started to tell our clients how high-end our equipments are, how difficult to use them, how expensive they cost, in order to justify and convince our clients to buy our services. I always thought as a proficient photographer, shouldn’t we be confident that our clients engage us because our works are good, not because of what equipment we own?

 

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter 6:6 format

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter, 4:3 format

The Olympus E-P1 is a camera so small that it fits into your bag easily. I have been carrying it and using it almost everyday since I bought it about 2 months ago. I use it for shooting “nonsense” in my daily life, use it for casual street shooting, and even use it for my professionally-paid wedding jobs!

I was caught previewing on the E-P1. DON'T SPEND TIME ON PREVIEWS! CONCENTRATE ON GETTING YOUR SHOTS!

I was caught previewing on the E-P1. DON'T SPEND TIME ON PREVIEWS! CONCENTRATE ON GETTING YOUR SHOTS!

FOR THE GEEKS:

The ISO is absolutely usable up to 3200. The default setting already produces fantastic images. It’s Auto ISO is also pretty reliable (I hardly have to switch it about). It’s IS (image stabilization) is most impressive! I ever use it down to 1/2 sec and still get a reasonably sharp picture.

You can choose to set “Graduation” to “Normal” instead of “Auto” to get deeper blacks but personally I prefer “Auto” as I prefer to increase contrast in Adobe Lightroom when necessary. I find that images can get too contrasty sometimes if I set it to “Normal”.

Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter

Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 4:3 format

Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 6:6 format

Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 6:6 format

Olympus is amazing in it’s in-camera processing! It produces such good Jpegs that you almost have no necessity to shoot in RAW for easy post-processing. It’s absolutely a camera for people who just want to concentrate on ARTS and have minimal worries on camera settings or post-processing.

Also, you can choose to shoot in 4:3 format (default), 16:9 format, 3:2 format or 6:6 format for your creativity.

I fell in love with E-P1 files once I laid my eyes on it in a camera store downtown and immediately ordered one for myself. I find that Olympus’s digital files are processed in such a way, closest to what film achieves comparing to other brands. Being a fervent film shooter, I can easily appreciate Olympus’s efforts in processing their digital files closest to what film achieves. (But if you really like film, shoot film! Digital still has it’s digital characteristics in it.)

I have used the Canon 5D, the Nikon D700 (owned 2 of each at my craziest times). I have gone through post-processing my images since “Adobe Photoshop 5” days. I would say this digital route for me since the Canon D60 (if anyone still remembers what it is) has been crazy! (I plan to write about my crazy path of switching from film to digital in a later post, so keep me bookmarked if you are interested).

What I can say is that after comparing the Canon files, the Nikon files and the Olympus files, I love the Olympus files the most! (Olympus is not paying me to say this)

I love the noise (It’s different from the Canon or Nikon’s noise), I love the skin tones, I love the contrast, I love the blacks (Nikon and Canon somehow captures blacks as grays), I love the colors and I love it’s Grainy Black and White and Pin-hole Art Filters!

Shot by my wife using "sunset mode". She's not a photographer, if you know what I mean.

Shot by my wife using "sunset mode". She's not a photographer, if you know what I mean.

Then, I love it’s handsome looks and it’s size too.

The best camera is the camera you can easily grab and use when opportunity arises. If you are looking for a camera that can boost your creativity, and it’s light and easy to carry around, with quiet and unobtrusive shutter sound, achieves jpeg files that require minimum post-processing, plus an added convenience of HD video recording (get an adaptor for leica m-mount lenses and you can easily achieve cinematic effects with F1.4 blur)… … … …

THIS CAMERA IS FOR YOU!

10 thoughts

  1. Louis: He’s brainwashing me. Hahahahaha!!

  2. Louis, don’t you ever forget your first love with Olympus! Hahaha… I’ll be out having tea with LCC while you are busy editing… LOL…

  3. It is a great little compact cameras that can churn out great results. And not to mention handsome. Yes, very handsome. Too bad I already own a LX3 which is a very good camera in its own rights. Great work David for producing many stunning images with this little camera that many ‘pros’ still call it lest than suitable for serious work. Losers…

  4. Great job reviewing the Olympus EP-1. Love it. Ooh… you did it again.
    Your review is like Ken Rockwell’s review. I shall label you as Malaysian’s Ken Rockwell.
    Bravo!

  5. His Excellency David Chua, Olympus ambassador. hehehe

  6. Reggie Gunn

    September 16, 2009

    I would have to agree with David… Olympus makes beautiful jpeg, beautiful colours and more…

    I am a fan of the old grainy look… and i have to say Olympus noise are beautiful…

    Most people would complain about noise, but there are basically two types of noise,

    1) Noise that cause discoloration a.k.a Chroma Noise “BAD”.

    2) Noise that looks grainy a.k.a Luminance Noise “GOOD”.

    The Olympus camera noise level are more Luminance… and mimics film grain well…

    So thank you for your review David… i’m sure the E-P1 is in good hands

  7. Just bought this camera today. I’m new to DSLR..but I think this camera is “Best” …..the function is easy to use….just try shooting a few photo with E-P1. The camera is user friendly ..light and easy to carry around. I just love this new camera…

  8. Cool pictures! Kudos

  9. Simon Leong

    August 5, 2010

    You have voodoo me with Olympus stuck to my head now!!!

  10. Great article. I should be getting mine this week.

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