The Olympus E-P1 might look retro, but this all-new compact camera is just about the most advanced snapper in the world. Inside is a new Micro Four Thirds sensor that gives the E-P1 the same basic features as a fully-fledged SLR, only without the extra bulk.
Interchangeable lenses mean it’s the perfect step-up for anyone outgrowing their existing compact, giving plenty of room to get creative through different optics and filters. The E-P1 also packs a hotshoe above the lens, ready to accept flashguns for more advanced indoor shots.
Unfortunately, there’s no built-in flash, and in its efforts to cram as much into the E-P1 as possible, Olympus has left out the optical viewfinder too. That means you’ll be solely reliant on its (albeit roomy) 3-inch LED display to frame your shots. In bright light, that can be a little tricky, but once you’ve clasped the E-P1 in your hand, you’ll forgive it as a minor foible.
The camera itself is a lesson in rigidity. Crafted out of solid aluminium, it’s reassuringly weighty and strong. The E-P1 doesn’t feel like a normal compact, it feels more serious. More reliable.
Snap a picture with it and you’ll immediately see it’s not all bluster: images are astoundingly clear and sharp with minimal noise. It’s maximum ISO of 6400 also means it’ll snap away in the dimmest of conditions.
Fast auto-focusing (with the option to engage manual control) and remarkably fast processing mean you’ll go from shutter release to eye-stroking image in a matter of seconds, and then there’s the extra features.
Olympus has packed in face tracking and smile detection, to give this most heavyweight compact a fun-loving alter ego. It’ll also apply effects to RAW files itself, offering up the likes of Soft Focus and Pinhole Camera, which provide astoundingly impressive results.
From top to bottom, the Olympus E-P1 is a beautiful camera. It feels sturdy and solid, without being staid and boring. Swap the lenses, and you’ll open up even more options for photographic tomfoolery.
Sure, there’s a premium price tag attached, and yes, we’re still lamenting the loss of its optical viewfinder. But with the trade-off producing a camera this great, we’ll happily put our differences to one side. The Olympus E-P1 is very nearly perfect.