Late last week, Olympus gave me one of their new Pen EP-1 cameras to play around with for the weekend. It was too short a time to really use it enough for a proper review, but it was long enough for me to begin falling in love with the retro-styled snapper.
The Design: You can see it from the moment you take the EP-1 out of the box - design is central to this camera's very essence. Sure, it's not a new design, but the silver body with leather trims are as classy as you can get, while the camera has a satisfying weight to it that really reminds you that it's a premium piece of kit. That's not to say it's heavy - I spent a good chunk of Sunday with the Pen hanging from my neck, and barely noticed it was there.
The Lenses: The EP-1 came with two micro four-thirds lenses in the box: a 17mm f2.8 wide angle and a 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 zoom. Both lenses worked pretty well, but it was the zoom lens that really captured my affection. Not because it was a superb piece of glass or anything, but because it locked down to about half the length when not in use. Once attached, you twist the lens to zoom and it would extend, but not retract all the way back in unless you pulled a switch. I love things like that.
Easy, easy, easy. I've generally been a Canon man in the past, but I was blown away by how simple it was to adjust things like ISO, white balance, aperture and shutter speed. The Art mode was nice for a bit of fun, and Olympus' standard
10 million 19 scene modes are just a turn of the mode dial away.
Video: I only tested out the video recording feature at night in some fairly average lighting, and it showed. It wasn't terrible quality - it actually looked fantastic on the Pen's LCD - but when viewed on my laptop it was a bit grainy and noisy. Still, it was definitely good enough quality for YouTube, and that's what we really care about, isn't it?
Issues: As I mentioned last week, the first thing I did with this camera was lift it to my eye to look through the viewfinder that doesn't exist. Not that this is a big problem at all, but it does take some getting used to. The optional viewfinder attachment which slides into the hotshoe is an option, but it was frustrating when using the zoom lens - the viewfinder doesn't zoom with the lens, so you actually have no idea of what you're shooting.
Similarly, the lack of a built-in flash means that low light shots are a tad harder to capture. Ultimately this isn't a bad thing, it's just a change from what many photographers will be used to.
Bottom Line: Right now, I really want to spend more time with this camera. I'm not completely in love with it yet, but I really want to continue this relationship to see where things go. There's the potential for something very special with the EP-1 - I'm hoping Olympus let me play with it again sometime soon to see where this goes...