Olympus E-1 Digital SLR
Unlike other major manufacturers, Olympus wasnāt saddled
with an existing line of 35mm film camera lenses that require large
and heavy camera bodies to support their size and weight. They had
the freedom to design a 100% compact digital system from scratch,
matching the camera body, lenses, and CCD sensor to each other.
new Four Thirds System gets its name from the way TV Vidicon tube
sizes were designated in the 1950ās, but thatās the only connection
to a bygone eraö everything else is leading-edge technology. Coincidentally,
the aspect ratio of the image is also 4:3, so you can get perfectly
proportioned prints on most standard paper sizes without trimming
pixels off the top or bottom of your photo.
an image diagonal of 22.3mm (just short of an inch), the 5MP sensor
is 50% smaller than 35mm. Itās the second time in Olympusā history
theyāve halved the 35mm frame size. In 1959 they came out with the
Olympus Pen, a half-frame 35mm film camera, and sold over two million
of them. Today, the E-1ās half-frame design offers some of the same
advantages: smaller, lighter, wider-aperture lenses. And more. These
are digitally-specific ćsmartä lenses that communicate with the
CCD to achieve maximum performance.
E-1 and its predecessor, the E-20 (whose CCD is 50% smaller), share
almost identical body styles; thatās a good thing because the E-20
is known for its great balance and superb ergonomics. But thatās
where the comparison ends. Internally, this is an entirely new camera
and an industry breakthrough in many ways. Best of all, though,
itās a camera thatās simple to use and wicked-fast.
E-1ās Full Frame Transfer CCD has an active pixel area 1.5 times
greater than Interline CCDs used on competitive cameras. Each pixelās
surface is totally dedicated to image capture; part of it does not
have to be reserved for ćhousekeepingä chores such as data transfer.
Bottom line? Olympus says this feature allows the E-1 to deliver
better dynamic range, exhibit lower noise levels, and capture more
accurate colorö all of which results in higher image quality.
the E-20, which uses a beam splitter, you canāt preview the image
on the LCD monitor because the E-1 has a conventional instant return
mirror system (as do all pro single lens reflex cameras). You must
frame your image through the cameraās eyepiece. Of course, you should
do this anyway; it lets you preview your image without outside distractions.
With the LCD monitor relegated to reviewing-only, the battery just
lasts and lasts and lasts. So even though thereās an accessory battery
pack that attaches to the E-1ās body (US $549 MSRP), you probably
wonāt need it. Just start out with the standard Li-Ion battery (and
a spare) and that should do just fine.
addition to plunking down the street price of about US $1,800 for
the camera body, youāll also have to acquire a lens. I used the
Zuiko Digital 14ö54mm f-2.8/3.5 lens (US $500 street) with a 35mm
equivalent focal length of 28ö 108mm (just double the numbers),
an excellent general purpose lens. At 28mm it has great depth of
field and takes in about 20% more than the 35mm wide ends found
on most digicam zooms. At 108mm, itās a perfect focal length for
portraits. Changing lenses on the E-1 requires just a simple twist.
Each time you power up the camera, a supersonic wave filter vibrates
ultrasonically for 200 milliseconds to remove (and trap) miniscule
dust particles that may have settled on the sensor.
E-1 uses Compact Flash memory or Microdrive, neither of which are
included. I tried several ćfastä 512MB CF cards; Sandiskās Ultra
II (US $ 170) gave the quickest processing time between shots. You
can shoot in JPEG, TIFF, RAW or RAW+JPEG (both are recorded at the
same time). Olympus supplies its Viewer software to process RAW
images (which some pros now shoot regularly) and also includes a
trial version of Studio that allows direct camera-to-computer shooting,
bypassing the memory card. There are both USB and Firewire ports
for image transfer (and remote-controlled studio operations), and
a video-out port that can be set to either NTSC or PAL.
quibbles about the E-1 are minimal. It would have been nice to have
the optional IR remote control included with the camera. And a flash
integrated into the camera body would also have been useful. The
E-1 doesnāt come with a built-in flash ömost professional cameras
donāt include oneö probably because most pros wouldnāt be caught
dead using one. However for ćgrabä shots under low light conditions
or occasional flash-fill, itās a useful feature and avoids having
to attach an external unit. If you use flash, thereās a hot shoe
for dedicated units such as Olympusā FL 20, 40, and 50 whose functions
can then be controlled from the camera. Thereās also a standard
ćPCä synch connection for studio strobes or third party flash.
the camera on, and in less than a second, youāre ready to shoot.
A large, locking, mode dial has four simple choices: program, aperture
priority, shutter priority (60 seconds to 1/4,000th of a second),
and manual. Shots can be fired at will, forget the half-press if
you want toö the E-1 is faster than a conventional film camera.
White balance is calculated through an external sensor (instead
of through the lens) which reduces shutter lag and shot-to-shot
time. You can shoot sequences at three frames-per-second up to 12
total. When you reach the limit, it takes about 20 seconds before
you can shoot another dozen. But after just two seconds, you can
continue shooting single pictures at normal intervalsö a huge improvement
over the E-20.
attention has been paid to details on the E-1, the kinds that pros
appreciate. Even if you donāt intend to slither through the Okeefenokee
Swamp or claw you way up Mt. Everest, itās comforting to know that
the cameraās magnesium alloy body is splashproof and would probably
come out in better shape than you. Thereās also a locking memory
card compartment to protect images while being processed, and an
eyepiece shutter lever to block light from the viewfinder so pictures
canāt be ruined during time exposures or when using the optional
remote control. Best of all, menus are simple and straightforward,
not labyrinthine like those on Olympusā consumer cameras that require
a guide dog to lead you through them.
pro cameras have different strengths and weaknesses, many of which
are only discernable under testing conditions that usually bear
no relationship to real-world results. In fact, Iāve yet to see
any testing for shock and vibrationö that would be far more relevant
considering the abuse pro cameras have to take. Be that as it may,
the true measure of a professional camera should be how easy it
is to use and the kinds of images it produces. Compared to other
pro cameras in the E-1ās price range (and above), I can say without
hesitation that this camera can stand toe-to-toe with any of them.
Sensor res-35 megapixels
Image dimensions-2560x1920 down
Lens-Zuiko (not supplied)
Lens focal length-ESP, center-weighted,
Exposure modes-Program, AP/SP, manual
Shutter-8 minutes to 1/4000 seconds
Exposure compensation-+/- 5 EV in
1/3, 1/2 or full steps
Storage-CF Card (not included)
Focus-Auto with low light assist
LCD screen-1.5 inch TFT
Flash modes-All standard plus 1st/2nd
Battery-Li-Ion, 7.2v, 1,500 mAh
Weight-1.6 lbs w/o lens and battery
Dimensions-5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 inches
with the E-1 for over a month and was impressed with its ease of
handling and outstanding image quality. Instead of using the customary
sRGB color space, I set the camera to shoot in Adobe RGB (1998)
which gives a larger gamut of colors that many photo-quality inkjet
printers can now reproduce. I shot the kinds of pictures that push
a camera to its limits: scenes with flat shady foregrounds and bright
contrasty backgrounds, metallic colors with specular highlights,
dark details against darker backgrounds, mixed warm and cool light,
I ran print after print, many of them 13 x 19 inches, through an
Epson 2200 and they easily exceeded the quality usually associated
with custom, high-end, silver halide film prints. Sharp, breathtakingly
beautiful images with great dynamic range rolled out time after
time. Fine detail was the order of the day; the pictures had the
clarity of high mountain air. The E-1 had delivered the images that
my mindās eye had seen at the time of shootingö no compromises.
starting from scratch on their new, all-digital, Four Thirds System,
Olympus has not been forced to jury-rig old technology to new. The
E-1 is a professional, digital camera thatās highly sophisticated
yet simple to use. After all, pros
donāt want to bother with a lot of fol-de-rol; the shotās the thing.
If thatās also your philosophy, the E-1 will give you better picture
quality and more personal satisfaction than youāve ever thought
Olympus has designed an entirely
new series of Zuiko ćsmartä lenses for the E-1ās Four Thirds System.
Lighter and more compact than standard 35mm lenses, they have built-in
computer chips that transmit their specific characteristics to the
camera. For example, if a particular lens type is prone to falling
off (darkening) at the corners of the image, the camera knows it
and can correct accordingly.
the type and degree of pincushion or barrel lens distortion (which
all lenses have), is encoded with the image and can be automatically
corrected using software thatās supplied with the camera. According
to Olympus, their ćdigitalä lenses have twice the resolving power
of equivalent 35mm counterparts and are sharper at any given f-stop.
ćdigital specific lensesä are also designed to bend light rays so
that they hit sensors head-on, and not at an angle as conventional
lenses do. Sensors love thisö itās like getting smooched on the
lips instead of pecked on the cheek. It results in more accurate
color, better dynamic range (details in both shadows and highlights)
and reduced light fall-off at the edges of the frame.
entirely new line of digital lenses will be available from Olympus
over the next few years and word has it that third party lens makers
are also gearing up. Zuiko lenses that are now available (listed
in 35mm focal length equivalents and with the manufacturerās suggested
price in U.S. dollars) are a 28ö108mm f-2.8/3.5 ($599), a 100ö400mm
f-2.8/3.5 ($1,199), a 100mm f-2.0, 1:2 macro ($599), a 600mm, f-2.8
super telephoto ($7,999, whew!), and a 1.4X Teleconverter ($549)
which goes between the cameraās body and the lens with a one-stop
light loss (f-2.8, for example, becomes f-4, and so on).
suggest you start with the 28ö108; itās an excellent all-around
lens. It takes a 67mm filter size so if you move up from the E-20
youāll need a Tiffen 67-62mm step-down ring to use your old filters
and close-up lenses, all of which will work fine. Then you might
want to consider the Teleconverter which will extend its reach to
151mm or the 100ö400mm, great for wildlife. If you want to go wider,
thereās a new 22ö44mm f-2.8/3.5 ($699) wide angle zoom that is also
E-1 features in a nutshell
š Adjustments for saturation, contrast, sharpness.
š White balance bracketing.
š Noise Filter: eliminates random noise that occurs during normal
š Noise Reduction: reduces noise generated by long exposures.
š Shading Compensation: lightens dark areas at image edges caused
by certain lenses.
š Anti-Shock: eliminates mirror vibration during long exposures.
š Depth-of-field preview.
š Anti-blooming: eliminates halos and fringing where light and dark
š Program Shift: allows lens and shutter speed changes in Program
mode while maintaining the proper exposure relationship.
š ISO Boost: allows ISO settings of 1600 and 3200.
š AF Illuminator: emits light beam to improve focusing under low
š Slide show function.
š Record view: can display pictures just taken.