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Thread: E-P1 first impressions

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tullio's Avatar
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    E-P1 first impressions

    I just got my E-P1 (body only) yesterday and have spent less than 24 hrs playing with it. I took less than 200 pics and ran out of battery (I assume the battery was not fully charged by the previous owner before the camera was shipped even though the batt icon showed full charge). By no means this quick post is intended provide any info. you guys don't already know. I just want to collect some thoughts around the camera features/flaws.

    Having had the E510 & E520, the convoluted Olympus Menu (compared to other systems) was very familiar to me so it did not take me long to change some settings, mapping what I used to have on my E cameras. However, there are a few differences here and there and the one that did not make sense to me is the AUTO ISO / ISO LIMIT combination. Basically, if I want to use AUTO ISO, I'm forced to a minimum ISO of 200. Why? I really don't understand the rational behind the minimum ISO cap. AUTO ISO should not have a minimum cap. Many of the pictures I took were at ISO 200 with very high shutter speed. The EP1 could perfectly have chosen ISO 100 at the cost of a lower shutter speed. Capping the high ISO on the other hand, makes good sense.

    I've already posted a topic on the annoying clicking sound caused by the lens aperture blades, so no need to revisit this issue.

    AF is much much better than I imagined/expected. Perhaps after reading so many articles on how slow it is, I had very low expectations. At least with the two Pana kit lenses, AF is instantaneous even in very low light conditions. I did not experience the problem that some people reported regarding the inability to focus on objects that have vertical lines with the camera turned vertically. I was able to focus on anything irregardless of the camera's orientation. On Tuesday I'll have the chance to try the ZD 17mm on the EP1. I'm curious as to how it will perform.

    Color saturation is much higher than the E510/E520. I set the NATURAL mode to match the settings I had on the E510 in terms of saturation/contrast/sharpness and found the images to be way too saturated.

    Sharpness was very good, even with noise filter turned ON (low).

    Auto WB is just as bad as on the Ennn. Anything white on a foggy day will have a pink'ish/magenta'ish cast to it. So, I guess I will have to either use the presets depending on the light conditions or custom WB as I used on the Ennn. The Pana G1 shines in this department. My G1 always get it right, despite the light condition (I'm talking outdoors here).

    The LCD brightness/resolution seems adequate but I haven't really been exposed to a bright sunny condition.

    I like the LV histogram. It is much better than the G1 and I noticed that I hardly had an over exposed image (the E510 DR was deadly) by simply following what the histogram was showing. I just wish I could place it on a different spot (left right corner is where I like it best as I usually don't place anything important around that area when I compose my images, so it does not interfere with composition).

    The EP1 feels solid and even with the 45-200mm mounted on it, it still feels nicely balanced (I was concerned that the shallow grip would not be enough to support the camera with a large lens mounted on it). That's not the case.

    I found I need to be careful with the center wheel as it turns very easily and a lot of times my thumb sits right on it. I'm not sure what's worse, if having it set to adjust exposure or shutter/aperture. With either way, if you mistakenly turn the wheel, you may end up with something you did not intend. Any suggestions?

    All in all, it's a nice little camera. Whether I'm going to keep it or not is a different story. The two features that drove me to buying it were in-body IS and movie mode. The in-body IS is a great feature to have when shooting with MF lenses, particularly the lenses with FL over 135mm and the movie mode is nice to have when on vacation. However, I find the G1 to be a better overall camera in terms of performance and IQ.
    Tullio

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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Base ISO for the camera is ISO 200. If you use 100 it is done through processing and has more limited dynamic range.

    The histogram indeed is nice, although with size and placement I found it harder to shoot from that screen plus it added another button push to get to the green box manual focus screen.

    AF is faster with the Panny lenses. The real slowpoke lens is the the Oly 14-42.

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    Senior Member Tullio's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    Base ISO for the camera is ISO 200. If you use 100 it is done through processing and has more limited dynamic range.
    Thanks for the comments, Terry. This is interesting...why would DR be worse at ISO 100-200? The camera has to process the ISO whether it's 100, 200 or 6400 so I'd expect DR to be worse at high ISOs since the camera has to increase the sensor's sensitivity to light.

    I agree, the histogram is a bit too wide and as I mentioned, it would be nice if we could place it elsewhere on the screen. As for the green focus box, as long as it is centered, the histogram does not interfere.
    Tullio

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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    The dynamic range section of the R-P1 review at DPReview describes it:

    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/OlympusEP1/page19.asp

    The green focus box I'm speaking about deals with magnifying the image for manual focus lenses. There is only one screen that you can use for that. The screen has a green box on it. To get to that screen you have to cycle through each of the info screens. So, the more info screens you have active the more button presses to get yourself back to the green box screen. So the regular screen counts, the level counts, the histogram screen counts, the grid lines count, etc.

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    Senior Member Brian Mosley's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    DR is the same in ISO 100 and ISO 200... ISO 200 just gives you a stop more highlight headroom - which gives you the impression of having greater dynamic range.

    I shoot at ISO 200 as base ISO, and really enjoy accurate auto exposure without blown highlights. Noise is very reasonable in the shadows too.

    Have fun!

    Cheers

    Brian

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    Senior Member Brian Mosley's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    If you press and hold the Info button with your left thumb, you can cycle through live view screens with the silver thumb wheel (with your right thumb) - in either direction very quickly.

    I would recommend that you disable any screens you find unnecessary... it takes a fair while to customise the camera to your personal preferences - take your time and enjoy the learning (it took me weeks to fully master all the controls... this camera is deeply configurable)

    Cheers

    Brian

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    Senior Member Tullio's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Thanks for the info., Brian and Terry. I need to spend some time reading the manual, which I found it to be very poorly written, with misspelled words and incorrect English translation - it makes Olympus look real bad IMO. I don't know how to disable screens and I haven't tried any MF lenses with my EP1 so I have no idea what the green screen is.
    Tullio

  8. #8
    Abbazz
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Just a few remarks regarding the E-P1 after a few months' use:

    - As stated by Tullio, autofocus speed is much better than reported in the various reviews published about this camera, especially if you upgrade the firmware for the body as well as the lens and if you disable face recognition, multipoint autofocus and other gimmicky features. Focus accuracy is also excellent. The only negative is continuous focus / focus tracking, which simply doesn't work. Not a big deal for me, as I never use it on my other cameras. Here's a comparison chart from DPReview, as you can see, not much difference with the GF1:


    Illustration linked from: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/OlympusEP1/page13.asp

    - Others have already chimed in on this topic, but I think it's important to avoid the 100 ISO setting, as it seems that the E-P1 sensor has a base setting of 160 ISO. It means that a picture taken at 100 ISO is basically an overexposed 160 ISO picture, "pulled" (darkened) in post processing. That's why the dynamic range suffers in the highlights.

    - Regarding the dynamic range, there is a setting that gets overlooked by most users (and reviewers), it's the Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT). By switching SAT on, the images get an automatic "shadow boost" that greatly enhances clarity in the darker areas. I have found that by combining SAT with a slight underexposure (-1/3 or -2/3 EV), I was able to get a much better dynamic range without having to go through the hassle of custom processing raw files. The price to pay is a slight augmentation of the grain in the shadow areas, but you would get the same increased grain by manually boosting the shadows in a raw file. Here are comparison pictures from DPReview (left with SAT off, right with SAT on):


    Illustration linked from: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/OlympusEP1/page20.asp

    Cheers!

    Abbazz

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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Abbazz,
    The E-P1 is a very good camera and I don't want to go round and round on focus speed but I will point out the graph you are showing is pairing the GH1 with the Oly kit lens the worst pairing as the 14-42 kit lens just doesn't focus that fast on either body. If you were to look at it the other way using both cameras with the GH1 kit lens (from the same dpreview page) you would see this chart. You can see a significant improvement in the E-P1 focus time with the Panasonic lens. So it isn't only a body thing the lenses are an important component.

    Last edited by Terry; 10th January 2010 at 21:49.

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    Senior Member pellicle's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Tullio

    thanks for posting your observations. As a G1 owner myself I find myself gazing across the fence to the other side from time to time. The Pen struck my hands (in a shop) as being a better feeling camera than the GF-1 which surprised me. I just couldn't hold the GF without doing it by the outside edge of the frame and even as one who buys S sized gloves found it just too fiddly to hold. Odd as I never had such problems with my Olympus Trip 35 nor my Canon IXUS 200 (both previous snapshot cameras).

    I would be interested to hear your comments on how well the in body stabilisation effects smoothing out movies hand held. Hopefully as the EP-2 comes out I might be able to find a bargain on the 1

    :-) then I'd get that 17mm for my G1 too ;-)

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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    AF is faster with the Panny lenses. The real slowpoke lens is the the Oly 14-42.
    The Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is even slower than the Olympus 14-42 zoom. Dissapointing but true - I made repeated timed measurements with...

    http://www.shooting-digital.com/colu..._release_test/

    It is even slower than the Olympus kit lens in MF mode too. My guess is that there is a lag setting the aperture to the correct setting which is part of the issue with that lens. Still, it is quite adequate.

  12. #12
    Abbazz
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    Abbazz,
    The E-P1 is a very good camera and I don't want to go round and round on focus speed
    That makes two of us

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    but I will point out the graph you are showing is pairing the GH1 with the Oly kit lens the worst pairing as the 14-42 kit lens just doesn't focus that fast on either body. If you were to look at it the other way using both cameras with the GH1 kit lens (from the same dpreview page) you would see this chart. You can see a significant improvement in the E-P1 focus time with the Panasonic lens. So it isn't only a body thing the lenses are an important component.

    Even on this graph, I see only a 25 to 40% difference in focusing speed, and that was before the last firmware update, which improved the E-P1 performance. When I tried both cameras in identical conditions, the autofocus speed difference was mostly negligible and I ended up returning the GF1, because the E-P1 was better suited to my needs. But I perfectly understand that autofocus speed might be of uttermost importance to some users. In fact, I use mostly manual focus lenses with my E-P1, so I don't feel like I am in the best position to pontificate on autofocus performance .

    Cheers!

    Abbazz

  13. #13
    Abbazz
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by pellicle View Post
    Hopefully as the EP-2 comes out I might be able to find a bargain on the 1
    The E-P1 is presently available for a bit more than $650 from many outlets in the US (body only or with the kit zoom), or for $750 with the 17mm pancake.

    Cheers!

    Abbazz

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    Senior Member Tullio's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Thank you all for your comments and suggestions so far. I will have the opportunity to try the 17mm on my EP1 tomorrow (a co-worker has it). Being a systems programmer, a find any performance difference of 25-40% to be huge and very noticeable. We'll see.

    Sometimes, features such as Gradation may actually reduce DR. I had two Sony SLRs (A200 and A300). They both have excellent DR. However, in some conditions, if DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer) was turned ON (either on Standard or Advanced), the highlights suffered as the camera tried to recover shadows. I'm curious to see if the EP1 behaves similarly with Gradation ON. I'm OK with shadow recovery as long as the highlights remain intact.

    I wish Olympus would improve auto WB performance. It became obvious to me that very little was done in this department since the E510 as I'm experiencing the same problems with the EP1 as I had with the E510. If at least there was some consistency, one could change the A/G on AUTO WB mode to remove some of the Magenta cast produced in certain circumstances. The problem is if you do that, then in some sunny conditions the image looks too cool or too green'ish. So, the best thing is to go back to using preset/custom modes.
    Tullio

  15. #15
    Abbazz
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullio View Post
    Sometimes, features such as Gradation may actually reduce DR. I had two Sony SLRs (A200 and A300). They both have excellent DR. However, in some conditions, if DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer) was turned ON (either on Standard or Advanced), the highlights suffered as the camera tried to recover shadows. I'm curious to see if the EP1 behaves similarly with Gradation ON. I'm OK with shadow recovery as long as the highlights remain intact.
    There are two different settings on the E-P1: "Gradation" and "Shading Comp." If you put the "Gradation" setting on "Auto" then the camera will attempt to optimize the response curve, sometimes leading to the behavior you describe (enhanced shadows but clipped highlights). The setting I was referring to is the "Shading Comp," alias "Shadow Adjustment Technology" in marketing lingo, which works much better in my view.

    Cheers!

    Abbazz

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    Senior Member Tullio's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by Abbazz View Post
    There are two different settings on the E-P1: "Gradation" and "Shading Comp." If you put the "Gradation" setting on "Auto" then the camera will attempt to optimize the response curve, sometimes leading to the behavior you describe (enhanced shadows but clipped highlights). The setting I was referring to is the "Shading Comp," alias "Shadow Adjustment Technology" in marketing lingo, which works much better in my view.

    Cheers!

    Abbazz
    Thanks for the clarification, Abbazz. Since I can't turn Gradation of, should I set it to Normal instead of AUTO? The description makes it sound that AUTO would perform better.

    As for Shading Comp., the description seems to refer to fixing vignetting (shadow edges due to the property of the lens. The Shading Comp. increases brightness at the dark edge of the image). I already have it ON.
    Tullio

  17. #17
    Abbazz
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullio View Post
    Thanks for the clarification, Abbazz. Since I can't turn Gradation of, should I set it to Normal instead of AUTO? The description makes it sound that AUTO would perform better.

    As for Shading Comp., the description seems to refer to fixing vignetting (shadow edges due to the property of the lens. The Shading Comp. increases brightness at the dark edge of the image). I already have it ON.
    I must confess that I wrote my previous post without looking at the manual. You are of course right and the "Shading Comp" setting is indeed meant to compensate for lens vignetting and has nothing to do with enhancing the shadows. To expand the dynamic range in the dark areas I put the Gradation setting on "Auto" and I can confirm that it has strictly no effect on the highlights. Sorry for the confusion.

    Cheers!

    Abbazz

  18. #18
    Senior Member Tullio's Avatar
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    Re: E-P1 first impressions

    Ah, now we are clear. Thanks. Yes, I had already set Gradation to AUTO, so I'll keep it that way (although I wish turning it OFF was an option).
    Tullio

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