Olympus E-1 SLR Review

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Olympus E-1 Digital SLR

First Look posted 6/24/2003
Sample Photos posted 10/29/2003
Conclusion posted 2/11/2004

Click on the E-1 to take a QuickTime VR tour

The Olympus E-1 is the world's first 100% all-digital interchangeable lens SLR system. This camera has been designed entirely from digital technology and for digital photography. Olympus and Kodak have partnered to create the new Four Thirds open standard which matches a high performance image sensor with digitally-optimized "smart" lenses. The lenses are designed so the light strikes the sensor directly, ensuring rich, accurate colors, sharp contrasts and bright images even at the edges.

The first camera being introduced in the Olympus Digital SLR System is the professional E-1. The most technically sophisticated, computerized digital camera built to date, the E-1 is designed to deliver the best digital images for professional photographers today and into the future. It is a dynamic camera that can handle many types of photographic situations and deliver superior results in a wide range of settings, from indoor to studio, fashion to journalism, sports to portrait photography, and more.

The camera features a new, high performance Super Latitude Full Frame Transfer CCD from Kodak, the KAF-5101CE, which delivers the highest dynamic range, lowest noise levels and best color of any camera in its class. This innovative 5 Megapixel CCD outperforms many higher Megapixel count imagers. A newly developed Supersonic Wave Filter™ significantly reduces the chances of dust settling on the CCD or image and blocking pixels.

The E-1 is the first Olympus camera to feature Versatile Color Adjustment modes, including five Saturation Adjustment modes and four Color Memory modes. Saturation Adjustment allows professional photographers to select one of five levels of color saturation from 0 (accurate) to 4 (super saturated). Color Memory allows the photographer to select a specific color emphasis, with options including red apple, spring green, sky blue, and soft red/pink for flesh tones. In addition, the E-1 utilizes new and existing technologies like the exclusive Olympus TruePic™ Technology to achieve the highest image quality and most realistic digital photographs. Newly developed Noise Compensation technology and the existing Noise Reduction technology produce clear, clean files.

The E-1 is built to last with a magnesium alloy metal body that is lightweight and durable for heavy daily use by the most demanding professional photographers. Splash-proof body and lenses provide maximum protection against dust and moisture, allowing photographers to shoot in the most difficult conditions without concern for the performance or life of the product.

The system delivers a true film-like experience with fast shooting and operating speeds, dramatically reducing the lag time often associated with digital cameras. The E-1's high speed performance shortens the time it takes to capture an image and transfer data to the memory card. Second generation coreless motors in the Digital Specific Lenses achieve focus speeds comparable to or better than the best film SLR lenses.

The E-1's new progressive Full Frame Transfer CCD™ with separate camera control SDRAM and large SDRAM buffer, coupled with the E-1's parallel data processing 3 ASIC Digital Processor engine, overcomes many of the bottlenecks in image processing and camera operations. The E-1 can capture images at 3 frames per second for a burst of 12 frames in all image quality modes. New capture software delivers another boost in shooting speed, allowing direct capture of data to a computer.

E-1 Digital SLR Features

  • The first 100% true all-digital SLR camera system
  • High performance Kodak 5-Megapixel Progressive Scan Full Frame Transfer CCD
  • Exclusive Supersonic Wave Filter - the first digital SLR with a built-in Ultrasonic dust filter over the image sensor
  • Durable and lightweight magnesium alloy body
  • Splash-Free body and lens design, 64 gaskets and seals
  • Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes
  • Four-Thirds lens mount with Digital Specific Lenses
  • sRGB or Adobe RGB Color Space
  • JPEG, TIFF and RAW file formats
  • Fast and Accurate TTL Auto Focus
  • Shutter lag comparable to or better than film SLRs
  • Full 100% coverage viewfinder
  • Neo-Lumi-Micron Matte II Focusing Screen
  • Simultaneous capture of RAW and JPEG files
  • Capture 3 fps up to 12 frames at all resolutions and file types
  • Next Generation TruePic Technology with advanced noise reduction
  • Robust operation with 3 ASIC digital processing engines, one each for Image Processing, Interface Processing and Camera Control
  • Sharpening, Contrast and Saturation controls
  • User Upgradeable - all components of the E System can be upgraded with one button push when connected to Internet-enabled computer
  • IEEE 1394 FireWire and USB 2.0 High Speed connectivity
  • CompactFlash Type II, Microdrive compatible
  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery and charger
  • Optional Battery Grip and heavy-duty battery pack

The Olympus E-1 Professional Digital SLR will be available in October 2003 with a $2199 MSRP. The E-1 outfit includes the E-1 body, BLM-1 battery, BCM-1 charger, USB cable, IEEE 1394 cable, video cable, shoulder strap, Olympus Viewer Software, Adobe Photoshop Elements CD-ROM, Web Photo School Lessons, manuals and warranty card.

Initially, Olympus will introduce five Zuiko Digital Specific Lenses, one flash system, and a power grip set for the E-1, as follows:

  • 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 (28mm - 108mm equiv. for 35mm) at $599.00 MSRP

  • 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 (100mm - 400mm equiv. for 35mm) at $1199.00 MSRP

  • 50mm f2.0 1:2 Macro (100mm Macro equiv. for 35mm) at $599.00 MSRP

  • 300mm f2.8 Super Telephoto (600mm equiv. for 35mm) at $7,999.00 MSRP

  • TC14 1.4X Teleconverter (1.4X - 1 stop equiv. for 35mm) at $549.00 MSRP

  • FL-50 Flash and Accessories $499.00 MSRP

  • Power Battery Holder Set $549.00 MSRP

Physical Views

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves DigicamsOlympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 and Nikon D100 for size comparison

(both cameras shown with optional battery grip)

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Olympus E-1 Digital SLR, photo (c) 2003 Steves Digicams

Continue on to
Page Two

Olympus E-1 Specifications

Type Interchangeable lens digital SLR camera
Body Magnesium alloy
Lens Mount Four-Thirds mount
Media CompactFlash Card, Type I or II, Microdrive
Image Sensor
Type Kodak KAF-5101CE 4/3-type Full Frame Transfer CCD
Number of Pixels 5.5 Megapixels (total)
5.0 Megapixels (effective)
Aspect Ratio 4:3
Image Resolution
File Type Resolution Compression File Size
RAW 2560 x 1920 uncompressed 10MB
TIFF 2560 x 1920 uncompressed 15MB
SHQ 2560 x 1920 1/2.7 3.8MB
HQ 2560 x 1920 1/8 1.2MB
SQ 1600 x 1200 1/2.7 1.4MB
1/8 500KB
1280 x 960 1/2.7 900KB
1/8 300KB
1024 x 768 1/2.7 600KB
1/8 200KB
640 x 480 1/2.7 300KB
1/8 100KB
Filter Array Primary color filter (RGB)
Dust Protection Fixed-type Low Pass Filter with Supersonic wave filter
Type Eye-level pentaprism optical viewfinder
Viewfield Coverage 100%
Magnification Approx. 1:1 with 50mm lens set to infinity on -1 diopter
Eye Point 20mm
Diopter Adjustment Built-in, -3 to +1
Focusing Screen Interchangeable type, Matte FS-1 supplied,
optional FS-2 Grid screen with 6 x 8 grid pattern
Mirror Quick-return mirror
Viewfinder Information AF frame, AF lock, AF correct mark, Exposure mode, Exposure level indicator, Exposure compensation indicator, Exposure compensation value, AE lock, Metering mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Auto bracket, White balance, Flash, FP flash, Number of storable sequential pictures
Depth of Field Preview Dedicated button
Eye Cup Interchangeable (2 types), EP-1 supplied
Eye Piece Shutter Built-in
Type TTL phase difference detection system
Focus Modes Single / Continuous autofocus, Manual
Detection Range EV 0 to 19 (ISO 100, temperature 20°C)
Focus Area 3 points
Focus Area Selection Auto, Manual
AF Assist Lamp Built-in body-type and built-in optional Olympus dedicated flashes
AF Lock Locked by first position of shutter button or AE lock button (customizable)
Exposure Control
Light Metering System TTL full-aperture light metering by 3-zone multi-pattern sensing system
Metering Modes ESP multi patterned, Center-weighted average (60%), Spot (2%)
Detection Range ESP, Center-weighted average: EV 3 to 20
Exposure Control Program (with Program Shift) 2 sec. - 1/4000 sec., Shutter priority 60 sec. - 1/4000 sec., Aperture priority 2 sec. - 1/4000 sec., Manual 60 sec. - 1/4000 sec. + Bulb
Exposure Compensation +/- 5 steps EV in 1, 1/2 or 1/3 steps
Exposure Bracketing Selectable from 1. 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps, 3 or 5 frames
Auto ISO 100 - 400
Manual ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, boost to 1600/3200
Type Electronically controlled focal plane shutter
Shutter Speed 1/4000 sec. - 60 sec., Bulb (up to 8 minutes)
X-Sync Speed Syncs at 1/180 sec., Super FP mode syncs up to 1/4000 sec. for fill flash
Shutter Release Soft-touch electromagnetic
Selftimer 12 or 2 sec.
Remote Control Wireless by RM-1, wired by RM-CB1
Drive System
Drive Modes Single, Sequential shooting
Sequential Shooting Speed 3.0 frames per second
Max. Frames in Sequential Shooting 12 frames (TIFF, JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG)
White Balance System
Auto WB System Hybrid detection system with white balance sensor and CCD imager
Preset WB 12 Types (3000K, 3300K, 3600K, 3900K, 4000K, 4300K, 4500K, 4800K, 5500K, 6500K, 6600K, 7500K)
Custom Mode 4 settings
WB Compensation Adjustment -7 to +7 steps in 2 MiRed (1 Mired = 10° Kelvin)
WB Bracketing 3 frames +/- 1/2/3 steps (+/- 5/10/15 MiReD steps, 1 MiReD = 10° Kelvin)
Flash Control
Type TTL Auto FP, TTL Auto for Olympus dedicated flash, Auto, Manual
Synchronization Mode Auto, Red-eye reduction, Slow synchro, Slow synchro second curtain, Fill-in for exclusive flash
Intensity Control +/- 2 steps EV in 1, 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps for exclusive flash
Synchro Socket PC ISO type
Color Space sRGB, Adobe RGB
Control Panel Information Aperture value, Shutter speed, Focus mode, Metering mode, Exposure level indicator, Exposure compensation indicator, Exposure compensation value, ISO, Color space, White balance, Image quality adjustment, Single-frame shooting/Sequential shooting, Number of storable still pictures, Number of storable sequential pictures, Auto bracket, Noise reduction, AF frame, Flash mode, Record mode, Battery check, Remote control, Self-timer
Playback Monitor 1.8" low-temp Poly-silicon TFT color LCD (approx. 134,000 pixels). Viewfield coverage 100%. +/- 7 step brightness control
Playback Modes Single, Zoom (2x, 3x, 4x), Index (4, 9, 16 frames), Slide show
Playback Information Exposure mode, Metering mode, Shutter speed, F-stop, Compensation level, ISO, Color space, WB mode, Focal length, Focus area, File type, Contrast level, Sharpness level
Exposure Level View Histogram, High light warning
Video Output Yes, NTSC or PAL selectable
Recording Format DCF (JPEG), TIFF, RAW, RAW + JPEG
File Format JPEG, TIFF v6.0 (Exif 2.2), RAW (12-bit)
Menu Languages English (default), German, French, Spanish, Japanese
Power Supply BLM-1 rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack and BCM-1 charger (included)
SHLD-2 Power Battery Holder (optional), BLL-1 Li-ion battery
AC-1 AC adapter: AC 100V-240V, 50-60Hz; DC 9V (optional)
PC Interfaces IEEE 1394 FireWire, USB 2.0
Supported OS Windows, IEEE 1394: 98SE/Me/2000/XP
Windows, USB 1.1: 98SE/Me
Windows, USB 2.0: 2000/XP

Mac, IEEE 1394/USB 1.1: Mac OS 9.1, 9.2, OS X 10.1.3 - 10.2.1

Operating Temperature / Humidity 32° - 104°F (0° - 40°C), 30 - 90% humidity
Size 5.6" (W) x 4.1" (H) x 3.2" (D)
(141mm x 104mm x 81mm)
Weight 23 oz. / 660 g (without battery & memory card)

NOTE: These specifications are as represented by the manufacturer.

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