The Micro Four Thirds camera system has been a tough sell to some, so the designers of the Olympus E-P1 have looked to the past to explain things: a simpler time, happier time, perhaps? But under the retro surface the E-P1 is looking to the future.
We took the E-P1 out on a shooting tour of Berlin to get a feel for the company's first entry to the Micro Four Thirds range. It's a very different beast to Panasonic's Lumix G1 and GH1 -- the GH1 especially is a bleeding-edge behemoth packing everything in, while the E-P1 is a stripped-down, simple-to-use snapper aimed at the family market.
In theory, anyway. So does the E-P1 hark back to an altogether more innocent age of happy snapping? That's the idea of the retro styling, with its leather-effect grip in black or champagne colours. It won't be for everyone, but if we're honest we think the E-P1's kitsch look edges the Panasonic cameras' blocky, mute-toned stormtrooper looks.
Under the surface, the E-P1 packs a 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor and TruePic V image processor. This makes it capable of shooting 3 frames per second in JPEG or raw format, up to 14 raw shots. In burst modes and video, the camera can preview art filters such as pop art or stylised black and white, but the increased processing limits the shooting rate, or clip length. Video is 720p high definition, with up to five minutes of 30fps HD footage in each clip, and the option to capture stills while shooting.
For low-light shooting, sensitivity goes up to ISO 6,400. This is important because there's no built-in flash, so when you're in the dark you'll need to make the most of higher ISO speeds. In-body optical image stabilisation keeps the shakes to a minimum, and being built-in will work with any lens -- although not for video.
Click through our gallery for our thoughts on the E-P1's usability, and see the camera from all angles, as well as revealing the all-important price.