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The Olympus EP-1: Modern features, retro look

This modern camera offers a dSLR-like experience in a compact package that evokes the stylish feel of a classic camera from the "Mad Men" era.

These are challenging times for camera manufacturers. The megapixel race is coming to an end, profit margins on entry-level cameras are slim to nil, and the thin line that separates cameras and phones will only get more blurry in the years ahead.

The challenge now is to make interesting products that offer features you won't ever find on a mobile phone. The new Olympus EP-1 (CNET review) does that by giving the point-and-shoot user a camera that offers a dSLR-like experience in a compact package that evokes the stylish feel of a classic camera from the "Mad Men" era. It'd be tough for a mobile phone to do that.

The EP-1 takes good pictures, but it also makes a powerful design statement. Inspired by the mid-1960s Olympus Pen, the $800 EP-1 hearkens back to the glory days of film cameras by offering removable lenses, a fast (1/4,000) shutter, and a lens format that keeps the the camera compact.

Just as importantly, it looks great when it hangs around your neck, it feels great in your hand, and you interact with it in an old-school way that requires a higher level of engagement than one normally associates with digital cameras, except perhaps prosumer-level digital SLRs.

The EP-1 is certainly easy on the eyes, but does it have what it takes to escape the forces that threaten to decimate the point-and-shoot camera segment? In this walkthough, we'll take a close look at the design and engineering choices Oympus made to bring this product to market.

Click a picture to enter the Design Review slideshow.