Olympus E-1 Debuts
After several years of development and secret glimpses of camera prototypes, the new Olympus E-1 digital SLR has arrived-well, almost.
According to Olympus, the camera won't ship until October, so you'll have to wait for Pop Photo's full test. But the early production models we saw at this 5MP digital SLR's June debut had most features activated.
The E-1 is the first digital SLR based on the Four Thirds Standard designed by Olympus. The number 4/3 refers to the size of the image sensor in the camera, and is derived from an older method of measuring video tubes in TV cameras. While the majority of other interchangeable-lens DSLRs from other manufacturers use lenses originally intended for the larger imaging-area of 35mm, Four Thirds Standard models will use lenses that are designed from scratch, exclusively for the smaller-sized sensor.
Olympus also debuted several Zuiko Digital lenses that it claims are smaller and lighter than comparable 35mm lenses, while offering better corner-to-corner color definition. In combination with a 5.5MP full-frame CCD from Kodak (capturing an effective 5MP, or 2560x1920-pixel resolution) and advanced image-processing capability, the E-1 is billed as providing image quality on par with higher-MP sensors.
The E-1 has several other features that should appeal to pro and advanced-amateur photographers as well, including a rugged, splashproof magnesium-alloy body, and an innovative Supersonic Wave Filter that vibrates dust off the CCD sensor. It also sports both FireWire (IEEE1394) and high-speed USB 2.0 connectors, and can capture up to 12 images at 3 fps in burst mode. Metered shutter speeds range from 2 to 1/4000 sec, and the camera has a wide range of exposure controls and metering choices, plus image-quality settings that include color space, saturation, sharpness, contrast, and white balance.
About the only feature missing from the E-1 is a built-in pop-up flash. In Japan, however, built-in flash is disdained by pros-and a pro camera is what Olympus calls the E-1.
We were hoping for a lower price-at $2,199 (list) for the body, $599 for the 14-54mm lens shown (equivalent to a 28-108mm 35mm lens), and $499 for the FL-50 flash unit, the E-1's cost puts it in between a slew of 6MP SLRs and the 13.5MP Kodak Pro 14n. Stay tuned for our full test of the E-1.