The Olympus E-1


“Cuckoo” 2014. Olympus E-1, Zuiko Digital 25mm f/2.8 pancake lens. Sorry for the funky treatment…one really did fly over the cuckoo’s nest 🙂

The Olympus E-1 is a digital slr that was introduced by Olympus Corporation in 2003.

It was their first digital interchangeable lens slr and an attempt to tap into the prestigious pro digital market that was dominated by giants Canon and Nikon.

The E-1 was also the first dslr to sport the new “Four Thirds” or 4/3’s sensor that was heavily promoted at that time by Olympus and Panasonic.

If you want to get into all the technical aspects for the 4/3’s sensor, just go to the Wikipedia page

Basically, 4/3’s is a sensor smaller than full-frame or APS-C, but still much larger than any point and shoot camera in 2003. The sensor has a 2X factor, meaning for example, a 50mm lens will translate to a 100mm lens on the E-1 and other 4/3’s cameras. Olympus definitely went against the stream on this one, as they did many times in the past. I’ve always been an Olympus fan, so this is one for the “little guys” 🙂


“The Fly” 2005. Olympus E-1, Zuiko 90mm f/2 macro.

The E-1 used a 5mp Kodak sensor, back in the days when Kodak made some amazing sensors. In fact, one of the main reasons for the E-1’s cult-like following is due to what Olympus enthusiasts like to call “those Oly colors” and of course, a large part of that is due to the Kodak CCD in the camera. The mount was also highly adaptable to use with “alternative” lenses and I greatly enjoyed using the camera with various Leica, OM, and Contax lenses.


“Evergreen” 2009. Olympus E-1, Leica 90mm f/2 Summicron-R. My little girl used to pick flowers for me. How I miss those days 🙂

The E-1 had superb build quality utilizing a magnesium-alloy, “splash-proof” body. I found the ergonomics to be great with the controls nicely laid out. The AF was sure and speedy in daylight, but struggled a bit in low light conditions. The ISO range was from 100-800 with ISO 1600 and 3200 available in the settings as “ISO BOOST.” I tended to stay within the 100-800 range as I found the “boosted” settings too noisy for me.


“Sprouts Of Life” 2005. Olympus E-1, Zuiko 90mm f/2 macro.


“Fields Of Gold” 2007. Olympus E-1, Panasonic 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 Vario-Elmarit, ISO 800. Note the “noise” beginning to show. I don’t find it objectionable, but some might.

The E-1 also had one of the most quiet and smooth shutters I’ve ever used in a camera, and one of the most effective dust reduction systems. I’ve never seen a speck of dust in my E-1 images and I’ve used these cameras a lot over the past ten years.

If you’re looking for one of these, prices are trending at $65-200, with the average around $100 or less for the body alone which I feel is a killer deal for a fantastic camera.


“The Kill Master” 2005. Olympus E-1. For less than $100, the E-1 is a “killer” deal for a Camera Legend.

Around 2004, I was in the (sadly) now defunct J&R electronics store in lower Manhattan. There were a lot of beautiful prints hung up on the wall of their photography department. Still a firm believer in film at the time, I was marveling at the prints and saying to myself…wow, look at what people are giving up by not shooting film! Guess what? All those shots I admired were done with an Olympus E-1 🙂

It’s hard to believe that the Olympus E-1 was introduced almost twelve years ago. It still remains a favorite among Olympus fans for its great color, superb build, and reliability. Although 4/3’s is now a dead system, it doesn’t mean you can’t use those cameras and lenses to take great shots.

The Olympus E-1 was the first of its kind and it has left a legacy that continues today with its successful Micro 4/3’s offsprings, which became the true fruition of what 4/3’s was supposed to be. The Olympus E-1 is a classic and will go down in history as a digital Camera Legend.

Pros: Superb build quality, splash-proof; Colors; Good AF in good light; Cheap in today’s world, a bargain!

Cons: “Only” five megapixels; Slow start-up; Slow write times to CF card; Digital grain begins to get objectionably “noisy” at ISO 800 and up; Part of the now dead 4/3’s system.

Important Note: While they share the same sensor size, please remember that 4/3’s and Micro 4/3’s are not compatible. For example, if you have a mirrorless OM-D EM-1 or EM-5, or a Panasonic Micro 4/3’s camera, you CANNOT use your Micro 4/3’s lenses on a 4/3’s body like the E-1. You CAN however use the 4/3’s lenses on Micro 4/3’s with the right adapter. Thanks for stopping by!


13 thoughts on “The Olympus E-1

  1. Hi…..What a wonderful story and great photos. I also own that ‘old E-1 lady’ and it’s my all time favorite camera. I also have E-3, E-500 and E-510 and Zuiko 14-54, 14-42, 70-300 and the wonderful (also my favorite) 50-200! I love the colours and smooth handling. She has everything you can wish for as a photographer. The only thing is that the rubber handgrip is coming loose a bit and I want a new one, but in the Netherlands, where I live, it’s not available anymore. I saw some on E-bay but I do not know if they ship to Holland. It’s the following link:

    It’s not possible to contact then via E-bay so I can’t make inquiries.

    Can you be of any help to me?




    1. Hi Gerie, I have contacted the seller to see if they will ship to Holland. If I get a response I will let you know. Thanks for checking out the article and your comments. The E-1 remains an awesome camera! Best Regards, Sam


  2. Great article – just came across it while browsing about the E-1. I’ve had an E-1 since 2005. Bought it new in a shop sale with the 14-54mm and never regretted it. I have an OMD-EM10 now, but still use the E-1 from time to time. Also have the 11-22mm, which lives on the E-1. I lust after the 7-14mm, but it’s still on the pricey side. It’s also great with old 35mm zooms such as the Tamron 35-210 (effectively 70-420 on the Olympus and great for air displays) and the Vivitar Series 1 90-180mm. I’ve also used it with a Tamron 500mm and got some half-decent shots of the moon. Image quality is fine as long as you keep within its comfort zone (having said that, compare its quality at iso 1600 with the old Fujicolor 1600 ASA colour print film…). Finally the build quality. I’ve dropped mine twice, once from waist height onto tarmac and it didn’t bat an eyelid. Picked up some recent Nikons and they felt flimsy by comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sinclair, thanks for sharing your experiences with the E-1! No doubt a digital Camera Legend and built like one! Not many digital cameras today are built to this level. And let’s not forget the the amazing IQ out of those “measly” 5mp! Still takes awesome shots! Glad to see another enthusiastic E-1 shooter and thanks again!


  3. Thank you for posting this page on the E-1! I bought an Olympus E-1 a few years ago and I love it! I have 15 digital cameras but the E-1 is my favorite. It is for sure a legend in the world of photography.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Greg, thanks for your comments and congrats on the E-1! I too come back to the E-1 time and again for my personal shooting. Everything about the camera is just classic! Happy shooting and thank you!! 🙂


  4. Cuckoo” I like the ‘funky’ treatment 🙂 “the fly” , funky in its own way, fantastic color! This looks like a marvelous camera for macro, the colors are amazing! Not many of them for sale on eBay yet 1 is now, very tempted to get 1. What is a good macro lens for the E-1? Sam, great post, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there! Thanks for your kind words. For this camera I would recommend the 50mm f/2 Zuiko Digital lens it’s a superb for macro as well as for portraits. Hope you get the camera and have fun! 😊


  5. Hi there, I bought an E-1 Body a few years ago, 3500 shutters, for €200,00. I sometimes use it for macro with the 50mm 2.0. Do you think it could be a good idea to buy one of those panasonic-leica 14-50mms that have got that OIS to stabilize my E-1 and my E-420 ?
    I say hello from Osnabrueck, Germany

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! Yes if you’re still using the E-1, the Panasonic Leica 14-50mm is a very good and big lens! The OIS is very good. Also for cheaper the Olympus 14-54mm is also very good but not quite as nice as the other lens. Have fun with the E-1 and thanks for your comments!


  6. olympus fan since I am 18 years OM1 OM2.. and E1 got 2 of them stil in use with 35mm and 50 mm macro lenses great pictures
    build quality of E1 is legendary
    now in micro 4/3 first OM D E5 mk I broke down after 3 years !!! now Mk II fantastic camera too with 5 axis stabilisation and much lighter than the E1

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences and glad to see another Zuikoholic!! I got a couple of E-1 bodies still in rotation. Your experiences echo mine. My E-M5 original also broke after five years less than 5k shots. It’s certainly not up to E-1 standards but my recently acquired E-M1 original seems like it might be. Anyway keep enjoying these fine Olympus cameras and lenses. They are for the most part superb photographic instruments! Cheers!!


    2. I still use my E-1 from time to time. My 3 Zuiko lenses are 11-22mm, 14-54mm and 40-150mm. Still toy with the idea of getting the 7-14mm. Also use some 35mm zooms with it. I love the camera’s build quality (it’s been dropped twice, once onto hard tarmac from waist height – it wasn’t bothered) and the very quiet shutter. I also have an OMD-EM10 II, which I really like because of its compactness and, again, the quality of its lenses. So far, touch wood, it’s behaved flawlessly. Great shame that Olympus have stopped making cameras 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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