The Olympus E-1

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“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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Thirds_system

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” 🙂

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“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.

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“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.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“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.

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“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!

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