Olympus E-P1 Review

 
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Olympus E-P1 Performance


Timing and Performance

The Olympus E-P1 is somewhat slower than average compared to consumer SLRs and many point & shoot cameras.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

2.5 seconds

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Shutdown

0.8 second

How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card.

Buffer clearing time
8 seconds after 13 large/superfine JPEGs*
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.
10 seconds after 11 RAW files*
22 seconds after 9 RAW+ LSF JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shut-down times are slower than those for most SLRs. The long startup time is likely due to the SSWF cleaning that takes place on power-up. Unfortunately, there is no way to shut that off with the current firmware (V1.1).


Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

1.5 seconds

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

2.2 seconds

Time to display a large/superfine JPEG file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.2 second

Time to display a large/superfine JPEG file already on the memory card.

Mode switching is also slow. Displaying recorded JPEGs is pretty fast though.


Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Wide Angle
1.187 seconds
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (Timed with Olympus 14-42mm kit lens. This measurement done at 14mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Telephoto
0.983 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (Timed with Olympus 14-42mm kit lens. This measurement done at 42mm.)

Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode,
Telephoto
1.190 seconds
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 42mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Prime lens
1.038 seconds
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (Measured with Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens.)

Prefocused

0.072 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button. There was about 8% variation between iterations on this particular measurement.

Continuous AF
1.121 seconds
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
0.274 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused". There was about 12% variation between iterations on this measurement.

The Olympus E-P1 showed full-autofocus shutter lag (with the subject at a fixed distance) that ranged from 0.983 seconds at full telephoto to 1.187 seconds at wide angle when using the 14-42mm kit lens, which is slower than almost every current digital camera we've tested (with the possible exception of Sigma's DP series). The lag was about the same in continuous mode AF, at about 1.121 seconds. The Panasonic GH1 was about 3-4 times faster at full autofocus. (The lens likely has a lot to do with that. Unlike the phase-detect AF systems used in SLRs, contrast-detect AF systems require refocusing the lens to determine optimal focus, so the focusing speed of the lens becomes a much larger factor in our measurements. We've heard that the E-P1 does much better when paired with the fast-focusing Panasonic 14-140mm HD lens, but unfortunately didn't have one available to test the E-P1 with.) With the 17mm f/2.8 prime, full AF lag was 1.038s, but that's still quite slow. When manually focused, the E-P1's lag time drops to 0.274 second, still on the slow side, but fast enough that it won't likely cause you to miss any shots. Manual focus lag also varied a lot more that autofocus lag (12% versus 3%). The E-P1's prefocused lag time of 0.072s is quite fast though, besting some SLRs in its general price range. That's partially because there is no mirror to move out of the way first. (The lag with the 17mm prime was with Version 1.0 firmware, other lag figures were with version 1.1. The kit lens tested at 1.07-1.23s with Version 1.0 firmware.)

Overall, AF shutter lag is clearly one of the weakest points of the Olympus E-P1 value proposition, at least with currently available Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses. The version 1.1 firmware upgrade to improve continuous AF performance had a slight effect on shutter lag overall, but not enough to change the basic feel of the camera. That said, if you can prefocus by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the shot itself, you'll have no problem capturing critical moments. That's not possible with every subject, but for those that it does work with, the E-P1 will respond quickly enough.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/SuperFine JPEG

1.93 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 3 seconds to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW

1.93 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 3 seconds to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW + LSF JPEG
2.12 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 19 shots, 22 seconds to clear*.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous Mode
LSF JPEG

0.32 second (3.13 frames per second);
13 frames total;
8 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 13 shots, then slows to an average of about 0.53s or 1.89 fps.

Continuous Mode
RAW

0.32 second (3.13 frames per second);
11 frames total;
10 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 11 frames, then slows to an average of about 0.89s or 1.13 fps.

Continuous Mode
RAW + LSF JPEG

0.32 second (3.16 frames per second);
9 frames total;
22 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 9 frames, then slows to 2.27s or 0.44 fps.

Flash Recycling

n/a

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times are rather slow, at 1.93 seconds for large/superfine JPEGs or RAW files, 2.12 seconds for RAW + LSF JPEGs. Continuous mode, however, was faster and quite consistent. The camera managed about 3.1 frames per second no matter what image size or quality before the buffer filled. Buffer depth was also quite good, at 13 frames for large/superfine JPEGs, 11 for RAW and 9 for RAW + large/superfine JPEG. Note that our test target for this was designed to be difficult to compress, so JPEG burst lengths may be longer with simpler subjects. (Particularly in the case of buffer depths, we're careful to test under worst-case conditions.)


Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

7,273 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were fast, quick enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader, even with large memory cards. (Note that this test was performed with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec SD card: Slower cards would likely show slower transfer times.)


Bottom line, the Olympus E-P1 is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to performance.  Startup time and full autofocus lag is quite slow, though prefocused shutter lag is very good. Burst speed is about average, and buffer size is pretty good. If you prefocus, you can capture some action shots, but the E-P1 is best suited for relatively static subjects.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Below average battery life, but not atypical of SLR-style cameras operating in Live View mode.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Still Capture,
(CIPA standard)
300

The Olympus E-P1 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The rated 300 shots per charge is below the capacity of most SLRs and Point & Shoots, especially considering the E-P1 has no built-in flash. - But this relatively short battery life isn't atypical of SLR-style cameras being used in Live View mode: Live View operation burns a fair bit of power. (The CIPA standard normally tests battery life with 50% of the shots taken with flash, so this isn't strictly a CIPA number, given that there's no internal flash to fire.) We do recommend getting a second battery for your E-P1 if you plan any extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Olympus E-P1 accepts SD/SDHC memory cards, and does not ship with a card.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
SuperFine Fine Normal Basic RAW RAW
+
LSF JPG
4,032
x
3,024
Images
(Avg Size)
109
9.4 MB
157
6.5 MB
337
3.0 MB
502
2.0 MB
58
17.7 MB
35
29.3 MB
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
6:1
12:1
18:1
1:1
-
3,200
x
2,400
Images
(Avg Size)
168
6.1 MB
269
3.8 MB
531
1.9 MB
787
1.3 MB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
6:1
12:1
18:1
-
-
2,560
x
1,920
Images
(Avg Size)
283
3.6 MB
419
2.4 MB
828
1.2 MB
1,226
835 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
6:1
12:1
18:1
-
-
1,600
x
1,200
Images
(Avg Size)
716
1.4 MB
1,045
980 KB
1,992
514 KB
2,898
353 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
6:1
11:1
16:1
-
-
1,280
x
960
Images
(Avg Size)
1,099
932 KB
1,594
642 KB
3,036
377 KB
4,250
241 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
6:1
11:1
15:1
-
-
1,024
x
768
Images
(Avg Size)
1,677
611 KB
2,452
418 KB
4,554
225 KB
6,376
161 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
6:1
11:1
15:1
-
-
640
x
480
Images
(Avg Size)
3,985
257 KB
5,313
193 KB
9,108
112 KB
12,154
84 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
5:1
8:1
11:1
-
-

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card at least a 2GB card, preferably a 4 or 8GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, or when shooting RAW or video files. -- If you're going to shoot much video, you'll definitely want a large, fast card; look for a card with "class 6" speed or better. (Check the shopping link above, memory cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

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