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Olympus E1 SLR

The first "Four Thirds" system (almost) sees the light of day!

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Page 1:Intro and Highlights

Review First Posted: 06/24/2003, Updated: 03/16/2004

  • First "Four Thirds" SLR on the market.
  • Much lighter/more compact than 35mm-based SLR bodies.
  • 5.08-megapixel CCD delivers image resolutions as high as 2,560 x 1,920 pixels.
  • Frame-transfer sensor by Kodak promises better dynamic range, lower noise than conventional interline-transfer designs.
  • Numerous innovations in camera and lens systems create an "all digital" SLR design.


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Manufacturer Overview

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At the Photokina show in Germany in September of 2002, Olympus and Kodak announced plans to jointly develop a new digital SLR system, based on a standard sensor size and lens mount specification, that presumably will be open to other manufacturers to develop around as well. (Fujifilm simultaneously announced that they'd support the new standard, although no products based on it have been forthcoming or even rumored from them as of this writing.) Dubbed the "Four Thirds" initiative (after the dimension of the sensor to be used), the Olympus E-1 SLR is the first of what will presumably be a full line, with models from multiple manufacturers.

Four Thirds systems like the E-1 promise lighter, more compact digital SLRs, with considerably smaller and lighter lenses. The open question is whether photo enthusiasts and professionals will find these advantages compelling enough to abandon the long-entrenched lens-mount standards they're already familiar with. A pro with a bag full of Canon or Nikon glass will probably be a tough sell, but there are a lot of well-heeled amateurs for whom it might be acceptable to sell a film body and a couple of existing lenses to take the plunge into digital with a very capable camera in a compact form factor. Even pros may find the small size attractive enough to purchase a body/lens combo for specific uses.

Time will tell, as they say. Meanwhile, here's a close look at the Olympus E-1, based on a full production-level camera.


High Points

  • 5.08-megapixel Super Latitude, Full Frame Transfer CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 2,560 x 1,920 pixels, with a supersonic wave filter for dust protection.
  • Interchangeable lens design compatible with Olympus Digital Specific lenses.
  • Digital SLR design for an accurate optical viewfinder.
  • Auto and manual focus options, with an adjustable, three-point AF area.
  • AF illuminator lamp for focusing in dark situations.
  • Digital ESP, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering systems.
  • Program (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 60 seconds, and a Bulb setting for exposures as long as eight minutes.
  • Adjustable exposure compensation from +/-5 in three different step sizes.
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing mode.
  • Adjustable ISO setting with ISO Boost option.
  • 12 or two-second Self-Timer mode.
  • Remote Control mode for use with accessory wireless or wired remote.
  • Sequential Shooting mode.
  • Hybrid detection white balance system with 12 Kelvin temperature settings, four custom settings, white balance compensation, and a white balance bracketing feature.
  • External flash hot shoe and PC sync terminal.
  • On-camera flash mode control and flash intensity adjustment.
  • TIFF, RAW data, and JPEG file formats.
  • Image storage on CompactFlash type I or II memory cards, also compatible with the IBM/Hitachi MicroDrive.
  • IEEE-1394 (FireWire) and USB connector terminals, with appropriate cables included.
  • Power from BLM-1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack or optional AC adapter. (Battery and charger included.)
  • Video Out jack for connection to a television set.
  • DPOF compatible.
  • Accompanying software CD loaded with Adobe Photoshop Elements, e-Studio, and Web Photo School software.


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