The Power of the Olympus E-1

When I traveled to El Paso this week I took two cameras with me; the Olympus E-P2 and E-1. I had planned to use both equally, and had brought the E-1 body in case I was going to be in something adverse, such as dust or blowing sand. Except for being a little on the chilly side, the weather in El Paso has been, for all practical purposes, perfect. For no good reason other than laziness I used the E-P2 for the majority of my photography. Today, however, after the conference I attended all this week had ended, I followed the El Paso Mission Trail and visited some of the historical Spanish missions on a mini-photo expedition. The weather was clear and bright with no clouds in the sky. I took the E-1 with me and gave it pride of place over the E-P2.

Mission Ysleta
"Mission Ysleta"
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko Digital 50mm Macro
1/3200s, f/4.5, ISO 100, 

The first mission stop was the northern-most Mission Ysleta. The photo was taken with the E-1 and 50mm macro. All photographs were taken raw. Lightroom 3.3 converted the raw images straight to JPEG with no other adjustments other than to modify the size for the web. I have discovered I much prefer Adobe Lightroom's JPEG engine over the aging JPEG engine in the E-1. That shouldn't be surprising; there's an eight year gap between the E-1 and the current version of LR, so the state of the art in JPEG conversion and generation should have advanced a fair bit over that period of time. It has and it shows.

The detail is clear and sharp. The colors are superb. There is wonderful texture across many surfaces and a broad range of luminance from the roof at the upper left to the cast shadows. Over the course of the trip I took many other photos with the E-1. With very few exceptions, nearly all of the images came out of the camera and went through Lightroom with no post-processing manipulation except to resize. When I did play with them at all it was for personal tastes, not some flaw in the camera.

Do Not Forget Me - Mission Ysleta
"Do Not Forget Me"
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko Digital 50mm Macro
1/2000s, f/4.5, ISO 100

Mission Ysleta
"Potted Cactus - Mission Ysleta"
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko Digital 50mm Macro
1/1250s, f/4, ISO 100

Mission Ysleta
"Christ and the Virgin Mary - Mission Ysleta"
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko Digital 50mm Macro
1/30s, f/2.2, ISO 100

The one key factor in all the photos shown is the use of a High Grade Zuiko Digital 50mm Macro lens as a regular taking lens. In order to make this camera's sensor really sing you need to put good glass in front of it, which means High Grade or Super High Grade if you can afford it. While I used fairly high shutter speeds on the first three images, the forth was taken hand-held at 1/30s with a camera that does not have in-body image stabilization.

What I appreciated more than anything else was the ability to capture the El Paso light and El Paso color I saw all around me, a color set that includes whites, blues, and earth-toned pastels. You don't see much of that in the city proper, but get away from El Paso and you begin to see these colors, and more. I'm certainly no master with the E-1 (or any other camera for that matter) but my confidence in the E-1 was boosted significantly today. And once again I have to say; not bad for an eight year old camera. Not bad at all.

Update 23 July 2011

One of my two E-1's with the Zuiko Digital 12-60mm and the SHLD-2 grip.

E-1 glamor shot #3


  1. Bill,

    thanks for posting - this is indeed very good. Maybe I should get one, and try that Kodak sensor for myself. Don't have any "backup" for my E-520 anyway...


  2. Very nice photos. I have two E1s as well as an E500, an E520 and a Pentax K20d. I like taking different cameras on hikes, much as you did on your recent outing, but the E1 is my favorite camera. I wish Olympus would merely tweak it into modernity. I haven't tried Lightroom yet. Your note makes it sound intriguing.

  3. Thanks Lawrence. But just to make sure you understand, I drove the mission trail in air-conditioned rental-car comfort.

    As for "tweaking" the E-1 into "modernity", there's one feature the E-1 doesn't have that's vital, and that's built-in flash. The built-in flash on the E-3 and E-5 can remotely control FL-50Rs, of which I now have two. Adding a flash would raise the pentaprism head higher. There's also the LCD on the back. I don't know how much larger you could make it before having to increase the body size, but Olympus could borrow the design of the extensible LCD from the old Camedia C-8080.

    I personally could live with the E-1 body using the latest 12mp Panasonic sensor, leaving everything else pretty much the way it is, but that may not be what the rest of the market would want.

  4. That's interesting - I would have said that the Kodak sensor in the E-1 was one of it's key characteristics. Maybe an E-1 with the E-400's 10Mp sensor, then ?

    The E-1 is without a doubt the nicest digital camera I've ever owned. But the E-3 is a better picture taking machine...


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