Olympus E-1 DSLR

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: It's old and has been replaced by the E-3.

The Long Version: The idea behind the E-1 was to create a totally new camera system specifically designed for digital photography. In this Olympus succeeded. The problem came when the camera hit the marketing department. Intended as a "pro" camera, the E-1's specifications were only comparable to mid-range Canon and Nikon cameras, and they were already dated by the time the camera reached the market. Reviewers in general, both those I respect and those I don't, thought that the camera system was doomed. (Some, notably those on Desperate Pixel Review, are clearly still bitter at being wrong.)

The E-1 turned out to be a really good camera. Apparently when Olympus says "pro" they mean build quality and reliability, which is always reserved for the top-tier models no matter which camera brand you choose. It just happens that Olympus's top is at an affordable and accessible price. This is the main reason why I use Olympus cameras today: a weather-sealed lens and body for $2500 simply had no competitors. Sure, I could have done what Canon and Nikon users do with their cameras when it rains, and stuff them in garbage bags (or just stay home) but why would I spend decent money for a camera that belongs in a cupboard or in the garbage?

It's also worth noting that in many ways the E-1 was ahead of the competition. Its 3 frames per second was as good as any in the price range, and Canon's 20D didn't offer a spot meter. The dust buster (sensor cleaner) really worked at a time when other manufacturers scoffed at the idea, and it's still better than the systems those same manufacturers now offer. It has many little quirks and ergonomic flaws, and the resolution and auto-focus systems are now outdated, but it still stands as one of the best digital single lens reflex cameras ever made.


  1. I completely agree. The E1 is a very solid reliable camera. Although its resolution is not up to current standards, and the auto-focus system is slower, I've been able to use mine out in the rain and snow and duststorms while my friends with more advanced, albeit frail, cameras hide them aways from the elements.
    I think I'll continue using it for a couple of more years until pro sealed SLR bodies are smaller and lighter than they are today.

    I constantly recommend this camera to friends to whom build quality is more important than image quality. The E1s images are still very good



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