Olympus E-P1 Syracuse NY

The combination of DSLR-like hardware, point-and-shoot-like features, and retro-cool design makes the Olympus E-P1 in Syracuse a head-turning Micro Four-Thirds camera.

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Olympus E-P1

Due in July, the Olympus EP-1 won't be the first Micro Four-Thirds system camera out there, but it might be the most significant DSLR-like camera yet.

Note the DSLR-like distinction: the EP-1 joins the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 and Lumix DMC-GH1 in the slowly growing stable of Micro Four-Thirds System cameras. They're not quite DSLRs, and we'll get into that point later.

Along with a stylish throw-back design--the EP-1 looks more like an old Kodak Instamatic camera than a DSLR--the EP-1 dangles all sorts of inticing specs in front of prospective buyers.

The marquee feature in the E-P1 is the 17.3mm-by-13mm Live MOS sensor found in Olympus's E-30 and E-620 digital SLR cameras, offering up a 12.3-megapixel resolution bolstered by Olympus's TruePic V processing engine. Compared to point-and-shoots with significantly smaller, megapixel-inflated sensors, that resolution actually means something. The E-P1 also shoots HD video, with an on-board stereo microphone to pick up audio.

The E-P1's 1.4-inch-deep body also houses a mechanical stabilization system (meaning you don't have to buy special stabilized lenses), an ultrasonic vibrating dust-removal system for the sensor, and a 3-inch-diagonal high-resolution LCD. The E-P1 will be sold in three different packages: as a body-only unit for $750, as a kit with a Zuiko zoom lens (ED 14-42mm, f3.5/5.6) for $800, and as a kit with an ultra-wide-angle ED 17mm f2.8 lens with an attachable optical viewfinder for $900.

Joining those prosumer-friendly specs are a host of features for the point-and-shoot crowd: in-camera "art filters," photo-editing features, 19 pre-set scene modes, and an Intelligent Auto mode that automatically optimizes settings for the shooter.

So what makes the EP-1 not quite a DSLR ? Using a different interchangeable lens system as traditional DSLRs, the Micro Four-Thirds system was co-developed by Olympus and Panasonic as a somewhat ambitious attempt to capture would-be DSLR buyers. The first Micro Four-Thirds cameras seen in the wild were Panasonic's Lumix G1 and Lumix GH-1.

Like a DSLR, Micro Four-Thirds system cameras use a bigger, higher-quality image sensor and offer interchangeable lenses, but with a key difference: these cameras don't have the space-hogging mirror box at the heart of standard DSLRs, which means they're both more portable and capable of shooting video.

When the Micro Four-Thirds system was announced in mid-2008, it had intriguing potential, offering what seemed like the perfect blend of point-and-shoot and DSLR: the ability to swap out lenses, better overall image quality due to a larger sensor and more-powerful optics, a smaller size due to the lack of a bulky mirror box, and the ability to shoot HD video, which no DSLR could do at that time.

But the first-generation Lumix G1 was somewhat disappointing (it didn't even offer the ability to shoot video). The HD-shooting Lumix GH-1 looks like a winner, but it's not all that much smaller than a traditional DSLR, and it carries a premium price ($1500).

Another knock to the appeal of the Micro Four-Thirds system was the fact that both Nikon and Canon quickly released full-fledged DSLR cameras that shoot HD video. What's more, the Micro Four-Thirds system requires either its own lenses or a $150 adapter to use with standard Four-Thirds lenses, requiring extra financial commitment from potential buyers.

However, with the E-P1, Olympus might have just made the entire Micro Four-Thirds system a whole lot more appealing, thanks to its sub-$1000 price points, fashionable looks, HD video recording, and the pre-release buzz it created when prototype models of the camera were displayed in 2008 at Photokina and earlier this year at PMA. With apologies to the less-versatile, fixed-lens Sigma DP1 and DP2, this Olympus camera is the first DSLR-like camera to truly break out of that DSLR-looking mold.

Click here to read article at PC World