Friday, August 20, 2010

Olympus Pen PT-EP01 underwater housing for Oly's E-PL1 camera review...


I just received the housing for my Olympus E-pl1 camera. I refused the urge to go down the hill and do a dive with it today, tomorrow morning I'll have to. I took the time to read the manual, it actually comes with a reasonable sized manual, something I haven't seen with a lot of housings I've had before.

My first impressions are that it's well made. In the box comes the housing, o-ring, o-ring grease, dessicant packs, rubber LCD hood, a rigid lens cover. It also comes with an application for DEPP insurance. DEPP insures gear sets and underwater photo equipment. The housing features a new-ish locking system that Olympus has come with in the last couple of years that seems pretty good. The back of the housing is a transparent polycarbonate type of material. My only gripe is that only the bottom part of the back is polished to clear so you can readily see the o-ring and check for moisture... I'd like to see it polished to where you could see the entire o-ring to check on your seal. The buttons on the back of the housing are really nice, they're larger than I'm used to on other housings, and they're labeled nicely - almost better than the buttons on the camera are labeled.

I was happy to see the lens cover and LCD hood as the company that sold the housing had those available as "replacements" and I decided not to purchase them at the time. "Replacement" to me implies they come with the original purchase, but if you look up the housing on Olympus' site, they have the zoom gear ring listed as a "replacement" item, yet it does not come with the original purchase. I think Oly ought to change their website to say "optional" on the zoom gear, as the way they have it makes it unclear as to whether it comes with the original purchase or not. It doesn't. I did pick up the zoom gear as a separate purchase. The zoom gears are basically rubber gears that fit tightly around the camera lens which matches up with a small gear on the front of the housing so you can use the zoom. It's an extra 45 bucks, but well worth it. Different sizes of zoom gears are available, as the housing has been made to accept a couple different lenses and the gear needs to fit the specific lens.

The other purchase at the time of the order was the macro lens mount. It's a rigid plastic piece that fits over the front port of the housing and will accept 67 mil threaded lenses. I have an Inon 67 mil macro lens already so I'm set there. The lens adaptor is another 45 bucks... it all adds up.

The housing itself is pretty big compared to the Canon housing I had for my G9, but it's quite comparable to the size of the Ikelite housing I had for my Olympus 8080 several years back. The Olympus E-pl1 is one of the smallest interchangeable lens cameras available these days, and the housing is also. Olympus could have made the housing a bit smaller by eliminating the space for the optional electronic viewfinder. I'm sure they put that in there to appease the people who love using viewfinders rather than using the LCD. In my opinion the LCDs with live view have sort of revolutionized underwater photography, I suspect we'll see less use of viewfinders in the future. Even with it's somewhat largish size, it's quite a bit smaller than most of the DSLR housings we see come on the boat. Price of the housing is $599, I found it for $75 less. It sounds like a lot of money, but the typical DSLR housing begins at around $1200 and can top a couple grand easily. Olympus has made it so you can get an interchangeable lens system underwater for what has been the price of just an economy housing in the past.

Unlike most of the smaller point and shoot housings, this housing is not made for use of the onboard flash for taking photos. It's set up so the onboard flash can trigger a remote flash.. that's another expense down the line. For now I'll be shooting with available light.

I can't wait to get it wet.

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