What it is: The Olympus PEN E-P1 is the company’s first Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera — a miniaturized alternative to a digital SLR (DSLR) based on a tech standard developed in cooperation with Panasonic. The physical design and name are throwbacks to the half-frame film cameras Olympus produced from the ’50s through the ’80s. The E-P1, priced at $799, includes a 14-42-millimeter, f3.5-5.6 zoom lens (equivalent to 28-84 mm on a traditional film camera).
Why it’s different: The E-P1′s retro styling stands out among other DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras. The compact body is a result of the MFT system, which reduces bulk by forgoing an SLR’s internal mirror and prism for through-the-lens viewing. The result is a camera significantly smaller and lighter than a DSLR, but with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and the photo quality that comes from a large image sensor. The only other MFT cameras on the market are Panasonic’s G1 and GH1, which boast similar size reductions, but have a traditional DSLR shape.