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Pricey Olympus E-P1 Shoots With Style

Stocks in this article: SNE CAJ EK

It has an impressive dust reduction system and a durable lens-mounting structure that supports a wide variety of modern DSLR lenses and formats. At the match between teen star Melanie Oudin and No. 4 Elena Dementieva, I shot photos with a sports-ready 300-millimeter zoom lens from the roof of the tennis facility. While I don't recommend this unwieldy setup, the E-P1 worked surprisingly well.

When it comes to technology, the E-P1 doesn't disappoint. It comes with a 12.3 million-megapixel optical sensor that works with 12-bit lossless RAW files (the standard pros use) and the compressed format, JPEG. It has an impressive motion-stabilization system, high-speed range finders and autofocus, art filters and tons of other bells and whistles. The E-P1 can do just about anything you would want to do with a photo.

I was also impressed by its video capabilities. While it's far from professional, the E-P1 cranks out decent high-definition video with surprisingly good sound quality. Even better, its micro HDMI output let me see my clips of Oudin pretty much as I shot them.

What you don't get: The camera's high price doesn't buy you the best quality and features.

The E-P1 is small and versatile, but it costs $799. That's lot of dough for a camera. J&R, for example, offers a fully outfitted Canon EOS Rebel for $750 on its Web site. That's all the camera you would ever need. E-P1 buyers are paying for the cool factor.

Also, if you get fussy with the E-P1, you will find its limits. The autofocus was too easy to confuse at long range. Olympus's photo processing features, called art filters, work well enough, but they're no substitute for Adobe's (ADBE) Photoshop. And mastering all the functions is tricky. It was possible to push a shot two stops in 4-by-3 format, but it took plenty of tinkering.

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