Stylus lowering

I bought a Rega P1 with the stock Ortofon OM5E cartridge last week, and I notice that when I lower the tonearm... the stylus seems to absorb the lowering. With the Rega, I have the counter-weight pushed all the way to the front as recommended, and the anti-skate at around 1.75.

It seems to sound fine, but the cartridge seems quite close to the surface of the record.

Should the stylus absorb the downward force like that?

The tracking force recommended for your Ortofon OM 5E is between 1.50 and 2 grams. If you don't have a stylus force gauge (recommended that you do) you can set your arm to near "0" by setting the tracking force calibration to "0" and shifting the counterweight until the arm hovers parallel to the record surface, essentially floating parallel above the record. Now set your tracking force to about 1.75 grams. Experiment with forces of 2 grams and 1.5 grams to see which sounds the best. Be careful not to damage your stylus during this operation (use your stylus cover if you have one). Happy Listening.
If you use your stylus cover your weight measurement will be off.
Every cartridge suspension absorbs the downforce and visibly shifts a little. The question is, were your arm and cartridge fabricated accurately enough so that Rega's very simplistic instruction to move the counterweight all the way forward actually results in 1.5-2.0g of downforce?

You can do two things (either or both):

1. Buy or borrow a tracking force scale. These can be had for a few dollars for a cheap balance or more for a fancy digital one. For your purposes and budget I'd recommend a less costly solution. Search here or on ebay.

2. Rebalance your arm with the technique described by Mcfarland. The complete method is set forth under "Advanced Setup" in the P1's instruction manual. (The instructions say it's for other cartridges, but it will work with any cartridge that isn't unusually light or heavy.) Basically, you first set the counterweight to balance the arm and cartridge in a level position. Then rotate the counterweight inward on the threads by three half turns (for 1.5g) or four half turns (for 2.0g).

For either of these, the stylus guard must be off, as Elescher mentioned. I'd add that the TT should be levelled before you do any of this.