Olympus PEN E-PL1


A compact camera from Olympus

The third and latest Olympus PEN E series of compact cameras, the Olympus PEN E-PL1, is a definite improvement from the previous Pen E-P1, especially in terms of flash and price. Its popularity is on the rise, because it combines convenience, portability, good image quality and versatility. Is the device really that impressive? We tested it and here is our review.

2.7″ monitor display

The Olympus E-PL1 has a simple and light body with its 114.6mm x 72.2mm x 41.5mm and 297g; these measurements are almost similar to the ones sported by Panasonic GF1. The gadget is taller, thicker and narrower than the Lumix with which it competes. The device comes in black, silver, red and white and is made of plastic; it looks and feels solid and not easily breakable. The 14-42mm standard zoom lens kit comes with a plastic mount which makes the camera appear somewhat cheap. While the front houses a 2.7″ monitor screen and a grip for your hands, the rear has a thumbgrip area which offers great secure grip of the gadget. Olympus-PEN-E-PL1

Comfortable to keep

During our test for this review we had no problem holding the Olympus PEN E-PL1, because it felt very comfortable even when we used it with only one hand. Moreover, the camera features solid controls, durable battery and card hatch (including a locking batch) and a metal tripod bush. The display, while smaller than others, comes with the following: 230k dot resolution, a good anti-glare surface, a very wide viewing angle and fast refresh rate. Although it doesn’t sport a viewfinder, it offers the possibility to connect one in a socket which sits behind the external flash hot-shoe.

Four Thirds Live MOS sensor

While the top panel houses a shooting mode dial, the rear panel doesn’t come with many buttons but it does have a D-pad. The on-screen menu allowed us to easily and quickly select shooting options; unfortunately, it doesn’t feature an adjustment wheel, but the exposure adjustments are dealt with by the D-pad. The main menu was very easy to use, although it didn’t have that many options. We could easily adjust the image ratio, control colors and customize tone adjustment presets. As a con, the Four Thirds Live MOS sensor with its 4:3 aspect ratio is the largest picture size. The camera offers only a range of 4 lenses; on the plus side, the device boasts 2 adapters with which users can attach OM 35mm SLR and Olympus dSLR lenses. The 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens performed very well when we tested the PEN E-PL1; photos looked excellent, sharp, detailed and with beautiful colors. Dynamic range produced superb shadow and highlight detail. In terms of picture noise, the gadget provided very good results at up to ISO 800 and photos up to ISO 3200 were still acceptable.

720p HD videos

The video mode enabled us to shoot in a resolution of 1280 x 720 HD (720p) at 30fps. Video quality of E-PL1 was good; the audio performance could have been great, but unfortunately the integrated mic picked up sounds coming from both the front and rear of the gadget. Content was recorded in Motion JPEG; we could record for 14 minutes straight.

Medium loading speed

Overall performance was decent. The Olympus E-PL1 took under 2.5 seconds to get ready to snap a picture and time between shots was 1.8 seconds (in raw as well as JPEG mode). Over 3fps were registered in continuous shooting mode (10fps in raw mode before reaching 1fps). The contrast detection autofocus system was both spot-on and fast in good lighting conditions; dim light provided fairly good quality which could have been superb if the camera would have sported an AF assist lamp. The pop-up flash had a range of 3 meters when we performed the review for the product.

Review conclusion

In conclusion, the latest Olympus PEN E-PL1 offers good performance and image quality at an affordable price.

Technical specifications

Sensor TypeLive MOS
Viewfinder TypeElectronic and optical viewfinder or LCD
Resolution Width in Pixel4032
Resolution Height in Pixel3024
Memory TypeExternal Only
Depth in mm41.5
Optical Zoom0
Digital zoom0
Height in mm72.2
Lowest Focal Length in mm0
Focal Length in mm0
Interchangeable LensYes
Screen Size2.7
Burst shootingYes
LCD Monitor Resolution in Pixel230000
Max Resolution Mode Video Width1280
Max Resolution Mode Video Height720
Ability to save files in RAWYes
Maximum Aperture Tele0
Maximum Aperture Wide0
Video CaptureVideo + Sound
Secure DigitalYes
Micro DriveNot
Compact FlashNot
Memory Stick / Memory Stick ProNot
Memory Stick Duo / Pro DuoNot
Internal Memory size in MB0
Shutter Speed fastest in SecondJan-00
Shutter Speed slowest in SecondFeb-00
Sensor Size17.3 x 13.0 mm
Battery TypeOlympus BLS-1
DebuggingFace Detection
Image StabilizerOptical Stabilizer
Shutter PriorityYes
Aperture PriorityYes
Number of frames per second in video mode30