Olympus Pen E-PL1 review

April 10, 2010

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Beneath the retro styling of the Olympus Pen E-PL1 is a new Live Guide designed to aid beginners, but does it make photography any easier? We put it to the test



Like the Olympus E-P1 and E-P2, the E-PL1 has a 2.3-million-pixel Live MOS Four Thirds imaging sensor. The major technical difference between the E-PL1 and the two previous Pen cameras is that the newer model is fitted with a weaker low-pass filter. By reducing the strength of this filter and improving the image processing, image sharpness should be improved over the previous filter and sensor combination.

Unlike Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras, which rely on optically stabilised lenses, Olympus Pen cameras, including the E-PL1, have in-camera, image sensor-shift stabilisation. This helps to reduce camera shake, regardless of what lens is used.

The stabilised sensor is capable of capturing both JPEG and Olympus Raw Files (ORFs) at a maximum resolution of 4032×3042 pixels. Images at this resolution have an aspect ratio of 4:3, the same as that used in most compact cameras.

Those more used to shooting with a 3:2 aspect ratio can change to this format in-camera, with square and 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratios also available. However, these non-native aspect ratios do reduce the size of the image. Like the E-P2, the E-PL1 has the new accessory socket below its hotshoe. The primary reason for this is to allow the optional Olympus VF-2 electronic viewfinder accessory to be attached to the camera, but more on this later.

The accessory shoe does have another function, though. It can be used to attach the Olympus SEMA-1 external microphone adapter kit. This allows the included Olympus ME-51S stereo microphone to be attached to the camera to capture stereo sound when recording video footage.

One feature of the E-PL1 that is lacking in the more expensive E-P2 is the built-in pop-up flash. However, with a guide number of just 7m @ ISO 100, the flash is only really suitable for adding a touch of fill-in flash or brightening a night-time portrait.

  • White Balance: Auto, 8 presets, plus custom setting and Kelvin adjustment
  • Dioptre Adjustment: -3 to +1
  • Built-in Flash: Yes
  • Viewfinder Type: VF-2 EVF with 1.4 million dots
  • Shutter Type: Computerised focal-plane shutter
  • Memory Card: SD/SDHC
  • Output Size: 4032x3042 pixels
  • LCD: 3in with 230,000 dots
  • Field of View: Approx 100%
  • AF Points: 11 points, auto or manual selection possible, plus face detection
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/180sec or 1/2000sec in Super FP mode
  • White Balance Bracket: Yes, over 3 frames in steps of 2, 4 or 6 mired
  • Sensor: Live-MOS with 12.3 million effective pixels
  • Focal Length Mag: 2x
  • Weight: 300g (without battery or card/s)
  • Exposure Modes: iAuto, program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, plus 19 scene presets and 6 Art Filters
  • Power: Rechargeable Li-Ion battery BLS-1 supplied
  • File Format: Raw, JPEG, raw+JPEG simultaneously
  • Shutter Speeds: 60-1/2000sec in 1⁄2 or 1/3EV steps plus bulb
  • Drive Mode: Max 3fps for approx 13 JPEGs or 10 raw files
  • Dimensions: 120.6x69.9x36.4mm
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Metering System: 324 zone Multi-Pattern, Digital ESP, centreweighted and spot, plus highlight/shadow spot metering
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
  • Compression: Three-stage JPEG
  • Exposure Comp: ±3EV in 1⁄3, 1⁄2EV or 1EV steps
  • RRP: £499.99 (body-only street price) £549.99 (with 14-42mm kit lens, street price)
  • Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • ISO: 100-3200
  • Focusing Modes: Manual (with focus assist magnification), AF-S, AF-C, AF tracking
  • DoF Preview: No
  • Tested as: Entry-level hybrid

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