Olympus PEN E-PL1

  • Category: Digital Cameras
Last Updated
August 11, 2010

Editor's Rating
3 Out of 5

  • Small size & decently portable
  • Built-in flash
  • RAW images & 720p video
  • Manual & automatic shooting

  • Mediocre LCD display
  • Daunting menu & navigation
  • Poor low-light video quality

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The Olympus PEN E-PL1 is a small camera that's filled with advanced technology found on larger cameras. It's a portable and easy-to-use digital camera that offers 12.3 megapixels, RAW image shooting, 720p HD video recording, and more.

The E-PL1 measures 4.51 x 1.63 x 2.84-inches (wdh) and weighs less than a pound. It is too large to quickly slip into a pocket, but it's light enough to carry around in a shoulder bag. This model offers more than just a traditional point-and-shoot camera with features like RAW image support, interchangeable lenses, a larger image sensor, and manual mode shooting.

The backside of the device has a 2.7-inch LCD display, which is rather small in our opinion, but still usable. The screen isn't the best either, as it shows signs of ghosting and visible pixel patterns. You can purchase a separate electronic viewfinder that slips into the camera's hot shoe for better quality shooting. The back also has several buttons, including four-way navigation buttons and a center select button.

Olympus Pen

The menu system on the Olympus PEN E-PL1 is fairly good, but it can be a little daunting at times. It isn't straightforward for most of the more advanced features, so you'll want to thoroughly read the users manual if you want to do more than just point-and-shoot. There is single-button access to most common features, including flash mode, auto-focus point, self-timer, exposure, etc. Scene modes offer customized settings for your shooting situation (Beach/Snow, Panorama, Documents, Macro, Portrait, Landscape, etc) and there's also artistic modes, like sepia and high-saturation. There is also an iAuto setting, which lets you use a little artistic touch without knowing much about photography. For example, you can selectively blur the background while focusing clearly on a foreground object. There is also tips and help screens to help users learn about each of the E-PL1's features.

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 has a pop-up flash instead of a hot shoe one, which means there's no need to carry around a separate flash. This camera allows for the user of interchangeable lenses and Olympus offers lenses from 14-200mm. Some of the specifications include a shutter speed of 2 - 1/2000 seconds and accepts SD and SDHC memory cards. The zoom lens included with the camera has specifications as follows: 14-42mm f3.5/5.6mm. Another bonus for more advanced photographers is the ability to shoot in RAW image formats, which gives you uncompressed images, but you can also shooting regular JPEG if you desire. It can also shoot high-definition video at a resolution of 720p and there's an HDMI output jack on the camera to show content on an HDTV.

Image quality with the PEN E-PL1 from Olympus from a subjective standpoint was very good and looked very accurate in terms of color, tones, and sharpness. We will say that the automatic modes may not always give you the best image quality because with some slight tweaking of the manual settings, even better quality can be achieved.

Video quality was fairly good with only lighted shooting conditions, but low-light conditions yielded rather poor videos. Low-light videos were pretty unwatchable in most aspects, so make sure to only use video shooting in adequately lit conditions. The built-in microphone does a good job and there is no mic jack for an external microphone.

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