The Bottom Line
The PEN E-PL1 is a model that's much smaller than DSLR cameras, yet it offers the flexibility of interchangeable lenses along with a larger image sensor than you'll find in most point and shoot cameras, leading to better images.
It's a camera that's fun to use, too.
- Image quality is outstanding, especially compared to others in its price range
- E-PL1 is very easy to use
- Shop around, as prices have dropped recently, making it a very good value
- Camera has a "retro" look and design, which is appealing
- E-PL1 is a nice choice as an "intermediate" or "bridge" camera
- Full manual controls are available, but can be tricky to find
- Position of popup flash unit is a little awkward
- Autofocus sometimes works slowly in low light, at least with kit lens
- LCD works OK in sunlight, but it should be larger and have less glare in this price range
- Resolution: 12.3 megapixels
- Optical zoom: N/A, uses interchangeable lenses
- LCD: 3.0-inch, 460,000 pixels
- Maximum image size: 4032 x 3024 pixels
- Battery: Rechargeable Li-ion
- Dimensions: 2.84 x 4.51 x 1.63 inches
- Weight: 12.13 ounces (including battery and memory card)
- Image sensor: Live MOS
- Movie modes: 720p HD video
Guide Review - Olympus PEN E-PL1 DIL Review
If you are used to the image quality found with most point and shoot cameras, you'll wonder why you didn't make the move to an intermediate camera like the PEN E-PL1 sooner. This model creates sharp, colorful photos outdoors and achieves very good results indoors, too, even in low light. In fact, the PEN E-PL1 seems to have very few problems with noise.
The PEN E-PL1's built-in popup flash unit works pretty well most of the time, creating well exposed photos. However, because the flash is off-center -- located at the top left corner of the camera as viewed from the back -- you may inadvertently block it with your left hand from time to time. Additionally, on close-up photos, the lens can block some of the light from the flash, creating undesirable shadows in the images. You can purchase an external flash for the PEN E-PL1, which should fix this problem.
You can shoot in full automatic mode, full manual mode, or use one of the camera's many scene modes to achieve great image quality.
Response times are excellent with the PEN E-PL1. It has a fast start-up, it has almost no noticeable shutter lag in photos that don't use a flash, and shot to shot delays are minimal. This model offers good burst modes, too, allowing for shooting several continuous shots. Even when using the flash, the shutter lag is much less than you'll see with most point and shoot cameras.
The autofocus with the PEN E-PL1 works pretty quickly most of the time, although it does seem to have some trouble occasionally finding a focus point in low light. Additionally, the autofocus didn't always focus on exactly the item I wanted, but it didn't seem to affect overall results much.
The PEN E-PL1 is smaller than DSLR cameras because of its mirror-less design. Despite its ability to use interchangeable lenses, the PEN E-PL1 is not technically a DSLR camera; instead, it's called a DIL or an EVIL camera.
The retro look of this model makes it a great-looking camera. It's much smaller than DSLR models, measuring only 1.63 inches in thickness (before you attach a lens). With the starter lens I used during my PEN E-PL1 review, I could contract the lens to a small size and lock it in place when I wasn't using the camera, which is handy.
Olympus is offering the PEN E-PL1 in three body colors: Black, blue, and champagne.
The PEN E-PL1's 2.7-inch LCD offers average quality, and it occasionally can be a little tough to see in direct sunlight. However, it's not quite as sharp or large as I'd expect to see for a model in this price range.
You'll find several Micro Four Thirds lenses for the PEN E-PL1 DIL camera. Some lenses are available as part of a "kit" with the camera body, while others are sold separately. The camera body with a starter lens carries a $599.99 MSRP, but prices have dropped quite a bit lately. If you can find a PEN E-PL1 kit for around $500, you'll have a really good value for a camera that produces the high-end image quality that the PEN E-PL1 does.