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Olympus Cuts Price, Adds Flash to 3rd PEN Digital Camera

Gordon Kelly


Updated: Olympus Cuts Price, Adds Flash to 3rd PEN Digital Camera

We've never quite had the same love affair with the original PEN E-P1 as many of our contemporaries. The lack of built-in flash, no viewfinder and the enormous cost compared to a standard DSLR always made us consider it an exorbitant luxury. Then again, this could change our minds...

Olympus has announced the 'E-PL1', a micro four thirds camera which looks almost identical on the outside to the current PEN, but now includes an integrated pop-up flash and drops the RRP by $200 to $599 (£374) - though we await UK pricing. A viewfinder? That is seemingly asking too much, but to quote Meatloaf (and that isn’t often): two out of three ain't bad.

Furthermore, the E-PL1 keeps the rest of the impressive E-P1 spec with matching 12.3-megapixel sensor, 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens, ISO of 100 to 3200, HD video recording (presumably 720p), HDMI, in-camera panorama, face detection and 19 scene modes. For more check out Cliff's extensive PEN E-P1 review, but consider the new extras.

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 will launch in the US in March with a choice of black, gold and blue finishes. At 295g and 114.6 x 72.14 x 41.4 mm it certainly warms the cockles of our hearts, though it will still have to go some to drag us from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1...

Update: Do we have a new cross-channel 'Being British Tax' winner? Canon was always the previous champ, but Olympus has just confirmed its $599 E-PL1 will be priced at... wait for it... £549.99 ($872). A double zoom lens kit will also retail for £699.99 and suddenly we're a lot less excited.

Time to put that Bundle Box account to good use?


Olympus UK


February 3, 2010, 8:20 am

No higher resolution viewfinder? If it's still the underwhelming 230,000 pixel screen on the EP-1, they can forget it.


February 3, 2010, 3:00 pm

shouldn't your link at the bottom be to your review of the Panny GF1? Which is the direct competitor to the PEN EPx

Erik dP

February 3, 2010, 3:09 pm

Without HD at 25 frames per seconds (in EU), Olympus will be behind the brands with this framerate. At least for video-heads like me who don't like the flickering indoor light when using 30p in a 50Hz environment. Brands with 25/50 options seems to be:

Panasonic (all AVCHD still cameras),

Sony (The newer pocket cameras such as TX7. AVCHD 1080i 50fps, and actually also 1080p 25fps in an easier codec),

Canon (7D).


February 3, 2010, 3:17 pm

Looks nicer then the previous PEN offerings, the overly retro styling seems to have been toned down a bit. Seeing how Olympus mentioned that the EP-1 was made as small as possible, it's amazing to see how they've managed to make it even slightly smaller, and crammed in a pop-up flash too. I wouldn't want to be the person tasked with repairing these under warranty though, upon opening the casing it would likely explode in tiny packed in parts..

Unfortunately, a sizeable downside not mentioned in this report is that the kit zoom now has a plastic lens mount, instead of metal, to keep costs down. I suspect it's only a worry for the regular lens switcher though, but it does dent the "quality" factor of the PEN concept a bit..


February 3, 2010, 9:02 pm

PS This thing is targeted at compact users (although why I can't imagine, as it is considerably larger than even a Canon G11 once you put a lens on).

So along with the price cut, there are no dials on the back, the construction is half plastic/half metal, and the camera is meant to be used with 'Scene' presets (you can override manually, but without dials, this is going to be painful).

Anyone looking for a true EP-1/2 or GF-1 replacement move along. Pity.


February 4, 2010, 4:12 pm

@Erik dp: Is that relevant anymore? Unless you're burning to DVD or require it for broadcast TV, I would say 30p is preferable to 25p as all HDTVs support 30p and all computer monitors default to 60Hz. Plus 25p is too jerky, I would say 30p is the bare minimum required for smooth motion (although it's not silky smooth like 50i/60i).

Erik dP

February 6, 2010, 6:59 pm

@autosapien: Yes it is relevant! At least for me.

1. "(by Erik dP:)...flickering indoor light when using 30p in a 50Hz environment." - I have tested a PRO-videocam by changing the 25p to 30p in an indoor environment. The result looked like a strob-light being turned on closeby. I have compared TZ7 (25p) to a SONY slim-compact (30p) and in the (outdoor) street corner the traffic lights were flashing rapidly on the SONY due to the 50Hz power cycles.

2. "(by autosapien:) I would say 30p is preferable to 25p as all HDTVs support 30p" - Most ads on flat screen TVs seems to state 100Hz. At least in EU.

3. "(by autosapien:) computer monitors default to 60Hz." - My computer monitor states 75Hz when looking in its menues. I would guess that the default setting differs between markets.

4. "(by autosapien:) Plus 25p is too jerky" - Between 25p and 30p, 25 is the least jerky when having a 25p or 50i timeline when mixing different sources (i.e. video cams). 25p seems to be a default refresh rate in EU for HD broadcast, while 50i is the most common in camcorders. For home usage 50i would be the best for most people and now the new SONY compacts support this (with a 1080p (25p) option as well).

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