Unlike the E-P1 and E-P2, the E-PL1 has an all-plastic body available in a range of four colours (silver, white, red or black), but the build quality is good and the camera feels solid and substantial. There's no real impression of corners having been cut to keep the price down, but the kit lens supplied with the E-PL1 does have a plastic mount rather than the metal mount on the lens supplied with the E-P2.
The body design includes a handgrip on the front and a small raised thumbgrip area on the back that provides a secure grip, and the camera is comfortable to hold and operate even one-handed. The external hardware is of good quality, with solidly mounted controls, a metal tripod bush and a durable battery/card hatch with a locking latch. The 2.7-inch monitor screen is smaller than on the more expensive models, but it has the same 230k dot resolution, a very wide viewing angle, fast refresh rate and a good anti-glare surface. The camera has no built-in viewfinder, but it does have a socket just behind the external flash hot-shoe to connect an optional accessory electronic viewfinder.
The control layout is much more like that of a compact camera than a DSLR. It has a small shooting mode dial on the top panel, but the rear panel has only a small number of buttons and a D-pad. Main shooting options are selected via a simple on-screen menu similar to the one on the mju-Tough 6020 compact that I reviewed a few weeks ago. It lacks the adjustment wheel of the more expensive models, instead exposure adjustments are made via the D-pad.