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Olympus Pen E-PL1 - Design and Features 1

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Olympus Pen E-PL1 front angle


Our Score:


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.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 body

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.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 back

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.


August 28, 2010, 1:47 pm


The E-pl1 is very good. Even more so with the panasonic 14-45.

The only thing missing is a viewfinder.

Great review. Like most of your reviews.



August 28, 2010, 5:49 pm


I send you an email two days ago requesting that you review this camera, it is done so fast. I am sure it must in the pipe line by the time my email reaches you.

I read a number of reviews from consumers of this camera, their main gripes of this camera are:

1. a slower auto-focus compared to others.

2. cannot/difficult to auto-focus in bad light

3. the image is not so sharp when it is fully extended.

I don't think you mentioned these in your review. I assume you use the latest firmware. Is it possible that these problems have been fixed in the latest firmware. Maybe you like to comment on them. Otherwise it is a fine camera indeed, esp at the price it is selling. It is on special in some stores in Australia and the States. I heard you can get it at B&H in the States for $499.


September 3, 2010, 8:47 pm

I moaned like the old man that I am when Olympus started fooling around with MFT... But I would not have done if they had started with this one. Looks really modern and retro at the same time. The price is very interesting and the features and performance are what an ancient fan expects of Olympus.

Fair question about shutter lag. If it's mainly the time it takes to focus, and there is no problem getting the focus before you release the shutter, it'll be as manageable as it is on any successful compact.

That doesn't mean I'm about to trade in my E-620, but there would have been an outside chance of me buying an E-PL1 if it had been well established in the market place when I bought the E-620.

Mike B

October 16, 2010, 11:25 pm

I feel you may as well have a Panasonic G10 rather than this camera. the G10 has a built in viewfinder (EVF) and better handling due to the grip, given it weighs about the same as a PEN and is very close in size then why compromise?

Danilo Ingan-eng

October 30, 2010, 7:59 am

E-PL1 with latest firmware can now shoot As Soon As Possible but not in All Shooting Angle Possible restricted by its fixed image viewer.


December 28, 2010, 4:05 am

I'm confused about Mike B's comments. Having compared the image quality of the 2 cameras, the Olympus wins hands down, so how can it be a compromise, especially when firmware updates appear to have fixed many of the niggles?

I also question the 9/10 for image quality given to the Olympus, having compared it to cameras given 10/10 it appears to perform as well, and even better (in my humble opinion) than cameras given 10? I want a small camera and was previously sold on the Panasonic FZ38, however, having found this at a significantly reduced price, I'm revisiting my finances! ;)

Merry Christmas everyone!

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