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Olympus Pen E-PL1 - Design and Features 2

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Olympus Pen E-PL1 front angle


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The main menu is also more like that of a compact camera, with a somewhat limited range of options. Image aspect ratio can be adjusted, but since the Four Thirds sensor has a native 4:3 aspect ratio this gives the largest picture size. For colour control it has the Picture Mode option, a set of tone adjustment pre-sets that can be customised for contrast, sharpness, saturation and tonal gradation, but that is the limit of the creative control.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 zoom lens

Exposure options are also more restricted than on the previous Pen E series models, with shutter speeds of only 60 seconds to 1/2000th of a second available, rather than the 30 minutes to 1/4000th of a second found on the E-P2. The aperture range of f/3.5 to f/22 with the standard kit lens does at least offer more versatility than most compacts, and both aperture and ISO setting can be adjusted in 1/3EV increments.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 side

One of the features of the E-PL1 that is significantly cut down relative to the E-P1 and E-P2 is the video mode. It can shoot in 1280 x 720 HD resolution at 30 frames per second, but audio is only recorded in mono, via a small built-in microphone located just in front of the flash hot-shoe. Both video and audio quality are very good, but the microphone lacks directionality, picking up sounds from behind the camera just as loudly as in front. It has a dedicated button to start video recording. Video is recorded in Motion JPEG format, with a maximum recording time of 14 minutes or 2GB.

The range of Pen E lenses is rather limited, with only four currently available, but there are two adapters to allow both Olympus DSLR and older OM 35mm SLR lenses to be attached, offering a much wider range.


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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