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Olympus Pen E-PL1 front angle


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Review Price £278.00

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Just over a year ago I reviewed the Pen E-P1, Olympus's first foray into the compact system camera market. The review was generally positive, but I criticised the camera's lack of a built-in flash and relatively high price compared to contemporary DSLRs. Olympus must have been paying attention, because it has recently launched the third model in its Pen E series, the Pen E-PL1, a cheaper, simpler version of the design which does include a neat pop-up flash gun.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 front angle

As I've remarked in several recent camera reviews, the compact system camera is now a well-established sector of the market and is growing rapidly in popularity, promising as it does the versatility and image quality of a digital SLR with the portability and convenience of a compact. The Pen E-PL1 is certainly more akin to a compact camera than either the E-P1 or Olympus's more recent E-P2. It is smaller, lighter, and has much simpler controls than its two more expensive stablemates, however it does still offer a good range of features and plenty of creative versatility.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 front

The smaller body of the E-PL1 will inevitably draw comparisons with the brilliant Panasonic GF1, and indeed there are a number of similarities between the two models. Both use the Micro Four Thirds lens mount and sensor system, and they are within five millimetres and 12 grams of being the same size and weight, with the E-PL1 measuring 114.6 x 72.2 41.5mm and weighing 297g body-only, slightly heavier narrower, taller and thicker than its Lumix rival. Both cameras have similar Four-Thirds Live MOS sensors, although the Olympus has marginally greater resolution at 12.3MP. However the E-PL1 is currently selling on the high street for less than £425 with the kit 14-42mm standard zoom lens, considerably cheaper than the GF1, which costs around £550 with a 14-45mm lens. The E-PL1's other major rival is the Sony NEX-5, which is considerably smaller and better equipped but is also around £100 more expensive.

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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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