Olympus E-PL1 review

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The PEN series gets smaller and adds a built-in flash with the Olympus E-PL1

Pros: Excellent detail, small form
Cons: some noise/noise reduction issues, low resolution LCD

Just under two years ago, Panasonic's G1 demonstrated for the first time how the promised advantages of the Micro Four Thirds format translated into an actual camera. The model was praised and started the range on a high, though its insignificant size advantage over a DSLR left many feeling that the miniaturisation of the system could go that one step further.

Two years on and both Panasonic and Olympus have done well to provide an array of models for the series, which now include some pocket-friendly alternatives to those following the traditional SLR form. And with the latest Olympus E-PL1 model Olympus has pushed the concept the farthest, with both its body and price tag being the most modest yet.

Olympus E-PL1 features

Although the Olympus E-PL1 is designed to sit at the base of Olympus's PEN series of cameras, the company has not only carried over many features from its two previous models but also gifted it with new ones. Notably, the Olympus E-PL1 is the first Olympus model to offer a built-in flash, which springs up from the top-plate when its catch is released, as well as a dedicated button on the back of the camera for stopping and starting video recording.

With the model aimed at novice photographers, it also debuts a new Live Guide interface which allows the user to adjust a number of parameters in a straightforward manner. The warmth of an image, for example, may be regulated by moving a slider towards either the warm or cool extremes of the scale, while saturation and brightness may be altered in the same way, as can depth of field and shutter speed. The feature also provides recommendations for shooting particular subjects, such as pets and flowers, in a similar vein to the Guide function included on previous Olympus cameras.    

In keeping with the E-PL1's fun and functional ethos, Olympus's Art Filters have continued on this model, with a choice of six. These include the previous Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole and Diorama, together with the new Gentle Sepia option, and each may be used in conjunction with the camera's HD movie mode. Sadly, support for stereo audio recording has been dropped as standard, though it is still possible with the aid of an external microphone.  

Image and video capture takes place on a 12.3MP Live MOS sensor, in both Raw and JPEG formats, which works together with a revised version of Olympus's TruePic V image processing engine. Together, they allow for the camera's sensitivity to run from ISO 100 up to a maximum ISO 3200, with a range of noise-reduction options available. The familiar combination of Olympus's Supersonic Wave Filter and image stabilisation system have also made their way onto the E-PL1, with the latter function claiming to stabilise effectively at up to three extra stops of exposure past what would be usually possible.

While 3in LCD screens have dominated many cameras over the past year or so (including Olympus's other PEN offerings), the E-PL1's measures 2.7in and has a resolution of 230,000 dots. There's also a HDMI output to complement the camera's HD video capabilities, and a slot that accepts both SD and SDHC memory cards. 

 


Compact Camera Reviews

Price as reviewed

£540.00

Scores

Scores
Features 16/20
Design 18/20
Image Quality 18/20
Performance 17/20
Value 17/20
Overall Score 88%