Olympus PEN E-PL1 review
The new-fangled Micro Four Thirds “semi-compact” digital camera system seems to be catching on, accounting for over 10% of interchangeable-lens camera sales in December last year, according to market-research firm Gfk. No surprise then that barely eight months after Olympus’s maiden Micro Four Thirds-based, retro-styled PEN E-P1 comes a new variant. The new model complements the existing EP-1 rather than replacing it, but it’s a very similar design indeed, albeit slightly lighter – 72g lighter, to be precise.
The single most useful change over the existing model is the addition of an integrated flash. While not hugely powerful, it pops up on a pleasingly constructed, double-jointed arm that moves it well away from the centre line of the lens to keep the dreaded red-eye at bay.
Remembering that a touch of fill-in flash can also work wonders for shots like outdoor portraits in strong sunlight, it’s a useful addition that should have been included in the first place.
A proper viewfinder hasn’t made it onto the feature list though: it’s still an option. The E-PL1 eschews the optical type in favour of an electronic LCD version, which plugs into its “accessory port”.
As with the Ricoh GXR’s LCD viewfinder though, it’s outrageously expensive: in this case £238 exc VAT. Fortunately, the 2.7in TFT has an excellent refresh rate so framing shots is a smooth process.
There’s a backward step in the design too: both the rear settings dial and the sub-dial have disappeared. That means, for instance, that in aperture priority mode, adjusting the aperture has to be done using the up/down buttons in the four-way cluster.
It’s a clumsy system: to increase aperture you need to press the up button to get the camera into aperture adjustment mode, and then the down button to actually make the adjustment. The legions of photographers accustomed for years to flicking a wheel on their DSLR for this kind of setting are unlikely to take this kindly.
The central issue around the performance of Micro Four Thirds cameras also remains: speed of operation. The fastest time we managed from switch-on to taking a shot was 2.5 seconds, which in comparison to a decent DSLR is positively treacly.
The contrast-detect autofocus is the main culprit, taking a second or so, and this also increases shot-to-shot time to about two seconds unless you switch to manual focus. For leisurely holiday landscapes it’s fine, but it does condemn the E-PL1 to a life playing of second fiddle to DSLRs.
|Camera megapixel rating||12.3mp|
|Camera screen size||2.7in|
|Camera optical zoom range||3x|
|Camera maximum resolution||4032 x 3024|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||114 x 80 x 74mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Lithium-ion|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||500 shots|
|Aperture range||f3.5 - f5.6|
|Camera minimum focus distance||0.25m|
|Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent)||28|
|Longest focal length (35mm equivalent)||84|
|Minimum (fastest) shutter speed||1/4,000|
|Maximum (slowest) shutter speed||1 mins|
|Bulb exposure mode?||no|
|RAW recording mode?||yes|
|Exposure compensation range||+/- 3EV|
|ISO range||100 - 3200|
|Selectable white balance settings?||yes|
|Manual/user preset white balane?||yes|
|Progam auto mode?||yes|
|Shutter priority mode?||yes|
|Aperture priority mode?||yes|
|Fully auto mode?||yes|
|Burst frame rate||3.0fps|
|Memory-card type||SD, SDHC|
|Secondary LCD display?||no|
|Tripod mounting thread?||yes|
|Data connector type||Proprietary USB|
Manual, software and accessories
|Full printed manual?||yes|
|Software supplied||Olympus ib|