Olympus PEN E-PL1 review
Away from the negative side, the standout aspect of the E-PL1 is the quality you get for its size. With its large sensor – about ten times the surface area of a typical compact model’s – photos are excellent. Dynamic range is impressive, and high-ISO shots seem even better than the already fine performance of the E-P1. In fact when we first looked at our ISO 3200 test shots we had to double check the image-file metadata to make sure we hadn’t made a settings mistake.
At high ISO a fair amount of detail does get lost and tonal gradation is coarse, but noise levels are remarkably well controlled and way beyond what any standard compact camera can manage. We’d go so far as to say ISO 3200 is genuinely usable, which has never yet been the case with any digital compact.
As a stand-in camcorder the E-PL1 has a fair bit going for it too. At its maximum 720p/30fps video is a little soft but still excellent, and in video mode you have the option of single-shot, continuous or manual focus, although because the focus is electronically linked, it isn’t quiet enough to be inaudible on the soundtrack. The shutter button remains active too, so you can take full-resolution stills while recording.
The lens range has improved of late: we reviewed the E-PL1 with the standard 28-84mm equivalent kit lens, which manually retracts to a fairly compact depth of 45mm when not in use. But for aftermarket add-ons, the very compact (22mm deep) 34mm equivalent fixed “pancake” lens has now been joined by superzoom 28-300mm and wide 18-36mm equivalents.
Quality from the 28-84mm isn’t perfect, with noticeable edge softness at wide angle and some fringing in the test shots we took in bright sunlight, but it’s far from ruinous.
A final big point in its favour is the more realistic price. The E-P1 was £700 at launch, but the E-PL1 undercuts that by £150. Camera prices tend to come down a fair way after a couple of months on sale too, at which point the PEN range will finally be at the point where we’d consider it good value.
Even at the lower price point it’s unlikely to be anyone’s first choice when higher quality, easier to use DSLRs – the A-Listed Nikon D5000, for instance – can be had for a lot less cash.
As a luxury second or holiday camera for an enthusiast, however, the E-PL1 has a lot going for it. If you were previously considering one of the higher-end compacts, particularly a Canon Powershot G series, you should be thinking about paying the extra for one of these instead.
|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|