Olympus PEN E-PL1 Micro Four-Thirds camera
Review Adding another variation to its popular PEN range of Micro Four-Thirds cameras, the Olympus E-PL1 has done away with the retro style of its siblings, added a pop-up flash and a dedicated movie record button. It has re-designed the menu layout for even simpler navigation, introduced a Live Guide mode for complete novices and downgraded some of the pro options.
Hybrid offshoot: Olympus' PEN E-PL1
To entice a larger number of beginners to the Micro Four-Thirds format Olympus also keeps the price of this new family member more in line with the consumer market – the body only version selling at £470. The £499 lens kit version includes a cheaper, plastic mount version of the collapsible 14-42mm lens.
The E-PL1 has a contemporary, sleek design and an all-plastic body that at 300g and 120.6 x 69.9 x 36.4mm is both lighter and smaller than its predecessors and most other models in this category. Despite its lightweight plastic construction, the body feels robust and has a raised textured handgrip on the front, which is more ergonomic than the flatter one featured on the E-P versions.
On the left of the top plate, in place of the shooting mode dial there is the new pop-up flash, which is activated by a sliding switch on the rear top right corner, and the familiar hot shoe and accessory port. The mode dial has been moved to the right of the top plate next to the shutter release and is raised rather than being encased in the body as in the E-P1 and E-P2. This repositioning certainly makes operating the mode dial easier.
Like its more expensive brothers the E-PL1 features Manual Mode, Shutter and Aperture Priority, Program Mode, iAuto, Art, Movie and a Scene mode with 19 pre-sets. The back of the camera has been simplified with fewer but larger and easier to press buttons and no control dials. Instead there are four directional buttons for accessing menu functions and a red button to start movie recording in any mode.
Retro styling has gone, but colour options are available
This cut down interface makes shooting simpler when used in program modes but a lot more complicated if you decide to go manual. The lack of the dual command dials for setting aperture and shutter speed means that, in order to change these key settings, you will have to do quite a lot of button pressing, which can be cumbersome and slow you down a lot.
Having 6 pages of photos in between the 1st and last section of the article is dumb.
Having the specs of the camera on page <random> instead of page 1 or 2 is dumb.
Having a 9 page article with no section descriptions to help me jump to the section I want ... is dumb.
Nice camera. :-)
It was all going so well...
...until I got to iEnhance mode. I have promised myself never to possess anything that starts with a lower case 'i'.
For shooting people indoors the kit lens is a bit pants, but as you can change the lens then this is not necessarily a problem. Bear in mind though that this is not a 'proper' DSLR, so if you are used to shooting with APS-C or full frame digitals then you may be disappointed. However if you are used to typical compacts (like I was) then this camera will be a revelation. However for shooting indoors get a faster lens - the panasonic 20mm F1.7 pancake (equiv to 40mm on a film SLR) is great but may be too wide for you. Unfortunately there is not much else out there in fast native micro 4/3 lenses, but with an adaptor you can fit 4/3 lenses,and if you dont mind manual aperture/focus only then you can fit almost any SLR/DSLR lens - again with a suitable adaptor. This is great if you already have a (D)SLR lens collection.
Re: How good are these things?
I replaced my Nikon D70 with a Pana GF-1 micro 4/3 with a F1.7 pancake lens, a decision driven by portability and movie support.
Great for lowish light indoor portrait shooting. The limitations are more outdoors in bright light - the screen washes out, so you really need the electronic viewfinder which adds bulk and cost. Otherwise, the main disadvantage is that if I wanted a fast zoom which handles HD video, I'd apparently need need to spend £650+ on the "lumix g vario hd" lens.
Tiny compact sensors can't do everything something like a micro 4/3 sensor can do, and those sensors can't do what something like an APS-C sensor can do, which can't in turn do what a full frame sensor can do and so on to the biggest sensor you can buy.
Most people who know digital photography know this, however Olympus' advertising assumes that the reader doesn't know this. Just like they used to claim the Trip 35 could do everything an SLR could do. And that's what I have against these cameras. It's not that they are bad cameras, far from it I'd rather use one than something like a Canon G11, it's that they are being sold as something they are not. Nobody sells their entry level DSLR as being just as good as their top of the range full frame model so why do the makers of this micro 4/3 stuff sell it as if it will produce results as good as an S2 or a 'blad? Maybe Olympus do it because their attempts at a DSLR have been so lame.
BITD nobody was really fooled by the Trip 35 advertising or the Pentax 110 SLR, but it seems from what I see online people are fooled by the current Olympus advertising.