Since the release of the E-P2 Olympus has greatly improved the contrast-detection Autofocus performance, with the E-PL1 taking full advantage of this, being a much faster shooter than most compacts, although not nifty as a DSLR. In addition to Single Autofocus, Continuous Autofocus, Autofocus Tracking and Manual Autofocus the E-LP1 also has two simultaneous focusing options that work really well: Single AF + MF and Continuous Autofocus + Tracking. In manual focus the zoom button activates the enlarged display function, which allows for very accurate focusing by providing up to 14x magnification of the selected focus area.
Optical viewfinder attachment is an optional extra
The E-PL1 delivers the same great quality images of its predecessors, with well-calibrated exposures, rich colours and accurate handling of difficult lighting. Dynamic range is also very good, even in high contrast scenes. Noise control is really impressive for a camera at this level, delivering crisp images from ISO 200, its lowest speed, all the way to ISO 800. From ISO 1250 images start to be less smooth but even at the highest setting (ISO 3200) the noise levels are totally acceptable and certainly better than any compact alternative.
Olympus offers two ways to further reduce noise. There is a four-level noise reduction system that can be switched on or off and also a noise filter with three different settings (Low, Standard and High). While the noise reduction system works pretty well without over smoothing the details, the noise filters seems to have a stronger effect, even at the lowest setting, which results in some detail loss.
The E- PL1 inherits five of the Art Filters of the E-P2 (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama) and the Multiple Exposure feature, whilst adding a brand new Gentle Sepia effect. What makes these effects really great is that they are applied before taking the shot, so you can preview the final outcome. I’m quite partial to Olympus’s Art Filters as they produce artistic but realistic results that don’t look shamefully amateurish.
The Art Filters can be applied in movie mode but some of them reduce the frame rate to such an extent that the movies become jerky almost as a frame-by-frame film. The other drawback is that some of them take a very long time to process. The E-PL1 also have good in-camera editing options including a range of other editing operations such as trimming, resizing, saturation, shadow adjustment and Black & White conversion.
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.