Olympus Pen E-PL1 Review

By Yale Braunstein on 1 December 2010
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The Olympus Pen E-PL1 is an interesting camera.  It falls somewhere between a compact digital point-and-shoot camera and a fully featured, interchangeable-lens digital SLR.  It’s the spiritual successor to the original 1963 Olympus Pen F, the world’s first half-frame 35 mm camera, an SLR that looked more like a Leica rangefinder camera.

The small size is helped by the compact storage mode for the zoom lens and the complete integration of the flash into the body (it is so well integrated that it took me a while to even realize that there was a flash).

There are basically two approaches to using this camera.  One, you can learn to use a few basic features and have a simple, easy-to-use camera that takes exceptionally high-quality photos. If you are a little more ambitious, you can study the manual, watch the videos on the Web, and learn to tap into an incredible variety of features that support making everything from still photos with artistic or comic effects to HD movies.

My approach was middle-of-the-road, namely to learn the basics and one or two of the more advanced features that fit my style of usage.

Daily use

You can easily select full automatic or full manual exposure as well as aperture or shutter priority. The auto-focus feature is reasonably foolproof and it is easy to preview what it will do.  All of my tests were with the supplied 3x Zuiko zoom lens.  It does not provide either great wide-angle or telephoto capabilities, but it is—like the camera itself—a good compromise, as it covers a 35 mm equivalent of 28 to 84 mm focal lengths at a maximum opening of f3.5 to f5.6, depending on the chosen focal length.  The lens stops down to f22.  My non-scientific comparisons rate the optical quality as very good, but not quite up to the best 50mm lenses that open to f1.4 with as good or better sharpness.  But that comparison may be unfair, and the Zuiko lens did everything that I wanted in various lighting conditions.  Indeed, it was quite remarkable for such a compact zoom lens.

Click here to continue to Page 2 – Using the Olympus Pen

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