Olympus E-PL1 Hands-on Preview

Adding to the family of Olympus PEN micro four-thirds retro-style point and shoot cameras with sensors as large as the sensors in their DSLR line, Olympus unveils their newest member of the family, the E-PL1. It’s a simplified entry-level camera that’s a step up from point and shoot cameras, but more basic than the Olympus E-P1 and E-P2. Even better, the E-PL1 will start at $599 with the kit 14-42mm lens (compared to the entry price of $1099 for the E-P1).


I attended an Olympus press event yesterday, where I was able to preview the new E-PL1 and compare it to the 2 previous PEN models. The E-PL1 is slightly lighter in weight 10.44 oz (compared to 11.8 oz), due to the body construction out of aluminum and polycarbonate plastic (the E-P1 and E-P2 are stainless steel metal), and slightly taller and thicker than the E-P1 and about the same height as the E-P2. The E-PL1, like the E-P2, also has a multi-pin port on the back. The E-PL1 felt lightweight and comfortable in my hands. The right side has a slightly raised grip for If you weren’t so into having to add on an accessory flash for low light, the E-PL1 comes with a built-in flash that can work wirelessly with Olympus’ flash system.


The Olympus E-PL1 has a new feature called Live Guide, accessible when the camera is set to iAuto. The Live Guide interface allows you to navigate advanced photographic effects while previewing the image. I tried out these adjustments and saw how the image changed on the LCD screen before taking the photo. The photographic effects are labeled with common terms such as warm to cool (White Balance), bright to dark (EV compensation), blur background (aperture).

I could see the Live Guide as being useful for beginning photographers who have no idea what aperture, shutter speed, white balance, EV compensation, etc. are, but would really like to be more creative with their photography. It’s also an added bonus to be able to preview these adjustments live before taking the photo. If you’re not so into the Live Guide help, you have the option of setting the camera to P (Program), A (Aperture), S (Shutter), M (Manual), just like on the E-P1 and E-P2.


Some of the functions, features, and controls on the E-PL1 are different than on the E-P1 and E-P2. There’s no dial or subdial on the camera, instead there are 4 directional buttons for navigating and selecting menu functions. Also, like the E-P1 and E-P2, the E-PL1’s sensor is the same size as Olympus’ top-of-the-line E-3 DSLR. Ergonomically, this camera feels very good in my hands. It may not have all the bells and whistles I personally would like it to have (still no built-in viewfinder, less features and functions, more simplified menu system, ISO range only up to 3200 compared to 6400 on the E-P2), but it seems to be a great camera for an entry-level photographer wanting more functions than a point and shoot camera, but not as complicated as the E-P1, E-P2, or even the DSLR line of Olympus cameras.


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New Micro Four-Thirds Lenses

Olympus is expanding their lens line with two new Micro Four-Thirds lenses: the M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm/4-5.6 (35mm equivalent 18-36mm—available in April) and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm/4-5.6 (35mm equivalent 28-300mm—available in May). Both new lenses will feature internal focusing systems. The 2 current lenses available are the 17mm/2.8 and the 14-42mm (the kit lens for all three PEN cameras).

E-PL1 Key Features

  • 12.3MP Live-MOS sensor
  • ISO 200-3200 (customizable, default 200-1600)
  • Direct button for HD movies
  • simple pop-up flash (both the E-P1 and E-P2 require an accessory flash)
  • 3 frames-per-second continuous capture
  • 2.7" LCD (vs. 3" LCD on the E-P1 and E-P2)
  • TruePic V image processor
  • In-body image stabilization
  • 11 AF points
  • In-camera panorama
  • Multiple exposure (2 frames)
  • Records HD video at 1280×720 (720p, 30fps) in mono sound
  • Aspect ratio options: 4:3, 3.2, 16.9 and 6.6
  • Compact and Lightweight: 10.44 oz (compared to 11.8 ounces) and measures 4.51" (W) x 2.84" (H) x 1.63" (D) (compared to the E-P1: 4.75" (W) x 2.75" (H) x 1.43" (D))
  • 19 scene-select modes
  • 6 built-in art filters: Gentle Sepia (new), Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, and Diorama


Official Olympus Press Release

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., February 3, 2010 — The new Olympus PEN E-PL1 is truly greater than the sum of its parts, with a surprisingly small camera body packed with technology normally found in bigger, bulkier and heavier professional Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras and High-Definition (HD) camcorders. This third-generation PEN is built for shutterbugs who always wanted better pictures and considered a DSLR, but were intimidated by the bulky size and complex interface. The new camera’s simple design and easy interface enable consumers to easily create amazing images never dreamt possible. It will make you wonder how Olympus managed to put all of these powerful features inside such a compact camera for only $599.99.

The E-PL1 equals an affordable and powerfully simple all-in-one package that travels with you to capture life in the high quality that your memories deserve.

“Many of today’s consumers want a camera with the professional still image quality of a DSLR and HD video in a compact body that’s as easy to use as a point-and-shoot,” said John Knaur, senior marketing manager, Digital SLR, Olympus Imaging America Inc. “Thanks in part to an image sensor that’s approximately eight times larger in size than what’s inside the average point-and-shoot camera, the E-PL1 delivers outstanding high-quality images. Add the flexibility of high-quality interchangeable lenses, the convenience of a built-in pop-up flash, in-camera creative features and technology designed to produce images effortlessly, and the E-PL1 is the total consumer-friendly, multimedia package.”

Easily Pen your Story with a Brand New Pen

This third generation of the Olympus PEN series combines powerful features in an easy-to-use package that will make capturing your life more fun. The new direct record button makes taking videos easier than ever and the new Live Guide functionality makes it simple to learn photography techniques without requiring the skills of a pro shooter.

New Direct Button for HD Movies

Recording HD movies with the E-PL1 is simple, thanks to an easy-to-reach red “direct button” (red record button) on the back of the camera body. If you’re about to snap a photo and you realize a video would capture the spirit of the scene even better, simply press the record button and instantly you’re capturing videos! Easily toggle back and forth between capturing stills and videos by using your index finger to press the shutter button or your thumb to press the red record button. Having the ability to shoot still images and videos opens up a world of imaging possibilities.

New Live Guide Sets the Scene Before You Shoot

The E-PL1’s new Live Guide interface simplifies great photography and gets the results you desire at the touch of a button. Want more vivid or muted color in your shot? Want warmer or cooler color? Want a brighter or darker subject, or a sharper or softer background? Or maybe you want to capture the fast-moving action of your subject with a little artistic blur, or perhaps freeze the action? Simply select Live Guide and press the up and down arrows on the back of the camera to slide through numerous photographic effects. Make adjustments and watch the LCD as the effects are made live—before the image is captured! Don’t worry about learning technical things like f-stops, shutter speed and white balance; jump right in by composing, adjusting exposure and more before the shot is taken.

Seeing the results before snapping the image ensures you are getting the shots you want, and it will change the way you photograph. Shooting Tips are also included with Live Guide, so you can leave the manual at home.

Automate Everything

Live Guide is just the start of automated technologies on the E-PL1 designed to free you up to focus on your subjects instead of focusing on your camera’s settings.

  • 19 Scene-Select Modes: From portraits to sunset shots, the E-PL1 is equipped with 19 Scene-Select modes for effortless picture taking, including Fireworks, Sunset, Children, Macro and Panorama, to name a few. Capturing beautiful portraits is easy with the ePortrait Mode that enables you to smooth your subject’s complexion.
  • Intelligent Auto (iAuto) Mode: When you don’t want to use the scene-select modes, the iAuto mode automatically identifies what you’re shooting and adjusts settings for you to capture the best result depending on the situation.
  • Face Detection: Reduce the chance of blurred subjects in images by recognizing up to eight faces, tracking them within the image area, and automatically focusing and optimizing exposure for sharp portraits.
  • In-Camera Panorama: Capture three images and stitch them together to create one amazing, seamless panoramic picture. Or use the included OLYMPUS [ib] software to stitch up to 10 images together for the ultimate panorama.
  • iEnhance: With this mode the warm yellow and orange colors of a sunset are heightened to a dramatically lifelike color that’s truer to what you see with the naked eye. iEnhance can be used in any mode, and automatically engages when using iAuto to enrich color in any subject.
  • Share: Just connect the camera to an HDTV with an optional HDMI cable and use your TV remote to control playback functions and navigate the camera’s menus from the comfort of your personal front-row seat. The E-PL1 records to SDHC (Class 6 recommended) media cards that can be plugged directly into many devices and accommodate large files, including videos.

New Powerfully Simple Pop-Up Flash

The E-PL1 is the first camera in the Olympus PEN series with a built-in pop-up flash that makes it easy to illuminate low-light subjects, reduce red-eye and fill in dark areas. The camera is also compatible with a range of optional external flashes, including the Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R, which can be controlled wirelessly by the E-PL1 so you can dynamically control lighting as your photography skills grow.

Pro-quality Images

How do professional photographers capture the stunning images you see in the pages of glossy magazines and coffee-table books? Talent matters, of course, but you also need the right equipment. Rest assured that the E-PL1 has everything you need to produce vibrant, professional-quality images: a large image sensor, in-body Image Stabilization, Imager Autofocus, the proven Olympus Dust Reduction System and the TruePic V Image Processor.

Big Sensor, Not a Big Body

At the heart of the E-PL1 is a large-size image sensor that’s the same sensor as the one inside the Olympus E-30 and E-620 DSLR models. The only difference between this sensor and what the pros use is that this big sensor is inside the much smaller body of the E-PL1. This high-performance 12.3-megapixel Live MOS image sensor (eight times larger than the average point-and-shoot camera sensor) delivers excellent dynamic range, accurate color fidelity, and a state-of-the-art amplifier circuit to reduce noise and capture fine image details in both highlight and shadow areas.

Stabilize All of Your Lenses

Instead of selling more expensive lenses that have image stabilization inside them, Olympus takes a different approach by having image stabilization built right into the body of the E-PL1. This means that any lens (Micro Four Thirds, Four Thirds and any third-party lens) attached to the E-PL1 will deliver blur-free images thanks to three modes of In-body Image Stabilization that automatically compensate for camera shake, including in low-light situations or when shooting without a tripod. Since the PEN cameras are the world’s smallest interchangeable-lens cameras with image stabilization built inside the body, you can take the E-PL1 with you and capture great images, and it won’t weigh you down.

Track Your Subjects Wherever They Roam

The E-PL1’s Continuous Autofocus (C-AF) Tracking and Autofocus (AF) Target Registration locks your subject into focus and constantly adjusts focus and brightness whether you or your subject is moving. With this mode, a simple push of the shutter release enables you to keep moving subjects in focus—tracking them from left to right and from front to back—within the frame, automatically ensuring that even active subjects, like kids playing sports, are captured clearly.

The E-PL1’s Imager Autofocus in Live View enables you to compose, focus and capture the shot quickly and easily without ever taking your eyes off the camera’s large, 2.7-inch full-color, high-contrast HyperCrystal LCD for an easy, seamless viewing experience when shooting still images or videos. The LCD also provides a wide viewing angle of 176 degrees, which ensures that images can be composed from even the most obscure angles.

This Camera Leaves Others in the Dust

If you’re just starting out with a camera that has interchangeable lenses, you don’t have to worry about dust spots on your sensor ruining the perfect image every time you change lenses. Spend more time shooting with the E-PL1 and less time worrying about dust with the proven Olympus Dust Reduction System that produces spot-free photos with the exclusive Supersonic Wave Filter, a patented ultrasonic technology that vibrates to remove dust and other particles from the front of the image sensor, capturing them on a special adhesive membrane every time the camera is turned on.

True-to-Life Color

The E-PL1’s Live MOS image sensor is complemented by Olympus’ TruePic V Image Processor, which produces clear and colorful photos using all the pixel information for each image to provide the best digital images possible. The image processor is noted for accurate natural color, true-to-life flesh tones, brilliant blue skies and precise tonal expression; it also lowers image noise in photos shot at higher ISO settings (ISO 100 to ISO 3200), enabling great results in low-light situations.

Easily Expand Your Creative Horizons with Built-in Effects

Express yourself with in-camera creative features. Professional images are rarely unedited images. Video and still image pros use computer-editing software to render their images with effects that set their shots apart from the pack. Olympus appreciates that you may not have hours to spend retouching your images at the computer, so the E-PL1 incorporates editing effects inside the camera to save you time. Whether you apply in-camera creative effects while shooting an image, or apply them later to images captured without the effects, all are inside the E-PL1, so you can achieve dramatic results on the go without a computer or editing software.

The E-PL1 has six in-camera Art Filters, including a new filter called Gentle Sepia. This filter gives your images and videos a soft, warm sepia cast similar to historical images from the early days of photography. The sepia tones are softer and the blacks are a true black, unlike traditional sepia images. The new filter joins Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pin Hole, Grainy Film and Diorama (the filter that makes everything look as small as the E-PL1).

With the E-PL1’s Multiple Exposure function available for still image capture, you are free to tell a visual story your way. The image capture options enable you to shoot one shot, then another and combine them in real time, or capture both shots separately and combine them within the camera later. Take a shot of your significant other, and overlay your self-portrait on top to figure out what your kids will look like. If you have kids already, overlay your kid’s face on top of a shot of his or her favorite cartoon character for laughs. Your ability to manipulate space and time makes this new creative multimedia device a veritable time machine.

You often can achieve greater photographic expression by framing a scene in a unique way. The E-PL1 provides four aspect ratios that serve as masks to frame your image to the desired proportions, including the standard 4:3 aspect ratio that is suited to an 8 × 10-inch enlargement; the 16:9 aspect ratio that will display beautifully on a widescreen television; and other popular aspect ratios, such as 3:2 and 6:6. The Multi-Aspect Shooting further expresses your creative vision when combined with in-camera Art Filters and Multiple Exposures.

With the E-PL1, you have your own living library of still images, HD video and audio to remix at your command. In playback mode, you can seamlessly mix stills and movies inside the camera to create a multimedia slideshow, and dub in one of three built-in dramatic background music options to provide a soundtrack for your cinematic creation. With so many creative options, there’s no limit to what you can create. Choose whether or not you want to play back just pictures, just movies or a combination; also control playing back the whole movie or just a clip.

Open System Easily Grows with Your Ability

With a basic point-and-shoot camera, you get one lens built into the camera. One lens, that’s it. And it’s likely a small lens, which doesn’t allow a lot of light through to hit the image sensor. So, you may have a difficult time in low-light conditions. And without the option of adding more lenses, you’re limited to what that one point-and-shoot lens can do. The E-PL1 solves these issues by accepting a variety of lenses to maximize its functionality. Whether shooting still images or HD video, you can add everything from an extreme wide-angle fisheye lens to a super-telephoto lens for a wide range of expressive options.

The M. ZUIKO DIGITAL Micro Four Thirds lenses are designed to be more compact and portable like the E-PL1. Choose from the ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens (28-84mm equivalent in 35mm cameras) sold with the E-PL1, the ED 17mm f2.8 lens (34mm equivalent), the new super wide-angle zoom ED 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 lens (18-36mm equivalent) or the high-power wide to telephoto zoom ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens (28-300mm equivalent).

If you want to have even more options, the MMF-2 Four Thirds System Lens Adapter makes the E-PL1 compatible with all Olympus ZUIKO Digital Specific lenses and other Four Thirds System lenses from Sigma, Panasonic and Leica. Olympus OM film-based lenses can be attached to the E-PL1 with the MF-2 OM Lens Adapter, and there are third-party adapters developed for lenses from most other manufacturers.

Software and Accessory Options when You’re Ready

The E-PL1 incorporates an accessory port for connecting the optional VF-2 live-finder, a detachable electronic viewfinder, or the new optional SEMA-1 external microphone adapter set (which includes the EMA-1 adapter, the ME-51S stereo microphone and a cord) for those who want to capture enhanced audio with any microphone that has a 3.5mm plug. These optional accessories easily slide into the camera’s accessory port and hot shoe.

Consumers who wish to hold the E-PL1 up to their eye rather than use the LCD will appreciate that the optional VF-2, which provides 1.15x magnification and a 100 percent field of view with sharp resolution, brightness and contrast. The viewfinder refreshes quickly to minimize image ghosting on fast-moving subjects. It also rotates up to 90 degrees to enable photographers to look down into it, which is useful when shooting subjects from challenging angles. The built-in diopter adjustment and high magnification offer easy viewing with and without glasses.

The E-PL1 offers OLYMPUS [ib] software that includes photography workflow, browsing, editing and unique photo-organizing functions. You can organize your photos by person with automatic face-recognition technology, by location with a Geotagging function or by event. You can easily view photos on an HDTV or on the camera’s LCD with the Photo Surfing or Slideshow functions. The name [ib] stands for image bridging, image browsing and image brightening. The software will be available for Windows operating systems only.

Underwater Housing for Aquatic Adventures

The new camera’s compact design makes it the perfect companion for all of your dive trips. The PT-EP01 underwater case has been specially customized for the Olympus E-PL1 and is waterproof to a depth of 40 meters (approximately 130 feet). With its durable, high-quality polycarbonate construction, this Olympus housing protects the camera from water while also cushioning it from knocks and bumps on land. The housing enables viewing from either the camera’s LCD screen or an optional electronic viewfinder. The flash connectors allow optional use of up to two UFL-2 underwater flash units via fiber optic cable. A nonremovable front lens port accommodates multiple Micro Four Thirds lenses.

New Exterior Design, Same PEN DNA

The E-PL1 streamlines the Olympus Micro Four Thirds PEN series form and is available in three new body colors, including Black, Champagne Gold and Slate Blue. Thanks to its compact size (4.51" W x 2.84" H x 1.63" D excluding protrusions) and light 10.4-ounce body, the E-PL1 won’t weigh you down when you’re on the go.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Olympus E-PL1 available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

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Original text ©2010 Hannah Thiem.

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    • My impression is simple: this is the camera Olympus should have been released as the first m4/3 model!
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    • Would like to hear if Canon G11's users think of switching to E-PL1. The price seems attractive :)
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    • "Would like to hear if Canon G11's users think of switching to E-PL1. The price seems attractive :)" If somebody is happy with their current camera what is the point of switching to a newer model and in the process loosing some money on the deal? I think those cameras are pitched at different markets anyway.
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    • Blah. With the E-P1 still available and the recent release of the E-P2, I would have much rather that Olympus concentrate their efforts on offering more fast m4/3 prime lenses instead of more slow zoom lenses. Maybe a 12mm f2, a 25mm f2 and the like. Wake up Olympus! Enough slow zoom lenses already!
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    • I have owned the EP1. A real disaster, 100 iso not useble, 200 iso lots of noise. The lenses in the kit are not very good, to say the least. I am happy that I sold the kit and I will never buy an Olympus again.
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    • Nice looking camera and interesting concept. Strikes me these M 4/3s cameras are pitched at amatuers wanting to look like professionals trying to look like amatuers.
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    • Several things here: 1. Please remember that yes, you have the option of adding the VF-2, which IMO is unbelievably bright. I have the EP-2 and that VF is sharp. In fact, during the day, you "could" almost be fooled into believing that you were looking through an optical viewfinder. Even at night, the VF-2 retains its brightness and doesn't go to black and white unless it's totally dark (I haven't reached the point yet where it transitioned to black and white). 2. I'm personally glad to see Olympus doing this. And let's face it, all of the brands introduce new features and options - even if it's an entry-level product. 3. I shoot with over 50 different digital cameras - to include the G11, S90, LX-3, and so forth. But I've got to tell you that I've been absolutely delighted with the feel and results with the EP-2 (and I guess this would hold true for m4/3 in general). I'm so glad to see Olympus (who tends to be an innovator anyway) and Panasonic take the helms on this new format. 4. I'm looking forward to seeing what Nikon and Canon will bring to the table - if they in fact, see this new micro format as a viable option. So I say, "bring 'em on...as I love 'em all!!!!"
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    • One small correction to the article... The E-PL1 sensor is not the same as the E-3's 10.1 m sensor...
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    • This type of EVIL digital camera (electronic viewfinder inter-change lenses) is the future of high end digital cameras. SLR camera body structure is no longer the only choice to achieve WYSIWYG with any exchangeable lenses. Mirror less camera bodies can bright in a few attractive qualities such as high flash syn speed. And a quiet and stable camera body is great for micro-photography.
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    • I am eager to try one of these out. Am especially pleased to see that the EVF add on finder they made is useful in the field, as Mr. Herrman wrote. No one can snub one as a mere tourist if you own a PEN, I know that Spacey add is a little much,the UK one...This model throws a bunch into a small package. They are getting better at it all the time.
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    • Leo says "I have owned the EP1. A real disaster, 100 iso not useble, 200 iso lots of noise" Disaster? 100/200 not usable? Leo you are the only person I know of that has complained about noise on that camera. Complaining about slow autofocus or lens choices might be a legit beef but every review I've seen has the EP1 looking good right up to 1600.
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    • I would love to see some pancake primes from either Olympus or Panasonic. Mainly wides - 10, 12, and 14.
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    • M. Reichmann at Luminous Landscape has just pretty much trashed the Pen 2 IQ and by extension the Panny versions of the same sized cameras. Not owning one yet (or maybe never),I would like to hear about his review from the author of the original review here and all other commentators on the subject.
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    • I am looking forward to buying a E-PL1. I agree with most here that Olympus and Panasonic should focus more on quality pancake lens like Pentax's DA series. A small kit consisting of E-PL1 and a pancake lens makes a great photographic tool. I will mostly buy a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 to go with my E-PL1 but really wish they had more choice in fixed focal length lenses. I think in competing with Canon/Nikon/others, Olympus and Panasonic already have attention of plenty of photographers who appreciate quality but want good portability. The E-PL1 is priced right to entice the new hobbyist or someone looking to add another camera to their existing high-end Canon/Nikon dSLR. What will keep the newbies in the m4/3rd fold and convert the Canon/Nikon/others to m4/3rd will be quality lens. The quality and size will most likely draw new customers to the market who were probably intimidated by the size and bulk of regular dSLRs.
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    • offering a cheaper body is indeed a smart move. there are a few like us who would love to try our old rangefinder lenses on this digital body. in truth, if and when the next model comes out, i intend to buy this cheap and sell on my rangefinder gear! well done olympus.
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    • OMG i am so glad that Olympus did this. I have really wanted a Pen with IS because i plan to use all of my many Old Manual lenses, and I was about to settle for the G1 because of the price, but finally they busted this model out that blows away the G1 in features and for a comparable price. Thanks Olympus!
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    • Despite whatb I considered a luke warm review by Reichmann I bought the Pen 2 with the Panasonic 20mm lens for greater sharpness. I haven't had the time to put it through all its paces, but treating it like one would a Leica, that is, using it as simply as possible without all the cutsie possibilities on offer-- I find the pictures rich and detailed. With a little post processing in photo shop the pictures are just fine, not up to my Cannon 5D II perhaps, but I don't expect to print much more than 11x16 anyway from this camera. Taking it and the Canon on a two week trip today, so more later on the plus side, I hope. The book it comes with is nearly incomprehesible without a language course in Olympus speak.
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    • Thanks for the review, I'm def looking forward to using the E-PL1 as I've only used the E-P2. Overall I've been really happy with the E-P2 so I would not expect much less for this camera in terms of image quality.
      Feel free to check outMy E-P2 Articles on Knowphoto
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    • >>Ned Bagno [Subscriber] , February 04, 2010; 11:24 P.M. One small correction to the article... The E-PL1 sensor is not the same as the E-3's 10.1 m sensor...<< Uh... excuse me but could you please quote where the author says the E-PL1 sensor is the same as the E-3 10.1 m sensor? What the author said is that the sensor is the same as the E-30 and E-620. I couldn't find anywhere in the article where a claim was made that the sensor is the same as the E-3.
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    • Oh no,.. the EPL1 may be a disaster "to some". Those who intend to use the 20mm 1.7 panny lens for bokeh in bright daylight - May be in for an unpleasant surprise. In GF1, the shutter used is 1/2500- 1/3000 in bright daylight shooting - with aperture wide opened. The EPL1 shutter is 1/2000 max, the F stop would be forced down to F4-F5. Bokeh would be reduced if still present at all. I was eager to purchase an EPL1 for my wife..... thank God I took my GF1 out today and it was sunny. Back to EP1/EP2 drawing board. If my analysis is wrong, pls let me know....!
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    • come to t' party foLks... put a Noctilux 1.0 on it and you can shoot video in bright sun...with out blown highlights...did you know that...
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