Olympus Pen E-PL1 review: Olympus Pen E-PL1

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CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars Outstanding

Average User Rating

5 stars 1 user review
Review Date:

The Good Impressive design and handling; excellent image quality; smashing video-recording features.

The Bad Buttons feel rather cheap; shonky contracting-lens mechanism.

The Bottom Line The Olympus Pen E-PL1 is cheaper and more plasticky than the Pen E-P1 and Pen E-P2, and ought to be worse -- but it's not. It handles better and does more, thanks to its built-in flash. It's a Micro Four Thirds camera for the masses, and about time too

CNET Editors' Choice May '10

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Olympus launched its Micro Four Thirds  range with the prestigious Pen E-P1 and Pen E-P2 models, which traded heavily on the company's film-camera heritage. The new, 12.3-megapixel Pen E-PL1, however, is the version for the man and woman on the street. It's more cheaply made, so it's less expensive, at around £550 with the 14-42mm kit lens. It's also more basic -- or is it?

Cheaper but more cheerful
You might imagine that Olympus would have dropped a few features with its lower-cost Micro Four Thirds camera. A quick check of the exterior reveals fewer controls and a more plasticky finish.

But, when you actually look at what the camera has and what it does, a different picture emerges. In fact, the E-PL1 does everything the others do, as well as offering a built-in flash. The flash isn't that powerful compared to a digital SLR's, but it's as good as anything you'll find on a compact camera, and it's always good to have one for emergencies, even if you don't use it that much.

With rich, dense colours and great definition, the E-PL1 matches any digital SLR for image quality, even at high ISOs. The quality drops slightly at ISO 3,200, but it's excellent at ISO 1,600 (click image to enlarge)

The E-PL1 really does feel quite different to the E-P1 and E-P2. The plastic construction is initially rather disappointing, but the camera is lighter, narrower and taller, and handles rather better than the other two.

It's the same story with the controls. They're more basic and more cheaply made, but they're actually much more efficient. Olympus has ditched the two rather awkward rotary controllers seen on the E-P1 and E-P2 and used straightforward, four-way navigation buttons instead. They're clear and simple, and work better. Changing the shutter speed and aperture in manual mode, for example, means pressing buttons instead of spinning dials, but that's no great hardship.

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Where to Buy

Olympus Pen E-PL1

Part Number: CNETOlympus Pen E-PL1

Typical Price: £550.00

See manufacturer website for availability.