Olympus Pen E-PL1 review:

Olympus Pen E-PL1

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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

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

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8.8 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice May '10

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.

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