Apr 072010
 

Olympus E-PL1 Camera Review/Real World Report – Since I have been shooting some film recently with my Leica M6 I realized that while I have been spending time scanning negatives, I have not been spending time post processing the images to get them to look good. That is the beauty of film. It’s simple and the results can be great with no PP but instead of spending hours in photoshop you end up spending hours at the scanner! Everything has its drawbacks huh?

Ever since the early digital cameras one thing has remained the same. It is VERY hard to find a camera that will give you good results with direct from camera images! Most digital cameras will give you a dull flat file, a super saturated file, an over sharp file or even a super soft file. It is rare for a camera to come along and give you a really good usable image right out of the box with all of the ingredients that make for a pleasing photo but Olympus is kind of known to produce cameras that do just that. Even with their old E-1 DSLR they have had a way of getting images looking just right out of the camera. This is a good thing for those who do not want to spend time in Photoshop messing with levels, contrast, saturation, etc.

Many of you know that I reviewed and LOVED the Olympus E-P1 and E-P2. I even bought the E-P2 over the Leica X1 due to my wife preferring the overall user experience of the E-P2 over the little Leica. Well, this is the Huff household and if a digital camera makes it for more than 2 months you know it is a winner but cameras come and go in this house and I love writing about them all. We recently sold the E-P2 because when we shot with the (almost half price) E-Pl1 we realized we were getting even better image quality for less money. Yep, the Olympus E-Pl1 is not just a dumbed down version of the E-P2 but rather a camera that can stand on its own with even better IQ and possibly the best out of camera JPEGS…EVER!

Since I found the JPEGS to be so good I decided to write this review as more of a “JPEG photo diary” with the E-PL1, meaning, it will be even less technical than my E-P1 and E-P2 reviews, which were not technical at all. In other words, this is REAL “REAL WORLD” folks and its packed with images which were all shot as IN CAMERA JPEGS!

We traveled 5000 miles in our Toyota Prius with the E-PL1 over the course of 9 days and my wife and I both shot with the camera. We found its strengths, its weaknesses, and even one flaw that really bugged the hell out of us (a flaw with the direct video button). So in this review I will write about our experience with the E-PL1 for the past three weeks. I will touch on its strengths, its weaknesses, and most importantly THE IMAGES which are quite nice right out of the camera. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this JPEG….

The Red Rocks of Sedona Arizona – E-PL1 and Kit Zoom – Shot JPEG – Click image for large 1800 PX wide version!

The above image was shot as a JPEG. Remember, I did not shoot ANY images in RAW with the E-PL1 during my time with it because I wanted to show how good the JPEGs can be from this camera. Sure, you can shoot RAW and eek out a little more performance but in all honestly I would only shoot this as a JPEG camera due to its speed, simplicity and performance in doing so. The above image had its levels adjusted slightly and that is it! If you want to download the full size OOC JPEG, CLICK HERE.

Before I get going with all of the images and video we shot with this camera let me point out some of the differences/improvements between this and the E-P2.

  • The E-Pl1 does not feel smaller than an E-P1 or E-P2 but does feel thicker and more brick like. Much like a Panny GF1.
  • The E-Pl1 now includes a built in flash for those who like to use it.
  • The E-Pl1 now has a dedicated video button (which can be a pain, more later) so recording video is easy, in ANY mode.
  • The E-Pl1 can accept the EVF or Microphone attachment just like the E-P2.
  • The E-Pl1 has a weaker Anti Alais filter so the images come out of the camera sharper.
  • The E-Pl1 has a new Art Filter that the E-P2 does NOT have (sepia)

Now for the things that are a downgrade with the E-Pl1 over the E-P2…

  • The shutter speed tops off at 1/2000s. This is a bummer and really keeps it from becoming a superstar IMO. Sunny days require you to stop your lenses down so no shallow DOF effects unless you use an ND filter.
  • No dials! Yes, you must control Aperture, shutter speed, etc with the buttons on the back. I much prefer the dials on the E-P2.
  • Build. The E-P2 is built better. Plain and simple. The E-Pl1 does not feel cheap, but to me, the E-P2 feels much better in the hand.
  • LCD. The E-P2 LCD while not a high res display does indeed look better than the smaller E-Pl1 display. The E-Pl1 looks a bit washed out in comparison.
  • Kit zoom downgrade…seems Oly put more plastic on the kit zoom to reduce costs. They have done this in the past with 4/3 kit zooms as well. Booooooo.
  • No EVF included.

So those are the things that stick out after a few weeks of use. It has some improvements AND a few downgrades but we have to expect some downgrades as the price of the E-Pl1 is $599 compared to $1100 for the E-P2. What I found interesting though is that the IQ is somewhat better on the E-Pl1. I was able to get better sharpness and what appeared to be better color from the E-Pl1. Also, I noticed the high ISO performance was also improved so if image quality if your main concern the E-PL1 is the better camera. No doubt. If you prefer the build and feel of a camera and do not mind a 10% or so decrease in IQ then the E-P2 is for you.

I suggest you read my E-P1 and E-P2 reviews as most of the features of these cameras are covered there and I will not go over it all again in this review. Instead I will concentrate only on the performance of the E-Pl1. That is what you really want to know anyway isn’t it?

Seriously though, this camera surprised me. I expected to hate it but after daily use I really started to like it. Alot. Lets face it. The E-Pl1 has quite a bit going for it. Size, quality, and most importantly….price.

The E-Pl1 with the 17 2.8 is one hell of a sharp combo with delicious Oly color.

Even the Kit Zoom does a wonderful job on the camera.

Even with the Olympus 17 2.8 you can get some shallow DOF when you close focus.

I feel that these m4/3 cameras of today are better than the standard and larger 4/3 cameras of yesterday. I used to own the Olympus E-3 and I liked it but never LOVED it. To me, Oly has always been the company that played “catch up” with the big guys. It seems they were always one step behind with their cameras but the Oly faithful have stuck with them mainly for their well built cameras and the famous Oly colors (which I feel were best in the original Olympus E-1). The E-PL1 kind of changes the game a bit as it does so much right and very little wrong. But, there are a few things I dislike about this camera.

TWO THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT THE OLYMPUS E-PL1:

  • I hate that Oly restricted the shutter speed to 1/200s. I know they had to dumb it down a little so it would not eat into their E-P2 sales but I like cameras with 1/8000s so 1/2000 is sort of limiting if you like to shoot fast lenses like the Panasonic 20 1.7 wide open on a sunny day. You just can not do it. For most though, this will not be an issue as there will be many newbies and beginners who buy this camera and many will not even know what Aperture is. Besides, my Leica M6 only goes to 1/1000s so I guess its not that bad. I just wish it at least went to 1/4000s.
  • The direct record video button is nice but its flawed. While carrying the E-Pl1 with the power ON the record button would get pressed just from the camera rubbing against my body. This happened to me and my wife both. We ended up with several videos on our memory card that we did not even know about. Some of them were funny though. Still, if you have a small SD card you may find yourself going to shoot an image and the camera telling you that the card is full! If so, check your card to make sure there are no unexpected video recordings. The button on the E-PL1 sticks out a bit and this is why it can easily be pushed when it is against your body.

SPEAKING OF VIDEO…

Speaking of video the E-Pl1 continues on with the tradition of HD video. The E-Pl1 records 720P HD video with the same quality as the E-P2 but the audio is not as good due to the E-Pl1′s mono mic. Also, as with most cameras that serve double duty with video, wind noise is horrible so if you have some slight wind expect some nasty noise in your video. THE E-PL1 still allows you to change aperture for your video so with a fast lens you can get some cool shallow DOF effects.

While I did not shoot any video worth showing we did shoot some generic “home movies” with the E-Pl1 so here is a small compilation of some scenes I put together :) I really like the fact that digital cameras now include HD video as standard. Soon, dedicated consumer video cameras will be a thing of the past as these little cameras give you better video quality in many situations. The E-PL1 makes for a GREAT vacation camera. For $599 you get a superb digital still camera with a decent zoom lens AND HD video capability! It’s really all one would need for a vacation unless you are super picky and want super resolution and quality. If that is the case buy a Leica M9 and call it a day :)

Some home movies with the E-Pl1 at a cool drive through Zoo in MO.

HIGH ISO…NOT TOO SHABBY!

The high ISO of the E-PL1 has indeed been improved over the previous E-P2. I am not posting side by sides here as A: I no longer have the E-P2 and B: Almost every other review online has done this already. We already know there are improvements but here are  few high ISO images from the E-PL1 and I would have no worries using the camera up to ISO 1600 and if I had to, even 3200.

ISO 800 is clean as can be. Cleaner than ISO 100 film!

Moving up to ISO 1600 in low indoor light is pretty good. My wife shot this with I-auto mode.

By ISO 3200 we start to see the effects of in camera NR. Still, this is usable if it was the only way to get the shot.

Here is a crop of my keyboard. The only light source in the room was my IMac screen. ISO 3200!

So with this latest m4/3 camera Olympus has upped the quality with detail and high ISO. It’s not a huge jump but it is noticeable and from someone who shot the E-P2 on an almost daily basis, the E-PL1′s improvements were easy for me to see right away.

MY THREE FAVORITE ART FILTERS:

I go over the art filters in my E-P1 and E-P2 reviews but I still love the Grainy B&W filter the best. It mimics high speed ISO 1600 B&W film and does a decent job of it. Sometimes I will shoot in this mode every day for a week just to see what I can get. I also enjoy the “Diorama” and new “Sepia” filters as well. Here are a few examples…

The Grainy B&W Art Filter Rocks!

DIORAMA

SEPIA


As I have stated before, the Art filters are not just gimmiks but some of them are actually very cool to experiment with. Bravo to Oly for including them :)

Accessories

The E-P2 has two accessories that are great add ons to the camera. You can buy the new SEMA-1 microphone kit that will add high quality stereo sound with less wind noise. It attaches to the top of the camera and plugs in to the body. This is something that would be beneficial for all of you who are into the video capabilities of the camera. You can also buy the external EVF that comes with the full E-P2 kit.

So, which one? The E-P2 or the E-Pl1?

I get asked this all of the time. Which one to buy? The $1000+ E-P2 or the $599 E-Pl1. The good news is that the E-P2 is now available in a lower cost package WITHOUT the EVF so you no longer have to spend $1100 to buy into the E-P2 camera system. You can now buy the E-P2 with the 17 2.8 for $899 at B&H Photo and that is the package I would go for if I were buying the E-P2 today. As much as I loved the EVF I found I did not really use it as much as I thought I would. The LCD was much easier and compact so I ended up taking off the EVF. Many love the EVF though and I have to admit, Oly makes the best EVF I have used to date.

So if you are trying to decide on one to buy you have to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I prefer build and style or do I want the best image quality I can get from m4/3?
  • Do I need a built in flash?
  • Do I want to use buttons to make settings or do I want dials and wheels?
  • Is the 1/2000s shutter speed of the E-Pl1 fast enough for me?

Basically the E-Pl1 will give you sharper images and better high ISO performance but it is not a HUGE leap in IQ. For my wife she liked the E-Pl1 over her E-P2 so we sold the E-P2 but guess what? I miss the E-P2 terribly due to its form factor, ergonomics and well, I just love the E-P2. So here is what WE are doing. She will shoot the E-Pl1 and I will most likely end up with another E-P2 with the 17 2.8 for myself. It’s funny because as good as the Panasonic 20 1.7 lens is I slightly prefer the Olympus 17 2.8 on the E-Pl1. I have come to the conclusion that for some reason, Oly glass does best on Oly bodies and Panny lenses do best on Panny bodies. I love the 17 2.8. Besides some slight barrel distortion it is one heck of a lens. Sharp, contrasty, great color and very small with its pancake form factor.

B&H HAS A $50 INSTANT REBATE ON THIS LENS RIGHT NOW SO ITS ONLY $230. THIS IS A GREAT BARGAIN!!

So I can HIGHLY recommend the E-PL1 and I still recommend the EP-2. Think of the E-PL1 if you are new to digital photography or just want the best IQ out of the m4/3 format. Yes, I think the E-PL1 gives you that and IMO it is the camera to beat for pure IQ from this format. If you want more control, faster shutter speeds, better audio and a sleeker more pro look then the E-P2 will do great but it will not be as sharp as the E-Pl1. Bottom line? Buy the one that speaks to you more. I love both :)

The E-PL1 continues the Oly tradition of style, function and GREAT JPEGS and GREAT VIDEO. It’s only cons are the 1/2000s shutter and the direct video button which can be engaged by your body :) Other than that it is a superb photographic tool that will give any hobbyist or enthusiast great pictures. It will not compete with cameras like the Leica M9 or the higher end DSLR’s but that is not what it has been made to do. For the money I can not think of another camera that beats the E-PL1 for IQ, video and overall fun factor! I bought mine from B&H Photo and they have all colors in stock. Black, Blue or Silver.

You can also find the E-Pl1 at AMAZON

Anyway, thanks for reading my real world review of the E-Pl1. I appreciate each and every one of you that come here to read what I write :)

Here are a few more images, all shot as JPEG with the fantastic E-PL1!

  79 Responses to “The Olympus E-PL1 Review. The best JPEG camera EVER?”

  1. Well done! Cool, stylish shots. Seems to be a real value-for-money camera. I’m surprised that m4/3 had made it this way and have to admit that I like this picture style and IQ over some of the APS-C league. Best Regards.

  2. Hi Steve,
    Been looking forward to reading this review from you- thanks! While you’ve addressed the dilemma of those choosing between the EP-2 / E-PL1, there are inevitably some (myself included) that are debating between the E-PL1 and the Panasonic GF1. Having read both your reviews, I’m interested in hearing your take on the comparison between the two (even though it’s been quite a while since you’ve reviewed the GF1). The falling price on the Panasonic has closed the gap between the two, thus making an even more interesting decision for the prospective buyer…

    Please share with us your thoughts on these two cameras head to head, if you will!

    I also find it interesting to read that you slightly prefer the 17/2.8 on the E-PL1 over the 20/1.7. Interesting discussion point for sure!

    Thanks again for your insight!

  3. Hi Steve,
    Really appreciate you making this comparison. Very helpful (I’m thinking of getting a small digital camera to go along side my Voigtlander Besser R2a).
    Anyway, on a completely unrelated topic. RSS. You have your whole story as a feed. At the risk of getting flamed (or cursed until I die) by everyone of your readers might I suggest you make everyone come to your site by tweaking your rss feed to show a summary only. To me it seems your are being unfair to yourself and overly generous by letting everyone read your whole article via RSS instead of making them come to your site and at least glancing at a banner or 2. Not to mention that I’m sure you’ll get more milage out of having a site that has more views than a feed that does.
    Wordpress backend -> Settings -> Reading.

    Just a suggestion.
    Cheers.

  4. Hi Steve,
    Again, one of the best E-PL1 reviews to date!! I love the way you cut to the chase and give us your real world impressions. They really help in our camera choices and decision making process.
    I was especially interested to read of your favoring the 17/2.8 on the E-PL1 over the 20/1.7 Panny.
    That is the question I was asking on another forum, because on looking at shots with the 17/2.8 on the E-PL1 vs the 20/1.7, I felt there was less of a difference in IQ than when these two lenses were compared on the E-P2 or E-P1. So, perhaps not much reason to go for the 20/1.7 at a higher cost if one is using an E-PL1.
    Like you said, perhaps Oly is better on Oly and Panny on Panny!!
    Anyway, I can’t wait to get an E-PL1, with 14-42 kit and 17/2.8 pancake, and give my old E-510, with its restricted low ISO capability, a rest. I’ll still keep my HG ZD 14-54 and ZD 50-200 and use them with an adapter on the E-PL1 just for fun.
    Thanks again for a great review.
    Best,
    Angus

  5. the high iso is very impressive for such a small sensor.

  6. Great review! Makes me love my E-PL1 more!

  7. Great review, Steve. I agree about the positioning of the record button and have reprogrammed mine to toggle on/off the LCD. There is an option to do nothing.

  8. Steve: loved the review and thanks for your time here. Loved the Sedona shots as I too live in Peoria, Az. We’ll be leaving for Sedona next week for vacation.

    I am alot stronger person now and your influence can only sway me so far…When I owned the ep1, I bought the ep2….you see where I’m going. But J-pegs look wonderful. Thanks for all your hard work.

    Pete

  9. I agree about the direct-record video button, I keep hitting it by mistake. Also, there’s an ergonomic problem – it’s kind of hard to punch it while holding the camera, you have to hit it with the side of your thumb. BUT the good news is that you can easily remap it to do something other than video – I’ve got mine set to swap in and out of manual focus mode, useful for macros. Then to take a video you just select video mode on the dial and hit the regular shutter button, much easier to press.
    Another hot tip – for easy bounce flash, just pop up the little flash, and hold it back with your finger – it tips upward and you get great bounce if you have a light ceiling. I tried this and it works just fine.
    One more tip – if you’re willing to take off the lens, you can easily put this camera in your pocket. I carry mine every day, and I have not yet had trouble with dust on the sensor, the ultrasonic dust barrier seems to work well. It only takes 20 sec to slap in the lens…

  10. This camera is going to revolutionize photo. I got a group on Ipernity for the camera http://www.ipernity.com/group/e-pl1

  11. Thanks for another SUPERB review Steve! Still, will keep myself on the waiting list for the Leica X1 !

  12. Well done Steve. Currently i’m thinking about selling my E-P1 an buying a E-PL1 because of the high iso output of this camera.

  13. Thanks for the great review. And great images, too.

  14. It’s interesting that you should praise the E-PL1′s JPEG output so much – it is brilliant, there’s no doubt. But the E-PL1 really seems to be a family snap camera, and not so much an enthusiast’s tool. It’s like a 90′s compact AF film camera that is being loaded with ISO 100 or 200 film – it gets the job done, even gets it done VERY well, but it lacks the artistic value.
    So here’s what makes me think: Normally, you seem more like an artist when it comes to photography. Your pictures are carefully composed and thoroughly post-processed – I guess that’s what you do when you shoot a rangefinder. All the more I’m baffled that you even consider plain ooc JPEGs – they just don’t have anything of the look I’m used to see in your pictures! (Which doesn’t mean they’re not good for themselves!)

  15. The EPL1 is the best JPEG camera ever … providing you only shoot stationary objects. The shutter lag, viewfinder blackout, lethargic AF and slow shot-to-shot times are major show-stoppers.

  16. I was pretty set to move from the E-P1 to the E-P2 but the reviews on the E-PL1 make me think that Oly will have a VERY special camera coming that builds on all these strengths. What I really want to see is this new jpg engine, 1/8000 shutter speed and perhaps a more sustained continuous shooting ability (I like to do stop motion movies). I’d also like to see the audio in port on the body instead of requiring an add-on. With those moves and some tweaking of the video (720P/60) I’d be ready to completely divest of my DSLR gear.

    Thank you for the reviews and real world point of view. There are way too many pixel peeping geek fests going on and this is way more valuable.

  17. Hi Steve, yes, camon tell us something more about image quality of the Pan gf1 versus Oly EPL1,
    If the Pan´s file was about to make you sell the M9, and you where so enthusistic about the 20mm, why now you are going to buy another ep2 with 17? I m asking these becouse I cannot decide between the gf1 and the oly…I m getting crazy here!!!!
    thank U
    Lorenzo

  18. Hi Steve,

    did you try EP-2´s raw quality vs. E-PL1´s raw quality? Thank you for response.

    btw. your sites are perfect, Very nice work :)

    Patrik

  19. Hey guys! thanks for the comments.

    @Ullrich- Thanks!!
    @Todd – I prefer the e-p2 to the GF1. I like The e-plus IQ better than the GF1 but prefer the build and af od the gf1. a bit confusing but I lean more to Olympus.

    @Sean- Thanks for the tip but when I did not have full feeds I had daily complaints (some of them were funny). I liken having the full feed anyway as it’s more convenient for many readers and there should be a few banners in the feed anyway. Thanks again.

    @john1027- yes you are correct! Thanks!

    @efix – This is why I mention that this is a perfect vacation camera. I would not consider it as a pro tool simply due to lack of fast lenses and slower than average AF (same as ep2) but this is more of a camera for those looking to upgrade from a Point and shoot or those looking for a fun versatile camera that gets the job done. My brain was in “snapshot mode” with this cam so that is how I used it. It is a highly capable camera with the right lenses and in the right hands though.

    I did this review using OOC Jpegs just to show the output of this camera which is quite good. I know many are looking for a good jpeg shooter and this is the best I have seen to date. Thanks for the comment!

    @Dave- I agree. I think an ep3 may be the special one. Lets wait and see.

    @Lorenzo – I said I might buy another ep2 but I also may wait for an ep3. I do miss the ep2 and did in fact like it better than the GF1 even though the gf1 gave sharper output. IMO the e-pl1 improves upon the IQ of the e-p2 and the G-F1 but I really prefer the body of the Ep2.

    Thanks core the comment and for reading.

  20. Thanks for the Review Steve!

    Just a question: I have only used the EP-1 and found the files from RAW to be quite good. When you mention the “sharpness” and “best m4/3 IQ” of the EP-L1 are you only referring to the Jpeg output or to the RAW output as well? I ask because IQ is my basis for purchasing a camera. I have been saving up for an EP-2 but after seeing the review I am wondering how much better the EP-L1 would be in comparison to the EP-2 in Raw mode. Thanks!

  21. Thanks so much for your insights, Steve! I enjoy almost every single post you write! Coincidentally I just written a side by side comparison review of the GF1 and E-PL1 in my site here: http://www.davidchuaphotography.com/2010/04/08/olympus-e-pl1-vs-panasonic-lumix-dmc-gf1/
    Please give your comments. Deeply appreciate it!

  22. Hi steve thanks for posting these, Very cool indeed. But I have a question regarding scanning, Some talk about dpis, some aboutt pixels, my local lab will develop and scan at 250 dpi 8X12 for 11$ for the roll…what the hell am I getting. They say printing it will give a quality up to that 8X12 will give goog results. Otherwise they can go to 300dpi but then it is 10$ per picture… What am I getting… They mentionned that any print from my film will always be better from the negative if I want bigger than 8X12 anyways… This is getting complicated.

  23. Thanks so much for all your work on these cameras. If I can think of a combination I’d like to see, invariably you’ve done it and I don’t have to tax my brain trying to compare different sites.

    So I’m saying “ditto” to Rob’s question: e-pl1 and e-p2 RAW IQ compared, what are your findings?

    You’ve made it so much fun to run on over to your site when I use my computer for work–now it takes a little longer to get that work done!

  24. Here is my plan and it may work for others as well dealing with this film vs. digital debate: I own the Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm lens and this will be my main travel companion camera and also when I require very good raw output. To create gallery quality images in either B&W or color I will also carry a samll 6X6 folding rangefinder camera, also very portable. I too own the EPSON V700 scanner and it performs quite nicely. Go to a website and purchase a canvas Messenger type shoulder bag, (Army Surplus) for both cameras and you are DONE! Now we should concentrate on capturing images and stop buying and selling and debating the issue, room for both in this world. I can’t imagine shooting 35mm film in quantity and then scanning for hours and hours, trust me it is not as easy as it sounds it also takes work to create great scans. Once you make up your mind you get a sense of liberation to finally get out there and photograph instead of pixel peeping, as I have done as well.

  25. Hey Peter, sounds like my plan. I just bought ANOTHER bag (still searching for the perfect bag for me) as I found one I really liked. It’s a messenger style Domke and I will be posting about it this weekend. Inside there will be film AND digital which makes for a great way to shoot.

    I have the V700 arriving tomorrow and am actually going to have a film based contest up this weekend to give away the V500 I have here. Should be fun. But yea, I agree with your statement!

    Steve

  26. Steve, love the review. I also recently fell in love with the Olympus 17 2.8. For some reason so many people discount this lens when in fact it’s a gem with georgeous bokeh.

    I wrote a review just the other day on the 17:

    http://olympusdigitalpen.blogspot.com/2010/04/olympus-17mm-28-review.html

  27. The whole progression of M43 and my shooting experience with the E-P1 has made me consider changing my approach to possible paid work. I shot a volunteer event using my D90 and the E-P1 (with my Nikon 50mmf .1.8 on it). In those tight spaces and when people are talking, I did by far better with my Olympus than with my Nikon. That with the evolving IQ of these little cameras has me considering switching entirely and specializing in low-key event work. The catch is the lack of native, wide aperture primes in the right focal lengths. I love the 100mm f/1.8 equiv I get with my Nikon 50mm on it. The 20mm Panasonic is a start but more are needed. If I could have a small bag with an E-P1/2/3m,, a GH1, the wide angle kit lens, the 20mm and a 50mm I think the Nikon gear would get liquidated. I’d also like to see continuous shooting up to around 60 shots for stop motion animation movies that a couple clients have really enjoyed. For now I’m having a blast carrying the little 17mm, my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and occasionally the old Nikon 75-150mm f/3.5.

  28. Thanks for this review!

    I would also be interested in your comments regarding:

    1) Focus speed of the camera. It is not mentioned in the review but did you find it being slower than GF1 is a big limitation?

    2) Is the long end of the 14-42 kit lens “long enough” for general travel photography? How often did you miss longer focal lengths?

  29. Hi Steve,

    Love your review style, your review of the ep2 is what pushed my decision to purchase the camera. Anyways do you think that a firmware update can fix the jpeg output of the ep2 to match that of the epl1? Also, there is a sepia setting on the ep2, but you have to do an in camera edit of the jpeg to get to it.

  30. Nice review Steve. I’m very happy with my GF1/20mm pancake combo but I’m finding myself shooting with older lenses a lot so I’m considering adding an E-PL1. Good to know that its great with high ISO shots. That and the in body IS should help a lot when shooting at night or indoors. Sucks about the 1/2000 shutter speed though. Sometimes even the 1/4000 shutter speed of the GF1 isn’t enough for me. I’m guessing I’ll need to get some ND filters soon.

  31. Hi I been looking at getting GF1 / E-PL1 Samsung NX-10?, anyone got any real ideas about E-PL1 over a Samsung NX-10? aside the small lens set up?

  32. Hi Steve.
    I just ordered a GH1 + 20mm lens, now I’m not so sure I haven’t made an error…
    These Jpegs seem to be exceptionally ‘un-digital’, more so than the Panny maybe?
    IQ is the only bottom line that counts for me and your (as usual brilliant!) review has given me a bit of a worry!

  33. Hi, Steve,

    I’ve been following your site for a while since I am starting to have interest for photography. I was waiting for some reviews to decide which m43 system to buy, and your review was decisive. So I bought yesterday @ B&H an E-PL1, an Oly 17mm f2.8, A 16GM Class 10 SDHC and a spare battery. Do you think this is a nice starter kit for some more serious photography than point & shoot?

  34. Oops, a 16GB card, not GM

  35. Steve, is the E-PL1′s audio mono or stereo? As the Olympus sites list it as “Stereo”.

  36. [...] some of the best JPEGS out of any camera ever, a big call from camera reviewer and Leica M9 user. The Olympus E-PL1 Review. The best JPEG camera EVER? | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS Also have a look through Kirks Tucks Visual Science Lab blog. The photos throughout his blog [...]

  37. David, it WILL record Stereo but only with the stereo mic attached to the hot shoe. The E-PL1′s built in mic is mono.

  38. I just got an EPL1 in at work (camera store / print lab) and for a plastic camera it feels really solid, other then the lack of a dial id say its a nice little kit.

  39. Between the EPL1 and the M9, it seems obvious that the push should be to remove AA filtering, and not pumping for more mega-pixels, for greater resolution/clarity. It also seems obvious that the 4/3 sensor will “soon” be relegated to the lower-end P&S, in favor of ASP-C, sometime in 2011. Even though I’ll be getting an X1 in a few weeks, I can easily imagine adding, if not switching outright, to Olympus or Panasonic in the near future. Kudos to all of these companies for their foresight.

  40. Great review. I stumbled on your site a couple days ago and it’s been fantastic to read some of your real-world usage on these cameras. I was ABOUT to click purchase on a E-P2 and now I’m all flustered with this E-PL1.. haha I just love the looks so much of the E-P1 & 2. The price difference is the Only real thing that’s keeping me from the E-P2 at the moment. I mean $599 for a great camera with better output although it looks slightly more pedestrian.. hmm.. Although I would actually Use the EVF on the $1050 E-P2… Anyways, I think I’m still going with the E-P2. That dang shutter speed limit on the E-PL1 really just chaps my rear. Annyways, thanks again for the refreshing reviews!

  41. I bought it!
    Pictures are realy nice and very sharp…. everything Steve says is the truth, noting but the truth…
    BUT… the Auto Focus is slow so making pictures of my son while he is playing soccer is a problem..
    and that is pity… I hoped I could sell my Nikon D-90.
    Thanks!

  42. 5,000 miles in NINE DAYS?? Are you nuts? ;-)

    Nice review. I’ll have to give it a try alongside the Samsung EX1/TL500 and the upcoming Lumix LX4 (the Canon S90 fails with its small 4.9 aperture zoomed out). I’d prefer the pocketability of the latter two, but if the E-PL1 totally kicks their butts, then I’d have to go with it.

    I must congratulate Olympus on this camera. The Panny GF1 is a total fail in my eyes due to yawn-inducing images. Having said that, a Pen with its in-body stabilisation and a Panny 20mm F1.7 is a very tempting walkaround combo!

    Best wishes from a Pentaxian.

  43. [...] nuevo filtro de paso bajo y la nueva generación de procesador TruePic V.  Echad un vistazo a la prueba que Steve Huff ha dejado un su blog y obtener vuestras propias [...]

  44. After reading this review I actually bought the camera. It´s the best. But I wonder how it compare to the Leica X1?

  45. Hey Patrik, I could have bought the X1 but I preffered m4/3 for a few reasons. First, the speed. Second, I could swap lenses and third the price. The X1 is almost 4X the cost of the E-PL1. Sure the Leica is gorgeous and gives superb IQ and high ISO but the E-PL1 is pretty nice in itself.

    I decided to stay within budget and went with M4/3 but I do confess that I wish I had the X1 at times just for the “cool factor” and the lovely 24 Elmarit lens.

  46. Thanks Steve
    I just buy a E-PL1 to replace my Canon S90 and I have so much fun with this new camera
    I was looking for a long time for a “compact” camera with great capabilities and I think I have find what I look for
    Now the next move will be to choose between the oly 17 and the panny 20

    Could you please explain why you go back to the 17mm? (I think I am not the only one who would like to know ;)

  47. Hello Julien,

    thats exactly what Im asking myself as well….especially as the 20 mm is quite a bit more expensive…
    Is is that much better? Or is the Oly 17 mm light enough?
    Greetings,

    Henrik

  48. Have been using the e-pl1 with 40mm F2 and 90mm F4 Rokkor M mount lenses and m mount to micro four thirds adapter. The results are fantastic. Handling is great. focusing is easy.

  49. Hi Steve,

    and thank you for this excellent review! I’m new to DSLR and 4/3 cameras and I wanted to ask you which camera is more capable for shallow DOF photos? E-PL1 or E-P1?

    Thanks in advance!

  50. Hi Steve and Tedolph,
    I’m shoot rangefinders so have some M mount lenses which I intend to use with this camera. Is it easy to manual focus? how is it done?

    • Yap, sorry for the late reply. Manual focus is pretty easy on the LCD screen. For critical focus, hit the zoom button and you get a 7x, 10x, 12x or 14x zoomed image. Hit the zoom button again to go back to composition view. I wish you could go back to composition view just by half depressing the shutter button (a la Panny GF1) but you can’t, at least in this firmware iteration. If it is really sunny outside (e.g at the beach or bright snow) you will need the external electronic view finder whch is very high quality. The nice thing about the E-pl1 (and new E-pl2 I presume) is that you can leave the camera in “P” mode and switch back and forth between a manual lens and any of the u 4/3 lenses without resetting anything. “P” mode with a manual lens works just like “A” mode so no menu changes are necessary. With high quality manual lenses and your skills from rangefinder days, we find the E-pl1 is capable of shooting low light events, even weddings.

      Hope this helps.

  51. I would be concerned by the weaker anti alias filter of the PL. The ‘standard’ amount of filter is probably optimal.

  52. I bought the E-PL1 with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 a couple of weeks ago and am now a very happy street shooter! I went with the Panasonic lens because I also like to shoot in low light and needed it’s speedier aperture and faster focusing compared to the OLY 17. I have noticed one anomally with the lens that doesn’t happen with the OLY kit lens. The Panasonic lens does not wake up when the camera comes out of its sleep mode. The lens will not focus and camera has to be turned off and back on to get the lens going again. I’m assuming that it is a firmware difference between the Panasonic and the OLY. It has made miss a few shots but I learned to adjust to this.

    For those who have been asking about whether to get the OLY 17mm lens or the PAN 20mm here’s a breakdown of what to consider.

    OLY: lens and camera compatibility meaning automatic adjustements for lens distortions (Barreling or Pin cusshioning) and for chromatic aberrations (CA). Please note that the E-PL1 does correct lens distortion for the Panasonic lens but it does not correct CA. The camera’s built-in processing is more in tune with the camera manufacturer’s lens design and coatings for color, tone and contrast. As you noted, this is a winning combination with OLY however I find the Panasonic Lens delivers great color and contrast even at its widest aperture.

    PAN: This lens has a more robust focusing motor. I have not used the OLY lens there are plenty of reviews comparing their focusing speed and the PAN is slightly faster even afetr the firmware upgrades. In fairness to the OLY lens does have a quiter autofocus. The PAN lens also has a wider aperture which means it can shoot in lower light, give better stop action shots by allowing faster shutter speeds and most importantly, to me anyways, it allows you to shoot with a narrower depth of field. This is a big deal for me because I like the 3D feeling that is achieved by blurring the foreground and/or background.

    Thanks again for the great articles on the E-PL1. And to all you readers out there considering purchasing this camera (from B&H like I did) it takes spectactular photos!

  53. Great review! I’ve been an Olympus user since the ’70s, when I used a borrowed half-frame Pen EE to shoot around Monterey Bay! I was hooked!

    BTW, what’s the music track on the drive-though zoo clip?

  54. Nice review & comments. My wife ended up purchasing the E-PL1 for her new camera. She will just leave it on AUTO mode most of the time. My question is, if we were to shoot video of some fireworks, what setting(s) would work best with this camera?

  55. Great review as always!

    I got my EP1 upgraded to the new hardware profile yesterday and am so impressed I left my M9 in the drawer and went out with the little O. The AF speed in low light has been dramatically improved

  56. Thanks to all who commented!

    @Bob – That was a built in music clip in Imovie :)

    @Wayne – For fireworks video? I can not say exactly for video but for photos I would use a tripod and BULB mode. Hold the shutter open when the firework starts to explode and then close it when it is done. You will then capture the entire display and it will look pretty cool :) For video, just let the cam do the work.

    @Jon – Awesome!

  57. emm..i am come from Malaysia, I just bought this camera on yesterday.I am new, so can you teach me something special function on e-pl1?? thx for you sharing so much :D

  58. Well written review. If the short haired blonde girl pictured is your wife…tell her I think she is quite the little HOTTIE!

  59. Hi Steve,

    I bought this camera this week and I LOVE it!!! I wanted it as a replacement for my point and shoot and as you probably remember on other posts here and there, I was going back and forth with a few cameras. I decided on the E-PL1 over the E-P2 because of the photo quality and ease of use. When out taking walks with my daughter or traveling, I really didn’t want to think about anything, other then literally pointing and shooting!! The camera takes amazing photo’s!
    Did I mention how much I love this camera???
    Thanks for all your helpful reviews on this site.
    Now that I have everything I need for the moment, I can start saving for my Leica!! That is right after I buy my wide angle lens….

    Christine

  60. I am trying to decide between the EP1 and the EPL1. I shoot mostly jpeg and print B&W on 8×11 paper 99% of the time. I am wondering if the improved IQ will make a difference in my prints? I really like the looks/build of the EP1 over the EPL1 and I am having a hard time giving into the “logic” of the improved IQ of the EPL1. Thanks for this site Steve!
    John

  61. [...] The Olympus E-PL1 Review. The best JPEG camera EVER? Since I have been shooting some film recently with my Leica M6 I realized that while I have been spending time scanning negatives, I have not been spending time post processing the images to get them to look good. That is the beauty of film. It’s simple and the results can be great with no PP but instead of spending hours in photoshop you end up spending hours at the scanner! Everything has its drawbacks huh? 7th April 2010 [...]

  62. Some of the postings I’ve seen about the PEN series Olympus cameras on YouTube made me think they have a time lapse video feature. I have a PEN E-P2, but have not found that I can produce time lapse in camera. I was curious if anyone else found a way to do it, or maybe the time lapse postings I’ve seen were produced in post production?

  63. Thank you so much for your review it really helpd me to make a decision

  64. Steve,

    Thank you for this great, honest review! This is the first review of this camera (or any other camera) that provides actual photos taken by the camera. This is exactly what I needed to help make a decision on which digital SLR camera should be my first purchase. The old school style drew me in first, but the qualities and abilities it provides makes it that much better.

    Thanks!

  65. Steve:
    Thanks, this was a great review and one that help me make up my mine about the purchase of the PL2 and the Pan 20mm. I’m waiting for it now. I got great deals from Amazon thanks to you.
    I wish I could afford that M9 but have to sell my grandkids in order to do so ;-} I also viewed your M9 video on Youtube. That limited edition is awesome. But who would want to spend that can of money….Watch and Porche collectors.

    Cheers

  66. Thanks for the review! But should i buy the Olympus E-PL1 or the fujifilm x100?

  67. Great review, Steve. I’ve been shooting Nikon DSLRs for several years, but wanted something for landscape and general street work I could carry easily. I bought the EPL1 and VF2 viewfinder before going to Venice on vacation, “Christening” the camera while there. The images are so sharp, well saturated and fine detailed (on ISO 100-200) that I honestly can’t see me ever using any of my Nikons again. It’s a perfect landscape / architecture camera, particularly with the added DOF of 4/3. Added to that the VF2 viewfinder produces a far bigger, brighter image than my DSLRs ever did, and the fact that I prefer the 4:3 ratio to the old 3:2 ratio … and the 14-42mm kit lens’ excellent performance … I’m in hog’s heaven.

  68. liked this review. I’m 56 and started with photography with a Canon FTBn and 3 lenses, after one month of a 4 month post college backpacking trip I traded all the lenses in and got a Hoya 35-105 zoom. The whole package was great but weighed…like 8 pounds?
    Because an enthusiastic point & shoot guy for many of my subsequent trips.
    STarted digital photo with a Sony Mavica, have been through gosh….5 fujis, Nikon D40, a toshiba, 2 canons, a lumix and an EPL-1. Although my all time favorite camera is my Canon G10 and the most memorable images are from my old lamented FUji F30, I gotta say that my EPL1 is my go-to camera. I can’t judge low light because I don’t use the kit lense; i have the Olympus 14-150 (I think!) and love the total package. Yeah, there’s no viewfinder. Yeah, the monitor is not as high res as the Canon. But the pictures are sensational and with the super zoom I get wide to tele, great pics, one package, no other stuff needed. I have a wrist strap on it, bought acouple spare batteries, and have never looked back. Hey, there are actually LOADS of great cameras, but for an interchangeable lens, micro 4/3, compact well built camera, I can’t see upgrading anytime soon.

  69. Great review Steve! And now this camera can be had for unbelievable $399!

    A point about the direct video button. It annoyed the bejesus out of me too. For one day, Then I dug into the manual, and figured out that you can REDEFINE this button to just about anything, All you need to do is to enable the “secret” menu (Menu Button->Wrench Tab->Menu Display-> ON). Then go Menu Button->”Secret” Menu ->B (Button)->Movie Function-> Select any available option, including OFF. Yes, you will lose the ability to shoot a movie instantly as you will have to explicitly go to the Movie mode to shoot video, but you won’t start recording anything accidentally.

  70. I bought last month from Cameta Camera an EP-2 for $250 and then a few weeks later an EPL-1 for $199 with the 14-42 zoom. Both have a one year warranty. I already have a (broken) EP-2 with the EV and 17/2.8 lens. I attest to the great performance of the “el-cheapo” EPL-1.

    Thanks for the review, Steve.

    Raid

  71. I found the reviews for this camera, when I was considering buying, unusual and interesting. There were the moans from the technicals, there were reviewers on the other hand, who said that as soon as they began using it they had to keep shooting. THAT impressed me.

    So I bought it.

    Now, I have in my cupboard (ot counting the half dozen given away) a gaggle of loved at different times Fuji (including two DSLR), Nikon (including F3), Casio, Minolta, Sony and a Panasonic LX3.

    I have a sense already, after a thousand shots with the E-PL1 that I have met my soulmate, lifelong companion. So easy, so intuitive, so quickly it comes to do the right things in the hand. As training for it and me, I have been and will continue practising using my Mac Pro with four monitors, running a screensaver with four different images at a time (of thousands in the screensaver folder). A nice opportunity to swing from one to another, to zoom in and zoom out, none of it easy work for the camera, most of it done without fuss, discovering the swing of it and the surfaces it fails to focus on easily or at all, in the couple of seconds before the shot. It’s actually an interesting process, re-editing from the screen on the fly, also discovering with four different monitors (two portrait) which ones I can get close to, on which I can get a clear image, at what distance, without rasterisation haloes (some of which add to the picture).

    I await the adapter I have ordered for my Nikon 50mm 1:1.4…

  72. I meant also to say that in using the camera day 1 to take a thousand photos outdoor and indoor, without much of a break, the battery indicator did not get half way down the scale.

  73. Excellent review and images. I recently sold my Nikon D100 and D2x and bought the Oly EPL1 and Panny G2, m43 is a godsend to my shoulder, iq on both is equal to the D2x, EPL1 has the edge over G2 but Panny 14/45 is superior to Oly 14/42. EPL1 is just such a sexy little camera to use, even better with the Panny 14/45 on it.

  74. I “upgraded” from the Panny LX3 to the Oly E-PL1 and Panny 20/1.7 “pancake” (without syrup) in part due to this, and Robin Wong’s, fine reviews. No regrets at all, especially when using Manual White Balance settings, -1 saturation w/ Natural color mode, ISO 200 for optimal dynamic range and f4 for optimal resolution framewide. It’s like a digital reincarnation of my film-days’ (Remember film?) Rollei 35S w/ 40/2.8 Sonnar lens and also the Leitz-Minolta CL w/ 40/2 Rokkor-M lens. The E-PL1 and 20/1.7 is a great KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach to digital photography. Less is more.

  75. Howdy! This article couldn’t be written much better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I will send this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read. Thanks for sharing!

  76. I commented briefly back in June when I got this camera. It’s 3/4 of a year later and we now have two of them in the family, one with 14-42 and the other with Lumix 14 pancake. Certainly the latter is flatter and a bit more pocketable, but the 14-42 continues to impress with its versatility. Having had an array of other cameras I can continue to endorse E-PL1
    - light and handy
    - swift to turn on, swift to fire
    - generally good focusing, and you can see what you are focusing on very swiftly, so working with the half pressure is very effective
    - very nice for video too.

    We had bought the E-PL1 having been searching for months for the missing LX3. It’s now suddenly risen to the surface of home detritus… and we look at it and say ‘huh?’

    • and I mean’t to say that the quality of images at high ISO – the capacity to capture natural scenes in very low light – is wonderful. I hate flash and I don’t have to use it with this, just maybe move some lights around.

  77. I have this camera and want to purchase a prime lens. Would I be better off with the Olympus 17mm 1.8 or the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 mark II? I want good autofocus performance (but also obviously image quality).

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