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Olympus E-PL1 - Entry Level Micro Four Thirds Camera

by Alan and Mario

Black Olympus E-PL1 where the 'L' stands for 'Light'

Let us start by stating the significance of the Olympus E-PL1 is its price of $599 USD and $649 CAD. While many people may be flocking to the Micro Four Thirds system, the EVIL segment is still in its infancy. Once Canon and Nikon enter the market, photographers will remain loyal to their current brands thus ending the curiousity that has been aroused by these new Micro Four Thirds cameras. Barrier to entry has been the relatively high price of cameras such as the Panasonic G1, GF1 and Olympus E-P1. This price tag of $599 should bring in another new wave of customers into the product line thus further reshaping the digital camera market.

That said, the E-PL1 brings a few new features to the table. The body-style is similar in size to the GF1 although it appears to have a more significant grip to hold on to. It is also the first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera to include a built-in flash which will relieve at least one of the gripes of E-P1/E-P2 critics. Like most new cameras today, it does support movie mode at 720p by way of a separate "Movie Record" button. New to us at MFT, the E-PL1 allows you to take a photo while a movie is playing, and then resume recording after the picture has been taken. Useful!

Pop-up flash located on the left hand side

One of the most significant advancements with the E-PL1 is the introduction of an entirely new menu system when under iAuto mode called Live Guide. Typically the iAuto mode does not allow the photographer to change any settings - the camera is in full control. With the E-PL1, Olympus has introduced what we would like to describe as an in-camera simplified Photoshop control system. The menu system is made up of 6 icons each of which represent the following slider controls:
  • Saturation - straightforward
  • White Balance - straightforward
  • Brightness - over and under exposure
  • Background Blur - f-stop control
  • Motion - shutter speed control
  • Help - assistance and tips for taking photos
Most impressive is the ability to expand the Brightness control so that the photographer can adjust the exposure of the dark, mid and highlights before taking a picture. While we think this might be a great new menu system for those upgrading from P&S cameras, we personally wouldn't mind seeing the Saturation, White Balance and especially the Brightness control introduced into the non-iAuto menu systems. We will post images of Live Guide when we receive them.

2.7" LCD shown on the back of the silver E-PL1

One disappointment we have with this announcement is the lack of a small and fast prime lens from Olympus. Our experience with Micro Four Thirds cameras and those who have purchased them is that one of the biggest selling features has been the availability of the 20mm f/1.7 prime as a kit lens. We haven't heard the term "fun" used this much in years with relation to photography as we have from those using this particular lens. Is this the beginning of a new shift in focus by consumers from camera bodies to lenses? We sure hope so.

So there you have it. Much of the rest of the specifications can be found below. We hope to get a hands on preview within the next month. Until then, what do you think of the most entry-level model of the Micro Four Thirds line?
  • Aluminum front and plastic back
  • Gold, Black and Blue
  • 12.3 MP
  • In-body IS
  • 720p
  • 6 art filters (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy B&W, Pinhole, Diorama, Gentle Sepia)
  • Dust reduction
  • TruePic V image processor (ISO 3200)
  • 2.7" LCD
  • Monoaural sound
  • External viewfinder port available (supports the same EVF as the E-P2)
  • Built-in flash
  • In-camera editing
  • 3 fps
  • Dimensions: 4.51" (W) x 2.84" (H) x 1.64" (D) / 114.6mm (W) x 72.2mm (H) x 41.5mm (D)
Lenses available for this system from Olympus will include:
  • 14-42mm f3.5-5.6
  • 17mm f2.8
  • NEW! 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 with lightweight single-element internal focus units for quieter, more responsive autofocus - $599 USD
  • NEW! 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 collapsable lens with lightweight single-element internal focus units for quieter, more responsive autofocus - $699 USD
Click for the Canadian Press Release containing full details of the announcement

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thanks for the article; this reminds me of the mini Olympus half frame cams of the 70s; so cute you'd want to own one just to have it with you all the time; i'm thinking about getting the silver and sport it with the upcoming Lumix 14mm and carry it with me along with the GF1; it's not unlike carrying 2 guns on both hips and ready to fire LOL ;-))

dee vee HoF Win ¤ $1 at 16:18 EST on 2010-Feb-04 [Reply]


Tempting! I've been doing photography with compacts only for the last year or so, got fed up with lens changes.. Actually the camera I want would be more like Ricoh GXR, but still this E-PL1 manages to make me want to buy it. Only thing that is worrying, no thumb wheel. Oh well, that makes it impossible to change aperture by accident at least.. :) Good thing also that there are two customizable buttons, the Fn and the Rec button.

It looks a bit like the excellent C-7000, btw;

A champagne colored E-PL1 + the new 14-150mm + Panny 20mm? Sounds like a winner package to me :)

Tatu Takanen ¤1 at 12:52 EST on 2010-Feb-09 [Reply]