Olympus E-PL1 Micro Four-Thirds Camera : Product of the Day 21, 2010


Olympus E-PL1 Micro Four-Thirds interchangeable lens camera with 17mm lens

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Readers of my site and my column know I am a big fan of Micro Four-Thirds interchangeable lens digital cameras and specifically of the Olympus E-P1.  The new Olympus E-PL1 brings Micro Four-Thirds down to the new low price point of $599 MSRP including a kit lens.  This is a very exciting development as the E-P1 produces some of the best looking digital images I have ever seen, and with a minimum of fuss.  The E-PL1 looks to duplicate the E-P1’s image quality.  The E-P1 is also one of the most fun-to-use cameras I have ever experienced. Here is what I had to say about the E-P1 when it was introduced:

“The E-P1 combines the convenience and compactness of a compact camera with the image quality and interchangeable lenses of a digital SLR.  It is also a 720p high definition camcorder (with noisy autofocus, focus manually.)  Combined with image quality that appears phenomenal straight out of the camera, this is the camera a lot of people have been waiting for.  I have to tell you, just holding it makes you want to take pictures.  It feels like you have an old style, high-class precision rangefinder camera  in your hand.  By all accounts Olympus has knocked one out of the park with this one and I am anxious to put the PEN E-P1 through its paces.”  See the complete post here.  E-P1 video sample, shrunk for web use is here.

Much of the goodness of the E-P1 is found in the E-PL1, along with a lower price and a feature set that is suitable for less-serious photographers.  Knowing how much fun the E-P1 is and what great images it produces, I am in love with the idea of this camera as now my readers are more likely to get to experience what I have with my own E-P1.


Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm kit lens

The Olympus E-PL1 seems to share the same imaging hardware and capabilities of the E-P1 but puts it in a slightly more compact plastic body for $200 less.  There are some bonuses which will be especially appreciated by casual photographers: a built-in flash and menus to guide through scene modes and help you get the results you want.  It is available in black, champagne, or slate blue.  Colors are “in” in the digital camera world!



As you can see from the image above, the  E-PL1 disposes with the control wheel of the E-P1, which undoubtedly saves costs and may even make the camera easier for people to use.  If you are a serious photographer you will likely prefer the E-P1 with its metal body and additional controls… though you may find yourself pining for an E-PL1 from time to time when you want that built-in flash.


Pentax K-x: The best digital SLR $599 can buy!

E-P1 images

The E-P1 is usually the first thing I pack before I go somewhere.  Here are some travel pictures I took with my E-P1 last year.  You can expect the E-PL1 to provide similar image quality.   These are all straight out of the camera with no tweaking whatsoever, other than resizing them for use on the site.


Totem poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver


Route 66 Museum in Arizona (hand-held in available light)


Famous Las Vegas Sign



Did you know those are coins behind the “WELCOME” in the sign? (Cropped from image above)


Fremont Street, Las Vegas (hand-held available light shot)


Shogun’s castle in Kyoto


Restaurant entrance in Kyoto’s Geisha district, taken at dusk

E-PL1 vs. Pentax K-x digital SLR: battle at $599 price point

My favorite digital SLR selling for about the same price as the E-PL1 is undoubtedly the Pentax K-x , which is widely recognized to have the best image quality in its class (and compared to some more expensive cameras, too.)  I have to give the edge to my Pentax K-x for image quality, especially in low light, where it blows away the E-P1 (and hence, the E-PL1.) The K-x also focuses faster, shoots faster, shoots more frames per second, and has a far greater variety of lenses available.  If you are looking for a system camera or can only have one camera you are probably best served with the SLR.  However, if you have room for another camera in your life or fast shooting and system capabilities are not as important to you the E-PL1 is a great choice, especially if you travel.  If I had $1,200 to spend on a camera I’d rather have a K-x AND an E-PL1 than a single digital SLR kit.  The more cameras the merrier, and you will definitely find both to have their charms.

Small size, interchangeable lenses and outstanding image quality are what a lot of people have been waiting for, as shown by the skyrocketing sales numbers of Micro Four-Thirds cameras. With the new lower-priced E-PL1 bringing in a whole new set of customers, the future for this format is bright indeed.

Support this site and save by ordering from Amazon.com:

E-PL1 kit in Champagne at Amazon.com

E-PL1 kit in Black at Amazon.com

E-PL1 kit in Slate Blue at Amazon.com

Questions? Email Don

See you tomorrow for the Product of the Day!

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