Olympus is one of the best known camera manufacturers in the market and though they may not be as popular as Canon or Nikon; they still have a significant name in the camera market. Olympus has had their PEN series cameras for more than half a century. In 2009, the PEN E-P1 with an interchangeable micro four thirds lens was first launched.

Slightly bulky looking camera

Slightly bulky looking camera

The E-PL1 is the cheapest micro four third camera from Olympus, as compared to the E-P1 and E-P2. The Olympus Pen E-PL1 is the camera which we will take a look at today.

Design and Build Quality
The Olympus Pen E-PL1 we received has a matte champagne gold finish with the hand grip in black. There are two other colours available which are white with a beige hand grip and a black version. Overall the design of this camera seems a bit bulky but it is not difficult to hold. The black hand grip at the front of the camera is made of a plastic leather textured finish that adds to the styling of the camera.

2.7-inch screen and well spaced out buttons

2.7-inch screen and well spaced out buttons

Olympus has fitted a 2.7-inch LCD screen which has approximately 230,000 dots. This is good as the whole image scene can be seen through the display. To the right of the monitor are the buttons for playback, menu, info and delete. The buttons are spaced out well and since these are dedicated buttons, they are very convenient. There is also the four way navigational set of buttons that double up as options for flash, timer, points of focus and exposure. There is also a designated button for video recording. The wide angle and telephoto controls are located near the video recording button. There is a switch above the monitor which deploys the flash. All the buttons on the camera are made of plastic and have a nice feel to it.

At the top of the camera lies the flash mount, a dial for the different camera settings the on/off and the shutter button for shooting images. The deployable flash is housed on the top of the camera and flushes neatly along the body of it. Connectivity options on the Olympus PEN E-Pl1 are a mini HDMI port and a USB A/V out port. These ports are located to the right of the camera and are neatly concealed by a plastic flap. The battery and memory card bay lie at the bottom. The flap that conceals the battery is pretty sturdy. On either side of the camera at the top there are metallic loops for attaching a strap. The camera weighs in at approximately 344g which is roughly in between a compact and a DSLR.

Deployable Flash lights up well

Deployable flash is effective

Overall the design and build quality of the PEN E-PL1 is pretty solid, however it may not be one of the best looking cameras around. But that is where the choice of colours come in which may add to the look of this prosumer camera.

Features
Olympus have fitted a 12.1 MP MOS sensor on the E-PL1. Bundled with the camera is an Olympus M. Zuiko digital 14 – 42 mm lens. The highlighted features of this camera are the Live Guide in the iAuto Mode, high definition video recording and a built in image stabilization option.

Mini HDMI connectivity options available

Mini HDMI connectivity options available

Olympus claims that Live Guide is a feature in this camera which allows one to capture an image one visualizes in their mind. Live Guide also includes a feature called Shooting Tips where there are easy-to-understand descriptions of photographic techniques such as shooting angle, framing and specific points about each subject which are displayed on the LCD monitor.

Features Continued

This can be a pretty useful feature for beginners. 720p HD videos can be recorded using this camera which is another interesting feature of this camera. It also records videos at 30 fps which is pretty decent.

Dial on the top for easy mode changing

Dial on the top for easy mode changing

The interface of this camera is quite simple to navigate. With the dial for the mode on top turned to iAuto Mode, one may get a bit restricted where slight tweaking is concerned. In the Programme mode there is a little bit more flexibility as one can adjust the aperture and shutter speed. in the manual mode, like most cameras, various functions can be changed from ISO sensitivity to White balance. If a user is familiar with adjusting settings on cameras, this may be the most ideal mode for the user. Though the iAuto mode is not as flexible where altering ISO settings, etc. are concerned, the mode is basically designed for beginners to follow the Shooting Tips on-screen in the Live Guide feature of this mode; hence enabling them to capture artistic images. The iAuto mode does have the ability to alter colour saturation, brightness, blur background, etc.

Leather feel of the hand grip

Leather feel of the hand grip

Along with the aforementioned features, this camera also has the regular shooting modes such as Aperture, Shutter speed, Scene and Art. The Art mode is basically a feature where one can shoot artistic images using various filters. The battery that came along with the Pen E-PL1is a 1150 mAh Lithium-Ion battery.

Performance
Like with all the cameras tested by us, the Olympus PEN E-PL1 was put to the sword and images were captured using different scenes, modes and settings. The PEN E-PL1 performed better in image quality, than it did in the looks department. After all, a camera that has performances which are sub par and just looked stylish would not make the cut, so to speak.

Visible haze noticed

Visible haze noticed

The images captured in an outdoor environment performed decently. However, there was some amount of colour supplementation that was noticed with the sky looking white, instead of blue. Pictures shot at low ISO settings appeared to have a haze throughout the entire image. Images shot outdoors were overall dull, but next to no colour fringing was noticed.

Macro images shot well

Macro images shot well

Macro images shot by this camera provided a fair amount of detail. This image was shot in iAuto mode. The images were crisp and had a fair amount of depth of field. Indoor pictures shot with the E-PL1 were clear and no colour supplementation was noticed, unlike the images shot outdoors. While using the flash of this camera, we noticed that it lit up the room well even with the lights completely turned off. The flash lit up roughly 12 feet and image quality was good. Overall, the images shot indoors were good. Video recording at 720p was good but some focusing issues were noticed during one test clip. The video recording feature as a whole is pretty decent and the video playback was good. The Olympus Pen E-PL1 has a BLS-1 Li-ion battery which is 1150 mAh. Olympus rates the battery at approximately 290 shots which is quite good for a prosumer camera.

The prosumer EPL-1 from Olympus

The prosumer EPL-1 from Olympus

Verdict
The Olympus E-PL1 sells at a market operating price of Rs. 22,999. While this may be a decent camera in terms of image quality; this is definitely not the newest. Olympus recently launched the E-PL2 which has a larger screen with more controls. On the whole however, the E-PL1 offers a lot for the price.

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