Olympus PEN E-PL1 Review

Posted by on Aug 8, 2014 in iMD, Olympus PEN E-PL1, Technology

Olympus PEN E-PL1 Review

So, here comes the full-fledged review. I’ll break it down into 3 main parts, as follows: Overall Picture Quality, Ease Of  Use, and Compatible Lenses.


1. Overall Picture Quality

The overall quality of the camera is very impressive. As a 4/3 camera should be (having practically the same technical specs as an entry-level DSLR), the Olympus PEN E-PL1 (which I’ll refer to as the Olympus PEN) created stunning stills (some which can be found on the photography page here). Colors were vibrant, edges were crisp, and blurred backgrounds looked fantastic. However, this camera only performed well at very low ISO settings due to a Noise Reduction feature at ISO settings under 200. When at any setting higher, the camera, even in auto mode, had trouble with lighting, focusing, and a lot of noise in photos.

Example of “No Noise” and “Noise”:

No noticeable noise in the photo.

There is lots of noise and grain in the photo zoomed in.

2.  Ease Of  Use

Ease Of  Use was a major setback when taking pictures with the Olympus PEN. There were loads of issues I had with the GUI and menu configuration as well as the actual LCD screen and electronic viewfinder. Disclaimer however, since I received the camera second-hand, I didn’t get to see its manual and therefore don’t know if some of these issues were discussed in the original guide to the camera. Continuing, the camera’s menu is very convoluted (Check out a picture of it here) and appears in a high contrast blue-yellow theme. A larger problem, however, is the fact that the 2.7″ LCD screen and electronic viewfinder (available separately as an accessory) both don’t accurately show you what you’re taking a picture of. While it appears on the screen as good lighting and an optimal ISO-shutter speed configuration, once you take the picture, you see that it is in fact so dark that you can’t make out any details whatsoever. Because of this flaw with the live view feature, your pictures can end up as high quality black or white boxes at 4032×3024 resolution. The best method of configuring your settings in manual mode is by taking at least 5-10 versions of the same picture, each time adjusting ISO, shutter-speed, and whatever else.

3. Lens Compatibility

Let me just start by saying that there are many, many different lenses available for use on this camera, however i’ll be talking about standard, not specialty or filter lenses, such as the camera’s kit lens. Alright, the kit lens (the lens you receive on purchase, unless of course you buy it body-only)… This lens is decent. It can’t be considered amazing, yet it doesn’t completely suck. Here’s what I mean. The kit lens is a 14-42mm zoom lens (which is a lens that can zoom in and out between these two sizes). The minimum f-stop number (or the largest size for the aperture) is f-3.5 , which isn’t that bad, pretty standard for kit lenses. While this lens may work for a casual photographer, many who want to broaden their variety of pictures and also significantly improve the quality of their photos will look to buying new lenses, some of which will include FFL (Fixed Focal Length) lenses, which while they can’t zoom will have much better maximum aperture, an f-stop of usually 1.8 . Olympus Zuiko, a line of lenses compatible with the Olympus PEN series, sells FFL lenses at 20mm to even 45mm. There are more zoom lenses which, at a much higher price, will also have an f-stop of 1.8 . But, these higher quality zoom lenses and larger FFL lenses (20mm or larger) can cost over $500, much more than the original cost of the camera of about $350. Even the kit lens itself is only available for between $150-200, a ridiculous amount. Another issue with this camera, the overly expensive extra lenses.

As a last thought, I should say that this camera is a very solid choice among other Interchangeable lens and 4/3 cameras, however it in no way can stand up to DSLR cameras, even entry-level ones, such as Nick’s Nikon d-5200.