Digital Cameras

Olympus E-PL1 Digital Camera Review

Olympus E-PL1 Digital Camera Review

A very competent and easy-to-use interchangeable lens camera that’s suitable for just about everyone, save for sports photographers.

4 stars
(4 out of 5)

With the E-PL1, Olympus has created a compact, user-friendly interchangeable lens camera that is — dare I say — better than its more expensive siblings (the E-P1 and E-P2) in most respects. Sure, it doesn’t have the eye-catching retro design, but the E-PL1 produces better looking photos (especially at high ISOs), has faster AF and continuous shooting speeds, and a built-in flash. Add in an easy-to-use interface, sensor-shift image stabilization, full manual controls, and an HD movie mode, and Olympus definitely has a winner on their hands. Best of all, the E-PL1 is inexpensive, selling for $599 with a decent quality 14 – 42 mm kit lens. The camera isn’t perfect — it tends to clip highlights, the autofocus is still slower than I’d like, and a control dial would be nice — but for the money, the E-PL1 is definitely worth a close look.

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  • Very good photo quality — impressive high ISO performance
  • Good value for the money
  • Compact, well designed body — comes in three colors
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Built-in flash, with wireless support
  • Full manual controls, with lots of white balance options and four kinds of bracketing — RAW format supported
  • iAuto mode picks a scene mode for you, finds and tracks faces, and enhances colors
  • Faster autofocus and continuous shooting performance than its more expensive siblings
  • Live Guide, Shooting Tips, and the (well hidden) Perfect Shot Preview make the camera easy to use
  • Good outdoor / low light visibility on otherwise unremarkable 2.7 LCD display
  • Entertaining art filter feature
  • Records HD video at 1280 x 720 (30 fps) with sound
  • Nice playback mode for this type of camera
  • Optional electronic viewfinder, external microphone adapter, and (pricey) underwater case
  • HDMI output


  • Highlight clipping is fairly common
  • Redeye a problem, though it can be removed in playback mode
  • While better than before, autofocus is still too slow for serious action photography — camera struggles to focus in low light
  • Flash (while certainly a welcome addition) is on the weak side
  • Movie mode issues: limited recording time, sensor-shift image stabilization unavailable (electronic version is no substitute), sluggish continuous AF, no editing tools
  • A control dial would’ve been nice
  • Can’t access memory card slot while camera is on a tripod
  • Does not support an AC adapter or wired/wireless remote control
  • No Mac software included — documentation could be more user-friendly
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