Olympus PEN E-PL1

I found this camera recently on Trademe for really cheap with a stock lens. I had heard plenty of people talk about the excellent colour rendering of Olympus cameras. Plus I wanted to work out how much better life would be with built-in image stabilisation (especially as I use manual focus lenses a bit). This has become my “always with me” camera despite its quirks and limitations.

Speaking of limitations, this camera has the following irritations:

  • A dull low resolution screen.
  • Shutter activation is laggy with manual focus lenses.
  • Having to use many button presses to change basics (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, etc.).
  • Limited stabilization choices (i.e. 11mm and 34mm not an option yet I have both).
  • The fastest shutter speed is 1/2000s.
  • Native ISO is 200.

The last two I find difficult as I prefer to shoot at high apertures. In daylight this is quite a problem. I do manage to work-around this with either a polarizing filter or ND.

On the plus side, what I’m loving is:

  • Stabilization, I get to shoot at slow shutter speeds hand-held (movement blur).
  • The camera’s ability to use manual lenses.
  • Fantastic images (at ISO 800 or below).
  • Graceful colour rendering.
  • Portability.
  • Cheap, hence less stress about the environments I take it into.
  • Excellent battery life.

This camera is fantastic so long as I take a few seconds to check that it is set right before I shoot. There will be a bit of bouncing around the quick menu to get the settings right and then I’m ready to go.

I tend to use either the Panasonic 20mm lens or Jackar 34mm lens with this camera. This makes for a rather light-weight and small package to carry around. I now have room in my bag to carry my lunch with me which is a great bonus when trying to save money.

If one is pixel peeping, then I would say the image quality of this camera is about the same as a low-end DSLR. Using full-frame is quite an improvement but I find that I can adequately get by with this camera.

Would I recommend this camera to someone who wants the quality of a SLR but not the weight or size? The answer is a “hell yeah!”. But I would not recommend this to a fussy, pixel peeping gear freak.

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