On Assignment: The Olympus PEN E-PL1 goes to the U.S. Open

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The Olympus PEN E-PL1 is the third model to join the company’s Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens family. Although less expensive than its older siblings-and competitively priced with entry level DSLRs-the 12 megapixel E-PL1 shares many of the same features as the E-P1 and E-P2 including manual and automatic exposure controls, HD video and a set of creative Art filters.

Olympus E-PL1

Interestingly, the E-PL1 offers a few extras that the other two PEN cameras do not: a built-in flash, a dedicated movie record button and a new Live Guide. The latter is a nod towards making picture-taking easier for those stepping up from point-and-shoot cameras or photographers who want a handy educational tool to expand their photographic knowledge.

While the E-PL1 isn’t quite as sexy looking as its siblings (the E-P1 and E-P2 resemble retro rangefinder cameras), it’s compact and easy to handle. The camera is bundled with a 14-42mm lens but Olympus has been expanding its line of Micro Four Thirds lenses. The E-PL1 is compatible with Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds lenses and standard Four Thirds lenses can be used with an adapter.

Overall, the E-PL1 is a good choice for photographers who want a highly portable interchangeable lens camera with plenty of features and really good image quality. Aside from some user interface quirks and somewhat sluggish contrast-detect AF performance (which has been improved slightly with a firmware update-see DCR tests with the BETA firmware here), the E-PL1 is a cool little camera. It’s a good choice for photographers who want a highly portable interchangeable lens camera with plenty of features and really good image quality. Still, I had my doubts when I was invited to shoot the U.S. Open with the E-PL1-it just didn’t seem like the camera was going to be up to the task.



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