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Olympus E-PL1 debuts, offers Micro Four Thirds Lite
by Allison Johnson -  2/2/2010

After teasing the release of a new digital PEN camera last week, Olympus has officially taken the wraps off the E-PL1. It becomes their third Micro Four Thirds model, a step-down alternative to the E-P1 and E-P2. It compromises some of the features and build quality of the previous models to bring the price down, but it adds a built-in flash to the lineup for the first time.

 


For a preview of the E-PL1, head over to our hands-on look at a pre-production model. Otherwise, keep reading for more of the raw specs and information.

 

Olympus E-PL1

Olympus aims to make the Micro Four Thirds system less intimidating to first-time users both in terms of usability and price. The E-PL1 will sell with a 14-42mm zoom lens for around $600, a full $200 less than the E-P1. It's a price that puts Micro Four Thirds in the same range as their entry-level E-series DSLRs.

New face, familiar features
The E-PL1 carries all of the same internal workings that made up the E-P1 and E-P2. It's the same 12.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor, the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, and many of the same shooting modes and art filters. The most immediately noticeable difference is the trade-off in build quality. The E-P1 and E-P2 featured solid, all-metal bodies and those oh-so-retro touches like a leather hand grip on the front.

Of course, all of Olympus's digital PEN series share the same DNA as Panasonic's jointly-produced G series Micro Four Thirds cameras. This system, announced last year, removes the mirror box of a traditional DSLR to create a live-view-only camera with a smaller footprint. For more on Micro Four Thirds, check out our initial coverage of the concept announcement.

Olympus E-PL1

Another feature that the E-PL1 won't carry is the rotating sub-dial around the four-way controller. Following Olympus's logic, it seems that this is a feature more advanced users would miss, those who are already familiar with the controls of a DSLR. The E-PL1 is aimed directly to the new interchangeable lens system user stepping up from a compact.

Olympus E-PL1

The E-PL1 utilizes a 2.7 inch LCD, smaller than the 3.0 inch monitor of the two existing digital PENs. It will be built with the new accessory port that Olympus introduced in the E-P2, allowing for use with the electronic viewfinder accessory. Unlike the E-P2, the viewfinder will not be included standard with the E-PL1.

Like previous PENs, the E-PL1 will record 720p HD videos. The back panel features a new dedicated video recording button that will start and stop movie recording without any menu-diving. Sound recording quality is stepped down to monaural, where the E-P1 and E-P2 record in PCM Linear.

A little help
Olympus hopes to make the manual exposure modes less intimidating by adding a feature called Live Guide to the E-PL1. It allows the user to make changes to one exposure setting at a time and view the results live on the LCD. Settings that can be adjusted include shutter speed, aperture, contrast, brightness, and color temperature.

Additionally, the E-PL1 will supply the user with 19 scene modes and their iAuto shooting mode for automatic scene recognition. iEnhance, a feature that debuted with the E-P2, is included in this model. Warm colors get a boost from this function to enhance the appearance of scenes such as sunsets.

Pricing and Availability
The E-PL1 will be the most affordable Micro Four Thirds system yet. It will be sold with 14-42mm zoom lens for $599.99. Color options include champagne gold, black, and slate blue.