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Olympus keeps pushing the PEN, obviously feeding a market need. Now we see an entry level Micro Four Thirds model – the Olympus PEN E-PL1 – that should satisfy the less well-heeled and tech-challenged photographers out there.
It’s hard to deny the physical attractions of the new PEN: the review camera was resplendent in a champagne-silver-gold colour with black trim; a big advantage of this colour scheme is that the control markings are highly visible, unlike the labels on black cameras. There’s also a black camera.
The review kit included the f3.5-5.6/14-42mm lens — an OK starter lens but you’ll soon crave for a faster optic and a wider focal length range: welcome to the world of interchangeable lenses.
Initial passion over, I grabbed the camera, hit the power, then fired off a few shots. Power off, I opened the card+battery compartment … then realised that in fact I had not cut the power but mistakenly tapped the shutter button! The shutter button and power button’s have a similar appearance and a close 13mm proximity. This factor would bug me throughout my temporary ownership of the PEN! Anyone else caught?
The rest of my tour of duty was trouble-free, so what is there to like about the camera?
Lens removed, the camera is pocketable and, even with two or three lenses detached and stowed away you could easily fit them in a hip bag or similar; total weight of such a kit would be far less than a kilo.
The Live CMOS sensor can capture 12.3 million pixels, with a maximum image size of 4032×3024 pixels and a print size of 34x26cm.
Movies can be shot at 1280×720 pixel resolution with sound; whilst recording you can of course alter the zoom and, while auto focus can be used it will add a few buzzes to the sound track. You can shoot a still while shooting a movie.
Olympus saw the error of its ways in the first PEN — no flash — and has installed a pop-up job that has fill-in flash modes as well as flash forced off, slow sync plus first and second shutter sync. Flash intensity can be varied by three f stops up or down.
As befits an upper level camera there is the expected metering options: iAUTO, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority plus manual; then there are 19 scene modes (portrait, night, macro etc) plus Olympus’ Art Filters found on its DSLRs.
iAUTO: this is an absolute beginner’s aid: it helps you to creatively adjust such elements as image brightness, focus, colour saturation etc. There’s also a collection shooting tips on tap.
I applaud the camera’s ability to accept an accessory viewfinder as well as an optional add-on stereo microphone or an external flash unit.
At ISO 800 the high quality continues: no noise, no artefacts.
At ISO 3200 we begin to see a little noise appear along with some evidence of colour artefacts; definition is still excellent, so I consider think this to be a useful setting for low light shooting or the occasion where you need a small aperture and/or a fast shutter speed
The kit lens showed a degree of barrel distortion at the zoom’s wide end but no sign of any pincushion distortion at the tele end.
In three seconds from power up I was able to shoot my first shot; follow-ons came in at about a second apiece.
Quality: as good as many DSLRs that I have tested. I consider that this camera is lunching well above its weight in image quality
Why you’d buy the PEN E-PL1: a highly likeable camera with an easy to follow interface; you want to shot HD movies with zoom and auto focus.
Why you wouldn’t: can’t think of a thing!’
This is a highly likeable camera and is an ideal bridge for compact owners to cross on their way to the upper levels of DSLR ownership.
< strong>Image Sensor: 12.3 million effective pixels.
Metering: Digital ESP (324 areas), centre-weighted averaging, spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.0mm (22.5mm diameter) Live CMOS.
Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/2000 second.
Continuous Shooting: 3 fps.
Memory: SD, SDHC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4032×3024, 3200×2400, 2560×1920, 1600×1200, 1280×960, 1024×768, 640×480.
LCD Screen: 6.9cm LCD (230,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, Motion JPEG.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 3200.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI, AV.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 114.6×72.2×41.5 WHDmm.
Weight:. 344 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Olympus PEN E-PL1 in different configerations – Body Only – Black with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens – Champagne/Gold with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens.