Olympus Pen E-PL1 camera
First impressions of the new micro-four thirds camera by Olympus
The new Olympus PEN E-PL1 is a small camera, and the build quality feels good. Operating the camera was easy and controls seem well made. The camera follows the micro four-thirds standard.
Although the Olympus E-PL1 has interchangeable lenses, and a sensor size closer to a dSLR than to a compact camera, it does not have a mirror, and therefore has live view via the LCD, instead of an optical viewfinder. This lack of a mirror allows its size to be smaller than a traditional dSLR.
When you first pick up the camera, you immediately notice that it supports A,P,S and M modes. It has 11 auto-focus "boxes". ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are easily changed. It has a very useful "magnify" function that shows in the live view only what is inside the focus box. It didn't take long to figure out most of the functionality without a manual.
Olympus E-PL1 camera with 14-42mm kit lens
The kit lens is actually collapsible, which means it can be quite compact when carried around.
The menu was easy to use, and the camera comes with a lot of functionality, similar to what you would expect from a Nikon D80. There's also quite a few built-in artistic filters to play with, and the camera has built-in IS, eliminating the need for image-stabilized lenses.
Auto-focus (the time it took to achieve focus, not shutter lag) seemed to be quicker than with a compact camera like the Canon S90, but not as fast as a dSLR, when using comparable lenses. I'd say it was closer in speed to the compact camera. Auto-focus lag is about 1/2 a second usually with the kit lens, not too bad for stationary objects. Flash sync speed is only 1/160th, twice as long as the sync speed of a Nikon D300 (1/320th).
Although the camera + kit lens is at an attractive price, $600 in the USA, additional lenses can quickly push up the price, and the kit lens has a small focal range - 28-84mm, in 35mm equivalent.
This camera (in my mind) replaces the Olympus E-P2. It adds an internal flash, but does not have the more professional controls of the Olympus E-P2.
So this camera is small, has live view, interchangeable lenses, and one-touch video with auto-focus. A sort of cross between a traditional compact and dSLR, with potential to be a great travel camera. Let's look into it in more detail!