As announced, firmware updates for the Olympus PEN series are now available for download. The updates can be downloaded via the Olympus Digital Camera Update software application. We've been testing the final version of firmware v1.1 for the E-PL1 and here include the autofocus tests from our forthcoming review of the camera.

This testing was conducted to test the E-PL1. Here we compare it, using the latest firmware, to the E-P2 using original firmware and the Panasonic G1, all using the same lens. To show the effect of using a fast lens, the E-PL1 was also tested using the 14-45mm Panasonic kit zoom. Further testing shows the G1's performance with this lens to be indistingishable from the E-PL1's result and that the E-P2 with the latest firmware gives the same results as the E-PL1.

Autofocus

One of the biggest criticisms aimed at the PEN series of cameras has been the speed of their autofocus. With its most recent firmware updates (version 1.1 in the case of the E-PL1), Olympus has tried to address the issue. Results of our testing were interesting - the E-PL1's speed was around 20% faster

The graphs below show the results of our focus test using the Olympus 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 lens on the E-PL1, the E-P2 and the Panasonic G1. For comparative purposes, the E-PL1 was also tested with the Panasonic 14-45 F3.5-5.6 OIS. Each camera was timed three times focusing from infinity focus to 10m, from infinity to 1m, then again from closest focus distance to 10m and 1m. These twelve measurements for each camera were combined to calculate an average focus time. The tests were conducted twice, at each extreme of the lenses' zoom range.

The E-PL1 was running firmware v1.1, the E-P2 was running version 1.0 and the G1 was running version 1.4. (We also tested the E-PL1 with firmware 1.0 and found it to be indistinguishable from the E-P2). Graph shows time taken to focus, in seconds.

As can be clearly seen, the E-PL1 can focus the Olympus lens just as fast as the Panasonic G1, and is significanlty faster than the E-P2. However, this is still around 15% slower than when it's used with the Panasonic lens (with its lightweight internal focus element design).

There's a similar story at the long end of the zoom (45mm in the case of the Panasonic lens), with the E-PL1 matching the G1 for speed (the difference is likely to be within the error margin of the test), but some 20% quicker than the E-P2. Even so, there's another 20% to be gained by using the Panasonic 14-45mm lens, strongly suggesting the limiting factor for the PEN series is the kit zoom's design, rather than any flaw with the processing or AF logic.