Bringing Manual Lenses Back to Life with Olympus' E-pl1

Started Jul 2, 2014 | User reviews thread
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tedolf Forum Pro • Posts: 28,937
Bringing Manual Lenses Back to Life with Olympus' E-pl1

At a current street price of about $120.00 USD (body only) the E-pl1 is the best deal in a digital back for manual legacy lenses available today. At base ISO up to about ISO 800, its JPEG image quality is comparable to or exceeds entry level crop sensor DSLR's and its superior live view performance gives accurate WYSIWYG viewing before you take the shot. The E-pl1's native 4/3 format makes it an excellent portrait camera when coupled to a vintage, fast 50mm lens (100mm full frame field of view due to that sensor's 2X crop factor). Coupled with the VF-2 electronic viewfinder (about $200.00 USD), the E-pl1's built in sensor image stabilization makes it an excellent moderate telephoto camera when coupled to one of the ubiquitous 135mm f/3.5 film camera lenses (270mm full frame field of view) from the film era. Rangefinder lenses in the 40mm-90mm focal lengths give especially pleasing results and keep the combination relatively compact. An advantage of the E-pl1 when coupled to manual lenses in addition to the extremely low cost is that the camera is essentially in stop down metering mode all the time so you are constantly monitoring DOF. Nevertheless, the EVF/LCD screen gains up to make viewing easy while still giving a WYSIWYG preview of white balance, DOF, etc. Magnified viewing for precise manual focusing is available at the touch of a dedicated button-something an entry level DSLR can't do.

The E-pl1 supports Olympus' off camera TTL flash protocol which some may find useful for portrait work with multiple off camera flashes. The built in pop up flash is used as the off camera flash controller. The built in flash is itself is fully manually controllable, and syncable up to 1/250 shutter speed (on manual) thus being useful for fill flash purposes. As a result, the in camera flash can also be used to control inexpensive optical off camera slave flashes rather than the more expensive, dedicated TTL flashes.

The E-pl1 is fully compatible with the vast array of micro four third lenses available today. Use of the E-pl1 body with modern auto focus micro-four thirds lenses is adequate with the latest firmware updates, but focusing will be faster with the newer bodies. Tracking auto focus with a subject moving any faster than walking speed or a slow bicycle rider speed is problematic. However, face detection works surprisingly well for tracking people who are moving. You can certainty shoot sports with this camera and a manual telephoto lens but you will need to develop the skills/tricks of a photographer from the film age to do so. The E-pl1 coupled with Olympus' well regarded 40-150mm telephoto lens (sometimes available for as little as $150.00 USD or less) is perfectly capable of capturing little Johnny's soccer or little league game but more active sports could be a problem for its auto-focus system. Newer bodies also offer more direct control for exposure adjustments as the E-pl1 is an all button interface. However, when using old manual lenses, the aperture ring on the lens is the "control wheel" and range selectable auto ISO is available in all modes including Manual-something not found on all cameras.

In summary, if you are on a budget and have access to some good legacy manual lenses this is the low cost camera body to bring those lenses back to life. Purchasing used should not be much of a problem as the E-pl1 is one of the best selling micro four thirds cameras of all time, and it has proven itself to be durable and largely trouble free.


 tedolf's gear list:tedolf's gear list
Olympus PEN E-P5 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm 1:4-5.6 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R Samyang 7.5mm F3.5 Fisheye +9 more
Olympus PEN E-PL1
12 megapixels • 2.7 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Feb 3, 2010
tedolf's score
Average community score
bad for good for
Kids / pets
Action / sports
Landscapes / scenery
Low light (without flash)
Flash photography (social)
Studio / still life
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