Olympus E-PL1 Review
Effects / Color modes
The camera offers a series of Pciture Modes, including the selective brightness and contrast boosting 'iEnhance' mode that is default in iAuto mode.
|Olympus E-PL1||Compare to:|
The E-PL1 offers six of the creative effects (called Art Filters), that Olympus has been including in its recent cameras. There's a slight change with the E-PL1 - it gains Gentle Sepia and the Diorama mode we first saw on the E-P2. All six are available in movie mode, as well as shooting.
- Pop art
- Soft Focus
- Grainy Film
- Pin Hole
- Gentle Sepia
The three we liked most are Grainy Film, Pin Hole and Diorama. The latter pair cause slight delays and require a couple of second pause before you can shoot again - these delays extend to creating a rather more laggy preview and a lower frame rate for movies. The E-PL1's lack of orientation sensor means that the diorama mode always puts its in-focus stripe up the middle of the frame (half way up the short edge), but is still a great deal of fun to play with. The grainy film mode, with its very high-contrast tone curve can also be a little bit difficult to use.
Even with these slight hitches, we rather like the Art Filter concept. For people inexperienced with Photoshop or who need a little reminder that representative imagery isn't the sole purpose of photography, it's really nice to have access to these filers sitting on the control dial.
|Pop Art||Soft Focus||Grainy Film|
|Pin Hole||Diorama||Gentle Sepia|
The E-PL1 is the first PEN to include a built-in flash. It's not a very highly powered unit (just Guide Number 7 at ISO 100), but it's certainly better than nothing. It's enough to provide a little fill-flash or for close-quarters photography. In addition, of course there's a standard hot shoe to allow more powerful flashes to be added on and, surprisingly for a camera at this level, there's the ability to use the internal flash to remotely control the output of compatible offboard flashguns (such as the Olympus FL-50R or FL-36R),=.
The E-PL1 offers the same 720p HD video as previous PENs, compressed in the inefficient but easy-to-use Motion JPEG format. Movie mode allows you to select between program, aperture priority and full manual mode, depending on how much you wish to remain in control of depth-of-field.
As with the other PENs the quality is good, though without the optional adapter, you'll have to make do with Mono sound recording. The first video sample shows examples of white balance and exposure changing, both of which are easily visible and, towards the end of the clip, rolling shutter effect. The E-PL1 isn't particularly prone to the skewed verticals of rolling shutter but with a subject this fast moving, this close to the camera, most cameras would struggle.
Highlight clipping / dynamic range
Dynamic range has traditionally been one of the shortcomings of the Four Thirds system but this has been addressed on recent cameras by changing what part of the sensor's dynamic range is used to represent middle gray (for more details, see here). As a result, you get significantly greater dynamic range at ISO 200 and above than you do at ISO 100 - an effect also seen on Nikon DSLRs.
However, unlike the other PENs and the E-30 and E-620 DSLRs that do the same thing, Olympus has decided to specify ISO 200 as the lowest 'recommended' ISO setting. ISO 100 is now described as 'low-noise priority'. The Auto ISO setting also uses ISO 200 as its lowest setting.
|ISO 100||ISO 200|
|100% crop of above image||100% crop of above image|
What this all means is that there's a considerable dynamic range advantage to shooting at ISO 200 rather than 100. You pay a small price in terms of noise in the shadows (most likely to be visible if you also use the Auto Gradation dynamic range enhancement option), but overall the effect is more detail and a more gentle transition between bright and over-exposed regions.
The only time this is likely to be a problem is in really bright light, because the E-PL1's shutter doesn't allow short enough exposures to prevent ISO 200 overexposing (and you'll not protect that highlight information by switching down to ISO 100).
Overall Image Quality / Specifics
The most positive thing you can say about the E-PL1 is that there's so little to criticize about its image quality. Its pictures are detailed and sharp (if perhaps a little over-sharpened by default), and its colors generally vibrant without being excessive. Noise reduction is also well balanced, providing detailed images and retaining contrast without them being overly noisy.
We're not completely sold on the iEnhance Picture Mode - it 'analyses the colors and brightness [and] mimics what the naked eye sees,' according to Olympus US but can occasionally get a little carried away, particularly with blue skies. In most modes you can specify how strong an effect iEnhance has, in three steps: Low, Standard and High but it's inescapable in iAuto mode - so you have to decide if you like iEnhance Standard.
|Natural||iEnhance (Effect: Standard)|
|iEnhance (Effect: High)||iEnhance (Effect: Low)|
Just as our only gripe about autofocus appears to be a lens issue, rather than a camera problem, the biggest flaw we regularly found in the images was the chromatic aberration (colored fringing) seen towards the corners. Because it's a lens issue we usually wouldn't raise it in a camera review but, because the target audience for this camera likely to only use the kit lens and because the Micro Four Thirds standard allows for chromatic aberration to be corrected, we thought it was worth mentioning.
We also saw the occasional hot pixel with the E-PL1 we tested - these were removed using the camera's Map Pixel function but appear in some of the provided sample images. This is a sensor we've encountered many times in recent years, so we have no reason to suspect it's a particular problem for the E-PL1.
Overall the performance is excellent, though. The target user for this camera is unlikely to want to engage in RAW processing and, with a JPEG engine this good, it's hard to see why anyone would bother - the results coming out of the camera are about as good as you'll get.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony Alpha 9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
After the makers of the Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, users will be able to build their own, as the hardware design has been released to the public.
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.
Photokina, the biennial photo industry trade show in Cologne, Germany, has announced that it will become an annual event beginning in 2018, and expand its focus to additional areas of imaging technology. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
How does the iPhone 7 Plus stack up against the Arri Alexa cinema camera? Watch this short video to find out.
Canon Australia's video series "The Lab" is designed to make photographers experiment and think outside the box. In the latest video a group of photographers create images based on their sense of taste.
The GH5 is expected to get a firmware update this summer to support 400Mbps internal recording. NewsShooter explores what memory cards you'll need to make it work.
Microsoft's new Surface Pro offers Intel's latest processor generation and improved battery life.
Riding a mountain bike downhill is dangerous enough in daylight, but potentially lethal at night. Which is where drones come in.
Rumors abound that Canon (and maybe Nikon) may produce a mirrorless camera based using their existing DSLR mount. Does this guarantee immediate great lens choice or a perpetually second-rate experience? Read more
According to rumors, the next camera from Nest will be able to capture 4K video, though that resolution will be only used for 'virtual' pan and tilt functions.
Boundary's Prima 'fully modular' backpack is expandable to 30L and has a removable camera case and tablet sleeve. Early Kickstarter backers can get one for $189.
Stanley Greene captured 'brutally honest' photographs in the war zones of the Middle East, Chechnya and Georgia. He was also one of the few African-American photographers working internationally.
Owners of Leica M cameras that suffer from peeling CCDs will be able to claim a free repair in the future so long as the camera was purchased within five years of the fault becoming apparent, the company has announced. Read more
The Carl Zeiss Jena BIOTAR 75mm F1.5 Red T lens is very rare and priced accordingly. It can be yours today for the low, low price of $15,000.