[ Users' Review ] - Olympus E-PL1 Review Diary


headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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Punggol
#1
Olympus Imaging Singapore has kindly loaned me a review unit of the E-PL1. This will not be a technical review, rather more of a personal take on the new E-PL1. This will be a diary format review and I will share my thoughts on the E-PL1 as I spend more time with it. Full sized OOC JPGs are linked in the images.

The First 12hrs

The E-PL1 single zoom lens kit out of the box. The review unit is a production set with firmware 1.0


The plastic mount M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm/f3.5-5.6 ED. This single part change of material is supposed to help bring down the price of the E-PL1 kit.


My wife (the hand model here) who only has a camera in her Samsung Jet mobile phone, had 3 points to share:

1. The control interface is much more 'female-friendly', without the button overdose like the rest of my cameras (E30, E510, Lumix L1, GF1)

2. The grip is perfect for those with smaller hands. For her, the grip is decent but not ideal. She found that the weight was resting on her 3rd finger when using the camera with a single hand. She's not a fan of holding the camera with both hands.

3. The EVF (not pictured) is fantastic although she does not know why its needed since there's a large LCD screen.
 

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headfonz

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#2
Day 1 of the Review, just some snap shots with the Art Filters to get a hang of the camera.

All images are OoC Large Fine JPG.


Horizontal Rain - Grainy B&W


Grainy B&W


All Your Office Needs - BEER!!
Pinhole Effect


Like a stack of books
Grainy B&W


Toy Car Rama
Diorama Effect
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#3
In the Art filter mode, the E-PL1 is locked on Auto ISO selection, which I found a little disconcerting. I have never used Program mode on my cameras, as for some reason, I find myself fighting with the dials much more than anyone should. Its either M, A or S for me.

on the E-PL1, I found that I was locked to P mode with Auto ISO!!! On the other modes, the simplified Super Control Panel allows ISO selection in about 2-5 buttons presses.

To change ISO in in Art mode, I first had to enter the menu, enable menu display (full menu functions), go into the detailed menu and enter EXP/Metering/ISO and finally 4 lines down to ISO.

After that thumb exercise, I left it on Auto ISO :confused:


Grainy B&W


Gentle Sepia


Pop Art



So far, I found that the ESP metering on the E-PL1 pretty accurate, of course with Live View, there's instant feedback on exposure settings before the shot, but I found that the ESP metering on my E30 and E510 were almost certainly -0.3 to -0.5 under. So far with the E-PL1, I'm pretty happy with the results from the E-PL1.
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#4
I don't like getting people uncomfortable when I bring out my dslr, Here in Singapore, people don't react very nicely when you take their picture if you are not a tourist.

With the VF2 EVF and a small prime lens, its really great to be able to go up close for street photography while being discreet.


Gentle Sepia


Grainy B&W


Gentle Sepia


Pinhole Effect


Grainy B&W

AF performance with the Lumix 20mm/f1.7 is not bad, while not as twitchy quick as the Q-AF on my GF1, I find the AF of the E-PL1 to be slightly faster to achieve a lock-on than the E-P2 that I loaned previously.
 

microcosm

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Sep 17, 2006
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#5
[ Microcosm's take ]

Like Headfonz, I just picked up my E-PL1 yesterday from Olympus.

First impression is LIGHT. Very light. Feels so much like a compact camera more than a smallish DSLR. This is the first thing that hit me. It is truly the first camera that feels like an improved Point and Shoot camera in my hands. By replacing the materials used in making the camera, Olympus engineers finally are able to reduce the weight of the camera further, thus making it more friendly for carrying around in your handbag (when using prime lens like the 17mm pancake) and the weight will make it the perfect companion when on holidays.

As I have not had time to really edit the sample images, I shall not show them at the moment. Headfonz has already shown a volley of very well shot images showing the capabilites of the E-PL1 with its Art Filters.

Together with PL1, I took the 9-18mm compact ultra wide angle lens. Never really thought much about micro four thirds lenses before, but when I finally held this lens in my hands, it was so small, so light, and from some of the sample images that I took... wow, the image quality does not disappoint! Sample images will come, I promise you.

The newly introduced Gentle Sepia Art Filter is really fun... turning still and moving images into retro looking images in an instant. The only thing I wish for is "film scratch" effect that can be overlaid on Gentle Sepia or Grainy Film. Guess I will have to add this in myself in post processing. Lovely Art Filters... the engineers at Olympus headquarters are really working hard to create the best effects that can be produced straight from the camera. Anyone can instantly turn into an intermediate Photoshop expert just by owning this camera... and even some intermediate level users of Photoshop will be hard pressed to create the same effects the camera can produce so effortlessly.

Mentally, I wrote off the E-PL1 when I first read up on it when it was released... thinking the lack of dials and plastic body would be useless for me. But upon holding and using it, I realised that the lightweight is a blessing and ease to use and well balanced in my hand thanks to the lightweight lenses, and the reduced weight of the camera body means portability to the next level...

As I go out with the PL1 over the next few days, I shall show some more samples from this camera and what it can do... more to come... over to you, Headfonz...
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#6
[ headfonz's take]

Day 2 - Test Shots Pt 1


A simple ISO comparison between the E-PL1 and its main competitor, the GF1. The cameras a tripod mounted, on Manual exposure at F4, IS off, highest quality JPG without any SAT/intelligent contrast/i-enhance modes, NR at default setting of camera. Lens used is the ZD50/2 with MMF1 adapter.

Test Target


ISO 200
E-PL1


GF1


ISO 400
E-PL1


GF1
 

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Feb 13, 2008
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Sengkang
#9
Sharing some of my thoughts on the E-PL1 as well:

1) Image quality: Resolution is very good due to the lighter low pass filter. This is what I missed after upgrading from the E510 to E3 more than a year ago. This is especially useful when shooting wide angle landscapes while preserving the details. ISO up to 1600 is still usable for my preference, my guess is about 1 stop better than the E3 although I haven't done any scientific test to prove this.

2) AF: A little slow for me as I am already used to the PDAF speed in E3, but still very usable for normal daily shots. The AF tracking is very handy when shooting video.

3) Ergonomics: Controls are a little cumbersome due to lack of dials and direct access button for certain controls, but one will get used to the buttons eventually albeit still slower. There are 2 buttons configurable for certains purpose such as AEL, video, one touch WB (Olympus should update firmware to include more options such as ISO control). Built is not as excellent as the E-P1 and E-P2 but still very good and the additional grip is a plus.

4) Display: Previewing RAW files are more pleasurable as it is rendered in high quality as opposed to the E3 which renders in low quality. I find the LCD difficult to see in very bright light and difficult for manual focusing when shooting macro due to lack of support. Fortunately, one can opt for the external EVF.

5) Flash: This is what missing from the E-P1 and E-P2. The built-in flash is not very powerful but very handy when you need to shoot in low light indoors as it can be easily bounced (with high ISO and large aperture) to prevent harsh effects by pressing your index finger against the spring mechanism. Another main usage of this flash is to trigger the FL50R and FL36R external flash wirelessly in RC mode.

6) Kit lens: I find the 14-42mm kit lens sharper than expected due to the poor initial review by Dpreview. Probably the optics has been improved in this
version from the E-P1/E-P2 kit lens or Dpreview could have gotten a bad copy. You will either love or hate the collapsible design, but it is essential to
keep the size to a minimum for storage. If you plan to get the twin lens kit, do note that the 40-150mm lens does not comes with a hood and rear cap.

7) MMF-2 adapter: This is the new four thirds adapter that is bundled with the twin lens kit. The built is not very solid but very lightweight and best of all is that AF still works with the conventional four third lenses with no CDAF support.
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#11
Day 2 - AF Test Pt 2

This is a simple Auto Focus test comparison between the E-PL1 and GF1. The test target is a moire target displayed on a Dell WA2009 monitor. To simulate normal contrast conditions and low contrast conditions for the AF test, the following monitor settings were used:

Normal contrast: Brightness 75, Contrast 75
Low contrast: Brightness 5, Contrast 5

Cameras were tripod mounted parallel perpendicular to the centre of the target. Both cameras were set to S-AF + MF and the lens is focused to infinity for a out-of-focus image before activating AF. Once AF achieves lock, you will be able to hear the AF beep.

E-PL1 Normal Contrast Target
[youtube]h3DD-rq4-6Q[/youtube]

GF1 Normal Contrast Target
[youtube]lEc3IrzCfS4[/youtube]

E-PL1 Low Contrast Target
[youtube]wOaOrk1yEgs[/youtube]

GF1 Low Contrast Target
[youtube]3mw8OC9n_w8[/youtube]
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#12
Seems like the E-PL1 produce better image quality than the GF-1.
Note that this is comparing Out-of-Camera jpegs with default settings. The olympus Trupic engine is highly regarded for its high quality jpegs with good colours. Panny's Venus engine is decent for snapshots but it is some way behind when it comes to colours and details.

Also, the E-PL1 Fine Large jpegs are more compressed than the GF1. E-PL1 files are about 5.1mb vs 6.5mb of the GF1. Same goes for RAW files, E-PL1 ORF are 12mb and the GF1's RW2 are 14.5mb

In RAW, users should be able to achieve similar image quality out of both cameras.
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#13
The E-PL1 produces very punchy images OoC, i think its great for the consumer market. No PP required for most shots. If you don't mind a little more noise in the shadow areas, turn on Auto Gradation for a wider dynamic range in the jpeg.

Now just to compare the pop-up flash between the 2 on the same test target. Settings are ISO200, F4, 1/60. Distance to target is 1.5m.

E-PL1


GF1


The E-PL1's flash has a higher GN. I also prefer the AWB of the E-PL1 for flash use, the GF1's output is too cool for my liking. I'll see if I can do a comparison of the flash on skin tones later. The E-PL1's flash can be bounced, but only if the ceiling is low or your image will be very underexposed.
 

#14
Nice work, thanks for the effort :)

"1) Image quality: Resolution is very good due to the lighter low pass filter. This is what I missed after upgrading from the E510 to E3 more than a year ago. This is especially useful when shooting wide angle landscapes while preserving the details. ISO up to 1600 is still usable for my preference, my guess is about 1 stop better than the E3 although I haven't done any scientific test to prove this."

Well, maybe the new 4/3 camera (s) rumored to be coming in April will have the improvements made on the E-PL1 ...


.
 

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headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#16
in the ISO shots, seems like the GF1 is out of focus?
Might be due to the stronger sharpening of the epl1 shots. The focusing was done on the orange nose of the penguin toy for all shots. I'll check it again when I get back home.
 

Oly5050

Senior Member
Feb 1, 2005
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#17
Thanks. great effort!

From my analysis, seems like there is way more detail in the EPL1 compared to GF1. For example, you can see the texture of the blueish picture in all ISO levels. In particular, in the RAW ISO200 shot, u can also clearly see the texture of the OM camera grip.

As for AF speed, looks like GF1 is still marginally faster.
 

Oct 4, 2007
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Woodlands
www.flickr.com
#18
From my analysis, seems like there is way more detail in the EPL1 compared to GF1. For example, you can see the texture of the blueish picture in all ISO levels. In particular, in the RAW ISO200 shot, u can also clearly see the texture of the OM camera grip.
maybe the lack of detail led me to believe that the pictures were out of focus.

was quite surprised that there was very little detail in the GF1 pics, even at iso200. if it truly was focused properly, then i'm amazed at the resolution and detail in the EPL-1, the supposedly "lower grade" pen.
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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#19
did a reshoot of the GF1 ISO200 sample, the focus was checked and rechecked. same result.

dof calculated is 240mm, the shelf where the target is set up is 130mm deep. the distance between the focal planes between the focus points (orange nose) to the OM4 logo and package artwork is less than 25mm apart so DoF is sufficient.

due to the different lighting condition, the exposure is slightly different.

original

reshoot
 

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