The Olympus EPL1

If you want a rundown of the technical specifications of the Olympus EPL1 I would suggest you have a look at the official Olympus website, as I am not going to cover these in this review. If, however, you want an honest, unbiased and Olympus EPL1 user’s thoughts and opinions on the Olympus EPL1 then read on.

I am a keen digital SLR shooter however there are times when a digital SLR isn’t practical. Digital SLR cameras are large, and require many accessories meaning plenty of photographic equipment to carry around and there are times when I simply can’t be bothered with this. I bought the Olympus EPL1 as a backup digital camera and a general purpose every day digital camera I could have with me at all times. I like full control over the shutter speed and aperture, I like being able to change lenses and I like good image quality and the Olympus EPL1 ticked all of these boxes. The Olympus EPL1 is also much cheaper than it used to be and you get a lot of camera for your money, which is a bonus.

With the release of the EPL2, and the current EPL3 the Olympus EPL1 is now considered ‘old’ technology however the EPL1 is a great camera that is still worth buying. Since the launch of the EPL2 and EPL3 the price of the Olympus EPL1 has fallen, as you would expect it to, so there are some great deals to be had. Whilst the cost of the Olympus EPL1 has fallen it has not gone through the floor, which is a great testament of just how good this digital camera is.

The Olympus EPL1 is a fantastic micro four thirds camera that makes a great general camera and travel camera.

Olympus EPL1

The Olympus EPL1 does not have the metal body of the EP1 and does not look as ‘professional’ but then this is how Olympus wanted it. A professional looking digital camera attracts far too much unwanted attention and is simply asking to be pinched, so the understated look of the EPL1 is, in my opinion, perfect. The plastic body of the EPL1 is more than adequate and it makes for a tough and durable digital camera. Like all digital cameras, if you look after the EPL1 it will look after you.

The Olympus EPL1 is small and light which makes it ideal as a general purpose take anywhere digital camera that is great for travelling and travel photography. A smaller camera is also more discreet than a large digital SLR, meaning candid photography and street photography is easier and less intrusive. The EPL1 is small enough to leave in my car’s glove box, which I can’t do with my digital SLR camera.

The Olympus EPL1 will take any lens you can think of. Lenses specifically made for digital cameras with the micro four thirds mount will simply slot in and the auto focus feature will work as normal. This means the excellent Panasonic lenses, such as the 14mm f2.5 pancake lens, can be used on your EPL1. Olympus micro four third lenses are ok but the Panasonic micro four thirds lenses are better and are the lenses I use on my EPL1. The EPL1 can also accept Nikon lenses, canon lenses or any other brand of lenses although you will need a specific adaptor to make them fit. If you use any lenses that aren’t made specifically for the four thirds mount you will lose the autofocus feature, and it is for this reason I don’t use any other lenses on my EPL1. I like street and candid photography where you have to ‘snap and run’ therefore auto focus is essential. If I had the time to set up the shot, manually focus etc. I would definitely use my Canon professional lenses on my EPL1.

The Olympus EPL1 is a great digital camera to use. All the buttons are close to hand, the interface is user friendly and logical and it feels nice and comfortable in the hand. When shooting with the EPL you can change all the important settings quickly and efficiently which means you won’t miss the shot. I can change all the settings whilst looking through the viewfinder, which is an optional extra, which is something I really struggle with when using my digital SLR. On the EPL1 you simply press the centre button on the dial, scroll through to the desired setting, change the setting with the directional pad and then ‘ok’ the changes. It is as easy as pressing a few buttons and there is no need to delve deep in to the settings menu like you have to do with many digital cameras.

The Panasonic 45mm - 200mm zoom lens for micro four thirds cameras. This is an excellent lens fo the Olympus EPL1 camera.

The Panasonic 45mm - 200mm zoom lensCredit: yackers1

In my opinion the biggest drawback with the EPL1 is the fact it has no viewfinder. I have never been a fan of using LCD screens to compose photographs and I struggle in bright and sunny conditions. I also find holding a digital camera out in front of me to take a photo to be unnatural therefore I like to use a viewfinder. Fortunately Olympus makes an electronic viewfinder, the VF-2, which can be slipped in to the hot shoe of the EPL1. This means you can’t use a hot shoe flash gun and the viewfinder at the same time, but this problem is easily overcome by using the EPL1’s pop up flash to fire a slave flash unit. The electronic viewfinder is an essential accessory for the EPL1 and one I highly recommend. With the viewfinder it is possible to take photographs in the brightest conditions without being hampered by glare and reflections.

Another disadvantage of the EPL1 is the speed of the autofocus, which is not the best. The EPL1 is not suitable for fast action photography, such as motorsports photography or extreme sports photography however it can be used for slower sports. I would not recommend the EPL1 for wildlife photography either, purely because the autofocus is not quite fast enough.

I am trying to think of other disadvantages of the EPL1, after all no product is perfect, but I have to admit I am struggling. The EPL1 does tend to under expose by up to a stop when I use ESP metering mode but this is more of an annoyance than a disadvantage since the problem is easily rectified by dialling in some exposure compensation or using one of the other metering modes, all of which work perfectly fine. The LCD screen on the EPL1 is not the brightest, or the largest, but since I use the electronic viewfinder 99% of the time I am not overly bothered about the quality of the screen. Besides, the screen should not be used to set exposure as this is what the histogram is for.

Overall the Olympus EPL1 is a fantastic digital camera and I am more than happy with it. I am ashamed to say that I am using it more than my digital SLR, but that is because I always have it on me. When I have a specific shoot, such as macro photography, shooting a motor sports event or going out to shoot some wild birds I will always take my digital SLR. If I am a bit bored and simply want to go and shoot some general photographs I will take the EPL1.

So, the question is “should you buy the old and outdated Olympus EPL1 or should splash out on the up to date models?” The Olympus EPL2 and the EPL3 are much more expensive than the Olympus EPL1, and whilst you get the most up to date technology, more features and the kudos of owning the latest Olympus PEN model you do have to ask yourself if the additional cost is worth it. The Olympus EPL1 is a fantastic digital camera that is capable of producing some excellent images, that all but the pickiest of photographers will be happy with.