System camera Olympus PEN E-PL1 in the user test: love at second glance {review}

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Disclosure & Image Rights:  Image material was created with a camera provided free of charge by our sponsor Olympus, which we checked as part of the test until it was unusable.

Sometimes you have to look twice before you realize the value of a thing. This also applies to the Olympus PEN E-PL1, which I use for half a year. At first I was not very fond of her - over time, however, changed my impression. An overview from the user's point of view!

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherGerman Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.


Compact, Spiegelreflex or with a system?

When it comes to cameras, I agree with my colleague Richard Gutjahr: They have to be small, light and fast. A Spiegelreflex camera was therefore out of the question for me for a long time, at the same time the possibilities of my smartphone camera are still too limited to go beyond snapshots.

So far I had always worked with handy compact cameras, most recently with the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS, which I liked quite well. But increasingly I was looking for further possibilities of adjustment by interchangeable lenses. Also the night shots of the Canon were rather disappointing.

User experience at a glance

There was the offer from Olympus to support my work with the PEN E-PL1, just right.

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Since there are already many reviews in the net (for example very detailed here or at a glance here), which are based on the technical equipment and performance of the camera, I would like to limit myself here to my user experience as a comparative photography novice.

The weaknesses

In the beginning I was admittedly quite skeptical. The Olympus is significantly heavier than a compact device and I had the impression of an uncomfortable compromise between compactness and Spiegelreflex camera.

In addition, the display, especially at night, has a fairly strong noise, which does not make photography easy. And as a further shortcoming, the camera is synonymous slower, as I am used by previous knipsern.

Charge external battery, no viewfinder

The battery must also be charged in an external device, which is cumbersome. But after all, it has one and does not come as many Cheapknipser with batteries, which lose too fast to juice.

And also a viewfinder is looking at the camera in vain. After all, an electronic viewfinder can be retrofitted.

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Numerous adjustment possibilities

For this you often have to unlock the lens cumbersome. Spontaneously take pictures spontaneously - the Olympus is simply not suitable for that. One or the other successful snapshot has already gone through my rag.

Even with the numerous possible settings, I was, admittedly, a bit overwhelmed. There are numerous modes and aperture settings. There are art filters that will turn a photo shoot into a game, but still produce interesting effects (such as the coarse-grained black-and-white mode).

Automatic mode with surprises

And finally, there is also an automatic mode, which again has additional settings (such as brightness). Working through it simply takes time. Meanwhile, I use almost only the automatic mode, which makes even at night without pictures quite excellent shots, which are significantly better than what I had so far experienced in automatic modes with cameras.

In addition, you can save images from home in RAW mode and then redevelop at home - the Canon was the only awkward about an additional script from the Internet possible.

Objective with significant extensions

The M. Zuiko Digital Lens 14-42 mm / 1: 3,5-5.6 provides really good service. The images are so sharp that they can be played back on the computer after playing. A zoom or telephoto lens is almost unnecessary for my simple use.

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Since I still wanted to try out possible effects, I was looking for inexpensive extensions - and I've found something. Using an OEM Four Thirds adapter, older OEM analog lenses can also be screwed and used on the camera.

You can buy it for small money on eBay. Only the automatic mode does not work then of course. Certainly not the ideal solution, but a favorable alternative, if one like me, first times herumexperimentieren. And, of course, suitable for those who still have old lenses at home.

Sound and video thanks to microphone shoe

To the lens, Olympus also gave me a microphone shoe with a plug-on microphone. This also makes video recordings in relatively high and stereo quality make, besides, this is optimal for interviews, where one wants to record above all the answers of the conversation partner.

This is also a plus against many compact cameras, the built-in (mono) microphone allows only limited variations in video recording.


In short, the camera is a robust companion for photography novices with a sense of experimentation and is also recommended with this requirement. It is certainly not a love at first sight, but it is worth a further employment.

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