Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Olympus EPL-1

When my brother ran off to Europe for 6 weeks last year, he bought an Olympus EPL-1 for not much more than the Canon S95. What convinced me to recommend that camera was the DPReviews with the comparison shots that clearly showed the EPL-1 as being superior to many other more expensive cameras. Well, my brother shot tons of photos but didn't post any of them, so I had no idea what the photo quality was like.

Since XiaoQin was driving this year, weight was a non issue for her and she could carry the Olympus EPL-1, which we borrowed from him. There are a few annoying things about the Olympus EPL-1:
  1. It stamps all photos with the caption OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. Yes, this is a camera that shouts at you and demands that you remove all those captions.
  2. It has no orientation sensor, so you have to manually fix the orientation of all the photos that are shot vertically.
  3. It does not have a rear control dial, so exposure control requires cumbersome button presses.
  4. The auto-focus is piss poor.
I hoped that the extra quality of the EPL-1 would offset those faults, but the last one really did me in. One out of every three shots were poorly focused, and the screen wasn't sufficient to show it. Whatever auto-focus mechanism Olympus uses, it's not as smart as the one on the Canon S95/S90 series, since the S95/S90 screens aren't any better than the Olympus'. The flip side of it is that the camera is fast! Shot-to-shot wait times are nearly non-existent. Unfortunately, coupled with the problem auto-focus, that just means you just take more crappy photos. The camera does not have decent battery life, so it's a good thing my brother gave us 2 spare batteries. As with all other micro-four thirds cameras, it does not fit in a jersey pocket, and so would not substitute for the S90 that I was carrying. But the reality is, even on a hiking trip, the S90 shot better pictures, provided better control, and while slower, wasn't so slow that it didn't out-perform the Olympus EPL-1. I see that Olympus has lowered the price on this camera to be the same as the S95's. Nevertheless, it is a bad deal. There is no reason you wouldn't carry a S95 instead of the Olympus EPL-1. I found no circumstances under which the EPL-1 took better pictures than the S95. Given that the S95 fits in a jersey pocket, that's pretty damning. Not Recommended
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