on March 17, 2010
I've had the camera for a few days now, have been going out each afternoon experimenting with it, and so far I'm very happy with the purchase. But I think there's a lot of personal taste involved in buying any expensive camera, and you should try out several cameras "live" before buying this or any other one. I'm not going to repeat the pros and cons listed in other reviews - by and large I think others have done a good job pointing those out. I'm probably the target market - I was looking seriously at a Canon G11 or a Lumix LX3 before deciding to plonk down a bit more cash for this. I am happy with this camera because my priorities are:
- small size: I hike a lot, and want a light camera that will happily go in my backpack with lunch. DSLR's were just a little too too bulky for my taste. I really like the size of the camera, was willing to pay a bit extra for it. At some point I will probably spring for the 17mm "pancake" lens to trim it down even more. But when I have more cash. :-)
- SLR quality pictures: I was into hobby photography in school and got away from it when work got busy. I want the ability to take some nature and travel pics that can withstand some enlargement. The pictures I'm getting out of the E-PL1 are gorgeous, and I'm really excited about "taking it on the road".
- speed isn't an issue: a major complaint about the camera is that the autofocus isn't as fast as on some other cameras. For sports photography, that's probably an issue. For scenery and portraits, who cares. It's not so bad that I'd have noticed if the reviewers hadn't mentioned it, but then I'm not used to using a DSLR.
- don't care about a viewfinder - I've got astigmatism and with glasses, viewfinders are a pain. I went out shooting at sunset and intentionally shot with the sun on the LCD screen, and while it wasn't ideal,I could still work with it.
Read the reviews at dpreview, steves digicams, photographyblog - lots of good information and analysis. Frankly, I'd ignore most of the message boards and blogs, too many people getting ridiculously passionate about minutia. If you are THAT serious a photographer, this isn't the camera for you. But 95% of us AREN'T so into photography that we will sacrifice our firstborn rather than give up our allegiance to Panasonic/Canon/Nikon/whoever. So be thoughtful about your priorities, and go handle it in a store for a while. For my needs, it just fit.
on March 9, 2010
What do you get when you take Olympus PEN and mix it with a stripper (Of course I mean someone who strips features from a camera). You get the E-PL1 camera which is a little bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand you have one of the best versions of the m4/3 sensor to date. From what I have read it is better than both the E-P1 and E-P2 sensors. It is hard to tell the difference at normal screen and printing resolutions and I take a picture at its whole and don't pixel peep so I cannot verify that. What I can say is this camera is capable of producing world class images. Additionally, this camera has the Olympus JPEG engine which is regarded in the business as one of the best. This camera is also relatively small and light and includes a fill flash. Additionally, it has image stabilization (IS) built into the camera. It is not pocketable and the size of this camera has more to do with the lens that it is wearing then the actual camera itself.
On the other hand, you have a camera that is slow to focus. It appears to me that it zooms to infinity (and beyond) and then catches the focus on its way back in. If you are taking pictures of forever-in-motion kids you can be sure you will miss quite a few decisive moments. Additionally, this camera lacks the most important camera control there is. This is the control wheel used to change exposure, aperture, and shutter settings in a quick efficient manner. Instead this camera uses buttons which is an unwieldy way of making these changes. Most higher end Point and Shoot (P+S) cameras have some version of this control wheel. I think anyone transitioning to this camera from a DSLR or high end P+S will be frustrated by this. I've seen this billed as a good thing as there are less controls to get confused over. That may be so but all m4/3 cameras can be used as point and shoot by just keeping in the intelligent Auto(iA) mode. This simplifies the menu options and takes great pictures a majority of the time.
I think for anyone who wants to step up from a P+S to take better Image Quality pictures but plans to stay in the iA mode 90% of the time, then this camera will serve you well and will take some amazing images. Just remember P+S type focusing speed.
Anyone, who has a E-P1or E-P2 who want a sensors with a weaker Anti-Aliasing filter (i.e. less detail lost to the AA filter) and a fill flash will enjoy this camera for the IQ but will probably be frustrated with the loss of the control wheel
Anyone either stepping up from a high end P+S such as the LX3, S90, or G11 will be impressed with the images, but not blown away by the difference, unimpressed with the P+S focus performance, and frustrated in the P, A, S or M shooting modes. Additionally, you will be unimpressed with the bigger size of the camera but will enjoy the flexibility if your budget includes other lenses.
Anyone, getting this as a second carry around camera to a DSLR, will be happy with the smaller size and weight but unhappy with the slower performance. And frustrated by the clumsy controls but happy with the video capabilities.
If you don't need or want the video, don't mind IS in the lens instead of the camera, and can put up with a slight decrease in you IQ, ISO, and JPEG performance, then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 12.1MP Digital Camera with Lumix G Vario 14-45 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Mega OIS Lens (Red) offers many upgrades at the same price (Integrated 1.4mp EVF, Swivel Screen, 460k screen, Grip for bigger lenses, faster focus performance, etc)
For the same price, the newly announced G10 matches the E-PL1 with video, and new processing engine (cross your fingers for a JPEG improvement). Additionally, it has a 2kp EVF (I'm not sure how useful that will be), a grip, a control wheel, a 1/4000 shutter speed and faster focus performance. It does not have in-camera IS.
For those planning on getting the EVF at some point or with an ~$200 greater budget, check out the newly announced G2. Take the G1, add 720P 60/50fps video, an improved processing engine, a new dial to change focusing modes, touch screen controls that look to work as slick as an iPhone, and touch screen focus, and you have a really really nice full featured camera.
Finally, if you don't need interchangeable lenses or don't plan on buying any more lenses and you don't mind a degradation of IQ, then the Canon S90, Canon G11, and Panasonic LX3(Leica D-Lux 4) are easier to carry around everywhere (especially the S90) and are cheaper(the gap will close when the price of this camera falls).
Here is a quick list of pros and cons of the E-PL1
The best Olympus implementation of the m4/3 sensor
One of the best JPEG engines in the business
Relatively small and light
Built in flash
In camera Image Stabilization(IS)
Price (The cheapest m4/3 yet)
Optional EVF (A very nice 1.4mp unit but very pricy at $279)
Nice build quality
Slow Autofocus (Panasonic has this figured out. Olympus, not so much)
Missing Control Wheel slows down aperture, shutter, and exposure changes
Only 230k screen?!
1/2000 shutter speed?! A lot of P+S go to 1/4000
Locking lens is annoying to deploy and stow
A competent and nice camera that will take stunning images. Slow autofocus and clunky controls will make this camera frustrating to many people.
on April 10, 2010
I think this camera is a good option for a certain niche of photographers. Let me first say that I have a lot of photographic experience. I have had several film SLRs (Nikons and Canons), I understand lighting, depth of field, ASAs(ISO), etc. My point and shoot pictures with compact cameras usually come out pretty good. But I felt the need to get an SLR again to go back to my old creativity. I looked at several. I held them in my hand. I looked at the lenses, I read the reviews, and in the end, I just don't want to lug those things around anymore. I know that when I travel, which is where I take most of my pictures,I want to be comfortable. I could fool myself into thinking the size and weight won't matter to me, but I know that it will. So when I saw the micro four thirds cameras I checked them out. I looked at the Lumix and Olympus ones and even the Samsung NX10. For the most part they ARE smaller than SLRS, but not all that much, and they are a bit heavy. This might not bother most people, but as you can tell I'm getting lazy in my older years (I'm 60). Then I saw the new PL1 and it is smaller and lighter than any of them. I was intrigued. Well I bought it and just took it on a trip. I liked it ALOT. It's light and small, although obviously not pocketable. With the lens off, it travels well too. In my hands it took great pics. I used the aperture and shutter speed priority modes alot. It also has useful scene modes and an auto "point and shoot" setting. The clarity of the photos for the most part is very good. Is it as good as a $3000.00 Nikon? Obviously not. But for most people, it's MUCH better than any compact camera they have ever had. I think that should be the comparison. I'm happy with my purchase.
on April 15, 2010
I was looking to replace the trusted Fuji-F31FD point-and-shoot, which was getting a bit old after 3 years of heavy use. My other camera is Canon 450D DSLR, which is most often used with Canon L EF 24mm 1.4 lens.
I became intrigued by micro 4/3 standard and checked reviews for the latest offerings by Panasonic and Olympus with the following priorities in mind:
1. Picture quality (both JPEG and RAW)
4. Ease of use
5. HD video
I did not care for a super-quick AF since will continue using Canon for sports pictures. Built quality is not as critical since I do not expect the camera to last more than 5 years anyway. In the end, I bought Olympus EPL1 with the kit 14-42mm lens and an additional Panasonic 20mm 1.7 pancake lens.
I find the initial results truly amazing:
1. Picture quality with Panasonic lens is much better than expected. In many cases, IQ is better than my Canon DSLR. Panasonic lens is incredibly sharp while the Olympus colors are gorgeous (may be a bit over-saturated). Actually, some of my friends are complaining that there is to much detail in their portraits taken with EPL1. Brought the camera to the local pro-photo store and the owner (professional newspaper photographer) could not believe picture quality from EPL1. Panasonic lens is excellent in low-light and Olympus in-body stabilization makes the combination even better.
2. The size is not as small as a regular P&S but comparable to super-zooms. I think it is good for hiking, skiing, city, and restaurant photos (people do not really like a huge DSLR lens pointed at them in a restaurant)
3. The price is good in comparison with the results
4. The camera is very easy to use. It has some learning curve due to many options (more than Canon). I find that AF speed with Panasonic lens is not an issue and the latest Olympus firmware upgrade is supposed to eliminate the problem completely (Update: 24-Apr-10 According to the latest DPReview comparison after the firmware upgrade, Olympus auto-focus with Panasonic lenses is the fastest in the class).
5. HD video is great (though MJPEG with 720P or 1080i and not MPEG4 or H.264 with full HD)
1. The screen is relatively low resolution. Still the displayed image is clear and in my opinion better than Canon 450D.
2. I do not care much for the included IB software, prefer using Lightroom3 Beta2 instead.
Since the camera is new, it is a bit difficult to find the right accessories. After some shopping on the internet and in a local photo-store, I added the following:
1. A couple of MaximalPower replacement batteries
2. Transcend 16 GB Class 6 SDHC Flash Memory Card
3. B&W 46mm Sky filter and Hoya 46mm multi-coated UV filter (for Panasonic lens)
4. Opteka Professional Wrist Grip Strap
5. Tamrac 5693 camera bag with belt loop. Perfectly fits the camera with either kit lens or the 20mm pancake with an extra pocket for spare battery and filter (but not much more).
6. Lens cap keeper
In short, I really enjoy the camera and with the accessories it is a nearly perfect solution for my needs
After about a thousand pictures and one hiking trip:
1. Pictures are still amazing, both JPEG and RAW. I noticed that the camera encourages me to take more creative shots
2. Great improvement in camera size over 450D particularly for hiking
3. A wheel would be useful for quick aperture changes during hiking trips
4. A non-standard USB cord is a nuisance
Finally, I think EPL1 is a great little camera, may need to upgrade my 450D though
on February 26, 2010
I just bought the Olympus E-PL1 so this review will be updated once I have truly learned to exploit the cameras ability a bit further. First of all - if I could give it 4.5 stars if this system allowed for it.
If you are looking into this camera, chances are you are like me: you already own a good compact (in my case, among others, the Canon S90, which has very positive reviews for its fast lens and image quality) but you always wonder if you will take better pictures with a bigger, more serious camera. The lure of the bigger sensor, since it promises better results, especially in low light conditions - all the experts say so, right? Then again, a full-blown DSLR seems too big and bulky, and you wonder if you'll really take that thing anywhere. Luckily, vendors came out with the micro-4/3s format, which packs a much larger sensor (5 to 9 times larger than a compact camera's!) into a typically stylish, sleek looking design. Panasonic and Olympus had been offering models that, with lens and all, would set you back around $1,000. A tad too pricey for an experiment. Obviously Olympus set out to truly makes the E-PL1 appeal to the masses with the price point for the E-PL1. I was like, "sure, at least this will not be the most expensive mistake I've ever made".
The camera feels solid. I love its Bauhaus style retro design that supposedly harks back to some very collectible Olympus classic model. Well, I'd never seen one, but I like the looks of the E-PL1. Side by side with its more expensive micro-4/3 competitors (in house from Olympus and the Panasonic) the E-PL1 seems more plasticky and lighter. But compared to a compact it feels like the proverbial metal brick. I picked the silver one (it's also offered in other colors, make sure to pick the one you like so you don't regret it later).
The package is the usual fare - charger for the battery, battery, camera body, the 14-42mm lens, and a few convenient covers for lens openings. Also included a USB cable. A proprietary one, of course, it annoys me that vendors keep doing it, there is absolutely no reason why Olympus should not have used a standard USB cable format. Also a cable to attach the Olympus to your TV. Finally, the usual software package (I own Photoshop, so I do not install the vendors' packaged software) as well as a suitably thick instruction book. Which I will make a point of reading thoroughly, probably more than once. Needless to say, no SDHC card included, and a fast one is recommended. Especially if you shoot RAW (which I admit I just do for 5% of my shots, if that).
The feature set is very impressive, and I shall not bore you cutting and pasting the many modes etc from other places. Everything you'd expect is there: full auto (come on, we don't but a camera like this to leave it in full auto, do we?), P mode (programmable auto, which is what I typically use on the Canon S90 for point and shoot), and aperture and shutter priority. See a list of the specs here (Olympus site, Amazon cuts off links).
But one set is something new and needs to be pointed out - the Art Filter. Very cool for playing around, I immediately played with the Soft Focus and the Diorama mode, very fun effects and very well done. Of course it's stuff you could do in Photoshop later with any picture, but it's also great to have the ability to capture a mood and differentiate your shot in real time. It's a great idea by Olympus so that people can feel like artistic photographers right away within minutes of buying the E-PL1.
The sensor in the camera's body is large, you can take a good look at it when you take the lens off. Which also means it is exposed, so be very aware you need to protect it like your own eye. Talking about the included kit lens, the 14-42mm needs to be multiplied by 2 to arrive at the equivalent 28-84mm range. Which means it is fairly wide at the low range, but a 3x zoom may be very limiting to those used to their 5x and higher in compacts, especially since it starts at 28mm. Focus enthusiasts should mentally factor in the $ for a more powerful lens. As well as its potential size.
First impressions: it starts up very fast, an SLR advantage in general. Ready to shoot right away. Of course, first you must have removed the hood lens and perhaps unlock the lens if you had collapsed it for easier transportation (most pictures you see of the 14-42 lens are in the collapsed compact position - it's quite a bit larger when you take pictures. That makes the speed advantage against a compact more relative. The E-PL1 also focuses and does it's scene evaluation faster than a compact. Not immediately as some larger SLRs, but quite quickly. Since it doesn't have an assisted AF beam, it remains to see how it performs in low light. But the camera's speed seems very good. The LCD is 2.7 inches, meaning it's smaller than the one on my 3 year old Canon G9, but it is a very nice one. And it better be, since you don't have an optical viewfinder (which I admittedly never use on my cameras which offer it).
I know what you are thinking - "Stop telling me the obvious, tell me how it compares against that Canon S90 you also claim to have!". Ok, impatient reader, I have a gallery for you:
[...] [again, Amazon does not allow external links, sorry]
A very important caveat as you look at these shots: I know how to use the Canon S90 and have it set up so it performs in ways I like. But as you can see, that is within limits, and while I could have further optimized the results... I decided not to, because for obvious reasons I do not yet know how to truly go about exploiting the E-PL1's capabilities, which I am sure reach significantly further than these shots reveal. Up to now, I have taken exactly a dozen shots with the E-PL1, so I would suggest you do like me, and take the shots as very inconclusive. The *one* thing that matters is that depth of field shot: the S90 is lauded for having the ability to create depth of field effects, as the f2.0 lens suggests, and as you can tell from that shot, great for a compact camera and all. The Olympus lens spec does not get anywhere near f2.0 because it doesn't have to - the lens and sensors are much bigger, and thus far more light makes it in anyhow. Check it out - the depth of field is much better defined on the E-PL1, it blows the S90 easily away in all aspects of that shot. But I have to admit I was a bit surprised the bigger dynamic range of the bigger sensor wasn't more visible in the contrast rich shots.
But I think one thing you should take away from this is that you probably should not expect to see a *huge* difference in everyday shots between a good compact like the S90, and a camera like the E-PL1 - or a $5,000 full blown DSLR kit, for that matter. What you do get is more flexibility and creative control - not necessarily far more detail and what not, not for your average snapshot. If you like to take difficult shots, different matter. So make sure you buy a camera for the right reasons.
I for one know I am going to like taking pictures with the E-PL1 a lot. I also am already considering buying other lenses, and have already ordered the external flash (the E-PL1 does include a pop-up flash, but it's small and as such probably limited). There it is, the trap of the modular kit - the camera price is just for admission. As I consider lenses, I find myself wondering whether to go for specifically built micro-4/3 lenses, or more generic 4/3... hmmm. If you buy this camera and start buying lenses (there isn't a lot of choice in lenses built specially for this camera, but supposedly a few are coming), you'll have to do the same, and I shall be interested in your thoughts.
The final question you may ask me is "hey you say you like it, why only 4.5 stars?" - like I said, I think it's 4.5 stars, very good. I may update that once I learn to further optimize results and they start to blow me away, which hasn't been the case yet. Probably it was a bit much to expect to be blown away by the difference without having learned the camera more.
PS on 3/20/10... a few weeks into ownership, I *LOVE* this camera and it entirely and totally deserves 5 stars. I changed the default settings, and now to my eye and the eye of people that look at the pictures results are fantastic. I am able to chose utterly sharp or utterly artistic pictures, and the quality of them right away out of the camera is fantastic. I ove the freedom it gives me in lower light situations - it will not challenge a top range Nikon, but it is amazing and far more portable.
I am *VERY* happy with this purchase, and have already bought several lenses to expand on my toolset.
Amazing little camera. I am a huge fan!
These are my preliminary impressions for the E-PL1. I hope to soon read others' too!
on July 31, 2010
I've been a pro photographer for 5 years now, and I never know what to tell average people when they ask me about what camera they should buy if they aren't asking about DSLR's. To me, point and shoots produce noisy files, they have the flashes in the precise place to maximize the potential to make you look awful, and given my choice, I'd probably rather shoot with my iPhone instead.
Of course, it's not like I haven't had to deal with them- my wife still has her Canon SD600 and until last year, I had a Leica D-Lux3, which had nice glass but couldn't be trusted above ISO 200, because of the blotchy noise that would show up, largely from putting too many pixels on a sensor that's a quarter the size of a postage stamp.
When the Leica was lost, I put off replacing it for the longest time because I didn't have to, and I just couldn't commit to a Canon G11, which could work with my pro flashes on its hotshoe, but was still pretty bulky.
Then I discovered the Pen.
I've always liked Olympus cameras for great color rendering, ease of use, but hated their insistence on using their proprietary xD card format-- hard to find and too expensive. But the Pen is SD/SDHC memory, and even better, it has this HUGE (for a point and shoot ) sensor- a touch smaller than a crop frame DSLR, and about 5x larger than most p&s cameras. That makes the images sharp, the higher range ISO choices usable, and in general, the files don't look point and shoot-like.
The Pen is part of an interchangeable lens system, but I didn't purchase anything beyond the lens that's included, a 14-42mm lens. I might buy a 17mm prime lens for it, as the camera is a little thick (about 2 inches from screen to lens cap) in the closed position, and is not a pocket camera configured thus. It runs on the Four Thirds format, but I immediately told it to shoot stills in 2:3 ratio for easy 4x6 printing, and set the video capture (720p HD, for those of you scoring at home) to 16:9 widescreen. My feeling is why set yourself up for disappointment when your framing of a photo/video leads to you having to crop out something important just to make it usable.
The menus give you tons of control if you want it, with ability to set ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, and all the things pros like, but it also has some simple modes like Intelligent Auto and some scene specific things for people who know what they're hoping to shoot but don't know how to get there without hand holding. It even has tips for improving your shot built in for newer Photographers.
But for me, the big pleasant surprise was the flash. Olympus gave you one that pops up on a spring loaded arm, but they tucked that under the flash when not in use, so that when it opens, the flash head is brought up and forward. I discovered that I could use a finger on my left hand and bend the flash arm back SO I COULD BOUNCE THE FLASH OFF THE CEILING. It's a whole new world when your flash opens up the room instead of microwaving your subject. (I recommend an extra tick of exposure compensation for this.). There's also a hotshoe for external flashes or radio controllers.
Video was very smooth, microphone nice and sensitive. It looks much better than other P&S HD video, again, sensor size makes a massive difference.
I've had mine for a month, and used it as a walk around camera for 4 days at Disney World, and used it as a location scouting notebook for a job. The client liked the Pen images so much she ordered 7 of them as 20x30 and 40x30 canvas prints! What other P&S could you blow up files that large with?
I am completely thrilled to death with the Pen. Now all I need to do is convince Apple to support the Raw files in iPhoto...
on March 17, 2010
Wow, people are very serious about their camera reviews, very in-depth. Well, I'm a dad of 4 and this camera is just perfect for me. SOOO much better than a point-n-shoot but not as daunting as a true DSLR. I can have fun with the ART features, rely on the SCENE mode, play around with effects in the iAUTO mode, and change out the lenses for added creativity. The result is a bunch of great family photos that are 100 times better than my Coolpix could ever do. I put together our family YEAR IN REVIEW books and now they've just gotten a lot better. If you're looking to step up from a point-n-shoot but don't wanna risk the money this baby is for you. I think that you could go a long time on this camera, even if you are serious about learning photography and know you will eventually get a DSLR. Buy it.
on December 26, 2011
I originally wrote this piece as a reply comment to DEN's bad review, but then thought that it might be more useful (and visible) posted as a full review on its own.
I purchased the Olympus E-PL1 last month on a Costco special limited time sale for, get this: $399 for the camera w/kit 14-42mm lens (a very nice quality lens, BTW), free $250 150mm tele zoom lens (equiv. a 300mm 35mm zoom tele lens), free $24 Olympus compact case (attaches to belt loop), and free 4GB SDHC card. I don't know if it is still available there, but there are bargain prices on this camera on the internet, and the Amazon price is not really that bad now either.
I have a lot of photographic experience, although I'm not a pro, just an advanced amateur - since 1956! During that time, I've gained a considerable knowledge base of photography and cameras, from the old completely manual thru the new fully automatic ones. My DSLR is a Canon 40D w/an assortment of big lenses, so I can say with experience that this Olympus is fully equivalent (photographically) with the Canon, although at about 1/4 the weight (at least it seems that light in comparison to the Canon's weight with it's 300MM zoom lens!); however the Canon is better (operationally) in those few instances where a large and heavy DSLR is actually required.
The Olympus is an advanced camera, by any measure, although Olympus has unfortunately (in my opinion) marketed it as a "move up from a point-and-shoot" model - which has unfortunately resulted in a few erroneous bad reviews from point-and-shooters who apparently know nothing about photography and cameras in general, like DEN's review. It is deceptively easy, "simple?" to use, due to the extensive customization available thru its compact menu system and its iAuto shooting mode, but it's the results that count, however the settings are achieved.
I've just returned from Disney World and the Panama Canal - with night photos of fireworks over the Cinderella Castle and Epcot's fireworks finale in HD video (both hand held - at night!) and they turned out fantastic - where's the low light focusing problem? I shot videos and stills of the Canal's locks opening as well as ship traffic in the canal and family photos aboard my cruise ship, all hand held with in-body stabilization - couldn't have done as well, or at least better, than with the Canon 40D's heavy stabilized lenses!
In short, if one has beyond-the-basics knowledge of the elements of general photography (with any camera), has read the manual, knows how to set the ISO, shutter speeds, and lens openings (and what they are used for), this is an excellent camera with fantastic image quality with few practical limitations and a superb array of available lenses (not limited to only those from Olympus).
My advice to others contemplating this small, light weight, and fantastic "travel" camera is - get one while they are still available at these mark-down prices for they will not be available much longer! In fact, go ahead and add the accessory viewfinder, which I did, for bright sunlight and waist-level photography, at less total cost than a newer E-PL2, E-PL3, etc. With the recent firmware upgrades from Olympus, you'll have an even better camera.
In my opinion (again, relating to the fundamentals of photography and cameras), the newer E-PL2, E-PL3, etc. add only "frills" like 3D effects, etc. at two to three times the price, with the same lenses and image sensor, thus with the exact same photographic quality and results (depending on the photographer behind the camera!).
on March 4, 2010
I bought the slate blue version last week. I already own an Olympus E620 DSLR. So this camera will serve as my go anywhere portable compact(dslr). Mind you, the Olympus E620 is already one of the smallest dslrs' you can buy in the market, but it wasn't always convenient to carry it around, especially when you with a group of friends at a dinner or just walking around the city. The EPL-1 is almost inconspicuous, just a bit bigger than your more advanced point and shoot.
Feature wise, its a step down from the EP1/2 in a few areas, and a step up in others. For one the build is not as stellar as the elder PEN siblings, but still good enough. It feels solid and it is comfortable to hold. The interface is a little complicated if you upgraded from a P&S, but if you moved down from an Olympus DLSR, you welcome the familiarity. I love how Olympus allows you to make your menus as complicated or simple as you wish, hiding the more advanced options until you need them. So I can set it up just like my E620, and yet have my wife use the compact like menu options when she uses the camera.
The picture quality is just the same as the E620, as they use much of the same internals, sensor, a new image processing engine. So in many ways you are getting the same picture quality, while giving up very little (max shutter at 1/2000, weaker image stabilization) while you get the newest features that improve upon the E620 (new image processing engine, 720p video)
I have largely compared the EPL-1 with the E620 rather than the EP1/2 because these two camera fall in the same price category, so basically for the price of E620, most of everything in a EP1/2 in a smaller compact body with very few compromises. All in all Olympus have a killer product at a very compelling price!