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Olympus E-1 versus Panasonic L1

The Olympus E-1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 2003 and February 2006. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 4.9 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 7.4 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Olympus E-1 vs Panasonic L1

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-1 and the Panasonic L1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the E-1 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Olympus E-1 vs Panasonic L1
Compare E-1 versus L1 top
Compare E-1 and L1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic L1 is notably smaller (13 percent) than the Olympus E-1. Moreover, the L1 is markedly lighter (18 percent) than the E-1. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-1 is splash and dust resistant, while the L1 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Olympus E-1» 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
Panasonic L1« 5.7 in 3.4 in 2.5 in 21.4 oz 750 n Feb 2006 999- i Panasonic L1
Canon 6D Mark II« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 7D« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon XT« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 19.0 oz 400 n Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« » 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 n Sep 2006 1,499- i Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
Olympus E-5« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« » 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 n Jan 2006 999- i Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« » 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 n Sep 2004 799- i Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« » 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 n Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The L1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 41 percent) than the E-1, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus E-1 vs Panasonic L1

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-1 and Panasonic L1 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the L1 offers a higher resolution of 7.4 megapixel, compared with 4.9 MP of the E-1. This megapixel advantage translates into a 23 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the L1 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.51μm versus 6.78μm for the E-1). However, it should be noted that the L1 is much more recent (by 2 years and 8 months) than the E-1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

E-1 versus L1 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Olympus E-1» Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----Olympus E-1
Panasonic L1« Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Panasonic L1
Canon 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
Canon XT« » APS-C 8.0 3456 2304-21.810.863760Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780Nikon D7000
Olympus E-5« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955Panasonic L10
The L1 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The E-1 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-1 vs Panasonic L1

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-1 and the L1 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-1, the Panasonic L1, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Olympus E-1»optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Olympus E-1
Panasonic L1«optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Panasonic L1
Canon 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 6.5 n n Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
Canon XT« »optical n 1.8 115 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« »optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7000
Olympus E-5« »optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« »optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« »optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 4000 3.0 Y n Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10

One feature that is present on the E-1, but is missing on the L1 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The E-1 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the L1 uses SDHC cards. The E-1 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the L1 only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Olympus E-1»Y-----2.0---Olympus E-1
Panasonic L1«Y-----2.0---Panasonic L1
Canon 6D Mark II« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYCanon 6D Mark II
Canon 7D« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 7D
Canon XT« »Y-----2.0---Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« »Ystereomono---2.0---Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Nikon D610« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
Nikon D7000« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D7000
Olympus E-5« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« »Y-----2.0---Panasonic L10

Both the E-1 and the L1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-1 was replaced by the Olympus E-3, while the L1 was followed by the Panasonic L10.

Review summary: Olympus E-1 vs Panasonic L1

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-1 and the Panasonic L1? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-1:

  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2003).

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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (7.4 vs 4.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 23%.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (207k vs 134k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (146x87mm vs 141x104mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 132g or 18 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (41 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 8 months of technical progress since the E-1 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the L1 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

E-1 04:08 L1

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-1 or the L1 handle or perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Olympus E-1»-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
Panasonic L1«85/100Rec-rev3.5/5 Feb 2006 999- i Panasonic L1
Canon 6D Mark II« »Rec80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon XT« »80/100HiRecrevrev- Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Leica Digilux 3« »----- Sep 2006 1,499- i Leica Digilux 3
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
Olympus E-5« »-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3« »88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Olympus E-330« »-Recrev3.5/5- Jan 2006 999- i Olympus E-330
Olympus E-300« »-Recrevrev4.5/5 Sep 2004 799- i Olympus E-300
Panasonic L10« »85/100Rec3.5/5rev4/5 Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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