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Olympus E-510 vs E-PL1

The Olympus E-510 and the Olympus PEN E-PL1 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in March 2007 and February 2010. The E-510 is a DSLR, while the E-PL1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-510 has a resolution of 10 megapixels, whereas the E-PL1 provides 12.2 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-510
versus
Olympus E-PL1
Olympus E-510 Olympus E-PL1
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-1,600 ISO 200-3,200
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
2.5 LCD, 215k dots 2.7 LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
750 shots per battery charge290 shots per battery charge
136 x 92 x 68 mm, 538 g 115 x 72 x 42 mm, 334 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-510 and the Olympus PEN E-PL1? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-510 and the Olympus E-PL1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-PL1 can be obtained in four different colors (black, blue, yellow, white), while the E-510 is only available in black.

Size Olympus E-510 vs Olympus E-PL1
Compare E-510 versus E-PL1 top
Comparison E-510 or E-PL1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PL1 is considerably smaller (34 percent) than the Olympus E-510. Moreover, the E-PL1 is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the E-510. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-510 nor the E-PL1 are weather-sealed.

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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-510) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-PL1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-PL1, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the E-510 gets 750 shots out of its BLM-1 battery, while the E-PL1 can take 290 images on a single charge of its BLS-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Olympus E-510 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799 i
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599 i
3.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799 i
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599 i
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599 i
6.
 
Olympus E-600 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 n Aug 2009 449 i
7.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699 i
8.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799 i
9.
 
Olympus E-P2 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799 i
10.
 
Olympus E-30 142 mm 108 mm 75 mm 701 g 750 n Nov 2008 1,299 i
11.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699 i
12.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699 i
13.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699 i
14.
 
Olympus E-500 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 n Sep 2005 599 i
15.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599 i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-PL1 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the E-510, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

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Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the 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.

Technology-wise, the E-PL1 uses a more advanced image processing engine (Truepic V) than the E-510 (TruePic III), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Olympus E-510 and Olympus E-PL1 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-PL1 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 10 MP of the E-510. This megapixels advantage translates into a 11 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-PL1 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 4.74μm for the E-510). However, it should be noted that the E-PL1 is much more recent (by 2 years and 11 months) than the E-510, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-PL1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-PL1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-510 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Olympus E-510 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PL1 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200 (no boost).

E-510 versus E-PL1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.0442 52
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.1487 54
3.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.1536 51
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.2573 55
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.3499 52
6.
 
Olympus E-600 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.510.3541 55
7.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.3536 55
8.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.4536 55
9.
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.4505 56
10.
 
Olympus E-30 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.4530 55
11.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.4548 55
12.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.0494 51
13.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none...... ..
14.
 
Olympus E-500 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none...... ..
15.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.8429 55

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The E-PL1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-510 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-PL1 can use is 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the E-510 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-PL1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the E-PL1 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-2. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-510, the Olympus E-PL1, and comparable cameras.

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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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Olympus E-510optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y
3.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
6.
 
Olympus E-600optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
7.
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
8.
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
9.
 
Olympus E-P2optional n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
10.
 
Olympus E-30optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
11.
 
Olympus E-520optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y
12.
 
Olympus E-410optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
13.
 
Olympus E-400optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-500optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
15.
 
Panasonic L10optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

The E-510 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the E-PL1 uses SDHC cards. The E-510 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-PL1 only has one slot.

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Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Olympus E-510 and Olympus PEN E-PL1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Olympus E-510Y-----2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo---mini2.0---
3.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo---mini2.0---
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo---mini2.0---
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo---mini2.0---
6.
 
Olympus E-600Y-----2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-620Y-----2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo---mini2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereo---mini2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-30Y-----2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-520Y-----2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-410Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-400Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-500Y-----2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic L10Y-----2.0---

Both the E-510 and the E-PL1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-510 was replaced by the Olympus E-520, while the E-PL1 was followed by the Olympus E-PL2. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-510 or the Olympus E-PL1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-510:

  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 290) on a single battery charge.
  • 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 March 2007).


Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL1:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 11%.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (Truepic V vs TruePic III).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More compact: Is smaller (115x72mm vs 136x92mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 204g or 38 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the E-510 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-PL1 is the clear winner of the contest (9 : 5 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. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

E-510 05:09 E-PL1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-510 and the Olympus E-PL1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-510 and the E-PL1 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Olympus E-510..89/100+ +3.5/54.5/5 Mar 2007 799 i
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599 i
3.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/10074/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799 i
4.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/10071/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599 i
5.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599 i
6.
 
Olympus E-600........4.5/5 Aug 2009 449 i
7.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/10072/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699 i
8.
 
Olympus E-P1..+66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799 i
9.
 
Olympus E-P23/5+69/1004/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799 i
10.
 
Olympus E-30....71/1004.5/54/5 Nov 2008 1,299 i
11.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699 i
12.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699 i
13.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100..4/54/5 Sep 2006 699 i
14.
 
Olympus E-500..76/100+ +.... Sep 2005 599 i
15.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Olympus E-510:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PL1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-510 vs Olympus E-PL1

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Olympus E-510 Olympus E-PL1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date March 2007 February 2010
    Launch Price USD 799 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-510 Olympus E-PL1
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3648 x 2736 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.74 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 4.44 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic III Truepic V
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 52 54
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.2 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.0 10.1
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 442 487
    Screen Specs Olympus E-510 Olympus E-PL1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.46x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 215k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-510 Olympus E-PL1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XD cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-510 Olympus E-PL1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-510 Olympus E-PL1
    Battery Type BLM-1 BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge290 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 136 x 92 x 68 mm
    (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)
    115 x 72 x 42 mm
    (4.5 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)
    Camera Weight 538 g (19.0 oz) 334 g (11.8 oz)

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