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Olympus E-PL1 vs Panasonic GF1

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2010 and September 2009. Both the E-PL1 and the GF1 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 12 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-PL1 VS Panasonic GF1
Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic GF1
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 12 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
720/30p Video 720/30p Video
ISO 200-3200 ISO 100-3200
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
2.7" LCD, 230k dots 3.0" LCD, 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
290 shots per battery charge380 shots per battery charge
115 x 72 x 42 mm, 334 g 119 x 71 x 36 mm, 385 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1? 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 physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL1 and the Panasonic GF1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-PL1 can be obtained in four different colors (black, blue, yellow, white), while the GF1 is only available in black.

Size Olympus E-PL1 vs Panasonic GF1
Compare E-PL1 versus GF1 top
Comparison E-PL1 or GF1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GF1 is somewhat larger (2 percent) than the Olympus E-PL1. Moreover, the GF1 is markedly heavier (15 percent) than the E-PL1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL1 nor the GF1 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the E-PL1 gets 290 shots out of its BLS-1 battery, while the GF1 can take 380 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLB13 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

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)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL1» 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599iOlympus E-PL1
 
Panasonic GF1« 119 mm 71 mm 36 mm 385 g 380 n Sep 2009 749iPanasonic GF1
 
Olympus XZ-2« » 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599iOlympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3« » 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799iOlympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2« » 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599iOlympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3« » 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599iOlympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM1« » 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499iOlympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-620« » 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699iOlympus E-620
 
Olympus E-P1« » 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799iOlympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2« » 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799iOlympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GX1« » 116 mm 68 mm 39 mm 318 g 320 n Nov 2011 699iPanasonic GX1
 
Panasonic G10« » 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499iPanasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2« » 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599iPanasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF2« » 113 mm 68 mm 33 mm 310 g 300 n Nov 2010 549iPanasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1« » 124 mm 90 mm 45 mm 385 g 300 n Mar 2009 899iPanasonic GH1
 
Panasonic G1« » 124 mm 84 mm 45 mm 360 g 410 n Sep 2008 599iPanasonic G1
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 20 percent) than the GF1, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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.

 

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies 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-PL1 and Panasonic GF1 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-PL1 offers a slightly higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the GF1. This megapixels advantage translates into a 0.8 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 4.33μm for the GF1). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the E-PL1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the GF1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200 (no boost).

E-PL1 versus GF1 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). 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.

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-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754Olympus E-PL1
 
Panasonic GF1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.351354Panasonic GF1
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.321649Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GX1 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60p20.810.670355Panasonic GX1
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.349353Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654Panasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/24p21.611.677264Panasonic GH1
 
Panasonic G1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000none21.110.346353Panasonic G1

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (720/30p).

 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The E-PL1 and the GF1 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. However, optional viewfinders – the VF-2 for the E-PL1 and the DMW-LVF1 for the GF1 – are available as accessories. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-PL1 and Panasonic GF1 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL1
 
Panasonic GF1optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic GF1
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2optional n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GX1optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.2 Y n Panasonic GX1
 
Panasonic G10202 n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G21440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF2optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH11440 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic GH1
 
Panasonic G11440 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic G1

One feature that differentiates the E-PL1 and the GF1 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL1 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the GF1 has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-PL1 and the GF1 write their files to SDHC cards.

 

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 PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL1
 
Panasonic GF1Ymonomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF1
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-620Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GX1Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GX1
 
Panasonic G10Ymononone--mini2.0---Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1YstereononeY-mini2.0---Panasonic GH1
 
Panasonic G1Ynonenone--mini2.0---Panasonic G1

Both the E-PL1 and the GF1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The GF1 was replaced by the Panasonic DMC-GF2, 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 and Panasonic websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL1 and the Panasonic GF1? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL1:

  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 51g or 13 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (20 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 5 months after the GF1).

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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1:

  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (380 versus 290) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2009).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the GF1 comes out slightly ahead of the E-PL1 (5 : 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. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

E-PL1 04:05 GF1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL1 and the Panasonic GF1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-PL1 or the GF1 perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL186/10069/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599iOlympus E-PL1
 
Panasonic GF185/10069/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2009 749iPanasonic GF1
 
Olympus XZ-2+..4.5/54/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599iOlympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P383/10074/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799iOlympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL283/10071/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599iOlympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3+ +72/1004.5/5..4/5 Jun 2011 599iOlympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM186/10071/1004.5/5..4.5/5 Jun 2011 499iOlympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-62088/10072/1004.5/5o5/5 Feb 2009 699iOlympus E-620
 
Olympus E-P1+66/1004/54/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799iOlympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2+69/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799iOlympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GX1+77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2011 699iPanasonic GX1
 
Panasonic G10..70/1004/5..4/5 Mar 2010 499iPanasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2..72/1004/54/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599iPanasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF282/10070/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549iPanasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1+ +72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 899iPanasonic GH1
 
Panasonic G1+ +70/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2008 599iPanasonic G1
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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-PL1:
Check Ebay offers
Panasonic GF1:
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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-PL1 vs Panasonic GF1

    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-PL1 Panasonic GF1
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date February 2010 September 2009
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 749
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic GF1
    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 12.2 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4032 x 3024 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.29 μm 4.33 μm
    Pixel Density 5.42 MP/cm2 5.34 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 200-3200 ISO 100-3200 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic V Venus HD
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 54 54
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.5 21.2
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.1 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 487 513
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic GF1
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.7 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic GF1
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic GF1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic GF1
    Battery Type BLS-1 DMW-BLB13
    Battery Life (CIPA)290 shots per charge380 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 115 x 72 x 42 mm
    (4.5 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)
    119 x 71 x 36 mm
    (4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 334 g (11.8 oz) 385 g (13.6 oz)

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