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Olympus E-PL1 vs Panasonic L1

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2010 and February 2006. The E-PL1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the L1 is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 7.4 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 versus Panasonic L1
Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic L1
Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
Micro Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 7.4 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
720/30p Video no Video
ISO 200-3,200 ISO 100-1,600
Viewfinder optional Optical viewfinder
2.7 LCD, 230k dots 2.5 LCD, 207k 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 charge750 shots per battery charge
115 x 72 x 42 mm, 334 g 146 x 87 x 64 mm, 606 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-L1? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL1 and the Panasonic L1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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 dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-PL1 can be obtained in four different colors (black, blue, yellow, white), while the L1 is only available in black.

Size Olympus E-PL1 vs Panasonic L1
Compare E-PL1 versus L1 top
Comparison E-PL1 or 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 considerably larger (53 percent) than the Olympus E-PL1. Moreover, the L1 is substantially heavier (81 percent) than the E-PL1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL1 nor the L1 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-PL1) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (L1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Olympus E-PL1, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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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-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599i
2.
 
Panasonic L1 146 mm 87 mm 64 mm 606 g 750 n Feb 2006 999i
3.
 
Canon 350D 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499i
5.
 
Olympus XZ-2 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599i
6.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799i
7.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599i
8.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
9.
 
Olympus E-PM1 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499i
10.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699i
11.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799i
12.
 
Olympus E-P2 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799i
13.
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999i
14.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799i
15.
 
Panasonic G10 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499i
16.
 
Panasonic GF2 113 mm 68 mm 33 mm 310 g 300 n Nov 2010 549i
17.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or 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 markedly lower price (by 40 percent) than the L1, which puts it into a different market segment. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

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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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Olympus E-PL1 and Panasonic L1 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 7.4 MP of the L1. This megapixels advantage translates into a 29 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 5.51μm for the L1). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the E-PL1 is much more recent (by 3 years and 11 months) than the L1, 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 Panasonic L1 are 15.7 x 11.8 inches or 39.8 x 29.9 cm for good quality, 12.5 x 9.4 inches or 31.9 x 23.9 cm for very good quality, and 10.5 x 7.8 inches or 26.6 x 19.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

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-L1 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

E-PL1 versus L1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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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-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
2.
 
Panasonic L1 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
3.
 
Canon 350D APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
5.
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.321649
6.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
7.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
8.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
9.
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952
10.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
11.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655
12.
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556
13.
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
14.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
15.
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152
16.
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654
17.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The E-PL1 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the L1 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-PL1 can use is 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the L1 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-PL1, the Panasonic L1, 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-PL1optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y
2.
 
Panasonic L1optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon 350Doptical n 1.8 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
5.
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0 Y Y
6.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
7.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
8.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
9.
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
10.
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
11.
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
12.
 
Olympus E-P2optional n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
13.
 
Olympus E-330optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-300optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
15.
 
Panasonic G10202 n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
16.
 
Panasonic GF2optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
17.
 
Panasonic L10optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One feature that differentiates the E-PL1 and the L1 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL1 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the L1 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-PL1 and the L1 write their files to SDHC cards.

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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 PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 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-PL1Ystereo---mini2.0---
2.
 
Panasonic L1Y-----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 350DY-----2.0---
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereomono---2.0---
5.
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo---mini2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo---mini2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo---mini2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-620Y-----2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo---mini2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereo---mini2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-330Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-300Y-----2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic G10Ymono---mini2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic L10Y-----2.0---

Both the E-PL1 and the L1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The L1 was replaced by the Panasonic L10, 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.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-PL1 or the Panasonic L1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN E-PL1:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.2 vs 7.4MP) with a 29% higher linear resolution.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/30p movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 207k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (115x72mm vs 146x87mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 272g or 45 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (40 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 11 months of technical progress since the L1 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1:

  • 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: Gets more shots (750 versus 290) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2006).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-PL1 is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 4 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. 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-PL1 10:04 L1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL1 and the Panasonic L1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR 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-PL1 and the L1 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-PL1..86/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599i
2.
 
Panasonic L1..85/100+..3.5/5 Feb 2006 999i
3.
 
Canon 350D..80/100+ +o.. Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Leica Digilux 3.......... Sep 2006 1,499i
5.
 
Olympus XZ-24/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
6.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/10074/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799i
7.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/10071/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599i
8.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
9.
 
Olympus E-PM1..86/10071/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 499i
10.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/10072/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699i
11.
 
Olympus E-P1..+66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799i
12.
 
Olympus E-P23/5+69/1004/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799i
13.
 
Olympus E-330....+o.. Jan 2006 999i
14.
 
Olympus E-300....+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 799i
15.
 
Panasonic G103/5..70/1004/54/5 Mar 2010 499i
16.
 
Panasonic GF23/582/10070/1004.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549i
17.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599i
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. 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, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Olympus E-PL1:
Check Ebay offers
Panasonic L1:
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-PL1 vs Panasonic L1

    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 L1
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date February 2010 February 2006
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 999
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic L1
    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 7.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4032 x 3024 pixels 3136 x 2352 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.29 μm 5.51 μm
    Pixel Density 5.42 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic V Venus
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 54 ..
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.5 ..
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.1 ..
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 487 ..
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic L1
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.47x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.7inch 2.5inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 207k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic L1
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-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 L1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic L1
    Battery Type BLS-1 CGR-S602
    Battery Life (CIPA)290 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 115 x 72 x 42 mm
    (4.5 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)
    146 x 87 x 64 mm
    (5.7 x 3.4 x 2.5 in)
    Camera Weight 334 g (11.8 oz) 606 g (21.4 oz)

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