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Panasonic L1 versus Olympus E-300

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and the Olympus Evolt E-300 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2006 and September 2004. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Panasonic has a resolution of 7.4 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 8 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: Panasonic L1 vs Olympus E-300

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Panasonic L1 and the Olympus E-300 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the L1 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Panasonic L1 vs Olympus E-300
Compare L1 versus E-300 top
Compare L1 and E-300 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-300 is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Panasonic L1. However, the E-300 is slightly heavier (3 percent) than the L1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the L1 nor the E-300 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 find an overview of suitable optics in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons 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)
Used
Price
(USD)
Panasonic L1» 5.7 in 3.4 in 2.5 in 21.4 oz 750 n Feb 2006 999- i
Olympus E-300« 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 n Sep 2004 799- i
Canon XT« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 19.0 oz 400 n Feb 2005 899- i
Canon Rebel« » 5.6 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 22.9 oz 400 n Aug 2003 899- i
Leica V-LUX 1« » 5.6 in 3.4 in 5.6 in 25.9 oz 360 n Sep 2006 849- i
Leica Digilux 3« » 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 n Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i
Nikon D70s« » 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 500 n Apr 2005 899- i
Olympus E-330« » 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 n Jan 2006 999- i
Olympus E-500« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.6 in 16.9 oz 750 n Sep 2005 599- i
Olympus E-1« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i
Panasonic L10« » 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 n Aug 2007 599- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-300 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 20 percent) than the L1, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Panasonic L1 vs Olympus E-300

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 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.

Panasonic L1 and Olympus E-300 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-300 offers a slightly higher resolution of 8 megapixel, compared with 7.4 MP of the L1. This megapixel advantage translates into a 4 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-300 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.30μm versus 5.51μm for the L1). Moreover, it should be noted, that the L1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 4 months) than the E-300, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels.

L1 versus E-300 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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 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 Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Panasonic L1» Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Olympus E-300« Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----
Canon XT« » APS-C 8.0 3456 2304-21.810.863760
Canon Rebel« » APS-C 6.3 3072 2048-21.010.854455
Leica V-LUX 1« » 1/1.8 10.0 3648 2736480/30p----
Leica Digilux 3« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461
Nikon D70s« » APS-C 6.0 3008 2000-20.410.352950
Olympus E-330« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Olympus E-500« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----
Olympus E-1« » Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955
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-300 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Panasonic L1 vs Olympus E-300

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The L1 and the E-300 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Panasonic L1 and Olympus E-300 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera 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
Panasonic L1»optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-300«optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n
Canon XT« »optical n 1.8 115 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Canon Rebel« »optical n 1.8 118 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n
Leica V-LUX 1« »235 n 2.0 207 swivel n 2000 2.0 Y Y
Leica Digilux 3« »optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D70s« »optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 8000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-330« »optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-500« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n

Both the L1 and the E-300 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-300 was replaced by the Olympus E-330, while the L1 was followed by the Panasonic L10.

Review summary: Panasonic L1 vs Olympus E-300

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Panasonic L1 and the Olympus E-300? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1:

  • 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).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 4 months after the E-300).

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Advantages of the Olympus Evolt E-300:

  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (20 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2004).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the L1 emerges as the winner of the contest (4 : 2 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.

L1 04:02 E-300

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the L1 or the E-300. 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. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Panasonic L1»85/100Rec-rev3.5/5 Feb 2006 999- i
Olympus E-300«-Recrevrev4.5/5 Sep 2004 799- i
Canon XT« »80/100HiRecrevrev- Feb 2005 899- i
Canon Rebel« »-HiRec-rev- Aug 2003 899- i
Leica V-LUX 1« »----- Sep 2006 849- i
Leica Digilux 3« »----- Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D80« »RecHiRecrev4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i
Nikon D70s« »---rev5/5 Apr 2005 899- i
Olympus E-330« »-Recrev3.5/5- Jan 2006 999- i
Olympus E-500« »76/100HiRec--- Sep 2005 599- i
Olympus E-1« »-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i
Panasonic L10« »85/100Rec3.5/5rev4/5 Aug 2007 599- i

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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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