The Olympus PEN E-PL1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 are both high end cameras suitable for the consumer looking for digital SLR like quality and control over their images in a smaller package. Both cameras use the micro four thirds system which employs a larger sensor that is also used in some Olympus and Panasonic digital SLR cameras. The larger sensor enables significantly higher quality photos from these cameras compared to other point and shoot cameras that use a much smaller sensor.
Which one to buy?
Lets look at the main factors to consider when choosing between these two cameras.
Price – At the time of this writing, the GF1 is about 40% more expensive than the E-PL1. This is the difference in price for the standard kit package of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 with 14-45mm Lens and Olympus PEN E-PL1 12.3MP with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens. So on the price front the E-PL1 wins hand down.
Image Quality – Image quality is a toss up with both cameras producing images of similarly high quality.
Video – Both camera have good quality 720p HD video. You can play E-PL1 video samples and GF1 video samples to check out the video quality (you will need to look under the samples tab in the big youTube player).
LCD Size – The Panasonic GF1 has a 3″ 460K LCD vs a 2.7″ 230K LCD on the E-PL1 so the GF1 will give you a much better in camera display.
Shutter Speed – The GF1 sports a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 second which is twice as fast as the 1/2000 second on the E-PL1.
Body and controls – The GF1 has more external controls that make it easier to change camera setting and has a more solid professional feel to it.
Both cameras are very capable machines in the hands of a good photographer. Here are some sample images taken with the E-PL1 to show you what I mean.
For the significant difference in price (around 200$s at the time of this writing), the Olympus E-PL1 is a clear winner over the Panasonic GF1. The E-PL1 has most of the functionality a enthusiastic photographer would need and has one of the best quality photo output among the micro four thirds system cameras. However, if you are a user who need the extra LCD size, shutter speed and more easily configurable controls, then the Panasonic GF1 would be a better choice.