There are a lot of great cameras out there but in my book the camera that has the best price to quality ratio is the Olympus E-PL1. For a complete body and lens kit, you can get a brand new setup for around $280 at Amazon. I’ve bought both of my cameras factory refurbished from Cameta Camera, where they are currently $190 with a kit lens. So for the price of a point and shoot camera, you can get a high quality micro 4/3 camera that will smoke any point and shoot, quality wise. Consider the Canon S100 or G12 run in the mid to upper $300s. The Fuji X10 and new Sony high end point and shoot RX-100 run upwards of $600. Sure these point and shoots are smaller so if portability is a prime concern, the Olympus E-PL1 maybe too large. However, The E-PL1 is fairly compact and light. It is not pocketable but it won’t wear you down like a DLSR. And unlike a point and shoot, you can change lenses on the E-PL1, so if you want more flexibility and capability, you can always buy and change lenses.
I was so happy with the quality of the E-PL1, it got me enamored with the Olympus cameras. I’ve had very good luck with mine and have taken some great shots with the E-PL1, here is a sample on my mostlyfotos blog. You can read my review about the camera here and I’m pretty honest about the good and bad things about the camera. The main caveat about this camera, it isn’t really fast focusing. It works great for casual snaps of non-hyperactive people and capturing high quality images of slow moving subjects. It works well as a contemplative camera where you go around and capture the interesting things around you. This is generally the kind of photography that I do and it works well for that. If you want to take pictures of active children or their sports, this is not the camera for you. I also think the flash exposure is not the best so I try to avoid using the popup flash.
Keep in mind that I’m a fairly advanced photographer so some of my E-PL1 images will require more advanced techniques to master. I also have several different lenses that help me take photographs in darker conditions. The photographs above show my two E-PL1s mounted with more premium and specialized lenses. However, rest assured that these images were all taken with the Olympus E-PL1 and it is quite a capable camera. The kit lens will work very well in brighter conditions especially during the day. I have a lot of E-PL1 images on my blog so make sure to click to the << Previous Photo link to view them all.
The amazing thing is that the body only E-PL1 (without a lens) runs for $129, factory refurbished at Cameta Camera. Consider for this price you get the body, a battery, charger, strap, everything except a lens. If you are already a Olympus or Panasonic micro 4/3 shooter, you can use this camera with your existing lenses. I own multiple bodies and basically use them as functional lens caps. Instead of having to change lens on my camera body, I just have camera bodies attached to my favorite lenses. Sounds a bit crazy bit at $129, you can do this kind of thing.