I just purchased an Olympus E-PL1 and am doing some comparison tests with my older Canon SX10 IS. Probably not of interest to anyone but me. The flower shots are hand-held, the bits and pieces shots are tripod.
For the record, I deal in JPGs. Of course RAW would be better and probably would have changed my views on the two cameras: the Olympus does RAW by changing a setting while the Canon will only do it if you install CHDK (not something I've done, nor am I likely to). But between the way RAWs gobbles storage and backup space and the poor handling of RAW on Linux, I'm sticking with JPG for now.
After staring at these images for a long time, only a couple things are clear: the default colours on the Olympus (their "Natural" setting in camera) are too vivid, and the Olympus is definitely superior at high ISOs. What's surprisingly unclear is which produces better images at low ISOs: the Olympus is 12MP as opposed to the Canon's 10MP, but I think the Canon images are actually marginally better even not considering the colours. And to switch to the Olympus, I would lose:
- flip screen
- audio memos
- super zoom (28mm - 560mm equivalent)
- focusing to about 1mm (the Olympus kit lens is 25cm, but you can get a macro lens for ~$1000 ...)
- viewfinder (available on the Olympus, but a $270 extra!)
- one lens convenience
- AA batteries!
What I would gain with the Olympus:
- a huge CCD that only helps at high ISOs (and could get dirty when you change lenses)
- interchangeable lenses (a very mixed blessing, especially when you can't afford them - but also when you're carrying all that extra gear)
- a marginal photographer credibility gain
Post Script: Best Buy was kind enough to take the Olympus back. Which is good, because the Canon is immensely superior for 99% of the things I do.