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Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Digital Camera Review

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Digital Camera Review by: Michael Gazzola

 

When the offer came to look over the PEN mini E-PM1, it was an easy decision considering we’d previously reviewed the E-PL1 and E-PL3 and awarded them both Platinum medals. But when the newest entry to the PEN line up is announced as the smallest and most affordable PEN, the task of maintaining a Platinum level, you would think, might become a harder task. Read on to see our thoughts and our overall conclusion.

 

Appearance & Functionality


Let’s start with the cosmetics; the paint job. There are six options now (2 more than the E-PL3) with purple, silver, black pink, chocolate and white. Comparing the front view point the PEN Mini E-PM1 is virtually the same. But the same can’t be said for the top and rear views with Olympus opting for a minimalist approach, whether it be by necessity due to its reduced size, simply a styling approach, or cost cutting exercise to achieve the lower pricing. My guess… a little of all three.

The old-school top dial which worked so well on the E-PL3 is simple gone, but not the functionality. This camera is all about locating function through the camera’s menu system. There are also four less buttons on the back so finding the most commonly used features that were now missing took a few moments while I searched for them. For a newbie upgrading from a compact the transformation would be a little more seamless, as we were treated to something special with the E-PL3 and kind of hoped to see most of that model (unrealistically) in the E-PM1… all sized down. Not the case, the E-PL3 has been given a rethink for feature option locations.

olympus20111113b.jpgOn the functionality side, Olympus have retained the same 6 ART filters; Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Dramatic Tone. With the previously easy use of the top function dial now gone, likely due to the slimmer body camera, the mode options of P A S M are now found with a single push of the menu button. There is still 23 Scene options too - with No.23 being a 3D option buried way down the list, although without a 3D TV to test the function were unable to give it a proper critiquing.

One major oversight is the easy access to the ISO (film speed) control. It’s not one button away, it’s not even on the first page menu option list (after pressing  the ‘OK’ button) but scroll down through 11 options before reaching ISO. For those who know how to use this function effectively, the move… or relegation won’t be appreciated. However, if it’s used regularly a double click of the ‘OK’ simply button skips straight to ISO if it was the last used option, in that part of the menu. It’s a tricky one as it gave us mixed feelings on it.

 

Image Quality / Lens Quality


We had the luxury of testing this unit with both the standard kit 14-42mm lens and Olympus’ new 45mm f1.8 lens... And let me tell you, once you’ve tested the 45mm lens you’ll instantly fall in love with the quality it produces time and again. The PEN Mini E-PM1, using a 12.3 megapixel capture TruePic VI Image processing engine is capable of 5fps burst shooting, and coupled with the 45mm lens, together dance beautifully.

Inside with dim lighting in just ‘Program’ mode the camera works wonders with an f1.8 aperture, and with the ability to skip up to 1600 ISO without any real grain hassles, it created images brighter than what the human eye sees. With a steel mount on the lens and what seemed a better quality outer finish than the kit lens, I liked the 45mm f1.8 a lot.

The 14-42mm kit lens also produced great images, but not in the league that the 45mm is at. Hence the price difference for those lenses with the 45mm f1.8 costing almost as much as the E-PM1 body with an RRP of $499.

Grain quality from 200 ISO setting to 1250 and even 1600 ISO produced excellent images for its category, keeping in the tradition of quality PEN images. It’s exciting to see that in this day and age we can use faster ISO speeds without the compromise we once had in earlier model digital cameras, and even in the days of film using 1600 ISO as an alternative.

 

LCD / Viewfinder


olympus20111113c.jpgOlympus have passed on from previous models the success of the 16:9 3.0-inch HyperCrystal 460,000 pixel LCD screen, but this time left off the LCD tilt option that had the E-PL3 LCD folding out 80°. The LCD colours are bright and punchy which is standard requirement for the PEN series. But, like so many LCD screens in bright daylight it’s hard to view, so until a camera company, any camera company, comes up with an alternative screen solution this LCD rates very highly in most shooting scenarios.

Again, like the E-PL3 there is an optional Electronic Viewfinder with a 1,440,000 dot resolution, remembering that it’s around 3½ times the resolution of the LCD back, maintaining its place in the leading group of add-on EV’s available on the market.

 

Video


Let’s start with the best part, 1920x1080, 60i Recording, 20Mbps, Aspect 16:9, at 30fps AVCHD or AVI with Dolby Digital Sound Recording. The second best part, Olympus retained the simple red Record button next to the Image capture button so life for the user is simply made easy.

The quality of capture is very good and is only restricted by the European standard clip length of 29 minutes, 59 seconds. For those who don’t know, in Europe there is a tax difference between camera and video sales hence the time limit.



 

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Conclusion


Starting with the cons, the same petty gripe as the E-PL3 was expected… there’s still no HDMI cable to easily plug and play FullHD and 3D capabilities directly to a HD screen. And second the non-easy option to access the ISO function... Even if it does eventually get easier to source the more you use it.

After that, it’s all rosy. The E-PM1 passed with flying colours. Olympus continues with the PEN series to add worth at both ends of its spectrum maintaining its target for high quality bodied cameras and fast, quality lenses.

There’s yet again no shortage of add-ons in the interchangeable PEN series with extra lenses, electronic viewfinders and external flash options etc which can only be seen as a plus. From styling to handling, from shooting to image capture, once more Olympus score another Platinum medal for its ‘pool room’ with the E-PM1.

 

Appearance rating 5 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
4 stars (from kit lenses)
Image quality
5 stars (from 45mm 1.8 lens)
Lens quality
3.5 stars (from kit lenses)
Lens quality
5 stars (from 45mm 1.8 lens)
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 stars
RRP (AUD) $599 single lens kit / $799 twin lens kit
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 12.3 Mega pixels
Sensor Type
High speed Live MOS Sensor
Image Sizes 5 Sizes
Lenses 14-42mm IIR (M.Zuiko)
40-150mm R (M.Zuiko) 
Resolution Settings [RAW] 4032 x 3024 pixels
[JPEG] 4032 x 3024 pixels - 1024x768 pixels
Shooting Modes 23 Scene options
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds 60 - 1/4000 sec. Bulb: up to 30 min. (selectable longest time in the menu. Default: 8 min). 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps selectable.
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO ISO 200 - 12,800
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3 inch 16:9, 460,000 Screen Resolution
Viewfinder (Optional) VF-2, 1,440,000 dots
Flash (Optional) FL-LM1: GN10 (F no/m) at ISO200
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance 7 settings (3000K - 7500K), Lamp (3000K), Fluorescent (4000K), Daylight (5300K), Flash (5500K), Cloudy (6000K), Shade (7500K) , Underwater WB
Self Timer 12 sec., 2 sec. (cancel available)
Video Options AVCHD/AVI M-JPEG; Best settings: AVCHD Full HD Fine : 1920(H)x1080(V), 60i Recording, 20Mbps, Aspect 16:9, 30fps; HD: 1280(H)x720(V), 30fps (Some Artfilters are exceptional), Aspect 16:9
Video Out Yes, Mini HDMI type-C (optional)
Storage Type SD Memory Card (SDHC, SDXC, UHS-I compatible), Eye-Fi, Class 6 is recommended for Movie shooting
Image / Audio Formats DCF, DPOF compatible/Exif, PRINT Image Matching III
RAW (12-bit lossless compression), JPEG, RAW+JPEG
AVI Motion JPEG (30fps)
Connectivity CB-USB6 USB Cable
Power Source BLS-1 Li-ion battery (included)
Battery Options BCS-1 
Battery Life Approximately 300 shots (CIPA standard)
Dimensions 109.5 mm (W) x 63.7mm (H) x 34.0mm (D)
Weight 265g (inc. Battery & Memory card), 217g (body only)
















 


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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About Olympus

 

In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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