Expert Review of Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Mirrorless Kit 14-42mm Black
Probably one of the most affordable cameras with the speciality of being packed with mirrorless interchangeable lenses till now, and one of the most beautiful vintage looking devices available in market today is Olympus E PM1 as known as Olympus PEN Mini. And like all the cameras under the PEN flagship this device is also based on Micro Four Thirds standard which was jointly developed by it alongside Panasonic. Unlike other PEN cameras which were strictly DSLRs and were aimed highly only at good and experienced photographers, this device is strictly a Point and Shoot camera. And to be highly precise this is the smallest, lightest, most accessible, and affordable model in the range. Olympus E-PM1 is based on the same 12.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor as the other two models in the range, Olympus E-PL3 and the star E-P3. The device has a fixed 3in screen with 460k pixels and is capable of shooting 1080p at 60 frames per seconf video. Like all PENs it benefits from built-in sensor-shift image stabilisation that works with any lens and very fast auto focus. Consumer-friendly features include iAuto mode with 'Live Guide' results-based controls for easy manipulation of colour and exposure controls. But the E-PM1 isn't just for novices. With PASM exposure modes, a hotshoe and plenty of potential for customisation it's sufficiently advanced to appeal to DSLR owners looking for a smaller, lighter alternative.
Design and Build Quality
To provide the exact dimensions that this camera sports, Olympus E PM1 measures 109.5mm x63.7mm x 34mm, and weighs roughly 265 gms. The dimensions of the device definitely give an idea as to why exactly is the device called PEN 'Mini'. Olympus E-PM1 is an extremely compact ILC. It's similar in style and dimensions to the next model up in the range, the PEN 'Lite' E-PL3, but lacking the flip-out screen is a fair bit slimmer. As well as the screen the Mini lacks the PEN Lite's mode dial and several other buttons, but from the front the two models look more or less identical. The NEX-C3 is actually a little bit smaller and lighter than the PEN E-PM1, but add on the stabilised 18-55mm kit zoom and that advantage evaporates. Panasonic Lumix GF3 is a little taller than the PEN E-PM1 and its 14-42mm stabilised kit lens, though not as big as the Sony 18-55mm also adds considerably to the overall size. Despite the fact that it has no front grip the PEN E-PM1 feels comfortable and secure with your left hand supporting the lens. On the rear there's a rubberised grip pad that runs from top to bottom along the right side. The rear controls are quite small but the control dial with its knurled edge is easy to operate and the clear plastic info, menu and playback buttons inset into the plastic cover of the screen are a nice design touch. If you're looking for a colourful body Olympus E-PM1 is available in silver, black, brown, silver-rose, purple, and white.
Focus and Face Detection
Olympus E-PM1 works under Imager Contrast Detection AF system autofocus and sports Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / AF tracking (C-AF + TR) focus modes. The light metering system given in the camera is a TTL Image sensing one and there are 4 types of metering modes (1) Digital ESP metering (324-area multi pattern metering) (2) Center weighted average metering (3) Spot metering (approx. 1% of the viewfinder screen. Highlight / shadow bias spot metering are available)
Lens and Image Stabilization
Olympus PEN E-PM1 is available as a kit with a choice of lenses including the Olympus forte M Zuiko digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 that I tested it with. This lens features a clever collapsible mechanism which allows it to shrink considerably when not in use. A sliding catch on the zoom ring allows rotation beyond the 14mm stop which completely retracts the extending barrel into the main housing. The 'crop factor' on the micro Four Thirds lens system is 2, so the 35mm equivalent focal length of this lens is 28-84mm - a 3x optical zoom range which takes you from wide angle to a short portrait telephoto. One of the advantages of the Micro Four Thirds system is having access to the largest range of native lenses for any ILC. With the Olympus 17mm f2.8 prime attached, Olympus E-PM1 can fit roughly in the coat. Other zoom lenses in the range include a 40-150mm f4-5.6, 75-300mm f4.8-6.7, and a 9-18mm f4-5.6 ultra wide angle zoom. You can of course also mount Micro Four Thirds lenses from third parties, including a number of tempting options from Panasonic, including the 20mm f1.7 and 14-42mm Power Zoom pancakes, although you may find some focusing restrictions.
Screen and Menus
The provided 3in LCD screen has an aspect ratio of 16:9 - great for HD movies, but you lose nearly a quarter of the area when shooting 4:3 stills in the best quality mode. The screen has a 460k pixel resolution and is bright and contrasty; though the illumination drops off a little when held at an angle you can see the image even at quite acute angles so shooting overhead is manageable, but obviously nothing like as versatile as a flip-out screen.
BLS-1 Li-Ion battery is what powers Olympus E-PM1. The battery comes with a BCS-1 battery type charger with the battery life of approximate 300 shots under CIPA standards.
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 has the same movie modes as Olympus E-PL3. The best quality movie mode is 1080i60 which is encoded as an AVCHD file at an average bitrate of 17Mbps. There's also a 13Mbps option at the same resolution and two 720p settings at 17Mbps and 13Mbps. Finally, there's a 720p option that records editing-friendly MJPEG files at 30fps and a standard resolution 640x480 mode.
Olympus E-PM1's 12.3 Megapixel Four Thirds sensor produces 4:3 images with a maximum size of 4032 x 3024 pixels. Images can be saved as RAW data files or JPEGs at one of two compression settings. Best quality JPEGs have a file size of between 4 and 6MB. The ISO sensitivity ranges from 200 to 12800 ISO and the shutter speed range is from 60 seconds to 1/4000 plus Bulb.
Built-in stabilisation works with any lens.
1080i60 movie mode with PASM.
Standard hotshoe with an accessory port.
Fast start-up and quick AF response.
Lacks a touch or tilting screen.
Movie stabilisation artifacts.
Incorrect control labels when customised.
Single-use accessory port.