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Nikon 1 J1 vs Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Review

Nikon 1 J1 vs Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Review - We compare the new Nikon 1 J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, two new compact system cameras.

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Category : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product : Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Price : £286
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict

Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

The Nikon 1 series challenges current small mirrorless cameras such as the Micro Four Thirds cameras, so we thought it would be worth comparing the Nikon J1 with one of the smallest mirrorless cameras with a large sensor, the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1.

Nikon 1 J1 vs Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Features

The Nikon 1 Series uses a smaller sensor than the Olympus PEN Mini and Micro Four Thirds cameras and this allows Nikon to use smaller lenses than Micro Four Thirds.

Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Nikon 1 J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

Nikon 1 J1 vs Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Features Table

Here's a quick table going over the main differences / specifications of the new cameras, with the highlight feature marked in bold:

Nikon 1 J1 Olympus PEN E-PM1 Mini
10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor 12.1 megapixels (effective)
Infra-red filter / dust shield glass SSWF Dust Reduction
3inch screen, 460k dots 3inch 460k, 16:9
Lens based VR Image Stabilisation (Sensor)
Built in pop-up Flash Flash / accessory hot shoe
Stereo mics, sensitivity adjustable Stereo mics, not sensitivity adjustable
30s-1/16,000s shutter (electronic) 60s-1/4000s shutter (mechanical)
135 focus areas 35 point area focus
Contrast detection and Phase Detection AF Contrast detection AF
ISO100-3200 (6400 expanded) ISO200-12800
60fps still shooting (12 shots) 4.1/5.5fps IS On/Off
Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i
230 shot battery life 330 shot battery life
106 x 61 x 29.8 mm 109.5 x 63.7 x 34.0 mm
234g (Body only) 216g (Body only)
£399 with 10-30mm VR kit lens £359 with 14-42mm kit lens
Multiple colours (White, black, red, silver, pink) Multiple colours (White, black, red, silver, pink, brown)
Motion Snapshot (photo and video),
Smart Photo Selector
Art Filters

The Nikon 1 J1 also gives a number of high speed shooting features, such as high speed video up to 1200fps and shooting photos before and after you've pressed the shutter release button. View a comparison of the Nikon J1 and Nikon V1 here.

Nikon 1 J1 vs Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Handling


Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Nikon 1 J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

These pictures show the size difference between the Nikon 1 CMOS sensor (13.2 by 8.8 mm) and Micro Four Thirds sensor (17.3 x 13 mm), the Nikon 1 featuring a 10 megapixel sensor, and the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 featuring a 12 megapixel sensor that's nearly twice the physical size of the Nikon's. The Nikon 1 sensor is partly obscured by the infra-red filter which is placed further away from the sensor to reduce the effect of any dust collected.

Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Nikon 1 J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

The new Nikon 1 series has introduced a number of collapsible lenses, much like the Olympus 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds kit lens, however Nikon has introduced a 10mm pancake lens (27mm equivalent), 10-30mm retractable standard zoom lens, a 30-110mm retractable telephoto zoom lens, and a 10-100mm retractable power zoom lens, with Vibration Reduction (VR) built into each lens, excluding the 10mm pancake.

Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Nikon 1 J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Lens collapsed

Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Nikon 1 J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Lens extended

Menus - The J1 has easy to navigate menus and the options are neatly split over three screens with the F button giving you a few extra options. The Olympus PEN has around 4 main menus screens and then an advanced options menu that you can turn on, giving you another 10 pages of options! This can seem daunting at first but setting the main options is done in photo mode on the back of the screen with the OK button and on-screen options.

Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

Battery Life - According to CIPA ratings the Olympus PEN Mini should take 330 shots and the Nikon J1 230 shots. We took 380 shots with the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 before the battery went flat. With the Nikon J1 we took around 350 shots before the battery went flat, on other occasions the J1 battery life was less. Although with extremely fast continuous shooting modes on the J1 it's easy to take hundreds of photos in a very short amount of time, so your results may vary.

Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Nikon J1 and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

Speed -  With 135 focus areas (Single-point AF) and Auto-area AF with 41 focus areas the focusing system on the Nikon 1 J1 should be very responsive. It also gives excellent control over what you are focusing on letting you select any of the 135 points. The Olympus lets you choose from any of the 35 focus points but does not let you go right to the edges, whereas the J1 does.

We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness such as: photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.


Nikon J1
Olympus Mini
Shutter Response <0.05 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2*
0.2***
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.25**
0.2***
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.5 / 1.2 (10mm)
2.6
Shot to Shot without Flash 1.6
0.6
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.7 (Speedlight)
1.6
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
10 (13)
30 (12)
60fps (12)
5fps (9 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A
1.6
Continuous Shooting - RAW 10 (13)
30 (12)
60fps (12)
5fps (9 shots)

* 10mm, 10-30mm / 30-110mm lens (wide), ** 10-30mm / 30-110mm lens (telephoto) ^ 10mm ***  E-PM1 tested with 14-42mm Olympus Mk II R

Here you can see that both cameras perform extremely well with excellent shutter response, excellent focusing and quick switch on time. However, the switch on time of the Nikon J1 is quicker and the camera also offers exceptionally quick continuous shooting at 10/30/60fps thanks to the electronic shutter. The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 on the other hand offers an extremely respectable 5fps shooting, which is among the quickest offered by a Micro Four Thirds camera.

Nikon J1 vs Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Performance

Here are several sample photos taken in a variety of lighting conditions, click "Hi-Res" to view full size sample photos. More sample photos can be seen in the equipment database for the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, and Nikon J1.

Nikon 1 J1 Sample Photos


Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Sample Photos


Sample Photos: Both cameras perform well with good colour and detail. The portrait photos taken by both cameras show little red eye and good skin tones, with the Olympus PEN producing slightly darker results.

Purple fringing is slightly higher on the Nikon J1, with the 10-30mm kit lens also giving slightly soft corners (although this could be lens specific). For macro shots, the Nikon J1 and 10-30mm lens is at an advantage with the kit lens being able to focus on the subject with it much closer to the lens. The PEN's kit lens is still capable of giving good macro performance, just not as close as the Nikon. The kit lens for both cameras provides the same amount of zoom giving the equivalent of 28-84mm on the Olympus, and 27-81mm on the Nikon.

Nikon 1 J1 ISO test images


Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 ISO test images


ISO Noise Performance - Compared to the 12 megapixel E-PM1 at ISO200, the E-PM1 is showing less noise than the V1 at ISO100 and ISO200. ISO400 shows similar comparisons, with the V1 showing more grain / texture. At ISO800 the V1 images are showing more noise in bold colours like racing green and blacks. At ISO1600 it's difficult to see much difference in the noise but the E-PM1 images show more detail and it appears as though the images from the V1 are blurred more. At ISO3200 the V1 shows more chroma noise and black dots start to appear. However, the E-PM1 is starting to show slightly soft images in comparison to its own sharp images at lower ISO settings. At ISO6400 the V1 images are blurred and the E-PM1 images show more detail with textured noise rather than just completely blurred spots. The V1 does a good job of keeping colour though. ISO12800 is not available on the V1 and the results from the E-PM1 are pretty awful (on default noise reduction settings).

Nikon 1 J1 White-balance test images



Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 White-balance test images


White Balance Performance - Both cameras perform very well under a variety of lighting conditions, with the auto white balance performing very well - and for the most part you should not need to use any of the presets. The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 has a slight advantage in that you can also select the option to "Keep warm colour" when using auto white balance, this can be useful for indoor situations where you want to capture the mood of the environment, rather than have a technically correct colour rendition.

Art Filters: On the Olympus PEN E-PM1, there are 6 Art Filters: Pin Hole, Pop Art, Diorama (Miniature), Dramatic Tone, Grainy Film and Soft Focus. On the J1 there are none.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Digital filters


Video: Both cameras offer Full HD video, with the Nikon J1 also offering additional slow motion modes, from 400 to 1200fps at reduced resolution, as well as microphone sensitivity settings and fade in/out. The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 offers digital zoom, as well as art filters, and the choice of AVCHD or MJPEG encoding. Both offer manual control in the video mode.

Lenses Available: 
Nikon J1, V1, Lenses, Accessories
Nikon J1, V1, Lenses, Accessories (This is not an extensive picture of everything).

The are currently 4 lenses available for the Nikon 1 system, with another 7 planned from Nikon over the next 3 years, as well as an adapter that lets you use Nikon DSLR lenses. On the Micro Four Thirds system, there are around 12 lenses from Olympus, 14 from Panasonic, and more from other manufacturers, including third party options such as the 25mm f1.4 Toy lens, Holga, Pinwide, and fisheye / wide and macro adapters.

Nikon J1 Kit lens (10-30mm) and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 (14-42mm) Nikon J1 Kit lens (10-30mm) and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 (14-42mm)
Nikon J1 Kit lens (10-30mm) and Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 (14-42mm) Collapsed and Extended

Nikon had a number of collapsible lenses at launch, while Olympus has just one collapsible lens, the standard kit lens. Panasonic has pre-empted with the X zoom lenses, however it shouldn't be long before Olympus and Panasonic make some more collapsible lenses/power zooms (and Panasonic has said more are already on the way). So which should you choose? If you want access to more lenses, and want more choice of bodies, and access to more 3rd party lenses including old lenses or lenses from other manufacturers, then M43 has clear advantages, but if you want ultra high speed shooting then the Nikon 1 series is a good choice.

Value For Money

The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 is £359 with kit lens vs £399 for the Nikon J1 with kit lens. The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 is excellent value for money as one of the cheapest Micro Four Thirds cameras available with in camera image stabilisation and access to numerous lenses. The Nikon J1 is more expensive and currently has a limited line up of lenses available. For alternatives have a look at ePHOTOzine's Top 10 Mirrorless cameras.

Nikon 1 J1 vs Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Verdict

The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 is cheaper, has a larger sensor, delivers better high ISO performance and doesn't limit your creativity in any noticeable way, letting you choose your scene mode, or art filters, as well as use manual controls. The lack of mode dial is a minor flaw, but the camera is very compact and with the kit lens, is just slightly larger than the more compact Nikon J1 lens. It also offers extremely quick focusing and rapid 5.5fps shooting.

Nikon 1 J1 Silver Front

Compared to the Nikon J1, the J1 offers a massive 60fps shooting, a lower resolution sensor, a mode dial, although the dial choices are limited with no dedicated manual modes on there and the auto scene selector mode means that you can't choose the scene yourself.

In some ways these are both entry level compact system cameras but aimed at completely different users. The Nikon J1 is all about high speed shooting and capturing the moment, whether it's using the 60fps shooting mode, the motion snapshot (capturing video and photo) or the smart photo selector that will select the best 5 shots for you. It is definitely capable of capturing the moment, taking some great photos.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

 
  The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 would make an excellent choice with great image quality and excellent value for money.
The Olympus PEN Mini EPM1 on the other hand is for the entry level photographer who wants high quality photographs but also likes changing settings themselves and may one day grow into using even more advanced options. Both cameras have excellent Full HD video recording and offer video optimised lenses. The Olympus PEN also gives access to the Micro Four Thirds lens mount with numerous lenses from Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, as well as the ability to use 3rd party lenses and adapters, something the Nikon doesn't allow as it won't let you shoot without a lens.

As a complete system, there's one clear winner, the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with a lower price at around £359 with kit lens, built in image stabilisation, larger 12 megapixel sensor and quick performance. However, if 60fps is want you want then the Nikon J1 would make a great choice.

Read our full Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Review.
Read our full
Nikon J1 Review.

   
Nikon 1 J1 Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
FEATURES
HANDLING
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VALUE FOR MONEY
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FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

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    Photographs taken using the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

    End of story.Don't bank on it.HibiscusDoing the McHaka.Clock watching.No 8.OrbsUp!CalmSecond thoughts.I Shot The Sheriff.Size does matter sometimes.Is she or isnt she ?Mark my words.He's behind you !!
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    Comments


    30 Jan 2012 12:12PM
    A very good comparative review that provides all the info needed to set off to the shops and play with them to see what suits the individual best...

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    Coleslaw e2
    9 13.4k 28 Wales
    30 Jan 2012 12:30PM
    Thanks EPZ for this review

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