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Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 CSC Review

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Category: Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product: Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Price: £292.40
Rating: 4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 m43 Review - Joshua Waller reviews the new Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 - the most compact Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus.

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Features

Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 is the smallest Olympus PEN released and introduces a whole new range of "Mini" PENs, assuming Olympus go on to release the E-PM2 and E-PM3 in coming years. To enable the smallest PEN yet, Olympus has developed a new smaller shutter system, shared with the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 and chopped off even more bits to make this camera teeny tiny.

The E-PM1, along with the E-PL3 share a new shutter system, high speed shooting at upto 5.5 fps, anti shake sensor, ultra fast focus, AF illuminator, Full HD video, stereo sound, completely new design, numerous colours and Art filters. The camera doesn't feature a built-in flash, instead a clip on / pop up flash is included. The kit lens is the same as the MK II, but the new R designation means that it has been redesigned cosmetically to match the updated PEN range. 

The Mini was announced along side the new E-PL3, and E-P3, which we have also reviewed. NB. Due to similarities between the E-PM1 and E-PL3, sections of this review are based on the E-PL3 review.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Features

 
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

  • 12 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor
  • Improved sensitivity - upto ISO12800
  • TruePix VI Image Processor
  • World's fastest AF, AF illuminator
  • Full HD Video - advanced IS, shutter priority
  • Advanced Shadow Adjustment Technology
  • New graphic user interface (see below)
  • 3inch 16:9 screen, 460k dots
  • Choice of colours
  • New tone control
  • Art bracketing, 6 filters
  • 3D Photos
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

At the same time as the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 announcement, Olympus also announced two other new models, the PEN E-P3 and PEN Lite E-PL3, here's how they compare visually (shown to scale):

Olympus PEN Mini, Lite, and E-P3

Olympus PEN 3 vs Olympus PEN Lite 3 vs Olympus PEN Mini 1 - How does it compare?

Olympus PEN E-PM1 Mini Olympus PEN E-PL3 Lite Olympus Pen E-P3
12.1 megapixels (effective) 12.1 megapixels (effective) 12.1 megapixels (effective)
3inch 460k, 16:9 3inch 460k, Tilting, 16:9 3inch OLED, Touch, 610k, 3:2
4.1/5.5fps IS On/Off 4.1/5.5fps IS On/Off 3fps
35 point area focus 35 point area focus 35 point area focus
Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i
Stereo microphones Stereo microphones Stereo microphones
ISO200 - ISO12800 ISO200 - ISO12800 ISO200 - ISO12800
Detachable flash Detachable flash Built in flash
Battery life: 330 Battery life: 330 Battery life: 330 (LCD On)
216g 265g 321g
109.5 x 63.7 x 34.0 mm 109.5 x 63.7 x 37.3 mm 122 x 69.1 x 34.3 mm
£439 with kit lens £549 with kit lens £799 with kit lens (14-42)
Colours: Black, white, silver, dark brown, purple and silver rose Colours: Black, Silver, White, Red Colours: Black, White, Silver
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Olympus E-P3 Back
Variation of art filters not available (art filters still available), no mode dial, 4 rear buttons (excluding the scroll wheel, and middle button) Variation of art filters available, mode dial available, 7 rear buttons (excluding the scroll wheel, and middle button). Other: Histogram, Fisheye, Wide Converter, Macro scene modes for use with the Olympus converters, 3D photo mode, Largest amount of art filters, Level Gauge, Fn buttons, mode dial moved compared to E-P1 / E-P2. 7 rear buttons, another for the pop-up flash, and a control dial, and scroll wheel plus middle button.

Size comparison with Sony NEX-C3, and Pentax Q, some of the other smaller sized mirrorless cameras available, you can also see the difference in size between the sensors used in these cameras when the lens is removed:

Sony NEX-C3, Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, Pentax Q
Sony NEX-C3, Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, Pentax Q

Sony NEX-C3, Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, Pentax Q
Sony NEX-C3 (APS-C Sensor), Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 (Micro Four Thirds Sensor), Pentax Q (1/2.33inch compact camera sensor).

The Olympus PEN kit lens is a collapsible lens that can be compacted when not in use, and is extended when needed:

Sony NEX-C3, Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, Pentax Q
Sony NEX-C3, Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, Pentax Q

Sony NEX-C3, Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, Pentax Q
Sony NEX-C3 (Lens in telephoto position), Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 (Lens extended), Pentax Q

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Handling

The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, with a name like "Mini" is the smallest Olympus PEN yet and is rather stylish and compact as you would expect. The compact camera lacks of any kind of front grip, and with a smooth finish it makes the camera feel quite slippery. Thankfully there is a rubber thumb grip on the back of the camera, and it's provided neck strap is definitely worth attaching to the camera for extra peace of mind. The memory / battery compartment is good and an improvement over the EPL1 / EPL2 with a locking mechanism much like the Panasonic Lumix G series of cameras.

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

The 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen means that a lot of it is wasted when taking and viewing 4:3 photos (the default aspect ratio). The customisable buttons: Record / Right (labelled flash) and Down (labelled Timer/Shooting mode) buttons can be set to various functions, however, the Record buttons can only be set to a limited set of functions (these are: AEL/AFL, Record, Preview, One touch WB, Home AF Position, MF, RAW, Test, Myset1, 2, 3, 4, Backlit LCD, Underwater, Live Guide, Digital Tele-Converter, Magnify, Off), then the Right / Down buttons can be set to ISO/WB/Lock scroll wheel, Exposure, Flash mode. Which I find a little awkward, personally, I would have liked to keep the flash and shooting mode / self-timer buttons where they are, and instead change the Record button to ISO. However, saying this, there is still an easy way to access all of these features by pressing the middle OK button, this brings up an overlay of controls on the screen.

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

Another minor gripe is that when you do press the OK button, and the options appear on screen (shown below right), they don't appear instantly, instead they "animate" / scroll onto the screen quite slowly, delaying you setting whatever it is you wanted to set. This wasn't the case on the E-P3 (firmware fix please, or add a menu option?) - when the camera is marketed as the World's Fasted Auto Focus it doesn't make sense to slow another area of the camera down with slow menus.

Olympus PEN Mini Mode selection Olympus PEN Mini Functions
Mode selection Function controls

Menus: The menus are very similar to EP3, but with a different background colour and a simplified mode selection screen (shown above left). The PEN cameras have a refreshed menu system with easier to navigate controls, with a picture of the camera in the background. There is built in help and a built in camera manual. There is a live guide available in the iAUTO mode that lets you change saturation, colour warmth, brightness, blur the background, stop or blur motion, as well as access the built in guide. The more basic options are in the normal menus, then you can also switch on the Custom Menu and then there are literally hundreds of options! (70 options, each with sub options, over 10 colour coded screens)

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

Battery Life: Battery life is rated at 330 Shots (using 100% live view, under CIPA testing). We managed to take over 380 photos before the battery went flat, this is better than expected, although the number of shots achieved will depend on whether you shoot continuous, how often you switch the camera on / off and what features you use.

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

Speed - we tested the Olympus PEN E-PL3 and compared it to the Samsung NX11, and Panasonic Lumix GF3. You can also compare the results to the new Panasonic Lumix G3 as well.

  Olympus Mini Panasonic GF3 Samsung NX11
Shutter Response <0.05 <0.05 0.1
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2* 0.2* 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2* 0.2* 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.6 0.9 1.3
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.6 0.6 1.0
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.6 1.3 1.1
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
5fps (9 shots) 4fps (13 shots) 3fps (15 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 1.6 N/A 2fps (infinite shots)
Continuous Shooting - RAW 5fps (9 shots) 4fps (6 shots) 3fps (5 shots)


* 14-42mm Olympus M Zuiko 14-42mm II R lens used for both M43rds cameras, tested with the new Samsung Class 10 memory card.

As with the E-PL3 and E-P3, you can instantly tell that there have been massive improvements in the focusing speed, as focusing was very, very quick, and shutter response is practically instant. Continuous shooting is around 5 to 5.5 fps (with IS disabled) or 4 fps with IS enabled, which is excellent, and the fastest Micro Four Thirds camera yet, quicker even than the top of the range Panasonic Lumix GH2 (with 5fps shooting). After shooting 9 shots in continuous shooting mode at 5fps, the camera can then shoot at 2fps in JPEG mode.

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, there are more sample photos in the equipment database where you can also add your own photos:

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Sample Photos

1/60 sec | f/5.1 | 34.0 mm | ISO 200

1/60 sec | f/5.1 | 34.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

1/320 sec | f/10.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200

1/320 sec | f/10.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

1/320 sec | f/9.0 | 17.0 mm | ISO 200

1/320 sec | f/9.0 | 17.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Fiat 500 Abarth - 1/200 sec | f/9.0 | 32.0 mm | ISO 200

Fiat 500 Abarth - 1/200 sec | f/9.0 | 32.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res


The photos shown here show excellent colour, detail, and the lens is capable of producing good background blur (bokeh) when used to focus on close subjects. The portrait shot with flash, shows very little red-eye, however the image is slightly underexposed.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Lens test images

Wide - 1/320 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200

Wide - 1/320 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Telephoto - 1/400 sec | f/11.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200

Telephoto - 1/400 sec | f/11.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Trees - 1/100 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200

Trees - 1/100 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Macro - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 640

Macro - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 640
High-Res


The lens performs well with detail right to the corners, although there is some purple fringing in extreme contrast areas (the corners especially) although this was generally low in other photos. The kit lens is capable of decent macro performance when used at the telephoto end.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 ISO test images

1/10 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200

1/10 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

1/20 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 400

1/20 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 400
High-Res

1/40 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 800

1/40 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 800
High-Res

1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 1600

1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 1600
High-Res

1/125 sec | f/6.3 | 42.0 mm | ISO 3200

1/125 sec | f/6.3 | 42.0 mm | ISO 3200
High-Res

1/160 sec | f/7.1 | 42.0 mm | ISO 6400

1/160 sec | f/7.1 | 42.0 mm | ISO 6400
High-Res

1/250 sec | f/9.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 12800

1/250 sec | f/9.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 12800
High-Res


ISO Noise performance: (Noise Filter Standard, default: Standard). The E-PM1 produces low noise at ISO200, through to ISO800, even when the noise filter is set to low. At ISO1600 and ISO3200 coloured noise becomes apparent, and it's at this point that I'd want to switch the noise filter to standard. Similarly at ISO6400 noise becomes more noticeable and this setting would be best used with the noise filter set to standard. ISO12800 is best used resized, however, the camera does a good job at maintaining colour even at this high ISO setting.

The noise filter options are worth looking at if you want to increase sharpness, as the Low setting gives a nice grain with good detail, Standard (Default) does a very good job of removing most of the noise if you're not a fan of noise, whereas High seems as though the noise reduction is a little too strong, although your personal preferences may differ.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 White-balance test images

AWB Tungsten (Warm Off) 1/20 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200

AWB Tungsten (Warm Off) 1/20 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Tungsten Preset 1/20 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200

Tungsten Preset 1/20 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

AWB Fluorescent 1/8 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200

AWB Fluorescent 1/8 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Fluorescent Preset 1/10 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200

Fluorescent Preset 1/10 sec | f/4.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res


Auto white balance: AWB performed well under tungsten and fluorescent lighting, often producing better results than using the respective presets. Interestingly the camera has an option to "Keep warm colour" when using auto white balance - this is useful for indoor situations where you want to capture the "mood" of the environment rather than have a technically correct colour rendition.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Digital filters

Pop Art - 1/160 sec | f/8.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200

Pop Art - 1/160 sec | f/8.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Dramatic Tone - 1/200 sec | f/8.0 | 28.0 mm | ISO 200

Dramatic Tone - 1/200 sec | f/8.0 | 28.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Diorama Mode - 1/60 sec | f/3.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 250

Diorama Mode - 1/60 sec | f/3.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 250
High-Res

Pin hole - 1/250 sec | f/9.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200

Pin hole - 1/250 sec | f/9.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Grainy Film - 1/100 sec | f/5.6 | 37.0 mm | ISO 200

Grainy Film - 1/100 sec | f/5.6 | 37.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

Soft Focus - 1/125 sec | f/6.3 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200

Soft Focus - 1/125 sec | f/6.3 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res


Art Filters - On the E-PM1, there are 6 Art Filters: Pin Hole, Pop Art, Diorama (Miniature), Dramatic Tone, Grainy Film and Soft Focus.

Lenses available: The E-PM1 comes with a collapsible zoom kit lens: the Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm II R - equivalent to 28 - 84mm, this is an updated version of the 14-42mm Mk II lens and is updated cosmetically only so that the style matches the new range of Olympus PEN cameras. As it's part of the Micro Four thirds system, there is an abundance of lenses to choose from, from both Olympus and Panasonic and others (such as Leica, Voigtlander, Samyang etc)! There is also a number of adapters available to allow you to use DSLR lenses, as well as a lot of third party "toy" lenses like the Pinhole PenWide, Holga, Toy Lens and others.

Video: Video on the E-PM1 is recorded as full HD video, with full manual controls (P, A, S, M, Art filters), although using the Art Filters greatly reduces the frame rate on videos. With Full HD, there is also further compression / size options including AVCHD Full HD Fine / Normal, HD Fine / Normal, MJPEG HD / SD, as well as a digital teleconverter that allows digital zoom.

 

Value for Money: Built in body stabilisation is a bonus of the PEN system, as it enables you to have image stabilisation with any lens, new or old, and is of particular interest if you're planning on using adapters to use third party lenses. The E-PM1 is currently priced at around £430 with kit lens, putting it in direct competition with the cheapest new models including the Sony NEX-C3 (around £399), and Panasonic Lumix GF3 (around £449).

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Verdict

The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 features extremely fast focusing, which was originally one of the downsides of choosing the Olympus PEN camera over the Panasonic Lumix G cameras, however, now you can have you cake and eat it, with fast focusing, and built in image stabilisation. They've also produced a compact, stylish camera with fast continuous shooting at 5.5 fps. The AF illuminator and ultra compact size is also a welcome addition.

Olympus has expanded the appeal of the PEN series with new 12mm and 45mm lenses with an entirely metal construction, and a variety of lens converters are available. Image quality of the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 is excellent with excellent detail from the 12 megapixel sensor, with low noise and great colour. The PEN Mini E-PM1 is the most compact of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras yet still gives you fairly quick access to controls through on screen functions, and three of the rear buttons can be customised.

The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 is an ultra compact micro four thirds camera with image stabilisation, excellent image quality, and excellent value for money.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Pros

Two year warranty
Good build quality
Excellent image quality
In camera anti-shake (works with ALL lenses)
Customisable video, right and down buttons
5.5 fps shooting (fastest M43 yet)
Compact, stylish design
Rear thumb grip
Art filters
Great colours (although brown isn't my favourite)
Very good value for money

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Cons

Lacks built in flash
Advanced menus can seem daunting
Slow pop up menus
Small scroll wheel
No front grip (flipbac? why not give the option Olympus?)
Lacks a mode dial / zoom buttons shared
Some images are blurred with IS on at closer focus lengths (Macro)

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL


Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Specifications

ManufacturerOlympus
Image Sensor
CCD pixels 12.3Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W) 4032
Pixels (H) 3042
Sensor Type Live MOS Sensor
Sensor Size Micro / Four Thirds
Sensor Size (width) 17.3mm
Sensor Size (height) 13mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor 3in
Screen resolution 460k dots
Touch Screen No
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest 1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest 60sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
  • ESP Light Metering
ISO sensitivity 200 - 12800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp +/-3
Viewfinder
Viewfinder Resolution No Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting 5.5fps
Video
Movie mode Yes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
Video FPS 30
Stereo Sound Yes
Optical Zoom with Video Yes
Other Features
Image Stabilisation Yes
Interface
HDMI Yes
USB USB 2
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery Type Lithium Ion BLS-5
CIPA Rating 330
Box Contents
Box Contents E-PM1 Body, M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R, Flash FL-LM1, BLS-1 or BLS-5, BCS-1 or BCS-5, Micro Four Thirds body cap (BC-2), Shoulder Strap, CB-USB6 USB Cable, CB-AVC3 Audio/Video cable, [ib] Image Management Software, Olympus Viewer 2 Software CD
Dimensions
Weight 216g
Width 109.5mm
Height 63.7mm
Depth 34mm

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Lexar memory was used in this review.

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Comments

lemmy
lemmy  61676 forum posts United Kingdom
3 Oct 2011 - 2:38 PM

A point to remember if you do a lot of move shooting is that the Panasonics have a stereo mic with manual input level settings.

I shoot movies of bands I go to see and in my usual club the Olympus is unusable because the sound overloads. On the Panasonic I can turn the level down and get an incredibly good recording.

Some examples are at my youtube channel here

Olympus recordings under the same circumstances are so distorted by the sound levels as to be unlistenable.

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