A pocketable PEN camera that comes in six fashionable colours and supports some creative shooting modes plus Full HD video recording.The PEN Mini E-PM1 is the smallest, lightest and simplest of the three interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras announced by Olympus in June 2011. Designed for snapshooters looking for a very compact camera that's easy to use but delivers above-average image quality, it offers most of the sophisticated functions provided by its up-market siblings. . . [more]
The PEN Mini E-PM1 is the smallest, lightest and simplest of the three interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras announced by Olympus in June 2011. Designed for snapshooters looking for a very compact camera that's easy to use but delivers above-average image quality, it offers most of the sophisticated functions provided by its up-market siblings.
To cater for the varying tastes of the target market for the E-PM1, Olympus is offering it in six different colours. In addition to the traditional black and silver, users can choose from white, brown, pale pink and a rather eye-catching purple. The lenses only come in black and silver, however, and only the black body comes with a black lens.
Build and Ergonomics
The PEN Mini E-PM1 is superficially similar to the PEN E-PL3, which we reviewed recently. It's also similar in size to Panasonic's recently-released Lumix GF3 and not much larger than many slimline digicams.
Features-wise all three cameras have quite a bit in common and are able to use the same suite of Micro Four Thirds system lenses (of which there are more than 30 to date). The table below compares key features of the trio.
PEN Mini E-PM1
17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS sensor with 13.06 million photosites (12.3 megapixels effective)
Shutter speed range
60 - 1/4000 sec
Bulb exposure limit
approx. 2 minutes
AF detection points
Burst shooting (max.)
15 JPEGs or 9 RAW frames
'unlimited' JPEGs; 7 RAW files
External flash supplied GN10 (ISO 200/m)
Built-in, GN6.3 (ISO 160/m)
3-inch, widescreen TFT LCD with 460,000 dots
External mic. terminal
Only via AP2 accessory port
109.5 x 63.7 x 34 mm
109.5 x 63.7 x 37.3 mm
107.7 x 67.1 x 32.5 mm
RRP (single-lens kit)
The front panel of the E-PM1 is almost identical to the E-PL3's and appears to be made from lightweight metal (probably aluminium). It is flat with no grip moulding and rounded ends that flow into slightly recessed side panels. Eyelets for the neck strap are located near the upper edges of each end. They have D-rings lined with plastic, rather than simple fixed loops.
Front view of the PEN Mini E-PM1 in purple with a silver 14-42mm lens fitted. (Source: Olympus.)
The lens mount is quite close to the left hand side of the camera body, with the release button only a few millimetres from the start of the curve. The mount itself covers roughly half of the front panel.
The only other feature is a tiny LED that doubles as a self-timer indicator and AF-assist light. It's embedded into the top left hand corner of the front panel.
The top panel of the E-PM1 is mostly stainless steel and slimmer than the E-PL3's because it has no mode dial. The only controls on this panel are the power on/off button, which is recessed into the right hand end and the raised shutter button.
The top panel of the E-PM1 in brown with no lens fitted. (Source: Olympus.)
Twin holes for the stereo microphones are inset into the panel astride the accessory hot-shoe cover, which is the same as on other PEN cameras. A slightly larger speaker orifice is located on the left hand side of the cover at the back of the metal strip.
The E-PM1's rear panel is made from polycarbonate plastic. The widescreen (16:9) monitor covers most of this panel, pushing the controls to the right hand side. A textured rubber-like strip along the far right side provides a secure and comfortable thumb rest.
The rear panel of the E-PM1 in black. (Source: Olympus.)
The arrow pad with surrounding control dial is the same as on the E-PL3 and accesses the same functions. So, too, are the Info and Menu buttons, which are located above and below the arrow pad, respectively.
The Movie button is in the same position above and to the right of the monitor. However, the Playback button has been moved to sit below the Menu button and the Delete, Function/Index and Magnify buttons have been dispensed with.
The rechargeable battery and memory card share a compartment in the base of the camera, next to the metal-lined tripod socket. It's slightly off the optical axis of the lens and so close to the battery/card compartment as to prevent cards being changed when the camera is tripod mounted. The base plate also carries a 'Designed by Olympus in Tokyo; Made in China' label.
A single accessory port is located below the strap eyelet on the right hand side of the camera. It has a flip-up plastic cover attached with a flexible tag and contains sockets for HDMI and USB/AV-out connections.
The E-PM1 comes with the same clip-on flash as the E-PL3. It's not particularly powerful, despite having the same Guide number (10 at ISO 200/m) as the E-P3's built-in flash. Flash modes are essentially the same as those in the E-P3.
With no external mode dial, selecting the shooting modes requires users to press the Menu button, which displays the 'Top' menu, a strip design with panels for selecting the various shooting modes and ending with a Setup panel.
The top menu in the E-PM1.
Aside from that, the E-PM1 has most of the same controls as the E-PL3, including the same Live Control screen, which is turned on by pressing the OK button on the arrow pad. It's available in all shooting modes, although the Live Guide is only accessible for iAuto shooting.
The Super Control Panel is also available as an alternative but you must dive deep into the menu system to switch it on. It's located in the Custom D sub-menu and takes about 15 button presses to locate. It must be switched on separately for the iAuto, PASM, Art Filter and Scene modes.
Custom menu selections.
Accessing the Control Settings.
One surprising feature that carried over from the E-P3 and E-PL3 is the ability to embed copyright information in image files, a feature normally only found on more sophisticated cameras. The setting is located in the Custom H sub-menu under 'Copyright Info'.
Users can enter the photographer's name using an alphanumeric display on the monitor screen. Selecting 'On' for this function embeds this information in the image metadata for all shots taken
Like the E-PL3, the 'Mini' provides only six Art Filter settings. But they're not adjustable as they are in the higher-featured camera. As usual, they are only applied to JPEGs.
Other functions carried over from the higher-featured siblings include bracketing (AE, WB, flash, ISO and Art Filter), drive modes, customisation options and support for panorama and 3D stills recording (both located within the Scene pre-sets).
Sensor and Image Processing
With the same sensor as in the E-P3, image sizes and quality settings are identical to the E-P3's and covered in our review of that camera. Movie options are also the same as in the E-P3.
You can't adjust aperture or shutter speed settings or apply exposure compensation in movie mode and image stabilisation is digital and involves enlarging the image slightly. This can be disconcerting as the view of the subject changes when you press the movie button.
Playback and Software
These features are the same as in the E-P3 and covered in our review of that camera.
We reviewed the E-PM1 with the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens, which is supplied in the single-lens kit. This lens has been designed to match the E-PL3 and E-PM1 bodies and features the Olympus MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) autofocusing mechanism.
Fortunately, by the time we received the review camera, Adobe had released a Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop that included the three recently-released Olympus PEN cameras. Consequently, we were able to convert raw files from the E-PM1 with Camera Raw, rather than the [ib] software supplied by Olympus.
JPEG images from the review camera were quite similar to those from the PEN E-P3 and E-PL3 cameras we reviewed, which is not surprising since they all have the same sensor and image processor. Colour rendition was slightly warm and Imatest showed saturation to be slightly higher in the E-PM1, which is also to be expected, given the camera's target market.
Autofocusing speeds were similar to the E-PL3, particularly in movie mode. For still shots, the camera was usually quick to lock onto subjects, even in challenging situations such as low light levels and strong backlighting.
We encountered a couple of occasions when the shutter triggered before the subject had been sharply focused, mainly in the Macro scene modes. Hunting was rare, even with relatively low-contrast subjects.
The review camera showed the same slight tendency towards under-exposure in dim lighting as the E-PL3 we reviewed recently. However, exposures were much better positioned in bright conditions and more highlight and shadow details in wide brightness range subjects were recorded in JPEG images than we found with the E-PL3.
Low-light performance was as good as the E-PL3's, with image noise only becoming visible in long exposures at ISO1600 and shots taken at ISO 3200 being printable up to A4 size. By ISO 6400, both pattern and colour noise could be clearly seen and at ISO 12800 images taken with exposures longer than a couple of seconds had become soft and distinctly blotchy.
Flash exposures fared rather better than available-light exposures, with slight softening and noise becoming visible at ISO 6400 and less softening and colour shifting visible at ISO 12800. Imatest confirmed a gradual decline in resolution as the ISO sensitivity was raised, as shown in the graph below.
The kit lens delivered its best resolution a couple of stops down from maximum aperture and with the shorter focal lengths. Some edge softening was detected at wider apertures and diffraction impacted on resolution from about f/10/ The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained squarely in the 'low' band for almost all focal length and lens aperture settings. In the graph below the red line marks the border between 'negligible' and 'low' CA, while the green line separates 'low' from ; moderate' CA.
The supplied flash appeared to have a better connection with the camera than we found with the E-PL3. Although flash exposures taken with low ISO settings were slightly under-exposed, we found the default exposure of 1/60 second at f/5.6 produced usable exposures throughout the camera's ISO range.
White balance performance was similar to the E-PL3. The auto setting retained a slight warm cast in incandescent lighting, while under fluorescent lighting, traces of magenta could be seen in shots. The pre-sets over-corrected slightly with both lighting types, leaving a slight blue cast. Neutral colours were obtained with manual white balance measurement.
Video quality was indistinguishable from the E-PL3 and the camera had the same tendency to crop the frame at the start of all recordings, making precise framing of clips impossible. Audio quality was adequate, although the built-in microphones were quite susceptible to wind noise. No wind cut filter is provided.
We carried out our timing tests with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 memory card, which supports 45MB/second data transfer. Camera response times were similar to E-PL3. The review camera took just over two seconds to power-up and shot-to-shot times averaged 0.8 seconds without flash and 4.8 seconds with.
Average capture lag was 0.25 seconds without pre-focusing, with shutter lag reducing to a consistent 0.1 seconds when shots were pre-focused. Image processing times were similar to the E-PL3, with Large/Super Fine JPEGs taking approximately 2.9 seconds, ORF.RAW files taking 3.2 seconds and RAW+JPEG pairs 3.4 seconds on average. Using the art filters extended processing times, often by several seconds.
In the sequential shooting (burst) mode, we recorded bursts of 10 Large/Super Fine JPEGs in 2.2 seconds. It took 3.5 seconds to process this burst. Nine ORF.RAW files were recorded in 2.1 seconds and took 5.5 seconds to process.
Swapping to RAW+JPEG capture, we recorded nine pairs in 2.1 seconds. This burst was processed in 9.4 seconds. In the low-speed continuous shooting mode, the camera captured 10 JPEG frames in three seconds. Processing was completed within two seconds of the last frame being recorded.
Because it provides most of the features of its more expensive siblings (the E-P3 and E-PL3), the E-PM1 represents excellent value for money. At $599 for the single-lens kit, it's $200 cheaper than the E-PL3 and $400 less than the E-P3.
It's also $400 less than the Panasonic GF3, which has the same sized sensor and LCD monitor, although the GF3 provides a touch-screen, while the E-PM1 does not. However, at $799 for the double-zoom kit with14-42mm IIR and 40-150mm lenses, the E-PM1 is also roughly half the price of the Nikon 1 V1 twin-zoom kit at $1399, yet it has a significantly larger sensor (17.3 x 13.0 mm vs 13.2 x 8.8 mm).
Buy this camera if:
- You want a smart-looking mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, raw file capture plus in-camera image stabilisation and effective dust reduction technology.
- You'd like Full HD video recording with stereophonic sound.
- You'd appreciate relatively fast autofocusing.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You require a built-in flash.
- You shoot movies outdoors and require clear soundtracks. (No wind cut filter is provided on the E-PM1.)
JPEG image files
Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.
SAMPLE IMAGES (All taken with the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens.)
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
30-second exposure at ISO 200; 18mm focal length, f/8.
10-second exposure at ISO 1600; 18mm focal length, f/8.
5-second exposure at ISO 6400; 18mm focal length, f/11.
3.2-second exposure at ISO 12800; 18mm focal length, f/16.
Flash exposure at ISO 200, 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 1600, 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 6400, 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 12800, 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
14mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/5.6.
42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/6.3.
Nature macro mode, 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/7.1.
Close-up in P mode, 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/7.1.
14mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/9.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% showing coloured fringing.
42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320second at f/10.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% showing slight coloured fringing.
Skin tones; 42mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/5.6.
Contrasty lighting; 18mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/8.
Natural Picture Mode with Auto Gradation adjustment; 19mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/8.
Preserved highlight and shadow detail in a wide brightness range scene; JPEG file; 14mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/10.
Strong backlighting; 22mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
Backlit subjects with Face Detect AF/AE; 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
Detail rendition; 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/7.1.
Shutter-priority AE; 18mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/5.
Shutter-priority AE; 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/5.
Still frame from AVCHD video clip at 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution, 50i Fine setting.
Still frame from AVCHD video clip at 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution, 50i Normal setting.
Still frame from AVCHD video clip at 1280 x 720-pixel resolution, Fine setting.
Still frame from AVCHD video clip at 1280 x 720-pixel resolution, Normal setting.
Still frame from M-JPEG video clip at 1280 x 720-pixel resolution.
Still frame from M-JPEG video clip at 640 x 480-pixel resolution.
Image sensor: 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS sensor with 13.06 million photosites (12.3 megapixels effective)
Image processor: TruePic VI
A/D processing: 12-bit
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds System
Focal length crop factor: 2x
Stills - ORF.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.2), RAW+JPEG, MPO (3D still); Movies - AVCHD/AVI M-JPEG with stereo audio
Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 aspect ratio: 4032 x 3024, 2560 x 1920, 1024 x 768 (3:2, 16:9 and 6:6 aspect ratios also available); Movies: AVCHD Full HD Fine: 1920 x 1080, 60i at 20Mbps; HD: 1280 x 720 at 30fps; M-JPEG: 1280 x 720, 640 x 480 at 30 fps
Image Stabilisation: Body-integrated sensor-shift system with four settings: IS1, IS2, IS3, OFF
Dust removal: Supersonic Wave (vibration)
Shutter speed range: 60 - 1/4000 sec. plus Bulb (up to 30 min.); Flash synch at 1/30-1/160 sec.
Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
Exposure bracketing: 2, 3, 5 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1EV steps selectable, 7 frames in 0.3, 0.5, 0.7EV steps selectable
Self-timer: 2 or 12 seconds delay
Focus system: Imager Contrast Detection AF system with 35 detection points and Built-in AF illuminator
Focus modes: Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / AF tracking (C-AF + TR)
Exposure metering: TTL Image Sensor metering system with three modes: Digital ESP (324-area multi pattern metering); Centre-weighted average and Spot metering (approx. 1% of the viewfinder screen); highlight / shadow bias spot metering are available
Shooting modes: iAuto; Program AE (with program shift); Aperture priority AE; Shutter priority AE; Manual; Scene select AE and Art Filter
Scene presets: Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Macro, Sport, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Children, High Key, Low Key, DIS mode, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Document, Panorama, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Fisheye Conv., Wide Conv., Macro Conv, 3D
Art Filters: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Dramatic Tone
Picture modes: i-Enhance, Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone, Custom
Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
ISO range: Auto, ISO 200-12800
White balance: Auto/Preset WB with 6 settings between 3000K and 7500K: Tungsten, Fluorescent (x2), Daylight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade; Underwater; One-Touch; WB bracketing of 3 frames in 2, 4, 6 steps selectable in each A-B/G-M axis
Flash: Bundled clip on flash FL-LM1: GN10 (F no/m) at ISO 200
Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Sequence shooting: Max. 5 frames/second with IS off; 4.1 fps with IS on; up to 15 JPEGs or 9 RAW frames
Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards; Eye-Fi compatible
Viewfinder: Optional VF-2 EVF with 1,440,000 dot resolution
LCD monitor: 3-inch, widescreen TFT LCD with 460,000 dots
Playback functions: Single-frame, Close-up, Index /Calendar display, Index (4, 9 or 25 frames), Enlarge (2x to 14x), Slideshow with background music and 3 transition effects, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Histogram (independent luminance/RGB available), Shooting information, In-camera editing (shadow adjust, red-eye fix, crop, aspect, B&W, sepia, saturation, resize, e-Portrait)
Interface terminals: USB 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini)
Power supply: BLS-1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 300 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 109.5 x 63.7 x 34 mm
Weight: 217 grams (body only); 265 grams with battery and card
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Ease of use: 8.5
- Autofocusing: 8.5
- Image quality: JPEG - 8.5; RAW - 8.5
- Video quality: 8.5
- OVERALL: 9.0