Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
The cheapest Micro Four Thirds camera money can buy
Review The Olympus PEN Mini is a no-fuss, interchangeable lens camera created for the casual photographer that wants the respectable image quality of a Micro Four Thirds system at the price and size of a compact.
Affordable mirrorless marvel: Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Also known as the E-PM1, this camera is not only the smallest PEN available but also the cheapest at £400 with the 14-42mm II R lens kit. As fashion dictates, the PEN Mini is offered in several colours, including classic black or silver; stylish white or brown; or funky purple or rose.
Despite physical changes the PEN Mini shares a similar spec to the E-PL3, with high speed shooting of up to 5.5 fps; ultra fast Autofocus with 35 AF points and AF illuminator and Full HD video. The anti shake 12Mp sensor now benefits from increased sensitivity of up to ISO 12800 and a 3D photo option. Albeit similarly styled to the E-PL3, the smaller Mini loses the tilting screen, a few buttons and the mode dial from the top plate – shooting modes are menu driven now.
While the lack of shooting dial did not bother me, as I don’t tend to change mode all too frequently, the suppression of the delete button was more annoying for it makes deleting a picture a several steps operation, which you will have to repeat for each and every one of the picture you want to delete.
There is also no direct access to ISO settings or other commonly used functions, hence manual and creative shooting becomes more cumbersome. I actually found it quite challenging to locate the ISO setting in the menu and I had to resort to the manual in the end. Still, Olympus does provide the PEN Mini with several customisable buttons so that at least some of the frequent settings can be recalled at the press of a button.
The smaller you get, the more buttons disappear into menus
The main menu itself is quite complex to navigate, with a variety of sections and sub-sections. Thankfully, the OK button – located in the middle of the rear scroll wheel – brings up an easy version of the menu, which aids navigation. However, there is quite a long delay before the five different sections actually become active and they remain quite slow and erratic in responding to selection.
Being a long term user of Olympus cameras, my OM-4 Ti is still going strong, I just hope Olympus can survive the financial mess it seems to be in at the moment.
The E450 like the E-PL1 mentioned above is an example of something that is common in the photographic market these days. When I first got into photography a camera model would last for years, my first proper camera was Pentax ME Super and they stayed in production for well over five years. These days you're lucky if a new model lasts for more than a year without being superceded. The thing is that the new model often isn't a significant improvement on the old one. Some are nothing more than a firmware upgrade and a new finish.
As a result retailers and manufacturers end up with stocks of the old model that that have to shift. Often the cameras remain current models until stocks are sufficiently depleted. List prices are usually much lower than the new model, but you have to dig around on the manufacturer's website to find them listed as current models.
The E-PL1, for example, is now two generations out of date. And sells for something like half the price of the latest E-PL3.
Just so long as you are not one of those fashion victims who has to have the absolute latest model this is a good thing as you can pick up some great kit at bargain prices, but brand new and with a full warranty. If you are one of those fashion victims of course this is doubly bad news. Not only do you have to buy a new camera at inflated prices every year, but the fact that the old model is still current and discounted means that your outgoing kit is worth a fraction of what you paid for it on the second hand market.
... I was going to bellyache about the travesty of using the venerable Pen name for this type of camera, especially as my Proper Pen still works, but actually what annoys me is the fact that I know that no matter what the equipment, I don't have the eye to see pics like the sample shots, which are just great.
OM101 - still going strong.
The system is more about the mount than the sensor.
Anyhoo, why would Nikon one of the biggest and most successful camera makers in the world want to get into somebody else's system? Remember other companies have a habit of making Nikon compatible kit, not the other way round.