Olympus has also provided the PEN Mini with a Live Guide that aims to offer intuitive explanations of photographic functions and modes to complete beginners. The E-PM1 does not have a built-in flash unit but a clip-on tiltable external flash does come in the box as an accessory.
The nifty autofocus is a boon
The all-metal body of the PEN Mini is slim, small and slick but it is also extremely smooth without any sort of grip, which makes the handling of this camera a bit slippery and not as comfortable as that of its bigger brothers. The back is dominated by its 3in, 460k-dot LCD screen. The display itself is sharp and clear but is quite reflective and having an aspect ratio of 16:9 works very well for HD video capture but with 3:4 stills, much of its size is taken by the necessary black side bars.
Olympus flags up a fast autofocus system as one of the main selling points of this camera and it actually does work remarkably well. The 35 AF points system provides reliable and immediate focus in virtually all situations. Overall, the PEN Mini is a good performer and a fast snapper, with a continuous shooting speed of up to 5fps in RAW format and excellent in-between shots times, which is very good news for this level of camera.
The hotshoe also accommodates a range of PEN accessories
I tested the camera with the 14-42mm IIR f/3.5-5.6 kit lens which isn’t the fastest but delivers sharp detailed results devoid of significant aberrations. Image stabilisation is provided in-camera rather than on the lens but it is equally effective, with a system of sensor shift that Olympus calls Supersonic Wave Drive.
Needless to say, the E-PM1 is compatible with all the other brilliant PEN optics, meaning this diminutive model can be a very versatile shooter capable of semi-professional results when coupled with prime lenses. The mount is the same for other MFT manufacturers and I tried it out with Panasonic lenses too, with no problems.
Next page: Sample Shots
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.