updated 11:40 pm EDT, Thu September 1, 2011
Latest PEN camera brings smallest form
As Olympus prepares to ship its latest PEN, the E-PM1, the company invited Electronista to try out the upcoming camera at the US Open tennis tournament in New York City. The new PEN represents Olympus' smallest Micro Four Thirds offering, bringing many features from the flagship E-P3 but with a slimmer body and significantly lower price tag.
We like the small body, though connecting the kit lens or any of the other MFT zoom lenses makes for an entire package that doesn't feel much tinier than many alternatives. The design also offers a modern appearance, in contrast to the P3's retro aesthetics.
The sleek looks are partially due to the lack of buttons, a factor that leaves users to navigate through menus to change settings. Using the iAuto mode and finding the art filters is easy enough, however the manual mode takes longer to become acquainted with. The interface was intuitive enough that we did not need to consult manuals or ask for help from the Olympus team during the US Open tour.
We were impressed by the fast autofocus system, which did a surprisingly good job of keeping up with the tennis action despite the camera's small size. Image stabilization was also effective, helping to overcome blur from a lightweight body connected to a 75-300mm (150-600mm equivalent) lens without a tripod.
The E-PM1 body is a nice match with the 14-42mm, f3.5-5.6 kit lens, though users also have a wide variety of additional lenses to choose from. Offerings range from a 12mm, f2 wide angle prime, up to the 75-300mm zoom and several options in between.
After spending a day with the E-PM1, we found the camera to be a great option for customers who want to upgrade from a point-and-shoot to an interchangeable lens system. Other potential buyers include DSLR users who are looking for a tiny MFT camera. Aside from the size and the features, the PM1's $500 price tag may prove one of its most important features. The price arguably makes more sense for most buyers, compared to the E-P3's $900 price tag.