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Olympus Pen E-PM1 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £356
inc VAT

It's far from perfect, but its low price makes the E-PM1 a brilliant step up from a compact or ultra-zoom camera


17.3x13mm 12.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (28-84mm equivalent), 378g

There are three compact system cameras (CSCs) in the current Olympus range. They all share the same sensor and image processor, but differ in terms of features, size and weight. The first two are successors to previous models, in name at least, with the heavyweight, enthusiast Pen E-P3 and the more competitively-priced yet still feature-packed Pen E-PL3. The third model is the Olympus Pen E-PM1, which we’re looking at here. It’s the first in a new line, with the ‘M’ standing for mini, but given its technical similarities to the other models, E-PM3 may have been a more suitable name.

Olympus Pen E-PM1 front Mini by name and mini by nature

The mini part is certainly right though, measuring just 110x64x86mm with its collapsible 14-42mm kit lens attached. That makes the E-PM1 around the same size as both the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 and our current favourite the Sony NEX-5N. With all these cameras, your choice of lens and accessories will make far more difference to portability than any small variations in body size.

Speaking of lenses, the EPM-1 has access to probably the best selection of any CSC, thanks to its Micro Four Thirds mount. Olympus’s own range of lenses is impressive and this is further bolstered by those released from Panasonic – though with the latter you are paying for lens-based stabilisation that the Olympus body can’t make use of, as it uses a sensor-based system instead. In addition Olympus has released a formidable range of accessories, such as electronic viewfinders, external microphones and even a Bluetooth adaptor for sharing photos. A mini clip-on flash is bundled with the E-PM1, but the accessory shoe can also take full-sized flash guns if required.

Olympus Pen range Olympus currently has the best range of lenses and accessories for its CSCs

This degree of flexibility is impressive on a camera so small, but is most likely to appeal to enthusiasts, rather than those who just want superior pictures from their camera’s automatic mode. It’s at the latter group which the E-PM1 is clearly aimed, though, with its clean lines and minimal physical controls. The obvious omission is a mode dial, so you have to press the Menu button and navigate the menu to switch exposure modes. Apart from Playback, the only remaining buttons are Info and Record. In its default mode, even the dial around the four-way control is disabled.

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Basic Specifications

CCD effective megapixels12.0 megapixels
CCD size17.3x13mm
Viewfinderoptional electronic
Viewfinder magnification, coverageN/A
LCD screen size3.0in
LCD screen resolution460,000 pixels
Articulated screenYes
Live viewYes
Optical zoom3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent28-84mm
Image stabilisationoptical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution4,032×3,024
Maximum movie resolution1920×1080
Movie frame rate at max quality30fps
File formatsJPEG, RAW; AVCHD, AVI (M-JPEG)


Memory slotSDXC
Mermory suppliednone
Battery typeLi-ion
Battery Life (tested)330 shots
ConnectivityUSB, AV, mini HDMI
HDMI output resolution1080i
Body materialaluminium
Lens mountMicro Four Thirds
Focal length multiplier2.0x
Kit lens model nameOlympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R
AccessoriesUSB and AV cables, detachable flash unit

Buying Information

Warrantyone-year RTB

Camera Controls

Exposure modesprogram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed60 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/3.5-22 (wide), f/5.6-22 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution)200 to 12,800
Exposure compensation+/-3 EV
White balanceauto, 7 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kelvin
Additional image controlscontrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, shading compensation, colour space
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus25cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, centre, flexible spot, face detect
Metering modesmulti, centre weighted, centre, face detect
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, manual, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, ISO bracket