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Olympus E-PM1 Compact System Cameras
The smallest Micro Four Thirds camera yet - the E-PM1 gives you the performance of a larger Pen camera, including a large 12-megapixel Live MOS sensor, full HD AVCHD video, RAW shooting, interchangeable lenses and the accessory port, in a premium point-and-shoot-sized camera body.
Submitted by Anbesol a Expert
Date Reviewed: January 19, 2012
Strengths: Great IQ
Outstandingly compact performance. Setting the bar for the word "compact".
Amazing interface, both simple to use while still offering a complete variety of controls.
Stylish but simple simple two tone look, not gaudy or flashy or bright and shiny.
Lens adapting with full metering control, and full-time DOF preview.
Weaknesses: Control wheel and navigation are both combined, can make navigating viewing of photo's a bit cumbersome.
No internal stock flash. Cannot then work with both electronic viewfinder and wireless flash system as other Olympus pen models can.
Focus check button removes one-button video access.
ISO 12,800 is useless, tacked on.
Autofocus in suboptimal light/contrast conditions are weak compared to cross sensor type DSLR AF.
I got the E-PM1 right after release, I had been used to the E-PL1 before that. In many ways, I liked the more substantive feel of the E-PL1 and the greater number of tactile controls. However, all in all I still like the E-PM1 much better.
The menu system in particular was a surprising delight, everything is very straightforward and easy to understand. Every tool required for exposure control is in a simple toolbar on the right side of the screen. I don't know why other manufacturers have not adopted this same approach, but its a very pleasant and straightforward interface. With other similar cameras I would have to enter into menu subsystems, exit back out and enter other menu's to control all of those same functions. Love the interface!
Another thing that made the E-PM1 more accessible to me, as a man who enjoys to dabble in the studio, is the hot-shoe. The competition saves the hot shoe as a feature exclusive only to their high end. Thank you Olympus for keeping this feature on the entry level! It also has a built in wireless light triggering system, working with Olympus flash units. I've used these flash units in outdoor conditions and was surprised at the reliability of the signal strength. The problem comes when you desire to have both a viewfinder while using any flash. And now that the stock flash is detachable, you can't use a viewfinder even with Olympus built in wireless system flash control system.
Another great enhancement is SPEED! This thing has had an all around engine overhaul and does everything much faster compared to prior M43 cameras, especially the AF. Now it is often so fast that you don't even see any focus shift at all, its just out of focus one nanosecond, and in focus the next nanosecond. When there is enough light and contrast, the E-PM1 hits an amazing speed. But, as it is with all of these rangefinder style digital bodies, the AF can't overcome difficult light scenarios nearly as well as a DSLR with cross type sensors and a fast lens. I was initially skeptical of the "worlds fastest AF" claim, and now I see that the contingency for this claim is an assumed plentiful amount of light/contrast in the focus area.
The image quality is excellent, as good as APS equivalents though at a decreased relative resolution. Its pixel density is similar to that of a 16 mpix APS, so imagine just taking a four thirds chunk off of an APS and that is the general image quality you can expect. This sacrifice of resolution offers a much more compact package, the E-PM1 is tiny. The kit lens is also not only the most compact of the offerings, but its extremely sharp and clear, with excellent contrast and resolution. Slow, as all kit lens are, but sharp as heck.
The image processing for jpegs also seems to boost sharpness a bit more than whats typical with DSLR/CSC processing, but its a subtle boost. Some may want to reduce the sharpness in image settings, but I think most people who are desiring jpeg output will want this boost. The sharpness can of course be adjusted to your liking in the raw conversion, if you shoot raw on this.
The noise algorithms maintain image sharpness pretty well through to 3200, but the noise patterns become fairly pronounced at 2000. I generally stick to ISO 2000 and less, I'd never want to use anything above 3200 as it looks pretty poor above that, 12,800 looks terrible and I don't know that anybody would have use for it. If you want low light/fast action you're better off getting one of Olympus/Panasonics many faster lens offerings.
My favorite way to use this camera is adapted to my 50mm f/1.5 Zeiss lens, from the Leica thread mount. Yes, one of the biggest draws I had to this camera is interfacing it with all my old lens and even my current Sony/Minolta AF gear. The fewer buttons on the E-PM1 loses the dedicates focus magnifier view, but you can enter the menu system and re-dedicate the one-button video to work as the magnified focus check.
Because of the way the lens adapter works, with manual aperture and focus control, you get a side-benefit of full time DOF preview. This is a huge benefit for shooting macro. On a low budget, one could adapt old manual focus macros to this and have an excellent macro tool for super cheap that exceeds in many ways the abilities of a DSLR. And who wants auto-focus for macro work anyway?
All in all I am thrilled with the overall performance of this and heartily recommend it to anyone interested in excellent image quality, manual controls and performance in a compact package. I think most consumers who want casual shooting experience are shooting themselves in the foot getting consumer-level DSLR gear. For both consumers wanting casual shooting with good image quality, performance and control, as well as DSLR users and Pro's who want a trusty compact side-shooter, this Pen is a clear winner!
Duration Product Used: 21+ years
Price Paid: $450.00
Purchased At: N/A
Similar Products Used: Olympus E-PL1, EP1, EP3, Nikon J1, Panasonic GF2/3, Sony NEX 5/3, numerous and various DSLR's.
Type of photography: People
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