What can I say? I bought this camera about a month or so ago with high hopes. I intended to replace my previous bridge, a Finepix HS-10, and given the price and the reviews, I was very anxious to test it and hopefully keep it. It comes in the box with a Clip-on Flash, Li-ion battery BLS-5, Li-ion battery charger BCS-1, USB/Video Multi cable, Shoulder strap (could be better/wider - gets easily twisted, and becomes a nuisance), OLYMPUS Master CD-ROM, Instruction manual and Warranty card.
It's a 12Mp, micro four thirds type of camera, which means it's very close to being a DSLR, but give the mirrorless technology it employs, it isn't. However, it can still be considered a "professional" camera when compared to bridge, or point and shoot cameras. Image stabilisation in photo mode is versatile (3 modes) and decent enough. Unfortunately in video mode it becomes a joke, and you'll want to throw the camera out, or give it to a homeless person. On the good side it does shoot raw pictures, and video is up to full HD at a whopping 60 (shaky or wavy) fps in AVCHD format of course. In Motion JPEG it will record only at 30fps.
For amateurs and lazy professionals there are 23 scene modes and 6 art filters, which are nice and useful, but not always. ISO of up to 12800 and autofocus (will get back to this) are generally good to superb, although I would not recommend using the top half of the ISO range.
Size-wise it's great. Small, light, and while it does not have a DSLR-like grip, it still feels reasonably OK in the hand. The fact that you need to mount the detachable flash on top of the body, also not an issue, and to be honest I quite liked having it on. It's a nice camera, nice metal finish, looks great, feels great. Taking pictures is also quite easy. You would think that the lack of dedicated dial will prove to be a nuisance, but the menus are actually very intuitive and easy to access, so no issues there. While shooting, the widescreen (16:9) LCD is not the most responsive so ghosting will occur regardless of the camera's extremely powerful processor that takes photos insanely fast. One of the fastest cameras I have ever had the opportunity to use. However the results are not that great. And as it is very often with interchangeable lens cameras, it's actually not the camera's fault.
The M.ZUIKO Digital 14 -42mm II R kit Lens just doesn't do justice to the camera, especially in low-light situations. Pictures come out a bit too soft for what I was expecting, and due to the lens' sluggishness, getting a sharp picture without flash becomes very difficult. The zoom on the lens is an equivalent of about 3.3x, so don't expect to shoot birds in the sky, and given the not insanely good in-camera image-stabilization, I'm afraid to think how the pictures would come out when shooting with a fully extended telephoto lens.
Video is also something that will be sub-par. Shaky with IS turned off, and wavy with IS turned on, so unless you like carrying around tripods, forget good videos. However, the camera does come with a nice set of art-effects and filters (see specs) which can be applied to videos as well, so it's not all bad.
Now let's get technical. I find the camera very controversial to say the least. The specs are actually all there for an under £200 mirrorless camera. Actually the price is surprisingly low when you only look at only the specs. While most people would instantly "sad-face" the 12 mega-pixels it features, in reality, that's more than enough for good and even great photography. It's 12Mp in a 4/3" CMOS sensor, and that's a lot bigger than any point and shoot's sensor out there. Yes, it's still smaller than a DSLR's, but still a huge step up from a point and shoot. So no issues with the 12Mp. Forget the 12Mp, that's not what the problem with this camera is. Nor is it the autofocus which is still one of the fastest you can find out there. Not even the settings, the menu or the nice filter-effects that do ruin image quality to some extent. None of those is an issue.
The huge minus this camera gets is thanks to the kit lens. Photographers say this very often, but I had to learn it myself: kit lenses are all-in-one lenses, not performance lenses. This is why the e-PM1 is very much like a DSLR, because in order to perform, it will need just like a DSLR, a lens for every type of shooting situation. That, if you want quality above all, like me. Just to illustrate, if you'd want really sharp pictures in day and low-light situations as well, bot no zoom, you'll choose the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm/F1.7 Pancake Lens which on Amazon costs at the moment "only" £269. Then, for a bit of zoom (under 10x equivalent) you'll need at least the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 R Lens which is another mere £149.
See how this works? See how deep you'll end up going into your pocket if you care about quality? Seems like a good buy, a budget solution for high(er)-end photography, but it isn't, and it's better to decide before buying, what really is important, because for me it was a hard decision to send it back for a refund. I absolutely loved the camera (for photography only), but I absolutely didn't want to spend tons of money for photography by spending a little fortune on lenses. Not yet anyway...
The Olympus E-PM1 is an amazing little camera that is definitely worth getting. When you first use the camera, it is in an easy to use point and shoot mode. The Live Guide allows you to preview the photos before you take them. The camera has many modes. These include P,A,S,M, i Auto, Scene and Movie. P, A, S, M modes are included on this camera. They are commonly found on DSLR cameras. I think the best mode to use is P (point and shoot) because it allows the camera to do the thinking and allows you to control more things than i Auto does not. In case you were wondering what A, S and M mean, i will include it. A is for aperture priority, S is for shutter priority and m is manual (combining both). There are scene modes too. They include things like Portrait, Landscape and Fireworks. Movie mode is the mode that is used when you want to record a video. This camera allows photos to be taken while recording a video. Finally, i Auto mode automatically identifies the scene that you are trying to shoot in and allows you to make changes to color and the like. The camera takes amazing photos and in my opinion, is an easy transition from a point and shoot. You will get DSLR like quality in a easy to use package. I would recommend this camera to people who are not camera experts but people who use standard point and shoot cameras. If you are disappointed with the quality of a standard point and shoot, i would highly recommend this camera. Picture quality is comparable to a DSLR and flash is not needed indoors or in low light. The standard kit-lens which is included, is a 14-42 mm lens. This lens is very great for a kit lens. It focuses fast and the quality is very good for a kit lens. The camera allows other lenses to be bought witch range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on your needs. Other things included with the camera are: Lens and body caps, clip on flash, battery and charger, PC cable and a CD for the computer software. For a point and shoot upgrader, the features are adequate. If you are looking for a more professional camera, the features may not be good enough. The camera is also very easy to use. Some people may not be familiar with the way you zoom. On most point and shoots, a little switch goes around the shutter to control zoom. On this camera, you have to do it on the lens. This may want some people to steer clear but if you are on your way to getting a DSLR one day, this may be a great idea. The camera is quite durable, being made of metal, it is also very light and a compact package. It is in between a beginner DSLR and a point and shoot, leaning closer to point and shoot. The camera has a nice look, almost vintage to some people. The value for the money is amazing. If you were to buy everything individually, you would be looking at a thousand dollars. Now, onto the picture quality. The quality is comparable to a DSLR, the colors for jpeg files look amazing thanks to the new TruePic VI processor. For people with shaky hands, this camera has a good stabilization system built into the body. For the more creative photographers, filters like Pop Art are built into the camera. Finally, the included instruction manual is a quick and short one, but there is one available on the website in PDF format. I highly recommend point and shoot upgraders, enthusiast, people interested in DSLR photography, but find it expensive, and people like me who want a carry around camera that is light to use and high functioning. I would give this camera 5 out of 5 stars.
The Olympus PEN Mini (E-PM1) is a compact system camera - a relatively new breed that I think of as basically a cross between a DSLR and a standard little digital camera. This model is the smallest of Olympus' compact system cameras, and has a RRP of £449.99, but is available from Amazon.co.uk from £356 - some colours are more expensive.
This model provides 12.3 megapixels, and has a 3" display screen - full specifications are available on Olympus' website. Mine is the E-PM1 14-42mm Kit in Brown - other kits are available which come with other lenses etc.
The E-PM1 14-42mm Kit comes with:
-The camera body
-zoom lens (14-42mm f3.5-5.6)
-battery and charger
-Olympus Setup CD
-shoulder strap for carrying
-velvety pouch to hold flash - can be attached to strap
All neatly packed in a sturdy cardboard box.
The PEN Mini is not an unusual looking camera - actually, it looks very much like a standard digital camera, except for the lens on the front. I like to think that it makes me look a little bit more like a real photographer! One main advantage over a full-on DSLR is that it's a lot smaller and lighter. I can fit it in my handbag, which is great for me. It means I'm much more likely to take it with me when I go out, and therefore I'm much more likely to actually have a camera handy when I want to take photos, rather than missing the moment. The E-PM1 comes in a choice of six colours - black, white, silver, a very pale pink, a purpley fuchsia, and, the one I chose, a chocolate brown. They all have a brushed metal finish, except, I think, the white. The lens that came with mine is silver-coloured, as is the trim - a strip along the top including the on/off and shutter buttons, the strap connecters, etc. It looks great - very smart.
Another advantage of a compact system camera over a DSLR for those of us who aren't photography experts! The controls on the PEN Mini are so much simpler than DSLRs I've tried. Of course, you can't do everything with this that you can with a DSLR, but, to be honest, I never used all those features because I couldn't be bothered to actually learn how to use them properly. I love taking good photos, but not quite enough to spend ages figuring it out! Bit lazy that way. With this camera, I've basically managed to figure out everything myself. It came with a quick-start guide, and a full manual included on the Setup disc. Set up was simple, and the brochure leads you through this: first, attach the lens! It's just a matter of removing two protective caps and twisting it into the housing. Then you can put in a memory card and turn it on. Mine came partially charged so I could have a fiddle about before setting it aside for a full charge. It's pretty simple.
On top: there's the on/off button (labelled), the shutter release button (which is a decent size and raised so that you can find it easily without looking), and there's the "accessory shoe" where attach the flash. It has a little slide-in plastic cover to avoid damage when not in use.
On the front: There's just one button here - it's to release the lens if you want to change it.
On the back: This is where the display screen is: it's great! It's a 3" screen - bigger than I've seen on other similarly sized cameras - and it has a great resolution. To the right, there's a dial for navigating the menu and changing settings, the menu button itself, an 'info' button that shows you light levels and so on as you are shooting, the playback button to view your images, and a button that lets you quickly switch between taking still photos and shooting films. These buttons are quite small, but they do stick up a bit above the fascia which helps clumsy fingers! I found the dial system a bit confusing, as I've used Nikons in the past, which have a very different navigational system. I'm getting the hang of it though, and I understand this menu system is the same as on other Olympuses, so if you've already used them you'll be fine.
On the bottom, there's a point for attaching the camera to a tripod and so on, as well as the compartment for the rechargeable battery and the memory card. These are easy to insert and remove.
One thing I hadn't thought about at first was that this lens is built to 'twizzle' a bit further that usual to make it more compact when not in use. You can't actually take photos with it like that, so the camera prompts you to extend the lens if you haven't already. That's simply a matter of turning the band that you also use for zooming; when you are finished though, there's a little switch thing to hold while you put it back into position. While we're on the lens: zooming in and out is simple - you don't use a button, but turn the a band on the lens back and forth. It's really easy to move without being easy to accidentally nudge out of place.
I found the controls simple - you can use this just like a point-and-shoot type camera if you can't be bothered to fiddle with settings, using the "iAuto" mode. You can also choose to set the aperture and/or shutter speed manually or automatically, and you can choose different 'Scene' modes to suit your subject (I was impressed by the selection - all the usuals, plus settings for documents, candlelight, wideangle, nighttime portraits and one for a portrait with a stunning landscape behind!). One of the big touted features of this model is the variety of 'art' settings - these basically apply a filter to your photo so that you can achieve a desired effect easily. They include: Pop Art (lots of bright, vibrant colour), Soft Focus (slightly fuzzy and romantic), Grainy Film (in black and white), Pin Hole (with a pin-hole photography style dark circular rim fading in around the photo), Diorama (with a short focus length to make landscapes look like scale models!), and Dramatic Tone (which looks like it's good for emphasising variations in dark and light). Helpfully, when you scroll to each option you get to see a couple of sample images for each one so that you have an idea of what you'll get. A small symbol will show at the bottom left while you're shooting to remind you which setting you are using. The button to quickly switch to making a film is really handy! No more searching through menus while the exciting moment is passing in front of you.
I wasn't sure if not having a built in flash would be annoying, but I haven't minded it yet. It's not hard to attach the external flash, though a little fiddly so that you wouldn't want to do it on the move. If you know you'll be out on a bright day you can leave it at home; if you know you'll want it, you can leave it attached (it folds down a bit do that it doesn't catch on things, and that also acts to automatically turn it off); or you can put it in the little velvet pouch that comes with it, which then handily attaches to the carry strap. When using the flash you have the usual settings (automatic, redeye, totally off, always on), but also some handy options when those aren't right: three 'slow' settings, including one for redeye, and six intensity settings - great for when a full flash is just too much.
My kit came with one lens and one external flash, along with the velvet flash case and the carry strap. Other kits with different lenses etc might be available, and you can also buy other types if you want. There are 9 suitable lenses listed on Olympus' website, alongside remote control cables and flashes, a macro arm light which sticks out in front of the camera to light up close-up images, a choice of straps, cases and replacement chargers and batteries.
Overall, I'm very pleased with this camera - it's not the cheapest around, but it takes great photos without much effort, and it's easy to use all the features. I haven't used the art filters much yet, and I doubt you'd want to be using them all the time, but they are a lot of fun to mess around with and are quite effective. The display screen is gorgeous and really shows off your photos well.
I'd absolutely recommend this camera!