Product Type: Olympus digital cameras
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Olympus PEN Mini
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Member Name: square88
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
Advantages: compact, takes very nice photos, great screen, easy to use
Disadvantages: not as adjustable as a DSLR, not as small and neat as a standard digital camera
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!
Summary: A great option for those who want something a bit more than a standard digital camera.
|Ease of use:|
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