Olympus reveals specs, prices for its smallest PEN camera

The company's most compact interchangeable-lens camera to date takes on the similar-size Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 at a lower price.

The E-PM1 comes in six colors Olympus America

First announced at the end of June, today Olympus delivered the final specifications and pricing for its most compact interchangeable-lens camera, the E-PM1. Though at $499.99 it's the least expensive of Olympus' 2011 models, two of the first-generation models, the E-PL1 and E-P1, remain in the product line at the same price. There's no doubt that the PM1 is the smallest and lightest of the group, though.

Here's Olympus' current PEN lineup. (Sorry, no room in table for E-P2 specs.)

 Olympus PEN E-PM1Olympus PEN E-PL1 Olympus PEN E-PL2 Olympus PEN E-PL3 Olympus PEN E-P1Olympus PEN E-P3
Sensor (effective resolution)12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS
17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm
Focal-length multiplier2.0x2.0x2.0x2.0x2.0x2.0x
Imaging engine versionTruePic VITruePic VTruePic VTruePic VITruePic VTruePic VI
Sensitivity rangeISO 200 - ISO 12,800ISO 200 - ISO 3,200ISO 200 - ISO 6,400ISO 200 - ISO 12,800ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting4.1fps
n/a
(5.5fps without image stabilization)
3fps
18 (LN) JPEG/10 raw
3fps
17 (LN) JPEG/10 raw
4.1fps
n/a
(5.5fps without image stabilization)
3fps
12 (LN) JPEG/10 raw
3fps
unlimited (LN) JPEG/17 raw
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
NoneOptional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
0.58x
Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
0.58x
OptionalNoneOptional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
0.58x
Autofocus35-area contrast AF11-area contrast AF11-area contrast AF35-area contrast AF11-area contrast AF35-area contrast AF
Shutter speed60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes
Metering324 area324 area324 area324 area324 area324 area
FlashIncluded optionalYesYesIncluded optionalNoYes
Image stabilizationSensor shiftSensor shiftSensor shiftSensor shiftSensor shiftSensor shift
Video1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps720/30p Motion JPEG AVI720/30p Motion JPEG AVI1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps720/30p Motion JPEG AVI1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps
Maximum HD clip length4GB/29 minutes2GB/7 minutes2GB/7 minutesStereo; mic input2GB/7 minutes4GB/29 minutes
AudioStereoMonoMono; mic input3-inch tilting
460,000 dots
StereoStereo; mic input
LCD size3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
2.7-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
300 shots 3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
614,000 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating)n/a 290 shots 280 shots 300 shots300 shots330 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)4.3 x 2.5 x 1.34.5 x 2.8 x 1.64.5 x 2.8 x 1.64.3 x 2.5 x 1.54.7 x 2.8 x 1.44.8 x 2.7 x 1.4
Body operating weight (ounces)9.3 (est)12.512.711 (est)13.913.0
Mfr. pricen/a$449.99 (est, body only)n/an/a$449.99 (body only)n/a
$499.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $499.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $599.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $699.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $499.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $899.99 (with 14-42mm lens)
n/a $699.99 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses) $799.99 (with 14-42mm II and 40-150mm lenses) $699.99 (est, with 17mm lens) n/a$899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens)
Ship dateSeptember 2011March 2010January 2011September 2011July 2009August 2011

There's one notable change since the initial announcement: it looks like Olympus decided to bundle the optional flash rather than make it an extra cost. That's a good move. Like Panasonic's GF3, Olympus is more firmly targeting the point-and-shoot upgrader with this model--no mode dial and a very limited, snapshooter-oriented set of controls on the back of the camera. I have to say, though, the E-PL3, which is just a little larger and more expensive, but offers the tilting LCD, built-in flash, and physical mode dial, still looks a little more appealing. That said, if the E-PM3 can match the performance of the E-P3 (it's got many of the same innards, so the only way it might not is if Olympus puts a slow SD card controller or insufficient memory in it), it looks like it might be a compelling alternative to many of the point-and-shoots on the market.

Of course, it's not alone out there. Here's how the competition stacks up:

 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3Olympus PEN E-PM1Pentax QSony Alpha NEX-C3
Sensor (effective resolution)12.1-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.4-megapixel BSI CMOS16.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
17.3 x 13.0mm17.3mm x 13mm1/2.3-inch23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier2.0x2.0x5.5x1.5x
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 200 - ISO 12,800ISO 125 - ISO 6,400ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting3.8fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
4.1fps
n/a
(5.5fps without image stabilization)
5fps
5 JPEG/n/a
(1.5fps raw)
2.5fps
18 JPEG/ 6 raw
(5.5fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
NoneNoneOptional optical for prime lensNone
Autofocus23-area contrast AF35-area contrast AF25-point contrast AF25-point contrast AF
Shutter speed60-1/4,000 sec; 1/160 x-sync60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes30-1/2,000 sec.; bulb; 1/125 sec flash sync30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 flash sync
Metering144 zone324 arean/a49 zone
FlashYesIncluded optionalYesIncluded optional
Image stabilizationOpticalSensor shiftSensor shiftOptical
Video 1080/60i/50i @ 17 Mbps
720/60p @17 Mbps AVCHD or Motion JPEG QuickTime MOV
1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps/29 minutes

1080/30p H.264 MPEG-4

720/30p H.264 MPEG-4
AudioMonoStereoStereoStereo; mic input
LCD size3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating)320 shotsn/a230 shots400 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)4.2 x 2.6 x 1.3 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.33.9 x 2.3 x 1.24.4 x 2.4 x 0.9
Body operating weight (ounces)9.39.3 (est)7.1 (est)10.7
Mfr. price$499.95 (body only, est)n/an/an/a
$599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $499.99 (with 14-42mm lens)$800 (with 47mm- equivalent f1.9 lens)$649.99 (with 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens)
$699.95 (with 14mm f2.5 lens)n/an/a$599.99 (with 16mm f2.8 lens)
Ship dateJuly 2011September 2011Fall 2011August 2011

It hasn't hit the $399 price point I was hoping for, but it's still extremely competitive with this year's other small ILCs. The GF3 is really its biggest alternative; it's roughly the same size, with the same feature set and probably comparable performance. The NEX-C3 is more expensive, less feature rich, and not as fast. In this class especially I think sensor-shift image stabilization makes more sense, because it works with every lens. The Pentax Q is smaller than all of them, but it's also a lot more expensive and uses a smaller, as-yet untested sensor and new lens mount with very, very few lens options. I'm looking forward to testing this one.

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