Olympus PEN E-PL7 is sure of its selfie (hands-on)

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Asia and the UK got a minor (very) update to Olympus' Pen E-PL series a year ago (the Pen Lite series), but in the US and Australia it's been two years since the E-PL5 launched. That camera's replacement, the E-PL7, may look similar to its predecessor, but Olympus made a lot of significant changes, mostly that incorporate newer technology that's since debuted in its OM-D line of interchangeable-lens cameras.

Note that the kits will likely be different in the US than elsewhere: the US gets the old 14-42mm collapsible lens (28-84mm equivalent), while everyone else gets the newer 14-42mm power zoom lens, for a more compact overall camera. Also, the US will only have the black or black and silver models, while white will be an option in some other locations. The kit will run about $700 (£420) and the body-only $600 (£350). (Australian pricing is still TBD.)

In conjunction with the E-PL7, Olympus also announced a black metal version of the $800 12mm f2 lens (converted to about £480 or AU$860, actual price not yet available) .

What's different

  • Updated autofocus system and imaging engine. As evidenced by testing of other models incorporating them, this means the performance and image quality should get a noticeable improvement.
  • Better LCD. A significant increase in resolution should make a big difference, although I hope it's got better visibility in direct sunlight than the one on the E-M10.
  • Selfie friendly. The LCD now flips down as well, which Olympus claims will have you looking at the camera in a more natural way. It's also a touchscreen, with screen-based controls like touch shutter and a self-timer. A new, touch-activated e-portrait option will smooth your skin as well.
  • Improved connectivity. Every manufacturer's mobile app gets an update when a new camera becomes available, but Olympus' O.I. Share has improved remote control capabilities, such as movie recording up to 7 minutes, large file transfer from camera to phone, and sequential shooting options. According to Olympus, it also does a better job of retaining a 3G/4G connection while connected to the app via Wi-Fi.
  • New art filters. It gains two new filters, Vintage and partial color, each with the standard 3 options.
  • Cosmetic tweaks. Leatherette on the body classes it up a bit.

My take

Essentially, much of the E-PL7 is carried over from the E-M10, which runs about $100 more -- as a result, you're essentially paying that for the viewfinder and more physical controls.

Compared to similarly priced models, it's competitive for the money, but not a slam-dunk; Olympus generally doesn't deliver terrific video quality and I find the larger APS-C sensors still eke out better photo quality than their consumer Micro Four Thirds peers. But the flip-down LCD sounds like it might be a useful feature to have if you take a lot of self-portraits.

Comparative specifications

Olympus PEN E-PL6
(Asia and UK only)
Olympus PEN E-PL7 Samsung NX300 Sony Alpha A5100
Sensor effective resolution 16.1MP Live MOS 16.1MP Live MOS 20.3MP Hybrid CMOS 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
14-bit
Sensor size 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
OLPF Yes Yes No Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 3fps
27 JPEG/19 raw
(8fps with AF/exposure fixed on first shot and IS off)
3.5fps
unlimited JPEG/20 raw
(8fps with fixed focus and exposure)
8.6fps
n/a
6fps
56 JPEG/23 raw
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
None None None None
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes No
Autofocus 35-area contrast AF 81-area contrast AF 105-point phase-detection, 247-point contrast AF 179-pt phase-
detection; 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a n/a n/a -1 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (1/4000 sec with electronic shutter) 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync 30-1/6000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync 30-1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 324 area 324 area 221 segment 1,200 zone
Metering sensitivity 0 - 20 EV -2 - 20 EV 0 - 18 EV -1 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 20Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 24Mbps H.264 MPEG-4
1080/60p
XAVC S
1080/60p, 30p, 25p, 24p; 720/120p @ 50Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB/29 minutes 22 minutes 29:59 minutes 29 minutes
IS Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical Optical
LCD 3-inch/7.5cm
Tilting touchscreen
460,000 dots
3-inch/7.5cm
Flip-down touchscreen
1.04m dots
3.3-inch/8.4cm
AMOLED tilting touchscreen
768,000 dots
3-inch/7.5cm
Flip-up touchscreen
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi via bundled FlashAir card Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Bundled optional Bundled optional Bundled optional Yes
Wireless flash Yes Yes No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) n/a 350 shots 330 shots 400 shots
Size (WHD) 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 in
110.5 mm x 63.7mm x 38.2mm
4.5 x 2.6 x 1.5 in
114.9 x 67 x 38.4mm
4.8 x 2.5 x 1.6 in
122 X 63.7 X 42.7mm
4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in
109.6 x 62.8 x 35.7mm
Body operating weight 11.5 oz. (est.)
325g (est.)
12.6 oz. (est.)
357g (est.)
10.9 oz. (est.)
310g (est.)
10 oz. (est.)
283g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only)
(not listed = manufacturer does not offer body-only configuration in those regions or the price is not available)

None

$600
£350
Australian pricing TBD

None

$550
Primary kit
(not listed = manufacturer does not offer this configuration in those regions or the price is not available)
£450
(with 14-42mm lens)
$700
(with 14-42mm lens)
£500
(with 14-42mm PZ lens)
$650
(with 18-55mm lens)
AU$700
(with 16-50mm lens)
$700
(with 16-50mm PZ lens)
Alternate kit
(not listed = manufacturer does not offer alternate configuration in those regions or the price is not available)

None

£400
(with 14-42mm lens)
$750
£400 (est.)
(with 20-50mm lens)
None
Release date September 2013 September 2014 March 2013 September 2014

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