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Road-tripping with the Olympus PEN E-PM1

Olympus gave free PEN E-PM1 cameras to random people and asked them to take pics for display online. The results of the PEN Ready Project are in. But how did a journalist on the go like the new cam?

With the PEN Ready Project now wrapped up, we can take a look at what the Olympus PEN E-PM1 handles photos like this simple Napa landscape. John Scott Lewinski/CNET

You are slightly less likely to be given a free Olympus camera by a stranger these days as the Olympus PEN Ready Project giveaway is in the books. Now, it's time to see the photographic results.

Olympus rolled out its $500 PEN E-PM1 camera earlier this year by giving more than 1,000 free cams to random people around North America. The recipients were asked to take pictures wherever they went. Olympus continues to collect those shots for display online.

I was asked to play along with the big promotion by testing the PEN Ready E-PM1's capabilities along with those 1,000 fortunate winners. I couldn't ask for a better way to review a camera than to take it on the freelance-journalism road from a Harley-Davidson event in Milwaukee, to a NASCAR race in Charlotte, N.C., to a Yamaha scooter ride in San Francisco.

I'm displaying some of the results in a gallery demonstrating the PEN Ready E-PM1's features. You can judge the resulting photos yourself. It's not an advertisement for my dubious photography skills, but rather an examination of how the camera makes up for my limitations.

In broad strokes, the PEN E-PM1 makes it very difficult to take a bad picture. With its auto mode handling everything including focus, flash, and aperture, it's a strong mix of SLR and point-and-shoot. If you're brave enough to play with its seemingly endless array of photographic effects, you can amp up your Ansel Adams routine.

But, the proof is in the clicking. Check out the E-PM1 gallery below and judge what it can do for itself.