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CNET First Look
Olympus PEN E-PM1If you're looking for a step-up model that's still pretty compact, the Olympus PEN E-PM1 is a solid, affordable choice.
Hi. I'm Lori Grunin, senior editor for CNET and this is the Olympus pen EPM1. Size and affordability remain the bane of the interchangeable lens camera at least here in the US. But the EPM1 hits the closest to the targets that I've seen this far. It's not perfect and in fact it's kinda hard to get excited about this camera. But there's a lot to like if you want to upgrade to the speed and photo quality of an ILC but don't have a lot of cash to spend plus it comes in a handful of pretty colors. The EPM1 has a solid build and attractive body that consciously looks like a point and shoot. The only real problem with the design is the lock of the grip on the front. The brush metal Cassie feels especially slippery as well. It also has a very point and shoot like set of physical controls which should make it only feel immediately familiar to upgraders. These controls included dial on the back with integrated buttons that control exposure compensation, focused area, flash and burst mode. There's also a thumb operated movie record button. You would just frequently needed settings via the typical scrolling around the edges of the display. In auto mode that uses Olympus as simplified slider based scheme for adjustments. The company bundles a small flip down flash with the camera, just like the NEXE3, instead of a built in one, like the one on the GX3. But the connectors ports and add on view finder microphone and other pen accessories. As I've said before, I really like Olympus's art filters which are more flexible and render better results than most other implementations I've seen. The camera also supports up to 7 frames for bracket leg. If you're into panoramas though, I wouldn't recommend this. The EPM1 has a clunky old fashion interface for creating them that's not easy to use as other cameras sweet panoramas. The cameras photo quality rates is good to very good. But I think most of my issues with it stand from the kit lens. It's the same lens that Olympus ships with all its pen models. But for some reason it (??) me more on this one. Close up with pretty sharp and snappy. The detail of the distance generally looks oddly over sharpened or over compressed when viewed at actual size and that seems independent device so sensitivity. But the camera can handle up to ISO 800 pretty well depending on image content. Shooting raw help but not as dramatically as it does in other cameras. I have no complaints about the color exposure though. It handles those very well. Video quality is just okay. Unfortunately you have to turn off image stabilization in order to prevent serious rolling shutter. You know that wobble art effect that you get. But that seems to be a fact of life for video on all cameras that you send or shipped based image stabilization systems. Still for the occasional vacation video clips it'll do. And surprisingly given the similarity of their inner, the EPM1 performs about the same as the EPL3. It's solid but not stellar. While the cameras pretty fast overall and keeps up with the competition, it's really slow on start up with a big and unusual co-func sound of the shutter. Cameras very exhibit before its class for birth shooting but without a view finder I still find continuous shooting awkward. Still for the occasional action emergency and shooting kids and pets, it should fair okay. What's important though the EPM1 it's price strikes for an entry level interchangeable lens model and at the solid if somewhat unassuming camera. I just found myself missing features like a touch screen and it's helping LCD and the photo quality is a bit too inconsistent for my taste. That said it's still better than a point and shoot and if you're looking for a step up model that's pretty compact. This is a good affordable alternative. I'm Lori Grunen and this is the Olympus EPM1