Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 review

Is the smallest Olympus CSC as easy to use as it promises?

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1
The 12.3MP compact system camera comes in a range of colours

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Olympus pen mini e-pm1

Six different coloured finishes are available for the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, including Silver, White, Purple, Silver-Rose and Brown, enabling you to pick the look that suits you best. The glossy white finish applied to our review camera looks very smart and stylish with the silver inlays and black screen surround.

The slim profile makes this compact system camera (CSC) almost pocketable. With the collapsible 14-42mm zoom, it is a just a little too big for most jacket pockets, and those considering transporting the camera in this way may wish to look at one of the pancake lenses on offer.

Although the thin body is great for portability, there is no finger grip provided, which can make handling the camera a little tricky, especially when attempting to hold it steady for video recording or in low light conditions. Although a rubberised grip is provided on the rear, the natural place for your thumb to rest is part way into the screen, and the glossy finish provides little grip. Still, this could be a compromise many will be willing to make for the compact dimensions.

Olympus pen mini e-pm1

The overall finish is of a very high quality, and the camera feels robust enough to cope with the rigours of daily use and abuse. The buttons for menus and other functions are all located to the right-hand side of the LCD screen and packed quite close together, too. Although this may suit users with dainty fingers, it may also prove troublesome for those who prefer more generous spacing between controls.

The supplied flash unit is also very compact, and clips onto the hotshoe connector. When engaged, it's raised approximately one inch above the lens, which provides enough distance to reduce red-eye issues at close quarters. The small size also means it isn't all that powerful, but it does have another surprising trick up its sleeve. Compatible Olympus flash units can be triggered wirelessly by the supplied unit, which is an advanced feature for a camera intended for casual users.

Olympus pen mini e-pm1

The menu system takes a novel approach to offering access to manual controls, while keeping operation as simplified as possible.

Pressing the Menu button leads to an animated list of clearly laid out options, including the Automatic, Art Filter and P,A,S,M modes. In each mode, pressing 'OK' lists all the most commonly used controls. For the most part this works really well, although changing apertures and shutter speeds in the semi-automatic and manual exposure modes can be a trifle frustrating at first, until you get used to the extra combination of button presses required to access each feature.