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

Although Olympus clearly has a particular niche in mind for its PEN Mini E-PM1, it's created a camera that will prove tempting for a much wider audience due to the relatively low price and compact size.

Those upgrading from a compact camera will feel right at home with the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1's simplified control layout and easy-to-grasp menus and scene modes.

Those looking for quick access to manual controls and customisability may find the design a little frustrating for their tastes, though. It's not that those features aren't there, it's just that they take a little more work to access and adjust than cameras aimed at more advanced users.

The high-quality finish and sturdy design helps to make the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 feel like a premium product, and in this respect it's well worth the money. A finger grip to help improve handling and a less reflective LCD screen would be welcome additions, and would make this camera a much more attractive prospect.

Overall the images produced by the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 are of good quality, with low noise up to ISO1600 and not exactly poor noise performance beyond that. The creative art filters are a nice touch too, offering a quick and easy way to spice up your images.

We liked

The excellent build quality, fast autofocus, compact size and relatively low price all add up to a very attractive package. Beginners will love the simple control layout and image quality from the Four Thirds Format Live MOS sensor.

We disliked

Handling the camera can sometimes be tricky due to the slippery glossy finish and slim dimensions. The highly reflective screen makes composing images in bright light very difficult indeed.

Final verdict

Bearing in mind the target market for the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1, which is primarily people looking for a higher-quality upgrade from a compact camera, Olympus has done a good job on the whole with this camera. The minimalistic control layout will suit those who simply enjoy pointing and shooting rather than photographers who like to fiddle with settings.

With low enough noise levels to produce decent sized prints up to ISO1600, and with the camera's performance being on a par with many of its peers at higher sensitivities, it should win many fans. The small body is especially suited to being coupled with a pancake-type compact prime lens to make this a truly pocketable camera, and the faster maximum aperture on those optics will also help with the image quality after dark.

The only true downside is with the highly reflective LCD screen. As cameras like this are often used in bright lighting conditions, outdoors and on holidays, this seems like an oversight on Olympus' part.

An optional electronic viewfinder can be obtained, but the extra cost may put users off this camera altogether, instead looking for an alternative with a better screen, or a built-in viewfinder.