Out of the three new Micro Four Thirds (MFT) models announced by Olympus last year, the Mini E-PM1 is the smallest and lightest. Here’s a closer look. Available in six colours — black, white, silver, purple, pink and brown, the build quality is good, but the glossy finish will attract fingerprints easily.
The scarcity of buttons must have made designing the user interface challenging, but Olympus has done a decent job. The main functions and shooting modes can be accessed via the menu button and the main screen lets you choose filters, shooting mode and video recording.
Videos are captured at full HD i.e. 1920x1080 at 60 frames per second, and you can manually adjust the exposure, image stabilisation and focus (single, continuous, manual and tracking). The camera allows selecting art filters for video recording too.
It’s the shooting modes where the Olympus E-PM1 can tend to become unfriendly — mainly due to the lack of buttons. For example, in the manual mode, each time you wish to adjust the aperture or shutter speed, you first have to press the ‘Up’ button and then use the D-pad to make adjustments.
Handling the camera is also quite uncomfortable since there’s no handgrip on the front plate, which is included on the higher-end E-P3 model. This, in addition to the glossy surface feels awkward and gets worse if your palm and fingers sweat.
The E-PM1 permits an ISO range of 200 to 12,800 in 1/3 step increments. The noise is pretty much under control up to ISO 800, after which quality begins to degrade sharply. ISO 1600 also produces acceptable results for social networking websites and online photo albums. However, ISO values higher than 1600 should only be used in dire situations as the results are very grainy and lack detail.
We used the camera for a week to shoot various types of subjects, both indoors and outdoors, and were very pleased with the overall performance. What we liked very much is the quick focusing speed — it’s almost instant. Also, colour and detail reproduction is very good, particularly when shooting in the RAW format, which looks fabulous compared to JPEG after a bit of post processing. Video recording quality and image stabilisation while shooting is impressive too.
The Olympus Mini E-PMI is priced at Rs 28,888. The only other mirrorless compact that falls within the price bracket of Rs 30,000 is Sony’s 14 megapixel NEX-5K, which currently retails for Rs 24,500. The advantages it offers over the E-PM1 are a tiltable display and larger sensor. Given a choice between the two, the NEX-5K is clearly a better bang for your buck. But if you want something really light and compact, then the Olympus E-PM1 is the only mirrorless compact in this price bracket.