Mirrorless compact cameras are worth considering if you want DSLR-like photo quality without the bulk. There are many options out there, with the most basic models priced almost the same as entry-level DSLR cameras, which is close to Rs.28,000. Olympus is one of the key players in the mirrorless compact segment. Out of the three new models announced by Olympus last year (E-P3, Lite - E-PL3) and Mini (E-PM1), the Mini is the smallest, lightest and most affordable model. Here’s a closer look.
Design and Build Quality
The 12.1 megapixel E-PM1 is available in six body colours – black, white, silver, purple, pink and brown. The build quality of the body is good, but almost the entire device has a glossy finish, which attracts fingerprints too easily. The front has a mild matte finish, but that doesn’t keep the smudges at bay. The bundled M.Zuiko 14-42 mm (3x optical zoom) lens sports a metallic finish and the grainy texture on the zoom ring lends a good grip. We would have liked it more if the lens’ shell was of a better quality as it has a rather plasticky feel to it. Since the E-PM1 uses a Micro Four Thirds system in which the size of the sensor is about half that of 35 mm film format, the effective focal length of the lens would be 28 mm at the widest end and 84 mm at full zoom. This is similar to the focal length you’d get with an 18-55 mm lens on a budget or midrange DSLR. The maximum aperture at the wide and telephoto ends is F3.5 and F5.6 respectively.
The front of the body bears a shiny logo, AF assist lamp and a button to release the lens. The top of the camera has a silver strip that compliments the design. Along with the on/off and the shutter release button, you’ll find a tiny grille for the speaker, apertures for stereo mics to capturing sound, while recording videos and a hot shoe for external flash strobes and optional EVF. The E-PM1 comes bundled with a clip-on flash.
Large display for easy capture and review
A 3-inch LCD with a resolution of 460k dots pretty much makes up for most of the entire rear panel. The control panel located to the right is sized quite averagely and comprises of a 5-way d-pad with a jog dial and only three other buttons – Info, Menu and Playback. A dedicated button for video recording is placed at the top right corner. To the extreme right is a vertical patch of rubber with a dimpled surface designed to offer a better grip. The USB and mini HDMI ports reside under a plastic flap on the right side. The Li-ion battery and SD card use a common compartment at the bottom.
Except for the through-the-lens viewfinder, the EP-M1 offers everything that a DSLR does. Full and semi-manual shooting modes, RAW support, a big bunch of scene modes and six Art filters to get creative shots without the need of post-processing.
Available in a range of colors
The scarcity of buttons must have made designing the user interface challenging, but Olympus has done a decent job, although operating the camera would need some time getting used to. The main functions and shooting modes can be accessed via the Menu button. The main screen lets you select from Art filters, Intelligent Auto, Scenes, Video recording, PASM and Setup. The first three sections are for those who aren’t well-versed with exposure parameters. Here, the user can rest assured that the results will be good because the camera automatically determines the optimal values depending on the lighting condition and the type of subject. The OK button at the center of the d-pad lets you choose from Art filters and preset scenes. You make your selection by rotating the jog dial or using the up/down buttons on the d-pad. As you navigate, a thumbnail gives you a visual idea about the filters or the ideal situation/subject for the scene preset along with a brief explanation. There are 36 preset scenes to choose from which includes Panorama, Candle, Nature Macro, Low Key, Dual IS and 3D.