No Excuses! Olympus E-PM1 Review by Amy Medina

No Excuses! Olympus E-PM1 Review by Amy Medina 

With cameras getting THIS small and light, there’s just about no excuse not to have one with you all the time. Let’s face it, the M9 or M8, even some DSLRs (like Pentax) aren’t all that big or heavy, especially combined with small lenses, but it’s ridiculous how small the new mirrorless designs are getting. They are fun, they fit in a coat pocket or your glove box, and cause zero neck or shoulder ache. I love a small camera.

I recently added the Olympus E-PM1 to my cache. My daughter has pretty much taken over my EP2 (which I always enjoyed) and I was tempted by the cheap price and even smaller body size offered by the E-PM1. I was recently in the hospital for three days, and it got me thinking that something even smaller than my already relatively compact M8 would be good to have as a no-excuse camera. Yes, being in the hospital made me think of this (of all things)… I didn’t want my M8 sitting around the hospital and ended up missing a bunch of days taking photos for my PAD Project. Of course, being sick I might not have taken them anyway, but since photography is such a big part of my daily life, it might have actually helped me to have a camera around and to be taking pictures.

So, I’ve had the E-PM1 now for about two weeks and have been enjoying it immensely. From a picture-quality standpoint, it performs nearly identically to the EP3 that Steve already reviewed. ISO performance, image quality, performance is all the same, as it has the same sensor. The big difference is that it is smaller and lighter. It has no flip-out LCD or built-in flash like the EPL3, though it does come with a small attachable flash. It has one dial on the back, rather than two like the EP3 (dial + thumb wheel). So far, I haven’t found I’ve missed the thumb wheel because several buttons are customizable to adjust the settings you want (for example, I have the right-function button set to change ISO quickly). I was a little worried that having to get into menus to change things might be annoying, however, with the customizable buttons and the SCP (super control panel) option, most settings are one button press away. I tend to nearly always shoot in Aperture Priority mode anyway and the rear dial works fine for adjusting the f-stop. In addition, being able to change the metering mode through the SCP easily and quickly (say from spot to center-weighted) makes taking photos in all kinds of lighting conditions a pleasure.

Power on is nearly instantaneous… less than 1 second. Auto-focus is also exceptionally fast, especially paired with the new kits lens or the new and popular 45mm f/1.8 lens. I was an early adopter to the original EP1, and focus was a little pokey on that body, but Olympus has done a great job bringing the focus speed up to par with what we all expect these days. It also has a focus-assist lamp for darker conditions, which comes in handy. Of course, paired with a fast lens like the 45mm f/1.8 or the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 makes shooting in low-light all the more a pleasure.

Paired with the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 Pancake lens, the E-PM1 is nearly pocketable. The 14mm is exceptionally small (2.19 diameter x 0.81 thick). Though I like the idea of the Olympus 12mm f/2 lens, I’ve heard that their image quality is pretty close (except in the corners, where the 12mm does better). Since I’m not a huge fan of going wider than a 28mm field-of-view anyway, the 14mm made more sense for me… and at $199 on ebay, it was honestly an easy decision for me.

E-PM1 + Panasonic 14mm f/2.5

Of course, one of the fun things about shooting with a m4/3 camera is the ability to use different lenses on it occasionally. I have a few CCTV lenses, one of my favorites being the WSL 35mm f/1.7 that I got on ebay super cheap. When I have a manual focus lens on, I set the big thumb button (normally for recording movies) to “magnify mode” so manual focusing is easy as pie. CCTV lenses tend to be soft in the corners and give an almost “lens baby” type look. I have a good time with them.

E-PM1 + WSL 35mm f/1.7 CCTV Lens

Of course, the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is one of those “must-have” lenses for any m4/3 camera. It’s small and light, and though it doesn’t focus quite as fast as the 14mm, 45mm or even the kit lens, it lets a lot of light in and give you that nice “normal” field of view. It’s also one of those great performers when it comes to image quality, and for it’s price (around $349) you cannot go wrong with it. I’ve had it since it was released, I think back from when I had the original EP1. It’s also small, though not as small as the 14mm, and pairs up nicely with the E-PM1.
E-PM1 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Even the kit lens that comes with the E-PM1 performs very well (yes, for $499 you get the camera and the 14-42mm IIR kit lens). It’s certainly not a fast lens at f/3.5-5.6, but this new version of the lens is fast focusing, compact and pretty darn sharp. Olympus has always been known for good glass, so it isn’t surprising that their kits lens performs well. I’m not much of a zoom user overall, but I did take it out for a test run.

E-PM1 + Olympus Zuiko 14-42mm IIR

And, of course, we can’t forget the newest Olympus lens… the 45mm f/1.8. I just got it myself this week and boy, does it ever live up to the hype. I’m amazing Olympus has kept the price very affordable at $399, and for the cost of entry it’s really a no-brainer. I did have some reservations about the 90mm field-of-view and thought it might be too long for me. However, in thinking about it, I enjoy using my 70mm Limited on the Pentax K-5, which has an effective FOV of 105mm, so really, 90mm is just fine.

Steve has really said all there need to be said about this lens already, so let me just confirm it all… it’s sharp, it’s fast, it’s light and just a joy to use. It looks great on the E-PM1 and, although longer than the 14 or 20, doesn’t add bulk to it at all, partially because the lens is small in diameter. If you shoot with m4/3, all I can say is GET IT, you won’t be sorry. If Olympus puts out a prime like this one in the 25-30mm range and at a 1.4 or 1.8 aperture, based on my experience with this gem, I’ll scoop it up in a second and ditch the Panasonic 20mm.

I can already see this will likely be my go-to lens most of the time on the E-PM1

E-PM1 + Olympus Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

This image is from outside my local Apple Store, the day after Steve Jobs passed away. People were leaving up post-it notes with thank-yous and condolences.

To give you an idea of how affordable a kit like this can be:

E-PM1: $499

Olympus Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 IIR (included with camera)

Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 Pancake: $199 (I got it on ebay)

Panasonic 20mm f/1.7: $349

Olympus Zuiko 45mm f/1.8: $399

Total: $1,446! … to get a great performing, compact and light body with an all-purpose zoom, and three excellent, fast primes for less than $1,500 is actually quite amazing!

Finally, in my photo of the E-PM1 you see the camera in my own hand. I have a fairly average size woman’s hand, so it should give you an idea of the size. This past week I put the leatherette cover on the camera myself, it is not the way Olympus sells it. Personally, I think they SHOULD sell it like this, or at the very least, offer it as an option. Currently, you can buy it in silver, black, white, purple, pink or brown. Obviously, I went with the silver knowing I was going to put a cover on it for a groovy retro look. Aki Asahi is where I’ve bought my covers in the past, however they currently don’t have one available for the E-PM1, so I bought the raw material from and came up with the template myself.

This is really going to be my “no excuses” kit now… There is absolutely no reason to ever leave a camera behind. I’m excited about where the m4/3 format is going to go, and mirrorless designs in general, as I truly believe it’s the future of photography. I can imagine that not too long in the distant future the industry will go mirrorless completely, and DSLRs will become a thing of the past. Currently, in my opinion, the m4/3 format — and specifically Olympus for me — has struck the best balance between portability, functionality and image-quality, if you want the smallest kit possible.

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  1. Ohh no. Warren Lyons, if you’re still within the return period, you can return yours for $279 and go to your local Super Target. Super Target’s are clearing out all the E-PM1’s for only $149.98. I bought mine two days ago. The first one was a “dud”. It couldn’t autofocus. I returned it for another and the second one works like a charm. I don’t believe I was taking natural light photos after sunset of my son at ISO 2,000 with good clean results. When it got even darker, I jumped the ISO to 4,000 in Program mode and my pictures came out great. Don’t bother with ISO 12,800…too much noise. Anything up to ISO 4,000 is do-able. At the Super Target in the DFW area, I still saw three more E-PM!’s in stock at $149.98. It included the lens (which normally sells for $149.99 by itself). It also included the external flash. I’m thinking of buying another one at $149.98 and reselling it for the retail price of $279.99 and make an easy $120.

  2. Like Reza, I picked one up at Best Buy for $279.00. Already having three other Micro 4/3, (Olympus EPl-1, Panasonic G1, and Panasonic GF2) I didn’t NEED another camera; I wanted it. (When all is said and done, we only need food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and in varying degrees, sex) Nonetheless, it is a great, almost pocket sized addition to my micro 4/3 arsenal. Daylight pictures are fantastic. Flash shots are, however, hit or miss. Sometimes they are great, frequently they are underexposed, sometimes, overexposed.

  3. I just found this kit at the Local Best Buys for, get this, $279 with the 14-42 II lens kit. They are in clearance and is a fantastic deal. I was not planning on buying a camera but at this price, it was a no brainer. The miniature sensor point and shoots are more expensive. If BB still has them in store, get it.

  4. Great review and I just bought this camera. I plan to get the Panasonic 20mm and I was wondering if I needed an adapter. Can someone tell me if I need an adapter for it?


  5. I started in 1977 with an Olympus OM-1 and upgraded years later to an OM-4 which I shot with pretty much until I went digital with a Nikon D70 and then a D200. I’ve always had a viewfinder, even with my Oly c3030 digital P&S. I just bought anE-PM1 and brought it up to my eye continually during my first day with it. Now I don’t miss the viewfinder.

    What I’ve found with the E-PM1 is a system I can grow with for several years. I can finally put all my superb OM Zuiko glass back to work. Sure, the E-PM1’s got many features on camera I’ll never need. Art filters are cute but post processing happens with me after upload. Printing from the camera? On-camera RAW Edit? C’mon.

    Anyway, I’ve got the thing configured so I can reach ISO, Shutter, and Aperture pretty quickly. There’s even a lot to be said for the simple buttons – there’s less finger movement.

    Just waiting for a mini PEN with the OM-4’s multi spot metering and no clutter from the processing that I can do on my PC.

    Now, what to do with all that superb Nikon glass…

  6. Nice article…in time I’ve found these systems really outstanding, at the point that I’ve started to use them in work situations. They took back the fun and spontaneity fastly.

  7. Like the author, I have a Pentax and a collection of their excellent lenses. Next to this, I judge Olympus IQ as only “very good”, but this is a reasonable compromise.

    More annoying is how Olympus seem incapable of releasing a body without serious ergonomic compromises. I am hip to removing controls from the (tiny) surface of the unit, so long as those that remain do the job. The fact that the record button can be customized for magnify mode, AEL, AFL, DOF preview, etc. is wonderful. I need at least two of these functions. But for some inexplicable reason the other two customisable controls are very limited. (I’d set one to ISO but the other options are rather useless and require giving up already useful functionality.)

    This would be a simple firmware fix but, considering their track record, we won’t see it. Frustrating.

  8. Question. Did you post edit those shots? If so, can you tell me what settings did you use for your second shot with Pan 20mm? Could you post the original picture? Thanks!

  9. Hi Amy, great review!! I enjoyed reading it so much 🙂
    I just bought the sliver E-PM1 and after reading your review and saw your DIY leather kit, I am so into getting one myself. Do you mind sending me the template so that I can do what you did with the leather? Which model did you order for the Hasselblad Black leather in Or did you order a sheet?? Thanks!

  10. Great review Amy. Have you tried the EPM1 with the Oly 17mm f2.8 pancake? Its a lens I like on my EP2 when I’m not looking for shallow depth of field and its very small. I wondered if it is faster to focus on the EPM1 than the EP2?

    • Hey Darell,

      I haven’t tried the 17… mostly because it seemed too close to the 20 I already own, so buying the Panasonic 14 made more sense. Bring it to New York and we can try the pairing together 😉

  11. As always, great write up Amy! Glad you are enjoying the Mini!

    For my hands though, I found the Mini to be a little too mini for me. I actually bought it twice. Second time, I installed a Flipbac stick on grip. Unfortunately, the hand holdability still wasn’t quite there for me. The tiny jog wheel was difficult for me as well, which is extra important due to the lack of direct buttons. I ended up with the EP3, which has the same tiny jog wheel. But I use the thumb wheel to change most settings. Lastly, the LCD on the EP3 is simply the best LCD amongst the m4/3 cameras.

    I really liked the Mini + Pany 14 combo. That was almost pocketable for me. The Mini + Pany 14-42X should be pretty cool too.

  12. Great review!
    You could also add the total weight of the kit, I’ll do it for you :
    Oly E-pm1 with battery : 263g
    Oly 45mm : 116g
    Lumix 20mm : 100g
    Lumix 14mm : 55g

    Total weight : 534g !!!

    Lighter than most apsc dslr body only and about half the weight of most fullframe dslr.

    • Thanks! I should have included that info, so thanks for doing it! One thing is for sure, it’s really how to appreciate how small this camera is, and even the whole system, until you see it in person. When my brother saw how small it all was, he proclaimed “that’s crazy!”

  13. I have something of a soft spot for Olympus – I have a manual focus Zuiko 24mm that I love and use on other cameras, and bought my wife an evolt-510 DSLR (which I don’t love but tolerate). I’m not that excited by MFT sensors any more, not after seeing what an APS-C sized sensor in a compact camera (X100 in my case) can do.

    More to the point when I see a compact camera without an integrated viewfinder, I generally move on and yes that means I don’t read very many compact camera reviews. This review I read because we have some Oly history around here.

    I’m not a Leica Man ™ so it took the X100 to come around to make me part with my cash, and as much as I like what I can do with this camera, it isn’t enough. Oly doesn’t have anything for me, nor does Panny, Canon, Nikon, or Ricoh.

    Sony does have something, finally, that makes me want to spend some cash: the NEX-7. If it can produce output at least as good as the X100, be decent at ISO up to 800, and half decent above that sensitivity level, and have fewer annoyances (tri-navi is going to be fantastic), it’s going to be a monster smash hit — if it isn’t already.

    Mine is on order and I’ve never, ever, pre-ordered a camera or lens before in my life. I can hardly wait to mount up my old Contax/Yashica glass and the Oly Zuiko 24mm f/2.8.

    • I have absolutely nothing against what Sony has done and I’ll be interested to read Steve’s review on the Nex-7. However, we are talking very different price points here. The Nex-7 body alone is over $1000, and with the kits lens it come in at nearly my budget above (at $1399).

      What started me in digital photography, believe it or not, were Sony cameras, so I never dismiss them. But like I said in my review above, I think m4/3 strikes the right balance – for me – between size and image quality. No doubt the Sony will produce great results, we already know the Sony sensor can do just that (it’s a Sony sensor in the K-5). However, with lenses that are mostly bigger than I’d like for that system, and because this is a third “no excuses” camera for me, Olympus was the right way to go in my case.

      • Oh I do wish there were more competition out there in the compact (interchangeable lens or not) quality camera market with integrated viewfinders. Then maybe Sony would have something like the NEX-5 packaged with a built in viewfinder and the price point would be way down. Maybe… well certainly, with enough competition.

        Except for tripod shooting, I really can’t handle using a read LCD all the time. I don’t have to wear eyeglasses for shooting with a viewfinder, and I rarely walk around with eyeglasses and don’t want to start, so that limits me greatly. Even though I can force my eyes to focus at arms length it isn’t comfortable and doesn’t, to me at least, feel like a natural shooting method save when it is the only option to me.

        Consequently I’ve been sitting out the entire small compact revolution thus far, until the X100 came around. While I love it, I don’t love being limited to only the 35mm FF perspective even if it is a favorite of mine.

        Hopefully for those of us who really want integrated viewfinders, cameras like the X100 and NEX-7 will help spark innovation and competition and bring that functionality down stream to cameras at lower price points. Until then I’m forced by preference and eyesight to limit myself to a relatively few cameras.

        Still, I think the NEX-7 has a chance at being a “no excuses” camera *system*. The body itself is barely bigger than the E-PM1 save for the grip and while maybe the 16mm isn’t a stellar performer, for a carry around all the time lens it might fit the bill for some. I suspect I’ll end up carrying, mostly, the Oly 24 or my Yashica 28mm on an adapter and yes that’ll be bigger than the X100 (which I have carried everywhere and every day since getting it in July) and the E-PM1… but not so much bigger that it won’t be a no-excuses camera particularly when fit in a simple carry bag of some sort that feels natural to carry around. It’s not a man-purse, dammit, it’s a camera bag! 😉

        Enjoyed the review!

        • I’m in agreement with you Michael… and I think that with more players entering the mirror-less field, there’s pressure on all of them to produce. m4/3 seems to have the nicest selection of smaller lenses as of now, while Sony has access to best sensor. They put pressure on each other to do better. That’s good for all of us.

          As for LCD vs EVF/VF… that’s a tough one. What the X100 introduced is really something that would be outstanding on all these small EVIL bodies. I don’t mind shooting with LCD, but I like having the option with the EPM1 to clip on the VF2 if needed (the Olympus EVF attachment). It’s something I already owned anyway as it came with the EP2 when I bought it… and my daughter NEVER uses it (so hasn’t commandeered it – LOL). It does add a little bit of bulk, but really no weight at all… so I can take it when I think I might need it or leave it behind when I don’t (or better yet, leave it in my car… I should do that… LOL)

          Bags… SO not my think. I never take a bag. Ever. Truly. I put lenses in my car console if I’m even going to take extras. The 14mm literally fits in my pocket. I wear cargo shorts in the summer and an awesome multi-pocketed winter windbreaker when it’s cold, so carry lenses in those pockets if needed, but most often I leave the house with one camera and one lens. Even with the K-5 I shoot a lot of the pancake primes, so they easily go in a pocket. 😉

          And it IS a man-purse 😛 hehhehehe

          • It is NOT a man-purse! 😀

            I use a bag that comes from an outdoor supply place; doesn’t look like a purse or a camera bag; slim, simple. Enough room for a camera and sling strap (no padding) in the main compartment, a couple battery packs, some spare SDHC cards. And even my smartphone in an outer pocket and wallet in with the camera.

            I can’t stand stuff in my pockets, not even a wallet, so before the *CAMERA BAG* I would take cash and a credit card and slip it into a thigh pocket on my shorts… which I live in here on the wet west coast of Canada. In some ways an every-day carry camera has improved my life as I always have a wallet with me now.

            The X100 is slim-ish and slides vertically, lens out, back to me, into the vertically oriented slim bag, while the NEX-7 not being as slim with most mounted lenses may work in the same back with a change in orientation. Or I might have to find another cheapo $13 not-a-man-purse not a camera bag looking bag. I can live with that; I’d like to take a moderate wide (35mm FF equiv) with me most of the time but also a short telephoto (like a 50mm / 75mm FF would be nice and not too big).

            One thing is for certain, neither camera could ever be considered pants-pocketable unless one is Ed Grimley maybe (dating myself). I don’t think I want them in my jacket pockets in the winter as a rule either except for rain protection maybe. Maybe the E-PM1 is small enough to fit comfy in jacket pockets or perhaps your pockets are cleaner than mine might be at times.

            When walking around shooting (or even on a 50km bike tour) I tend to leave the camera out on a sling strap but still have that darn bag for putting it away more often than not. The key for me at least is to make the bag as small as practical and as un-like a man purse as possible, of course! 😀

            One thing I really do envy is the collection of thin lenses for MFT.

          • See, and I’m a woman who hates carrying a bag 😉
            I’m all about utility, so my pockets always have stuff in them, like Dennis-the-Menace (I’m dating myself – LOL). Cellphone in front pocket, wallet in back, camera over shoulder and lenses, if I take more than the one I’m shooting with, go in cargo shorts pockets or coat pockets. I have this amazing winter windbreaker that huge six huge pockets which fits the bill nicely… and since it’s a windbreaker I can wear it in the cooler fall and spring months too. The only time I take a camera bag is when I travel, so I can take more than normal day-to-day gear.

            But hey, whatever works for all of us, right? I know Steve here likes a good bag. I’m just an anti-bag kinda gal.

            And your’e right, none of these cameras are truly front-jeans-pocketable. If they ever get THAT small, I’m not sure they’ll be usable by anyone but 8-year-olds… LOL

  14. @Borbarad… Yeah all the Nex needs now is small pancakes lenses. Although the Zeiss is not bigger than fitting a MF leica on it and you gain the AF. For some reasons, MFT doesn’t do it for me. So upgrading to NEX 7 from NEX5 and will use the leica x1 OVF on it with the 24mm. Hoping to get good MF experience with my Leica, Zeiss and Contax (Zeiss again) lenses and a very decent AF walkaround kit with the 24mm

  15. Amy – Thanks for confirming what I’d suspected about the current PEN line; that they are ore or less the same, some units featuring different controls in the form of buttons, dials, screens etc… It certainly puts the $400 price difference between PM1 and P3 in perspective.

    Thanks for your ‘homework’ on this and the nice images!

  16. Hi amy,

    I am impressed, IQ and compositions are very nice. Makes me rethink 4/3!

    Marvelous colors!!

    As no viewfinder the 3 would not be for me. What about the PL 2, is now on promotion here in Thailand.

    Similar colors?
    Fast and good in the dark?

    E Pl 2 incl. 14-42 should be 500 $ so similar to Canon G 12 and Fuji X v10 and now Lumix LX 5 incl. viewfinder as well.

    Best regards

    for me

  17. Hi Amy,

    Well I slightly disagree with the quality of those lenses. It’s not the holes in the lineup, it’s the optical quality ( I’m a RAW only shooter by the way).

    When I buy a lens then I want that quite a bit optical engineering went into and that it is optically high grade. Therefore I’m buying an optical lens and not a piece of software ( rant off). Photozone has quite a few good reviews showing how bad those m4/3 ones are.

    As the weight and size of the E5 and some lenses. Well I’m used to carry 8kg or so of gear, even up in the montains.


    • Hi Borbarad,
      you are aware that optical corrections also may make a negative impact on other areas, aren’t you? So why complain about electronic corrections? As long as the result is the same, why should one care for it was achieved? Particularly as the electronic corrections obviously allow for designing far more compact light-weight lenses.

  18. If you want to try a covering from CameraLeather, think seriously about the material they call “Griptac”. It’s a soft, slightly rubbery leatherette, with a heavy texture that makes the camera stick to your hand. Not the prettiest, but It transforms the camera. I’ve done several cameras with it, including two (film) Leicas, and I wouldn’t use anything else.

  19. Amy:

    Wonderful review.

    I want to do what you did–leatherize!

    Would you: post a picture of the back and sides?

    Could you: supply the pattern?


  20. Amy ~ Since you have reviewed both the K-5 (Pentax system) & now the E-PM1 (m43 system)…
    Simply from a shooters perspective, I’m curious to hear your impression of how these two systems compare? In the future, which one do you see your self investing more time & $$$ into?

    • I likely won’t invest much in either, since I have a pretty complete kit for both systems that fit my needs nicely. I do need a longer fast zoom for the K-5 to shoot my daughter’s shows, but I may just end up renting it as needed. I may get a lens here or there for each… I sold an FA 43 and deeply regret it, so may try to get another. If Olympus releases a 25-30mm f/1.4, I’d likely be all over it. But as far as further investing, I don’t think one system wins over the other, and I’ve got fairly complete kits for my needs already.

      The K-5 is an amazing camera. The dynamic range and high ISO performance are just outstanding, and it’s weather-sealed, which I needed since I like to shoot in rain and snow. During Steve’s Seattle workshop down at the Space Needle, I think I was the only one that actually got IN the fountain… LOL

      The E-PM1 is nearly pocketable, so it’s meant to be my no-excuses camera. Image quality will never match the K-5 under scrutiny, but I don’t expect it to. That’s not to say the image quality isn’t very good… it absolutely is. However, if I was specifically going out to shoot in low-light conditions, in bad weather, or for a once in-a-lifetime shot, I’d prefer have the K-5. If I was “stuck” there with the EPM1 however, I wouldn’t fret over it either.

      I also shoot with a Leica M8, which is the love of my life. LOL! Seriously, could I afford the M9, I’d buy one… but I may just have to wait until the M10 comes out and used M9’s can be had for a lot cheaper than currently. No matter, I really LOVE the M8. I will use her until she no longer works, and I will never sell her. If you made me choose one of these three cameras, where I could only keep one, it would easily be the M8 for the shear fact I enjoy it so much; even if not the most practical choice for other obvious reasons.

      But that’s me… I’m more emotional about my cameras and photography than technical 😉

  21. hi amy,
    very nice review ….im convinced and sold on the epm1 mini….i also dont see the point on getting the ep-3 ,when most of the important stuff is also in the mini, plus the fact its much smaller and ill be able to carry it most of the time,
    wanted to ask a quick question…have you tried macro with any of the mentioned lenses amy? if so can you post a pic or two?
    warmest regards & speedy recovery

    • Hey Boris,

      I don’t do much macro work honestly. When I first got the EP1 though, using the kit lens I was amazed how close I could get (see photo). I’d imagine the EPM1 is just as capable, though the newer 14-42 IIR kits lens doesn’t focus as close as the old one did… you’d likely have to get a dedicated macro lens… I hear good things about the panasonic 45mm f/2.8 macro. There’s probably some great legacy macro glass out there too if you don’t mind manually focusing (which is pretty common in the macro world anyway…)


  22. Great review, Amy. You make me want one! I miss my E-P2, and this sounds like a very capable pocket-size camera. Of course, your talent makes it look terrific. Nice work!

  23. Amy —

    I’m a big PEN shooter – PL1, but would like to get the faster focus and higher ISO.

    So do you know if there are differences between the three current PENs? I’ve heard vague rumors about the P3 giving better IQ, but think it may actually come down to the touch screen and more physical knobs. Any comments – did you look at the differences before you bought, given the $400 price difference?

    • EP3, EPL3 and EPM1 all have the same sensor.

      EPL3 comes with tillable LCD… has the most external controls, dials and buttons.
      EP3 has pop-up flash. Smaller… thicker than EPM1.
      EPM1 comes with attachable flash (see photo above). Smallest. Doesn’t have thumb wheel.

      EPM1 is missing 2 art filters… but I can’t tell you which ones (sorry! LOL). It does have the dramatic tone and grainy B&W art filters a lot of people like.

      All three have 35 selectable AF points.
      All three have 3 metering modes: Evaluative, center-weighted and spot.
      The EPM1 has the latest “TruePic V” image processor. It also shoots at slightly faster FPS in continuous drive mode (5.5 vs. 3).

      I think all three perform about the same when it comes to higher ISO. In theory, the EPM1 should be slightly better because of the newer processing, but I’m not sure it’s going to be a noticeable difference. Unfortunately DXOMark and DPReview don’t have reviews of the EPM1 up yet to see how the numbers play out (if you’re into that kind of thing).

      I went with the EPM1 because I wanted the smallest possible and the price was so good. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three… it will really come down to ergonomics and price… IQ is going to be the same (or so close the difference will be negligible).


        EP3 has pop-up flash. has the most external controls, dials and buttons.
        EPL3 comes with tillable LCD… Smaller… thicker than EPM1.
        EPM1 comes with attachable flash (see photo above). Smallest. Doesn’t have thumb wheel.

  24. Great Camera indeed. It is my second Olympus after the EP-1. I just bought with the 40-150mm an tried the kit for a couple of days. Luckily I uploaded one of the snapshots to a local contest on facebook and I made it into the final round. Feel free to give me a “like” so I have a chance to win and get me the new 45mm 1.8.

    Thanks Steve for your great reviews!

  25. I can’t wait to pick up one of the mirror-less Oly’s…my real dream is to have Olympus develop a new sensor (645) and lenses to match for the MF market…why take on Nikon/Canon in the “35mm” ish market?…the E5 is good, but size does matter…

    Hmmm, names…”OM-1″ – Olympus Medium Format…what the heck, they brought the “Pen” name out of mothballs…!: 😉 A new mount that would adapt all the Zeiss, Bronica, Pentax, and Mamiya MF glass already out there. New lens to match the ZM 21, 35, 50, 85, & 135’s, and a single zoom to match the focal length of a standard 24-70 2.8 zoom for wedding and event shooters.

  26. Love the blossoming m4/3 lens line. I do wish the 14 were just a little bit better, and if they updated a 17 at f/2 or faster *with* the pull-to-manually-focus option of the new 12, well, i’d buy the system just for that. in fact, given that i prefer a wider frame ratio, i might jump if oly did a 12-esque version of the 14…

    But boy, that properly placed built in vf on the nex 7 does look tempting, were it not for the silly lenses. Why do pany-oly not put their vf hotshoes on the top left edge?!?

    But i am pretty happy with my m9, anyway, and dont really want another camera.

  27. I really dig that leather kit as well, takes takes the camera from what I thought was a rather ugly and modern Japanese look to something far more classic and stylish.

    Given the small body size and lack of built in grip, I’d guess the leather actually is rather functional in making the small body easier to hold as well.

    Form and function, can’t beat that

    • i agree, i had thought it was a very dull looking camera before i saw it in this get up, but that has really caught my eye. i have an ep2 and a few lenses and evf – i cant use the rear screen in anything other than indoor or evening light – I love my ep2 but i thought that this new camea being smaller with a 20mm pancake would be a nice little camera for street stuff.

    • Yes, the leather lot looks so good. Where did you buy it? Before I did not like the PM1’s look but with that kit it looks darn good 🙂

        • Sorry to spoilt the party, but I could understand a leatherette for the retro E-P3. For the sleek, minimalistic E-PL3 and E-PM1, however…

          NoNoNo – they are true beauties as they are.

    • No… end of the article I talk about it… I basically did it myself buying the raw materials from … Aki Asahi usually sells decent leatherette covers, but they don’t have one available for the EPM1 yet.

      • Hi, yes sorry for being a bit dumb, I saw that at the bottom of your article shortly after I posted the comment. Also noticed you are a K5 user, as am I! Thanks again.

  28. great review. i’m almost positive i’m putting all my savings towards all the lenses you listed. i was also wondering if you could also put up the template for the leatherette cover.

    • Ya know, I thought about it… I’m just a little nervous doing it as the template wasn’t perfect and I don’t want people yelling at me for it – LOL!
      Shoot me an email (though my website) and I can email it to you – with the disclaimer that I take no responsibility for how your camera ends up looking! 😛

  29. Nice write up Amy. I enjoy your posts on the dpreview forums. I’ve moved over to the Nex-5N for now, but will be keeping my eye on what Oly does next. A body with a built-in EVF and video on par with the latest Panny/Sony cams and they might be able to bring me back thanks to the great lens selection.

    • Yeah, the EVF/VF thing… I forgot to mention it. I actually don’t mind shooting without one, but good thing the E-PM1 DOES accept the attachable EVFs that olympus makes. I have one from my EP2, so I can grab it if necessary. I’d love to see Olympus do one like the Fuji X100 though, but then it might also make the camera bigger… so it’s a toss up for me 😉

      • Agreed. Viewfinder is the game changer for me. I’ll await the Sony Nex7. thanks for an interesting and informed perspective.

  30. I’m sure the Sony IQ & ISO performance with the larger sensor might be ever so slightly better but if small size is the issue and advantage over the DSLR the Sony Lenses for those small cameras are still HUGE so in my mind defeats much of the purpose.

  31. Great series. I like the colors a lot and also the BW photos.

    I sold my E-P2 because I didn’t like the image quality too much – but you just proved that it is the photographer not the camera.

  32. Great write up on a nice kit Amy. Hope you’re feeling better!

    I’m torn on mft vs nex. Mft lenses are better I just wish any of them offered a faster zoom…design constraints with size I guess.

    Hopefully mft sensors can start maturing at a faster pace too.

  33. Very enjoyable read, and nice photo examples.

    Unfortunately my life long affair with Oly is over. I love their build quality, and as a testament, spent three years on a dive boat with an E3 that withstood continuous salt spray, banging on steel decks and bulkheads, shoot in driving rain without ever letting me down operationally. My biggest gripes, were lack of dynamic range and whacky menu structure. I love their lenses and build quality, but with the Sony Nex, and line maturing, like they say on Shark Tank, “I’m out”!



    • Hi Joe,

      Being a Olympus Pro DSLR USer from the beginning you’re partly right. While the E-System is just made for being out there and those lenses are awesome and Best in the DSLR world, the E3 wasn’t so great. Esp. when it comes to colour and dynamic range (and also Noise) the E3 was a step backwards compared to the legendary E1 (still have mine and will keep it for ever). However due to the 5MP more, the new AF and awesome IS I really didn’t use the E1 … but there was always something missing.

      I have now the E5 and from working with its RAW files and seeing at pixel level its back to roots. Esp. in colour and dynamic range the E5 is really close to the E1 (yes Kodak colours are still better but its not that far away any more). Also the metering is now quite similar again. So, from that point I’m quite happy again with my Oly.

      But I bought, well ordered, a M9P with the 35mm Summicron and 90mm Summarit now and will keep my E5 +2-3 lenses for the Wildlife and Outdoor stuff.

      As for NEX, well those lenses are crap(actually the software corrected m4/3 ones as well) and the only reason for Nex would be to use all those old MF-Lenses. But then again why not go for a used Leica M8(.2) instead?


      • Borbarad… I’m curious to ask you about the E5 because I was under the impression the sensor in it is similar to thank in the last Pens (EP3, EPL3, E-PM1)… do you think they are close? The E-PM1 uses the newest “TruePic V” and I’d be curious to hear someone compare the files from it to the E5.

        I looked seriously at the E5 when I was exploring a weather-sealed solution. For me, it was just way too big, so I ended up going the K5 route instead. However, I did love me some Olympus DSLRs back a couple of years ago… and am sorry to see them abandon some of them.

        • Hi Amy,

          I really can’t compare as I don’t have any m4/3 ( well had the EP1 for a short time, but as those lenses are well… a joke compared to the 4/3 ones they lost me as far as m4/3 goes).

          However even if the sensor and truepic would be the same, the internal software differs and the metering is different which both could and probably will make a huge difference. Some who know both worlds are stating that it’s similar to the old E3 vs E420/520 discussion. And of course don’t forget the lenses which will add up on top.

          If you really liked the E1 the E5 is worth a really close look. And for the outdoor stuff the 12-60, 50-200, 150mm F2, the 90-250mm F2.8, the 300mm F2.8 and both ECs are hard to beat.


          • Thanks. I know Oly makes good glass, which is part of what I liked about their system. However, the E5 is just too big and heavy for me. I do think the newer m4/3 lenses (like the 12 and 45) are right up there quality wise with some of the 4/3 lenses… but there are definitely holes in the lineup. Lucky for me, for the most part, I don’t need longer fast zooms… but it’s an area that needs to be addressed if m4/3 is going to essentially replace the small DSLRs Olympus used to make. (I used to shoot with an e-410 and then e-620 btw).

      • B:

        Thanks for the insight into the E5. I sold my E3 and Oly glass to a college student for cheap, but kept my CY-4/3 adapter and have thought about picking up a used E -series for use with my older glass. I might start hunting the pawn shops and ebay.



    • u underestimate micro4/3 dynamic range because the size off the sensor, today check the OM-D E-M5 … i promise you this YOU WILL FORGET THAT IS MICRO 4/3 SENSOR …

  34. You said it all. Great little fast camera… and prime lens combo. Highly recommended.
    Use mine for photojournalism work when feasible.

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