All Amateur Photographers & Enthusiasts -
Olympus wasn't the first company to introduce a mirrorless interchangeable camera but it was the first to develop a simplified, cost-reduced model with an easy-to-use interface to allow point-and-shoot upgraders to get the most out of their first large-sensor camera. Olympus has a history of developing new ideas and technologies, only to watch them become popular across the industry, so won't have expected the field to itself for long. Its response to this challenge are two new models - the PEN Lite and PEN Mini.
The PEN Lite is the third generation of the company's simplified PEN model. And, where the E-PL1 felt like an E-P2 shoe-horned into a cheaper body (and the E-PL2 a slightly more satisfying version same concept), the E-PL3 is more obviously a model in its own right. Although it shares much with the co-announced E-P3, the Lite has more distinct styling and better feature differentiation than we've previously seen.
In terms of similarities, the E-PL3 shares the same updated 12MP imaging sensor and dual-core TruePicVI processor as the E-P3, providing the camera with many of the same capabilities as its big brother. However, its styling is more obviously reminiscent of the company's flagship XZ-1 compact than of previous PENs. There's also a flip-out rear LCD that helps set it apart from the retro-styled E-P3. Beyond this, a close look at the Lite shows that, with the exception of the thumb dial and Fn2 button, it offers a similar degree of control to the more expensive model. It even retains the built-in stereo microphones of the bigger PEN - one of the first features to go missing from many such cameras.
Having regularly acted as a trailblazer (Olympus was an early exponent of DSLR liveview, in-camera image stabilization and art filters), and subsequently watched other manufacturers produce very similar beginners' user interfaces, the PEN Lite sees Olympus getting to borrow ideas for a change. There's something decidedly NEX-like about the Lite's protruding lens mount and tilting LCD screen, not to mention its separate clip-on flash.
Frustratingly, the Lite's flip-out screen is in the 16:9 aspect ratio - perfect for shooting video but pretty disastrous for a camera with a native shooting ratio of 4:3. The problem is that a 4:3 chunk of a 16:9 frame leaves black bars down either side of the screen - throwing away a troubling 25% of the screen's area. This area can, of course, be populated with shooting information but it still means your preview is much smaller than you'd want it to be.
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 key specifications:
- Updated 12MP Live MOS sensor
- 120 Hz 'Fast AF' focus system
- Clip-on flash (included)
- Built-in autofocus illuminator light
- 460,000 dot tilting LCD screen (16:9 aspect ratio)
- Dual-core TruePic VI processor
- 1080i60 movies in AVCHD format
- Shadow tone adjustment control
- Revised and expanded Art Filter mode (with quick preview option)
Compared to the Olympus PEN E-P3
|The PL has undergone a makeover - slimming down by swapping its built-in flash for a clip-on unit and adopting a flattering, NEX-like protruding lens mount. As a result it looks svelte and elegant. However, when placed next to the solid-looking P3 the Lite reveals itself to actually be slightly deeper - having plumped for a tilt/flip LCD screen.|
Differences between the PEN Lite E-PL3 and PEN E-P3
- Faster continuous shooting: up to 5.5fps vs. 3fps
- Tilt/flip LCD display vs. fixed OLED screen
- Lower resolution, less useful format screen (460,000 dots, 16:9 vs. 614,000, 3:2)
- Lower flash sync speed: 1/160th vs. 1/180th of a second
- Four fewer Art Filters (Loses Pale Light & Color, Light Tone, Gentle Sepia and Cross-Process)
- No built-in flash (slot-in unit included)
- No level gauge
|As you'd expect of a model intended to attract people looking to upgrade from compact cameras, the PEN Lite is available in a range of colors|
The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Exclusively Available at H and B Digital.com
Beyond the PEN Lite: The PEN Mini
The Lite clearly aims for much the same point-and-shoot upgrader as Sony's NEX and GF series. However, rather than racing to strip out as many features as possible, Olympus has left the PEN Lite with an impressive specification.
The PEN Mini, otherwise known as the E-PM1 is a very close relation to the PEN E-PL3/Lite - it loses the flip-out screen and mode dial, along with several of the buttons but essentially all of the camera's features and functions are maintained in a simplified body that weighs roughly 50g less than the E-PL3. Like the E-PL3 the Mini lacks a built-in flash, and features the same 'cut down' range of Art Filters.
|The PEN E-PM1 / PEN Mini is essentially a Pen E-PL3 in a simplified body shell, without the articulated LCD screen and exposure mode dial. Obviously intended to provide the most non-intimidating gateway possible into Olympus' PEN range, the Mini's smooth, contours and slightly more compact form factor are a refreshing contrast to other current and previous PEN models.|
Pricing hasn't been announced at the time of launch but, based on what we've seen of the PEN Lite, the Mini could be a very attractive proposition for people thinking about buying a large-sensor, interchangeable lens camera for the first time.
PEN E-PM1 / PEN Mini key specifications
- 12.3MP High-speed Live-MOS sensor
- ISO 200-12800
- 3", 460,000 dot LCD screen (not articulated)
- 35-area contrast-detection AF system with Face detection (up to 8 faces can be recognized)
- 6 Art Filters (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Dramatic Tone)
- 4.1fps continuous shooting (max 5.5fps with IS turned 'off')
- 215g (body only)
The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 Exclusively Available at H and B Digital.com