Entry-Level Mirrorless Camera Roundup (2013)
Olympus Pen E-PM2
16MP CMOS Sensor | 3.0 inch touch screen | 1080p HD video at 30 fps
What we like:
- Portable and compact
- Excellent image quality
- Wide selection of lenses
What we don't:
- No built-in flash and single accessory port
- LCD difficult to see in bright sunlight
- Useful Super Control Panel hidden by default
The Olympus Pen E-PM2 is that manufacturer's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera, but it uses the same 16 megapixel sensor as the high-end Pen OM-D E-M5. That's an excellent feature to have, as the E-M5 produced some of the best image quality we've yet seen in a mirrorless camera. It's offered with a 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens and includes a 3.0-inch touch screen, in-body image stabilization, 1080p HD video and Raw image capture.
This Pen 'Mini' is targeted to a beginner, offering a control layout that's more like a point-and-shoot than a DSLR. The model above it, the E-PL5, offers a physical mode dial, another customizable button and a tilting LCD for a bit more money, but is essentially the same camera.
"A good choice for beginners and those who want excellent image quality in a relatively small package."
The E-PM2's out-of-the-camera JPEG images are very good, with excellent color rendition and exposure. Those who don't mind putting in a little more effort will enjoy even better dynamic range and high ISO image quality thanks to the camera's ability to shoot Raw. Compared to a point-and-shoot, the E-PM2's low light, high ISO images are much less noisy and retain more detail, but fall very slightly short of the low light quality you'll get from a good DSLR.
With a built-in handgrip on the front panel, the E-PM2 is comfortable to hold and operate. It is indeed a small camera though, and those with larger hands may find the control interface slightly difficult to use. Those moving up to the E-PM2 from a compact camera will feel at home with the controls, though enthusiasts may find themselves frustrated with a sparse array of physical buttons and dials. The E-PL5 offers a slightly more hands-on experience with an additional function button and an external mode dial.
Olympus created the in-camera Art Filter, and the E-PM2 offers a full selection of these fun-to-play-with processing modes. There's also a beginner-friendly Live Guide mode that assists less experienced shooters in making changes to color and exposure with a helpful on-screen interface. Advanced users will like the Super Control Panel, a heads-up display offering quick access to exposure parameters.
The E-PM2 is a good choice for beginners and those who want excellent image quality in a relatively small package. There are smaller and lighter alternatives both in the compact and mirrorless class, but the E-PM2 strikes a great balance in portability, usability and image quality.