The E-PL7 is the sixth camera in Olympus's midrange PEN Lite lineup. The PEN series has been somewhat overshadowed by the excellent OM-D cameras, whose DSLR-like styling has been better received than the rangefinder-esque PENs, but the PL7 makes a bid to reaffirm the position of the smaller cameras.

The latest model adds several significant improvements over its predecessor, not least a revised shutter mechanism, a full control dial on the top plate and a 3:2 rear display. The shutter mechanism reduces the image shake that has blunted the appeal of previous models while the addition of a control dial should enhance the experience for users wanting to take control of the camera. The squarer display, meanwhile, is a better balance between the shape of the camera's stills and movie output - meaning more of the screen is used.

Recent iterations of the PEN Lite have been caught between the point-and-shoot orientated PEN Minis and the enthusiast-targeted full-sized PENs, and have ended up not being a perfect fit for anyone. The PL7 seems less concerned about treading on its siblings' toes: it wears its classic styling more boldly, rather than looking like a pastiche of its big brother and the control dial means it can offer a more hands-on shooting experience than previous little PENs. Interestingly, there's no sign yet of an update to the less expensive model.

Meanwhile, the point-and-shoot end of the audience still get a responsive touchscreen experience with a results-orientated 'live guide' interface. And, because it needs to justify its purchase to a smartphone-owning world, a fold-down rear screen for taking 'selfies.' There's also built-in Wi-Fi to transfer those shots off to a smartphone before you miss any further moments, or your food gets any colder.

E-PL7 key features

  • 16MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor
  • Top-plate control dial
  • 8 fps continuous shooting
  • Tilting 1.04M dot 3:2 LCD touchscreen
  • Larger-capacity 8.5Wh battery
  • Wi-Fi allowing remote control and file transfer to smartphones
  • Focus peaking
  • '3-axis' image stabilization

Much of the rest of the E-PL7 is familiar - it's based on a familiar sensor and the TruePic VII processor that offers very similar results to the chip used in the existing model. However, our early testing suggests the shutter shake isn't nearly as prominent as it had been on existing PEN models. The E-PL7 offers a '0-second' anti-shock system (hidden and not engaged by default) which completely elimiates the problem by using an electronic shutter to start the exposure just after the physical shutter has opened.

As usual for an Olympus release, the E-PL7 also gains some extra Art Filters. The company's enthusiasm for constantly expanding this feature is understandable, given that it pioneered the as-you-shoot processing effect in cameras. We're not entirely sure why you wouldn't do this once the image is on your smartphone but Olympus insists that customer research suggests people like to add filters on the camera and on their smartphones.

The 3-axis voice coil motor driven 3-axis stabilisation is borrowed from the E-M10 and promised around 3.5 stops worth of stabilization, according to industry-standard testing. The company says its resistance to roll (rotation around the lens axis), is improved over the previous model, offering greater 'selfie stability.'

Model
OM-D E-M10
PEN E-PL7
PEN E-P5
 Sensor
16MP CMOS
16MP CMOS
16MP CMOS
 Image processor
TruePic VII
TruePic VII
TruePic VI
 Image stabilization
3-axis
3-axis
5-axis
 Stabilization effectiveness (CIPA)
3.5 stops
3.5 stops
~4 stops
 Accessory Port?
No
Yes
Yes
 Screen specifications
1.04m dot,
WVGA LCD
1.04m dot,
WVGA LCD
1.04m dots
WVGA LCD
 Electronic viewfinder
1.44m dot,
SVGA LCD
Optional
Optional
Number of focus points
81
81
35
 Built-in flash?
Yes
No
Yes
 Wi-Fi?
Yes
Yes
Yes
 Maximum shutter speed
1/4000 sec
1/4000 sec
1/8000 sec
 X-Sync speed (with internal/bundled flash)
1/250 sec
1/250 sec
1/320 sec
 Movie options
1080/30p MOV
up to 24Mbps
1080/30p MOV
up to 24Mbps
1080/60i MOV
up to 20Mbps
 Battery life (shots/charge, CIPA)
320
350
330

The E-PL7 is being launched at a cost of $599 body only and $699 with the manually retractable 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 zoom. In Europe, bundles are also available that include the 14-42mm power zoom lens that pairs well with the PL7's compact form factor. Sadly, Olympus US has not yet announced a similar kit.