Olympus PEN E-PL7 First Impressions Review
Body & Design
The E-PL7 is a lightweight, yet solid-feeling compact mirrorless camera. The body is made mostly of metal, though the plastic buttons feel a bit cheap, and the cover over the battery/memory card door feels like it could snap off at any moment. The hinge mechanism for the articulating LCD (discussed further down the page) is most impressive.
Ergonomics are generally good. The grips (front and rear) are the right size, allowing for one-handed operation. The camera's sole control dial (which surrounds the shutter release) is perfectly placed, and the mode dial is right next door if you need to switch that quickly. That said, the buttons and four-way controller on the rear are quite small.
In your hand
|While it doesn't have a large grip, it works well enough on this relatively small camera. The thumb rest is good-sized and keeps your hands from resting on any buttons.|
Top of camera
Starting on the left, you can see the camera's speaker, followed by its hot shoe. Underneath the hot shoe is an accessory port, allowing the addition of add-ons such as electronic viewfinders. The camera comes bundled with a clip-on external flash takes over both the hot shoe and accessory port.
Around the hot shoe is the stereo mic, followed by the mode dial to its right. Next to that is the shutter release button, with the main control dial surrounding it. We like the placement of the control dial, as its a big improvement over the tiny, fiddly rear dial on previous models.
At the far right you'll find the E-PL7's power button.
Compared to E-PL5 / E-PL6
The E-PL7 is a nice improvement over its predecessors, the E-PL5 and E-PL6 (which are cosmetically similar, with the latter having additional software features). Where the E-PL5 was smooth and rounded (and slippery), the E-PL7 has a more traditional rangefinder-style body, complete with a built-in grip, rather than the older models' screw-in ones.
The main change on top is the addition of the control dial around the shutter release button. On the E-PL5, the dial surrounded the four-way controller and was prone to accidental rotation. We think Olympus made the right decision here.
The other big improvement is that the aspect ratios of the LCDs have changed. The one on the E-PL5/6 was 16:9 - great for video, not so great for stills - while the display on the E-PL7 is 3:2, meaning more of the screen is used when shooting with the camera at its native resolution. The articulation of the LCDs has changed as well. The display on the E-PL5 could tilt up by 180° and down about 45, while the E-PL7's screen literally reverses things.
The E-PL7 has a 3" touchscreen LCD with 1.04 million dots (720 x 480 pixels). Outdoor visibility is decent, though you may find you have to turn the brightness up a notch or two. If you're regularly shooting in bright sunshine, a range of electronic viewfinders is available.
|One of the E-PL7's tricks is its articulating LCD, which can be folded downward by 180 degrees. Perfect for, you know, self-portraits.|
The E-PL7's display has an impressive set of hinges, and can articulate in a number of ways. You can already see one of them above, which is a 180 degrees downward flip. It can also be pulled away from the back of the camera and tilted upward by about 80 degrees. Naturally, you can also put it in the 'traditional' position.
When you flip the LCD all the way down, the power zoom lens (if attached) will go to its wide end, so you can fit all in your friends in the picture. Why does the screen flip down instead of up? Olympus says it's to keep your hand from getting in the way of the lens or flash.