Olympus PEN Mini / E-PM1 Review
Olympus was the first manufacturer to offer in-camera processing filters with the E-30 DSLR back in 2008. The idea of these is to offer a range of pre-baked 'artistic' effects which the users can apply directly to images as they shoot without having to mess around later on in Photoshop.
Like its sister model the E-PL3, the PEN Mini offers six basic filters. Reflecting the E-PM1's bottom-of-the-range positioning, though, Olympus has chosen to significantly reduce the level of control on offer. The enhancements and adjustments that are available on the E-PL3 and the E-P3 are completely absent from the E-PM1. There are still 6 fairly different filters in the Mini, but this feels much more like a feature differentiation than a hardware limitation.
|Pop Art||Soft Focus||Grainy Film||Pin Hole|
|Diorama||Dramatic Tone||Filter Off|
Shooting with Art Filters
The PEN Mini offers two ways of shooting with Art Filters. The simpler is to switch to the ART mode in the menu- you can then select the filter you wish to use by pressing the OK button. The filter is previewed live in real time; you can select from two preview modes in the Custom menu, one of which prioritizes preview accuracy over frame rate, and the other vice versa.
In the ART mode the E-PM1 essentially works in program exposure mode, allowing both exposure compensation and program shift via the control dial on the back of the camera (pressing up on the control dial grants you access to program shift and pressing left or right adjusts exposure compensation). You get full control over all of the camera's settings, and can record raw files if you choose (handy if you later decide that an image would look better with different processing). Art Filters are also available in the PASM exposure modes, in this case under the guise of Picture Modes. They can be set very quickly using the Super Control Panel.
It's also possible to apply Art Filters to raw files, using either the in-camera raw processing, or the supplied Olympus [ib] software (Windows only). You can also use Olympus Viewer 2, which is a cross-platform editing application available as a free download. One benefit of using one of Olympus' software options is that you gain access to additional filters that have been left out of the E-PM1. And unlike with the in-camera adjustments, you can combine multiple effects with a single filter.
The following filters and effects are available in the Olympus Viewer 2 software included with the camera. Each of the filters can be used in conjuction with their associated effects:
|Soft Focus||• White edge
• Star light
|Pop Art||• Soft focus
• White edge
• Star light
|Pale & Light Color||• Soft focus
• White edge
|Pin Hole||• Frame|
|Grainy Film||• Pin-Hole
• White edge
|Cross Process||• Pin-Hole
• White edge
|Gentle Sepia||• Pin-Hole
• White edge
|Dramatic Tone||• White edge
• Star light
It's possible to record movies using art filters, but some limitations apply for those which require more extensive processing - on other words, all except Pop Art. Using the Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pinhole or Dramatic Tone filters, movies are recorded at a reduced frame rate, and then played-back in real time in what can be a visibly jerky fashion. The precise frame rate varies between filters, ranging from 6fps for Soft Focus, Grainy Film, and Dramatic Tone, to just 2fps for Pinhole.
In Diorama mode, the camera records at about 2fps but without sound, and then plays back the movie back sped-up to 15fps. This is surprisingly effective, giving something resembling a stop-motion animation. But it really does demand the use of a tripod for best results, as speeding up the playback really accentuates the inevitable movement you get between frames when shooting hand-held.
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