Operations and controls

Top of camera controls

On the top of the PEN E-PM1 you will find the on/off switch, shutter release and movie record buttons. This is a significant reduction in external controls from the E-PL3. Instead of using an external mode dial to switch modes you must now do this through the camera's menus. By default, the Movie record button allows one-press access to video recording or it can be programmed for another function if you prefer.

Just like all of the previous PEN cameras the E-PM1 has a full size hotshoe as well as the AP2 port that is used for the included flash and the optional EVF. The stereo microphone is also located on the top of the camera on either side of the hotshoe. The E-PM1 comes with a clip-on flash, but the hotshoe supports other Olympus flash units as well.

Rear of camera controls

The rear controls are nearly identical to the PEN E-PL3, with the Playback button now taking its place under the Menu button. The 'right' and 'down' keys are customizable, and can be reassigned to shooting functions such as ISO and white balance if you prefer. But - frustratingly - you can only ever get direct access to two of flash mode, drive mode, white balance and ISO at any given time.

The outer edge of the 4-way controller is a control dial, used for setting options in the E-PL3's menu system, as well as changing shooting parameters and scrolling through images in review mode.

The reduction of external controls on the E-PM1 compared to higher-end PEN cameras can be seen in two ways. For enthusiast photographers, being restricted to using on-screen menus to control shooting settings may take some getting used to. But on the other hand, we feel that the more 'compact camera' feel of the E-PM1 will be less intimidating for those looking to upgrade from a point and shoot camera. And this is precisely what Olympus intends.

Live Guide

Originating on the E-PL1, the Live Guide continues to be available on the E-PM1. It's a results-orientated interface for the iAuto mode (you specify that you want a brighter image, not that you want to change exposure compensation, for instance). However, the existing user interface options are also available and can be used alongside or instead of the Live Guide if you prefer (you can choose which control methods are available in each shooting mode).

Live Guide lets you influence the cameras iAuto mode by choosing one of five properties of the image you want to change. For instance, selecting 'Color Saturation' effectively gives a results-focused way of adjusting saturation.
The Brightness option is unique in giving more than a simple more/less slider. Here it allows you to adjust the top and tail-ends of the tone curve to brighten or darken the highlights or shadows. Finally there's a 'Photo tips' section that offers advice for shooting different subjects, from kids to food and pets. (Kitten not included)

In addition, in the other modes, you can choose between the Live Control or Super Control Panel for changing settings that aren't on the four-way controller. Which of these screens is available in each mode can be defined in the Settings menu (Settings menu (D) > Control Settings). If you decide you want access to more than one type of settings display, you can cycle between them by pressing INFO while the settings screen is being shown.