Olympus's OM-D E-M5 is one of the best mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras we've reviewed in the past year, but it's practically the size of a full-on DSLR. If you're looking for the same kind of imaging capabilities in a more-compact camera, one of two new Olympus PEN models announced Monday might do the trick.
The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 is the higher-end of the two new interchangeable-lens cameras. The PEN E-PL5 has a physical mode dial, a tilting 3-inch touchscreen that can be adjusted up and down, and a removable screw-on handgrip. Those are three features that distinguish it from the lower-end Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2, which has no mode dial, a fixed touchscreen, and a built-in handgrip.
Both cameras offer the same 16-megapixel sensor and TruePic 6 image processor found in Olympus's flagship OM-D E-M5 mirrorless camera, but in much more compact bodies. At 4.3 inches wide, 2.5 inches tall, and 1.5 inches deep, the E-PL5 can fit in a jacket pocket with a pancake lens attached. The PEN E-PM2 is even thinner, measuring 1.3 inches deep.
The new cameras also boast extremely fast autofocus speeds, which is put to good use in each camera's "Touch AF" feature; you can simply touch subjects on the screen when framing photos or videos to have the autofocus system lock in immediately. In some brief hands-on time with each new model, the cameras were able to focus on a subject and capture an image within a fraction of a second of touching the LCD. That's a good feature for action shooters, as are the cameras' 8fps burst modes at full 16-megapixel resolution with focus and exposure locked at the first shot.
Each camera lacks a built-in flash, but both come with an external flash that mounts onto the top-mounted hot shoe. The E-PL5 and E-PM2 have ISO settings that reach up to 25,600, 1080p video recording at 30fps, full manual exposure controls in addition to aperture- and shutter-priority modes, and RAW and RAW+JPEG shooting modes.
The new PEN cameras also have several bracketing modes with adjustable settings, including an exposure-bracketing setting, ISO bracketing, and flash-intensity bracketing. In addition to the full library of creative effects found in previous PEN cameras (which Olympus calls "Art Filters"), there's a new watercolor painting effect in the mix, as well.
Like the latest interchangeable-lens cameras from Samsung and Sony, the new Olympus PENs also feature a companion mobile app for sharing images and video directly to a mobile device, but the cameras don't have Wi-Fi capabilities built into the camera. Instead, the E-PL5 and E-PM2 have an interface that's optimized for use with Toshiba's FlashAir cards, which are separately sold SD cards with Wi-Fi connectivity. When used with a FlashAir card, the new cameras will allow shooters to offload images and video to mobile devices by using a free "Olympus Image Share" app for iOS and Android.
Both cameras are due in October. The PEN E-PL5 will cost $650 for the body only or $700 as a kit with a standard 14-42mm zoom lens. The PEN E-PM2 will cost $550 for the body only or $600 as a kit with the same lens. The Olympus PEN series has a focal length multiplier of 2X.
Two new lenses for the PEN series were also announced today, including an extremely compact lens that doubles as a lens cap for the camera. A new 15mm/F8.0 prime lens is built for street shooting in daylight, and it's small and light enough to make each camera feel more like a point-and-shoot than an interchangeable lens camera. It has a lever on the side of the lens that operates a sliding lens cover, which is why Olympus is billing it as a lens/cover combo. The second new lens is a more-traditional ; given that maximum aperture, it should be way more forgiving in low-light situations than the new pancake lens.