(Pocket-lint) - The Mini, or E-PM1 to give it its full product name, is the baby of the newly announced Olympus Pen family and Pocket-lint was at the European launch of the new camera to get a hands-on play to see what it's all about.
We say hands-on, but sadly this wasn't a fully working model. What we were shown at the Olympus event was a mock-up of the yet to be priced camera. This means we can unfortunately only run you through the physical feel and aesthetics of the camera, rather than tell you how the supposed world's fastest autofocus actually works.
That out of the way, what do you get? Well the camera boasts the same TruePic VI powered 12.3-megapixel MOS sensor as the more expensive bigger brothers. It even manages to squeeze an interchangeable lens system onto a body that is smaller than some compacts.
On the back of the Pen Mini is a 3-inch LCD display with rotating clickwheel to the right. It looks like a lot of buttonery of the E-PL3 and E-P3 has been done away with to simplify the camera for the beginner. That said, Olympus has still managed to pack a 1080i AVCHD capable sensor into the body which is even capable of the same 12,800 ISO as the other more expensive Pen offerings. If you ask us, that is a seriously powerful quasi-compact if we ever saw one.
The plastic finish definitely doesn't feel quite the same quality as the other Olympus Pen cameras, but then this was a mock-up so we can't be sure. Ergonomically the E-PM1 definitely sat well in the hand, it is exceptionally tiny for an interchangeable lens camera but thankfully the M.Zuiko Pen lenses are so light that things never feel front-heavy. One thing worth noting on the tiny-front is that an extendable zoom lens or even pancake lens stuck on the front fo the E-PM1 means you won't fit it in a pocket. Unlike a compact you need a piece of glass in front of the sensor to keep it safe, meaning whilst small, you will still need it round your neck.
Both the white and red cameras were on display as well as the silver and and black offerings.Personally we are big fans of the more restrained approach to camera colour, but some may like the shiny approach to some of the other choices.
The E-PM1 has a hot shoe mount on top, meaning external flash can be used in low light situations. There is a lack of mode dial, which means presumably settings will have to be applied via the rear display. An on/off button sits next to the shutter which given the size of the camera, means we could see some accidental switching off occuring.
Given that Olympus decided to unleash a trio of cameras at the same time, all of which have the same powerful MOS sensor inside, it is difficult to pick a current favourite. Expect a good versus to be carried out once more time is spent with the Pen E-PM3.
Like the idea of a tiny mirrorless camera, or do you need a more meaty body for amateur snapping?