E-PM1 Pen Mini: First Impressions (Now with high-ISO!) See page 4 for high-ISO comparison! It's here! And it's mini! Fingers crossed, this will be the camera to replace my E-PL1. How do they compare? (Beware iPhone pics.) The PM1 is lighter, slimmer, slightly less wide, and much less tall. Hilariously, it's not heavy or wide enough to stand up with the kit lens on. However, there are two problems. * The lens mount really ruins the party here; it doesn't matter what Oly do, because the sensor is backed right onto the LCD in this body. This is as slim as m4/3 can ever be, and IMO there is absolutely no point to making the body slimmer than the lens mount. (NEX is actually slimmer, but you pay for it in the lenses anyway.) * The new kit lens is slightly taller than the original. I think everybody knew that already, but the PM1 has turned this into a game of millimeters and if depth is your limiting factor in pocketability, there's trouble to be had. On the bright side, the kit lens is also lighter, slimmer, and built noticeably better than the original. (I assume the II non-R is the same way.) It just feels better to work with, tight and precise. Even so, Oly needs to get some X-lens sauce in here. Now, as far as actual usability...this camera is going to be a love or hate thing. There is no mode dial. I think that's great! Seriously, mode dials are a pain in the neck to use. I can get between PASM and video modes much faster using the on-screen menus now than I could ever manage with the stupid dial. It's similar in concept to the GF2, but I think it actually works a little better. I continue to find Live Control better than the SCP, not as smooth for viewing settings but much quicker to change them. The dial makes it easier to navigate, which I assume that E-P2 and E-PL2 users have had this whole time. There are only a few buttons: Record, INFO, MENU, Playback, OK, and the four-way dial. Only the Record button is customizable. Functionality at all times is heavily context sensitive as a result. It takes some getting used to, even though I don't mind this approach. I'm a little disappointed that I can't customize the four-way controller (or at least I haven't found it yet). D-Pad right and down are customizable, though bizarrely not to zoom. Why only those two? Why only to WB, ISO, and a few useless ones? I have no idea. My PL1's On/Off button also had a problem where it was often mistaken as the shutter; this is not really a concern on the PM1 thanks to a slightly better button feel. Simple fact is that if you're a heavy tweaker, this camera is going to be awful. It's essentially got one Fn button that can be AEL/AFL, zoom, MF/AF toggle, etc but you only ever get one. I'm not a tweaker, I shoot nearly everything in Program-Auto and the rest (fast action) in shutter priority. Manual mode is decent enough to work with, but it's basically the same as the PL1. However, and this is really, really important: the controls on the PM1 are comically small. Seriously, I'm not joking. Put your thumb down on a dime and pretend it's the dial of a camera. The PM1 is smaller than that. The rest of the buttons are utterly microscopic. I have small hands so I don't especially mind this. If you have large hands, or like to use a camera with gloves, you are most likely out of luck. So...small body. Without a grip. It actually has a rear grip in the form of a rubberized curved section visible above. IMO this is actually an improvement over the god-awful grip on the GF2, but I'm noticing some early wrist strain in handling larger, heavier lenses. I will probably add a Flipbac grip, though I've heard that Franiec is going to make one too. There's zero benefit to have a grip smaller than the size of the mount plus the smallest lens. Sony understands this a bit better on their NEX body designs. Oly has entirely missed the memo. The PM1 is wonderfully lightweight and I suspect I'm going to appreciate that a lot, since I usually hang the camera off a wrist strap. However, making it dimensionally small is pointless as long as that lens mount is jutting out, and I'm not sure why Panasonic and Olympus both think this is productive. Simple fact is I bought the PM1 for price, not because I'm a 'compact upgrader' or I like less controls or any of that garbage. I bought it because I'm cheap and I bet the PM1 will sell well for exactly that reason. AF and IQ performance are identical to the E-P3, so I see no reason to dwell on it. AF is fast, and quality at ISO 3200 is substantially nicer. The screen on the PM1 is alright. At 460k dots 16:9, it's about the same size as the PL1 screen and only slightly higher resolution. The PL3 tilt-screen is smaller than this at the same aspect, which sounds god awful to me. Manual focusing on this camera is similarly improved only slightly. The dial makes it very quick to snap through zoom levels, and I'm glad to see that the camera does not attempt to do AF acquisition with adapted lenses. That was always a bizarre quirk of the PL1. It also looks like Oly has added a delay jumping out of zoom when using S-AF/MF. This actually makes the setting usable for me and is a welcome change. As for build quality...the E-P3 is $900, with more or less the same electronics and an all metal body. This is $500. Where do you think the money came from? It's plastic. Don't drop it. Don't rough it up. This is not the rugged pro grade camera you are looking for. It's perfectly well put together, but if build quality is a concern then keep walking. I should point out that this camera uses the BLS-1 battery as seen in the PL1, NOT the newer BLS-5 battery. Convenient for me, maybe not so much for you. I've just discovered a new problem with AF. Oly finally decided to add an AF assist lamp to this camera. That's good! Only it sits right behind your hand when using a zoom ring. What? Why on earth isn't it on the other side of the camera? If you are using zoom or even just holding the lens and the camera is having trouble focusing, it will turn on the assist lamp. Too bad it's pointed at your hand instead of the scene, so either you remember to move your hand or you watch the camera sadly and fruitlessly search for focus.