Although more modern in appearance, the new PEN mini maintains the core values of the stylish and expensive-looking PEN range in a considerably smaller package. Its undeniably sensual aesthetic is embodied by its brushed metal exterior available in a choice of colours.
As its name suggests, the PEN mini is the smallest camera in Olympus’s PEN range, which also includes the E-PL3 and E-P3 bodies. When paired with a pancake lens, the PEN mini is almost pocketable and most certainly handbag-friendly.
Because it is so much smaller than most other interchangeable lens cameras – even the fixed-lens Sigma DP2x is bigger – there’s precious little room for control buttons. This means any tweaking of settings is probably going to require resorting to the onscreen menu. Features such as built-in flash and an electronic viewfinder are also sacrificed in favour of miniaturisation, although both of these can be connected as attachments and a tiny plug-in flash is included in the box.
Plenty of help is provided via the 3in, including a built-in guide containing tips on various types of photography for example food, flowers or pets. You can also adjust settings based on real world descriptions such as ‘stop motion’ or ‘blur background’, requiring only minimal photographic knowledge. It’s also packed with special effects that you can apply in-camera. Full HD 1080p video recording is supported too.
Despite its tiny dimensions it’s a very flexible camera, compatible with Olympus’s eleven-strong range of lenses as well of most of those available from Panasonic and from third parties via adapters. It’s also surprisingly quick to use, with fast startup times, quick autofocus and a class-leading 5.5fps continuous shooting mode (although this is limited to 9 shots). It also incorporates in-body image stabilisation, meaning any lens you attach can be stabilised no-matter the vintage.
Under tough lighting conditions, Image quality can’t quite match that of the full-sized SLRs, the smaller Micro FourThirds sensor being more susceptible to noise than its APS-C sized counterparts. But steer clear of the highest ISO settings and you’re sure to be delighted with the results from such a tiny camera.