Olympus E-PM1: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (1,981)
Editor's Rating
7.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 7
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 5
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
Full HD video quality was quite good in the PM1 and the camera features a handy one push video capture capability with the dedicated video button. The camera will record the noise of the zoom being manually operated, but Olympus offers Micro Four Thirds lenses that feature nearly silent autofocus for video capture – such lenses are designated as “MSC” (movie and still compatible). The camera’s CMOS sensor showed a tiny bit of rolling shutter effect on some exaggeratedly fast pans, but in normal usage the camera does quite well with this aberration.

Download Sample Video

Image Quality
With Olympus marketing the PM1 towards an entry-level user base, I opted to shoot many of the still captures used for this review in the iAuto mode. Default images out of the camera were quite good as to color rendition and sharpness – photos produced by the iAuto setting seldom left me wishing for more sharpness or contrast.

Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image

I also grabbed a couple shots of the fireworks display at Disneyland using the fireworks scene mode.

Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image

The Olympus picture mode offers manual shooters five color options along with monochrome and custom settings. Here are the iEnhance, vivid, natural, muted, portrait, and monotone variations.

Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
iEnhance
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Vivid
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Natural
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Muted
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Portrait
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Monochrome

Auto white balance was used for all the images captured for this review and did a good job across the wide variety of light, including incandescent. Our studio shot with 5500K fluorescent lighting looks a little warm to me, but when I shot some subjects under fluorescent light at home the color balance looked good so I’m going to give the PM1 the benefit of the doubt. In addition to auto there are sunny, shadow, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, underwater, flash, two custom white balance settings and a Kelvin temperature setting.

Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Digital ESP metering is the default in the PM1 and was used for virtually all the images in this review, with the exception of some manual exposures after dark. The system meters exposure in 324 areas of the frame and optimizes exposure for the current scene. There are center weighted and spot options available, along with spot options for highlight or shadow control.

ISO performance with the PM1 was good, up to a point – the difference between 200 and 400 was virtually undetectable and manifested itself primarily in minutely sharper fine details in some areas of the frame. ISO 400 to 800 offers a bit more dissimilarity, with the threads in the bear’s nose just about lost as a brown blob. ISO 800 to 1600 is more of the same, colors overall remain bright and vibrant with fine details becoming just a bit softer but still fairly good overall.

Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 200
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 400
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 800
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 12800
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
ISO 12800

ISO 3200 looks to be the tipping point on the PM1 sensor – noise is visibly up all across the frame and fine details are more compromised than in any previous step. The jump to 6400 sees overall colors becoming somewhat faded and in the case of the deck of cards shifting almost from a dark blue towards black. ISO 12800 is clearly suitable only for occasions when nothing else will work – noise ramps up significantly over 6400, fine details are largely a memory, and the blue deck of cards is definitely looking black to me now. The PM1 does pretty well through 1600, so-so at 3200, with 6400 and especially 12800 best left in the camera unless there’s absolutely, positively no other way to get the shot.

Additional Sample Images

Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image
Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image Olympus E-PM1 Sample Image


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