Olympus E-PL7 Review
|Full model name:||Olympus PEN E-PL7|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||No / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 60 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.5 x 2.6 x 1.5 in.
(115 x 67 x 38 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Olympus E-PL7 specifications|
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The Olympus E-PL7 brings significant upgrades to the popular PEN "lite" mirrorless camera line, most notably in the form of improved ergonomics and a more professional feel, bringing it more in line with the flagship E-P5. It has excellent image quality for its class, including very good performance as ISO rises, and also sports an upgraded 3-axis image stabilization system. Add in solid numbers in the performance department and we found the E-PL7 to be quite a capable and worthy addition to the Olympus line-up, and a great value for the money.Pros
Excellent image quality for its class including very good ISO performance; Improved performance and ergonomics over the E-PL5; LCD tilts 180 degree downward for easier selfies; Upgraded 3-axis IS system.Cons
No built-in flash (but a small add-on flash is included); No built-in EVF; Default colors somewhat muted; Somewhat quirky menu system.Price and availability
Available since September of 2014, the Olympus E-PL7 is now available at a reduced price of $450 (body-only) and in a variety of versions kitted with both the EZ and non-EZ 14-42mm kit lenses in black and black/silver options.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Olympus E-PL7 Review
Olympus' E-PL7 was a strong competitor in our Best Mirrorless Camera for Under $1,000. Its lower price compared to the E-M10 allowed us to stock up on more of the incredible Micro Four Thirds glass, giving its competitors a serious run for the money. Check out the article to read about the other options under $1,000! The E-PL7 was also featured in a recent tutorial we posted about capturing indoor sports on a budget -- Click here to read more!
In mid-2013, Olympus introduced its latest PEN Lite PL-series compact system camera, the E-PL6, but with only very minor tweaks from 2012's E-PL5, that camera didn't even come to the US market initially (it has been released here since). Not this time around: The Olympus E-PL7 has had a pretty comprehensive revamp, although its heart -- a 16.1-megapixel Live MOS image sensor -- is unchanged from the earlier cameras.
The E-PL5 and PL6 were mid-range models, sitting in between the top-of-the-line PEN E-P5, and the extremely compact E-PM2. Although they were part of the PEN range, they lacked the P5's Olympus PEN badging and more than a few of the high-end model's features. In fact, most of these earlier PL-series cameras' features were almost identical to those of the smaller, lower-cost Olympus PM2.
There were a few key differences, though: a physical Mode dial, a level gauge function (single-axis in the PL5, dual-axis in the PL6), and perhaps most significantly, a self-portrait friendly, tilting, touch-screen LCD monitor. And of course, they were a little bigger and heavier than the PM2. They were also sold in one fewer color, with no red-bodied option, an indication perhaps that they were aimed more at advanced amateurs, and less at the entry-level shooter.
The 16.1-megapixel Olympus E-PL7 retains all of these differences, although as we'll see in a moment, there's been a pretty radical tweak to the tilting, touch-screen display. It also switches to a newer-generation TruePic VII image processor, although it still has the same ISO sensitivity range as the E-PL6, and shoots at the same maximum rate of eight frames per second with focus and exposure locked.
Manufacturer-rated buffer depth has been increased by one RAW frame, though, to a maximum of 16 RAW shots at the maximum frame rate. There's also a much more significant 17 frame improvement in the JPEG buffer depth, which now sits at 36 frames.
What else is new? Well, perhaps most notably, the touch-screen monitor now has higher resolution, and tilts downwards for selfies, where the previous design tilted upwards. The Olympus E-PL7 also sports a completely redesigned body with a fixed grip, rearranged controls, and a metal, top-mounted control dial alongside the existing Mode dial.
There's also in-camera Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity, and an uprated image stabilization system that should have a greater corrective range, and corrects on one more axis than that of the PL5 and PL6. Both autofocus and metering are also uprated, and there are a variety of new creative functions on offer.
Available in either black or silver-bodied variants -- there's no white version any more, at least in the US -- the Olympus PEN E-PL7 is priced at around US$500 body-only. A kit version bundling the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 II R zoom lens is priced at US$600, and an alternate kit which bundles the compact M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens is available for about US$700. And since there's still no built-in flash, a compact external flash (FL-LM1) is included in both body-only and kit options.
There are also several new accessories, including a 45-meter underwater housing (PT-EP12; US$750), 75-meter underwater strobe with faster recycle and guide number of 22 (UFL-3; $500), real leather camera body jacket (CS-45B; US$60), and real leather lens jacket (LS-60.5GL; US$45). Note, though, that this last item is intended for use with the 14-42 EZ zoom lens.
The Olympus PEN E-PL7 began shipping in the US market from late September 2014; the new accessories followed from October 2014.
Olympus E-PL7 Field Test Part I
Exploring the benefits of a few significant upgrades
It seems from some of our reader comments that the E-PL7 is not quite understood for what it is. Perhaps it's the change in style from its predecessor, bringing it closer in appearance to the flagship E-P5's look than the E-PL5, a line that has remained fairly consistent over the past few generations in terms of external design. Or maybe it's the marketing hype of the "selfie" screen, which we promoted in our initial coverage but didn't quite resonate with the enthusiast crowd. Whatever the case may be, after spending my first few days with this camera I can very much report to you that it's quite a solid step up for my tastes and shooting preferences.
I talked a lot about this basic differences between this camera and its predecessor the E-PL5 in our walkaround, but would like to expound on some of them now after having spent more time with it. The most significant improvement for my style is moving the control dial to the top deck, and making it a really solid one at that. It has a super-precision feel for this price range, is similar to the twin dials on the pricier E-P5, and having a top deck dial is so much easier and more intuitive to me than having to use a dial on the back located in the menu area. In addition, the mode dial is much more firm and solid than the one on the E-PL5, easily twice as firm, and far less likely to be accidentally bumped in a bag.
Check out all the new upgrades on the E-PL7
Olympus E-PL7 Walkaround
Initial first impressions of this complete body overhaul
I've been a big fan of the Olympus Pen line since long before the digital era came about, and cut most of my photography teeth decades ago with one from the film era, so I've been heavily drawn to the digital versions since first picking up an E-P3, and later falling completely in love with the E-PM1. This has continued as the line has progressed, and I've welcomed many of the changes Olympus has brought about, like the tilting LCD and improved image quality found in both the E-PL5 and E-PM2 from 2012.
The E-PL line has represented the middle tier that sits between the larger E-P and compact E-PM series, with the "L" standing for "Lite". I say all of that because this middle tier has always seemed to have a greater kinship to the E-PM version than the flagship E-P's, at least until this model. Now, this series bears the "Olympus Pen" logo for the first time, sporting the same font as the original film cameras, similar to the E-P5 released last year. This combined with the black and silver version like our sample model brings this line into a greater kinship with the higher level E-P line than ever before, as seen in the image below.
Olympus E-PL7 Technical Insights
Let's see what's new
Although the 16.05 megapixel Live MOS image sensor that sits at the heart of the Olympus E-PL7 would appear to be the same as that used in the PL5 and PL6, the processor isn't. Olympus has stepped its new model up from the earlier TruePic VI processor to a next-gen TruePic VII chip. With that said, the pairing of new processor and current sensor appear -- on paper at least -- to yield similar performance, with the exact same manufacturer-rated burst capture rate of eight frames per second at full resolution, with focus and exposure locked from the first frame. However, performance with focus and exposure adjustment between frames is up slightly to 3.7 fps, from 3.6 fps in the earlier cameras.
Olympus E-PL7 Image Quality Comparison
How does the E-PL7's image quality stack up?
In our Image Quality Comparison, we have crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Olympus E-PL7 image quality to its predecessor, the E-PL5, as well as against several competing models at similar price points or in similar categories: the Fuji X-A2, Nikon D3300, Samsung NX300 and Sony A5100.
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.
Olympus E-PL7 Print Quality
But how does it look on paper?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
Like its predecessor, the E-PL5 and its esteemed big brother the E-P5, the Olympus E-PL7 produces very worthwhile prints across most of the available ISO sensitivity range. It bests the E-PL5 at ISO 1600 and 3200 by a print size, and generally looks better than its predecessor as ISO rises. Fine detail and rich color reproduction are on full display up to ISO 1600, where large 16 x 20 inch prints are still possible with virtually no noise reduction artifacts.
Olympus E-PL7 Conclusion
Nice upgrades, solid performance and a great value for the money
The first PEN series "lite" model to sport the legendary "Olympus PEN" badge, the E-PL7 brings lots of upgrades to the table, and a good portion of it is not something that can be tallied in a "specs" column. Starting with the most important change is that the build quality is big step up from the E-PL5, and the controls and dials now look and feel much more akin to the higher-end E-P5 model, the current flagship "PEN" camera.
What's new to the line...?
In addition to the excellent ergonomic refinements, the E-PL7 has a few notable improvements up its sleeve. Our enthusiast readers will take note of the newer TruePic VII processor, the move to an improved 3-axis image stabilization system (up from dual-axis IS on the E-PL5 and a less-powerful 3-axis one on the E-PL6) and 81 AF points (up from 35 on the E-PL5). And for the selfie-crowd there's an LCD that can tilt downward a full 180 degrees.
In the Box
The Olympus E-PL7 retail kit package (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Olympus E-PL7 camera body (in black or silver)
- 14-42mm R II Olympus M.Zuiko Digital zoom lens (an EZ lens kit is also available)
- Flash FL-LM1
- Rechargeable Li-ion battery BLS-50
- Battery charger BCS-5
- USB cable
- Shoulder strap
- Olympus Viewer 3 software (CD-ROM)
- Instruction manual
- Warranty card
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. 16GB Class 6 should be a minimum, UHS-I type recommended.
- Spare battery BLS-50 (~US$60)
- Electronic Viewfinder VF-4 (~US$275)
- External Microphone Adapter Set (SEMA-1) (~US$70)
- Camera case
- Additional lenses