Olympus E-PL7 Conclusion

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 a 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.

The E-PL7 also has in-camera HDR, a first to the line and a feature which we found in our Field Test to work fairly well. It also has built-in Wi-Fi, and while it doesn't support Near Field Communication, it can connect utilizing a QR code. It also adds sequential shooting to its self-timer, allowing for multiple shots with some custom settings as well.

What we loved...

The build quality mentioned above is tough to overstate - it simple feels more like a higher-end camera and that's something you really have to experience first-hand to truly appreciate, but you can take our word for it that you'll be satisfied with the E-PL7's build quality. And we found the image quality to walk right in step with it, allowing us to capture high quality images even as ISO began to rise. The E-PL7 is capable of producing a solid 13 x 19 inch print at ISO 3200 (see: Image Quality) and that's no easy feat for anything smaller than full frame!

For those of you needing higher performance than your average mid-level camera, we found the E-PL7 performed admirably in challenging conditions in our "How to photograph indoor sports on a budget" tutorial. We also loved how fast the camera powers up and fires off its first shot - no missed opportunities here! (See our Performance page for more details in that department.)

The camera is lighter than even the entry-level (E-M10/II) OM-D lines, and while it lacks an EVF, the optional VF-4 is excellent. And for you fans of fun creative filters (we know you're out there, and it's OK to remain anonymous!), the partial color palette has been expanded to 18 choices, with a neat little interface for selecting your color choice (see more in our Field Test).

And how about the drawbacks....?

Ah yes, well, all cameras have those too. For some of us at IR the lack of an EVF is a deal-breaker, and that will be the case for some of our enthusiast shooters as well. This is the single largest difference between the PEN and the OM-D lines. There is also less in the way of a front grip or rear thumb-rest than on the OM-D line. But of course these trade-offs allow the E-PL7 to be lighter and sleeker, and thus more of a go-anywhere travel camera, so anyone interested in either of these lines will want to balance the trade-offs for your individual needs.

The battery door swivels open in the reverse direction (towards the side of the camera) than with other Olympus models we've tested, and it puts it in a spot that makes it easy to knock off. It was likely done to help it not interfere with the tripod screw, but we knocked it off a few times. It does make it easier to access the SD card than, say, the E-M10 line, so perhaps that was another factor in the decision. (Just be careful not to knock it off like we did!)

Overall, while the Olympus E-PL7 is not the most ground-breaking of cameras, it is a solid step-up with some excellent features for the price, most notably that it feels and shoots like a higher-end camera, and that makes it an easy Dave's Pick.


Pros & Cons

  • Excellent image quality, with slightly improved JPEG rendering
  • Great high ISO performance for 4/3" sensor
  • Very good dynamic range for its class
  • Improved performance over the E-PL5 which was already fast (faster startup, AF and burst speeds)
  • Improved buffer depth with faster clearing
  • Expanded ISO 100 setting
  • LCD tilts 180dg down for easy selfies
  • Lighter and sleeker than any of the OM-D series camera bodies
  • Upgraded 3-axis image stabilization
  • In-camera WiFi
  • New sequential self-timer modes
  • Single-color filter extended to 18 colors
  • Somewhat muted default colors (below average mean saturation)
  • Auto WB too warm in incandescent lighting
  • No built-in flash (but a small external flash is included)
  • Battery door prone to being knocked off due to irregular placement
  • Not compatible with NFC
  • Somewhat quirky menu systems
  • No built-in EVF (but optional VF-4 is excellent)

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