(Pocket-lint) – It’s been eight years since Olympus released the E-P5 camera, in 2013, so why the long wait, the E-P7? Well, Olympus sold its camera division to OM Digital Solutions, ending in early 2021, amid declining camera sales and a revamp of the original business.
The point is, just because sales fell that the cameras weren’t up to par. Indeed, we have been using an Olympus Pen F for the past five years to take the majority of the review images on the Pocket-lint pages. So for the E-P7 to arrive now, it’s kind of a perfect fit.
Of course, the market for “suitable cameras” is not what it used to be – demand is down, but quality is not – so if you are looking for a small, retro-style mirrorless camera and efficient, how does the E-P7 work? hold on? We’ve been living with one for a few weeks to find out.
- Dimensions: 118.3mm (W) x 68.5mm (H) x 38.1mm (D) / Weight: 337g
- 3-inch LCD, 1,037,000 dots, tilt angle (90 ° horizontal, 180 ° vertical)
- Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds (MFT)
- Finish: silver or white options only
- Integrated pop-up flash
- Shoe accessory
- USB-C charging
Unusually for any camera these days, the E-P7 isn’t available in black. You can only buy it in silver (like pictured) or white, which helps it stand out from the crowd and enhance that retro style. Much of the front is covered in a textured black grip material anyway, so it’s not a weird look, and we love its visual appeal instead.
With the included pancake lens (14-42mm), it’s also a rather small camera by mirrorless standards. This particular lens extends electronically when the camera is turned on – its zoom is also electronically controlled by barrel – to make it a bit bigger, but tidy, it’s pretty neat.
As a Micro Four Thirds camera, any MFT lens is compatible, and we used the much larger 12-35mm with the camera as it has a much better close focus distance and Wider aperture (f / 2.8 at wide angle) compared to this fairly limited 14-42mm, which has an f / 3.5 aperture at its widest, dropping to f / 5.6 at the longest zoom point. It just limits the amount of light that can enter the camera to make an exposure, so it’s not ideal in low light conditions, for example.
Fortunately, there are loads of MFT lenses available on the market, and probably quite a few on the used market as well, so you’ll never run out of expansion options – if you see it like this. camera. We believe many will want to stick with the small scale and pancake goal to keep things simple. The choice is yours, however, opt for simplicity or complexity with a variety of lenses.
The E-P7’s display, which measures 3 inches diagonally, is mounted at a tilt angle, which means it can pull up into a horizontal position, or be pushed down so that it’s 180 degrees and facing forward – but it hangs “under” the camera in that position, so it’s a bit tricky to use for selfies and the like. Having a tilting screen helps, but we would much prefer a full variable-angle option, largely because – as with the Pen F – it’s possible to tuck the screen away on itself to prevent scratches. (something that E-P7 is totally missing).
In terms of layout, there are a bunch of dials and controls. At the top is a mode dial, an on / off click switch, as well as two dials for quickly adjusting various controls such as aperture and shutter speed. There’s also a one-touch record button, next to which is a quick access menu button (a duplication of the one on the d-pad on the back, which looks really unnecessary). Speaking of the rear, there are direct buttons for ISO, focus point, flash, burst mode, exposure lock, main menu, info, play, and pause. It’s a pretty loaded arrangement of buttons.
The point is, Olympus has always had this set of buttons loaded, so it’s actually familiar if you’re a familiar user. If you’re not, however, he’s definitely busy. Access to the menu is also typically Olympian: that is to say deep, to the point of being equally busy. But at least you can control the details of various settings, you might just have to dig a little deeper.
- 121-point contrast-sensing autofocus system
- AF Modes: All / Group (9 areas) / Single
- -2EV to 20EV focus sensitivity
- 5-axis image stabilization
- 8.7fps max burst
In terms of performance, the E-P7 is doing perfectly well, but compared to the best of 2021, it doesn’t quite measure up. So it will depend on how you want to use this camera.
The autofocus system, for example, is a 121-point setup, with each zone selectable individually if desired, or autofocus / group selectable in single or continuous focus. That’s fine, pretty fast, but it’s not a patch on, say, Sony’s current super-fast system, and its -2EV low-light focus doesn’t come close to the best current Nikon or Canon ( which is now somewhere around -7EV, in moonlight).
The first of the E-P7’s feature set is Olympus’ 5-axis image stabilization system, just like you’ll find in the previous Pen F, which is designed to counteract pitch, yaw , roll and vertical / horizontal offset. You can actually hear it “sparkle” in action; sound that lets you know for sure it’s operational. It’s good up to 5 stops, which you can really ‘feel’, especially in video mode, or when shooting in low light conditions and aiming for that crisp shot. (Note, however, that this system cannot work in tandem with lens-based stabilization.)
- 20.3 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor
- TruePic VIII Image Processing Engine
- Sensitivity: ISO 200 – 25,600
- Max 4K video capture
- 31 artistic filters
The E-P7’s 20.3-megapixel sensor doesn’t exaggerate like so many modern alternatives; it’s actually a pretty conservative resolution compared to 2021 standards – but it brings its own advantages as each sensor diode (“pixel”) is larger and this contributes to the overall picture quality.
OM Digital Solutions hasn’t really massively advanced the prowess of Olympus over the past five years, as you will be able to get that kind of quality with the Pen F, also 20MP.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing very well indeed. Get the right lens up front – which, as we mentioned earlier, isn’t really the 14-42mm kit lens – and the images from the E-P7 give detailed results. Sensitivity starts at ISO 200 – there is always no appropriate ISO 100 option – where results are crisp and clear. Of course, there is a slight graininess present if you inspect the footage closely, but nothing to worry about.
The higher ISO results are also very reasonable. We generally capped at ISO 1600, as beyond that visible graininess is pronounced to a more noticeable degree, especially at ISO 6400 and above – despite color noise largely absent, even in raw files.
One thing that sets Olympus apart from the competition is the abundance of settings available in the camera. There are 31 artistic filters, which you can skip or use around town, while on the front of the camera there’s a Color / Mono switch for quickly switching to black and white. It sounds like the Olympus approach: to be more fun, to focus more on digging deep into the camera and setting up filters and profiles however you want.
The wait for a new Olympus camera has been terribly long, so was the E-P7 worth it? Well it depends on what you are looking for in a camera.
If you were hoping for something drastic and different then, really, the E-P7 isn’t much different from the five-year-old Pen F, albeit without the viewfinder. The image quality stays about the same – which means it’s good, but that’s not going to challenge the competition from today’s high resolutions. The same can be said of its performance – autofocus is capable but, again, it’s not a patch on, say, Sony’s current best.
That said, the E-P7 is radical and different in terms of design. It has a distinctive retro look that outside of Fujifilm you won’t really find elsewhere. It’s small in scale too, the price doesn’t slip into the four-digit demand of so many competitors, and the breadth of Micro Four Thirds lenses on offer gives it considerable room for expansion.
So while the camera market may be on the decline, the Olympus E-P7 is giving the corners of our mouths a welcome pick up. It’s a beautiful, capable little camera that, following the sale by Olympus of its camera business to OM Digital Solutions, sets the precedent that the new owners’ approach is very similar to that of the ‘old.
Olympus Pen F
It’s five years older, but therefore five years younger, plus it adds a viewfinder, has about the same image quality, and will save you a few pounds as well. So if retro style and Olympus are high on your list, this is a great option to grab at a great price, if you can find one.
Written by Mike Lowe.