Review: Olympus PEN Lite E-PL6

The E-PL6 sits between the flagship E-P5 and the entry-level E-PLM2 of Olympus' PEN Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera series. This is for those who want more control when taking pictures without breaking the bank.

Available in white, silver, black and red, the review unit was white with the standard 14-42mm (28-84mm due to the sensor's 2x crop factor) kit lens.

The body feels sturdy to hold without any cheap plastic vibes. It has a screw-on front grip, which you can choose not to install. But I think your fingers will probably thank you for installing the grip, as they will feel so much more comfortable with something to rest on.

On the downside, I found the grip to be a tad small with no space for my fourth finger and pinkie.

The button layout is great for handling. There is a handy Mode Dial on top besides the shutter release, a dedicated video recording button just above the thumb rest and a clickable rear dial allowing quick adjustment of settings.

While there is no built-in flash, there is a hot shoe for you to insert the bundled small flash, FL-LM1. You can also insert an electronic viewfinder on the hot shoe if you prefer to shoot through a viewfinder.

Or you can use the tiltable 3-inch display, which can be flipped up to 170 degrees, which allows you to take self-portraits comfortably. It can also pull downwards 65 degrees to compose an above-the-crowd shot.

Another new trick of this camera is that you can simply touch the display for autofocusing (AF) to start, lock on to a focus and take the shot. If you prefer otherwise, you can turn off this Touch AF Shutter function with a simple tap of a virtual button.

Personally, I still prefer half-pressing the shutter release as using the Touch AF Shutter function can sometimes result in blur images if you are not careful.

It starts up in a stunning 0.6sec, when the competitors usually do it in around 2sec. Shutting down is pretty quick as well, taking around 0.9sec. Shutter lag is negligible.

Using the 14-42mm kit lens, AF is immediate with instantaneous lock to a focus under bright lighting conditions.

Even in dim light, it takes only 1sec to secure a focus with the aid of the AF assist light. The AF during video recording is about the same as the competition, taking up to 2sec to get a focus when you pan or zoom to a scene.

With an SD card rated at 25MB per second, the E-PL6 is able to capture 13 RAW images in 1.6sec before the buffer runs out. This is around the advertised 8 frames per second.

Image quality is great with sharp details, good dynamic range and smooth skin tones. Colour reproduction is vivid with the auto white balance accurate in most lighting conditions.

While the images are devoid of noise artefacts up to ISO 400, they start to appear in ISO 800. But it is only until ISO 3,200 that the noise artefacts start to lead to loss of details. Even then, the picture quality is still usable. Anything at ISO 6,400 and above is not recommended.

Video quality is pretty good with sharp moving images and clear audio. It does pick up a bit of wind noise and the sound of the zooming of the lens.

Battery life is not bad for a mirrorless camera as I was able to take around 360 frames before the battery decided to call it a day.

While it does not have built-in Wi-Fi, the bundle comes with a free Toshiba FlashAir card for you to transfer photos from the SD card to your smartphone or tablet using the Olympus Image Share app (available in Android and iOS).

If you are looking for a reasonably priced mirrorless system camera with great image quality and fast autofocusing, the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL6 is worth a look.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

TECH SPECS

Price: $888 (with 14-42mm kit lens)

Image sensor: 16.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor

Lens: 21mm (35mm equivalent), f2.8

Screen: 3 inches, tiltable touchscreen LCD with 460,000 dots

Sensitivity: ISO 100 to 25,600

Shooting speed: Up to 8 frames per second

Weight: 325g (with battery)

RATING

Features: 6/10

Design: 8/10

Performance: 8/10

Value for money: 6/10

Battery life: 8/10

Overall: 8/10


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