5 Reasons to ditch the DSLR for an Olympus PEN

Olympus PEN cameraOnce I made the jump from a point and shoot camera to my Nikon D40 DSLR, I thought I’d never go back. I love my Nikon. But if I’m honest, I have to admit that some days it’s way too much to lug around for a day of casual photo-ops.

So when I was given the chance to try out the new Olympus PEN E-PM1 point and shoot, which claims to have all the power and image quality of a DSLR, I was definitely willing to give it a try. After a few weeks of trading in my DSLR for the Olympus PEN, here are my thoughts on whether it’s worth it.

Small, sexy and powerful. Not only is this camera adorable and available in a bunch of fun colors, it packs a
lot of power and control in a portable, light-weight camera body. The camera body itself has a smaller footprint than my iPhone4s and weighs less 8 ounces. Very convenient for us parents who are generally hauling around a few more things than just a camera.

control, if you want
. The PEN camera turns out really beautiful,
crisp photographs in the auto setting. If you’re just starting out,
you’re going to be impressed with how easy it is to take really nice
photographs indoors our out. But if you’re ready to have more control
over your camera settings or it’s something you want to eventually
learn, manual settings allow you to control things like
aperture, shutter speed, white balance.

 And if you’re truly looking to learn more about professional settings like f-stops and ISO’s, you can see how your adjustments to these manual settings affect the photograph right on the camera’s screen. A great way to learn. 

Get the perfect picture before you snap. While I love the amount of control this camera gives you in manual settings, shooting in manual mode isn’t for everyone. But even in Auto-mode, this camera still offers you amazing control at the push of a button. From the menu you can access little picture-tweaks like color-saturation, brightness, background blur and express motions. This fun little setting will help you take those cool blurred pictures of your kid as they race across the soccer field.

Plus with the Live Guide, all your changes are visible on-screen. You’ll know exactly how your photo will look before you even squeeze the shutter. 

Olympus PEN camera
Art filters you’ll actually use. Some point and shoot
cameras are starting to have different filter effects built-in. This PEN camera has six
art filters like Pin Hole, Grainy Film, and Soft Focus, that add a
really neat effect to your pictures. In particular I loved that the
filters allowed me to take some beautiful pictures of my children,without the specialized lenses that my DSLR
would have required  (and I
can’t afford). 

1080p HD Video. Wow. I
love this aspect of the camera. Amazing videos at the push of a button,
because you never know when a moment will turn in to something you
really wish you’d have caught on video. 

Zoom and focus like DSLR, maybe better.  When I shoot with my DSLR I almost always
use manual focus. I really believe that carefully choosing what parts of
my image are in focus helps the photograph tell its story. The PEN camera allows me to do just that or I can choose a grid-like screen that allows me multiple focus points for the camera. Simply move the box around the grid until you decide
exactly where you want the focus to be. In your hands, the camera works just like a DSLR–zoom in and out with the lens and (if you choose) focus with the lens as well. 

Invest, accessorize and expand. With the price tag of $450, this camera definitely doesn’t fall in the category of disposable point and shoots that will require an upgrade in a year. Its price is comparable to entry-level DSLRs for sure. But unlike any other point and shoots out there, the PEN has a variety of lenses that will let your camera expand and grow in capability, making it a great long-term investment.  

you’re looking to buy a new camera and you aren’t sure you want the bulk
of a DSLR this might be just the camera for you. It’s a DSLR in a compact body. I wouldn’t recommend it for the grandparent who only needs a simple point and shoot and wouldn’t explore all this camera can really do. But if you’re someone looking for a powerful and impressive camera that shoots like a DSLR but doesn’t take up valuable diaper-bag real estate, this is definitely one to consider. -Molly

To find out more
about the Olympus
check out the PEN Ready Project. To see images shot with
the PEN check out their gallery on tumblr or this PEN
group on Flickr
. Thank you to Olympus for providing a camera for review.

Molly Balint is a tech and parenting writer at Babycenter, and a former Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech contributor.

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