The Olympus E-PL7 is a 16-megapixel compact system camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor. It’s the smaller, cheaper, more stylish alternative to the company’s very popular OM-D cameras.
Olympus has taken the idea that this needs to be a casual camera a bit too far in the E-PL7: it’s rather selfie-centric. However, it doesn’t stop this from being a camera that can take serious photos, just like its bigger brothers.
While physical controls could be a little better, this is a very solid Micro Four Thirds camera. You’ll pay around £400 for it with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (max aperture) kit lens.
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Like the Olympus E-PL6, which only launched in some areas as recently as this summer, the E-PL7 has a retro-style body made using a mix of plastic and metal.
Most of the frame is aluminium, giving the camera a very hardy feel. It's the leather-effect parts on the grip that are plastic, and they don’t detract from the feel that the E-PL7 could really take some abuse.
You may notice that Olympus has tweaked its logo style for this year’s Pen Lite, using the same retro look as the Olympus E-P5. It’s a minor tweak, but one that fits well with the retro style. Like most other Pen models, it’s a good-looking, well-made camera.
However, we do think that those with larger hands may find it a bit dinky, and may prefer a slightly larger frame. Benefit or compromise? It depends on your perspective, and how you like to shoot, and the Olympus E-PL7 does have both a small front contoured grip and a small thumb rest on the back. It’s 114.9 x 67 x 38.4mm in size and weighs 357g.
It was when trying to shoot manually that we encountered a few handling niggles. There’s a manual control dial we didn’t get in the E-PL6, but the E-PL7 does seem a little cramped when trying to get fully involved in the camera’s settings.
It does feel as though the Olympus E-PL7 is intended for more casual photographers, something supported by the lack of any viewfinder. You have to use the screen to compose with this camera, which may take a bit of getting used to if you’re accustomed to a viewfinder.
Want one? The Olympus E-M10 offers an EVF and an integrated flash. It’s this camera’s bigger brother.
The screen itself is decent. Three inches across and 1.04 million dots in resolution, it offers fairly good image quality. It’s a touchscreen too, letting you touch-to-focus.
Again, this is handy for more casual shooting. But other elements of the E-PL7 screen suggest Olympus may care a bit too much about the casual crowd.
The camera uses a rather unusual tilt mechanism where the screen flips out under the body rather than, as is more common, above it. Olympus claims this is there to offer the best selfie experience, but in person it feels overengineered and awkward.
There’s an obvious reason why it has this inverted screen, though. The Olympus E-PL7 doesn't have an integrated flash, instead offering a bundled slot-in unit that sits on the hot shoe. By flipping the screen under, its usable with the flash attached.
We did find that the flash has a tendency to overexpose people’s faces, but flash selfies explains one of the E-PL7’s design oddities. The til screen also makes shooting below head level easier – it’s not just for the selfie crowd.