Along with the mighty E-P3, Olympus also took it upon themselves to whip out the shrink ray gun, point it at the PEN camera and miniaturize it into two new digital cameras: the Lite and the Mini, respectively. Don't think just because they're small, they're a slouch.
Yes, the new E-PL3 a.k.a. Lite and E-PM1 a.k.a. Mini are incredibly cute. We can see that, but do you know what else is impressive? They've got their big brother E-P3's DNA in them.
The Littlest Sluggers
At first, the E-PL3 Lite and E-PM1 Mini look like point and shoots, but make no mistake, these are full-functioning Micro Four-Thirds cameras, capable of supporting all of the format's interchangeable lenses.
Both cameras pack the same 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor, dual-core image processing, 35-point autofocus and 1080i HD video recording, wrapped up in an all aluminum body. Sadly, the shaving in size comes at a cost — neither camera has an OLED screen or even a touchscreen for that matter. Still, the ability to take great photos doesn't rely on touchscreen tech, it's the lens and composition that separate the kids from the adults and as far as I can tell, these kids can wield sharp glass (lenses for you readers who don't speak photog).
E-PL3 Lite — The Young Teenage Brother
Don't let the E-PL3 Lite name fool you. Although it's technically the spiritual successor to the E-PL2, the E-PL3 is nothing like its predecessor. It's a complete redesign boasting a smaller and slimmer body with a 3-inch screen that tilts and pops outward. There's no flash on the E-PL3, but it does at least feature a flash shoe for attaching an external flash unit.
E-PM1 Mini — The Baby Sister
Perhaps the cutest PEN out of the family is the E-PM1 Mini. Still considered a Micro Four-Thirds camera, the E-PM1 Mini is as barebones as a PEN can get. If not for its ability to attach lenses, it'd be hard to separate this camera from a high-end point and shoot, as it lacks a flash, lacks a setting dial for toggling between auto, program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual. The Mini I saw was locked up in a transparent treasure chest, but we think the only main thing going for the Mini is it's diminutive size. It'll fit in your shirt-pocket or in that clutch, for sure.
Pricing and Availability
The E-PL3 and E-PM1 will both come stock with the f3.5-5.6 zoom lens with pricing TBA. The Lite and Mini PEN cams should be out by the end of this year, just in time for the shopping season.
With these new smaller PENs, Olympus looks to challenge and disrupt the high-end point and shoot camera market dominated by devices such as Canon's G12 and S95 and Nikon's P7000. If you've never given the Olympus brand any serious consideration, you might just want to think it over once these drop. Even though they lack the sweet OLED touchscreen and flash from the E-P3, the Lite and Mini should be more than enough to get some sharp and crisp shots.
Disclaimer: All of the PEN cameras I handled were prototype models. Actual speed and performance can change and differ in final retail models.