Olympus E-PL7 Review

Initial impressions of the Olympus E-PL7 camera, and comparison to the E-PL5 & E-M10
By Scott Gietler & Kelli Dickinson

The Olympus E-PL5 mirrorless camera, with it fast-focusing and great image quality, has been a very popular camera for underwater photography, especially when combined with the economical Olympus E-PL5 underwater housing.

The E-PL6 was released in Japan, but some of the other distributors balked at releasing the E-PL6 in their country because the differences between the E-PL5 were so minor.

Now the Olympus E-PL7 has been announced. None of the upgrades are earth-shattering, they are all very minor but they do help make it a slightly better camera versus the E-PL5. Let's take a look at the key upgrades:


Olympus E-PL7 Features:

  • 16MP Sensor (Same as E-PL5)

  • Improved TruPic VII Processor (better than E-PL5, same as the OM-D E-M10)

  • 1/250th sync speed (same as E-PL5, better than the OM-D E-M10)

  • ISO LOW for ISO 100 support  - the E-PL5 lowest ISO was ISO 200

  • Improved Tilting LCD screen (flips down 180 degrees)

  • 3 axis image stabilization (vs E-PL5 dual-axis - which is also now used for video)

  • 24Mbps bit rate for video, vs 20Mbps on E-PL5

  • 81 auto-focus points vs 35 auto focus points on E-PL5

  • Wireless support


Be sure to check out Bluewater Photo's Best Settings & Shooting Guide for the Olympus E-PL7.


Olympus E-PL7 for wide-angle sunballs

The new changes on the E-PL7 means that we can now photograph sunballs at F22, 1/250th, ISO 100. This is a nice improvement for photographers who want to do serious underwater wide-angle photography.


Olympus E-PL7 versus OM-D E-M10

The E-PL7 and the E-M10 actually have very similar specifications, with the biggest differences between that the slightly more expensive E-M10 has an electronic viewfinder and a built-flash, both of which are nice features. I recommend getting the E-PL7 if you want to get the money-saving Olympus brand underwater housing, and the E-M10 if you want to use the much better quality Nauticam E-M10 housing.


Olympus E-PL7 PT-EP12 underwater housing - BIG CHANGES!

The Olympus PT-EP12 underwater housing is available in the US for $750, buy it here. Olympus surprised everyone by making some big changes to the PT-EP12 housing.

The new housing is definitely smaller, easier to hold and has a larger shutter release. Buttons are tired and labeled nicely as they have been in the past, and a new control knob on the front of the housing corresponds to the new control dial on the top of the camera making exposure changes quick and easy.

New Standard Port

The most apparent change is that they've redesigned the front port. No longer does the housing include the large standard port which worked with the 14-42mm II R, 9-18mm and 60mm macro lenses. Olympus ignored the usefulness of these lenses and redesigned the port for the newer, smaller 14-42mm EZ lens. As always they continue to stand behind the idea that this port is "not removeable" and thus will not be offering the older standard port as an option to purchase for the housing. This is a huge disappointment for many people.

In addition, in the USA the E-PL7 is only being sold as a kit with the original 14-42mm II lens or body only. So users who buy this kit and the housing will be disappointed. To use the camera in the housing users will also have to purchase the 14-42mm EZ lens which is being sold separately for a whopping $350 USD.

Using Third Party Lens Ports

Luckily Olympus did not change everything on this housing. The new port maintains the same diameter and design as the original standard port, which means that all third party ports will still work great with the PT-EP12 housing. What we recommend is to purchase the E-PL7 camera as body only, then purchase the lenses you plan to use underwater, such as the Olympus 60mm Macro, the Olympus 9-18mm or Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. You can get third party ports for all these lenses and they work great with the E-PL7 underwater.

Wide Angle Port Options

For the Olympus 9-18mm and Panasonic 8mm domes from Precision and Zen already exist allowing for perfect, sharp results. Use the Precision or the Zen 4" dome for the 8mm Fisheye Lens. For the 9-18mm, 12-50mm or standard 14-42mm II kit lens the Zen WA-100-EP dome is perfect. Tests with the housing confirm that the zoom gear for 14-42mm / 9-18mm still work perfectly.

Olympus E-PL7, Panasonic 8mm FE ISO200, F4, 1/60

Macro Port Options

To use the Olympus 60mm underwater with great results you'll want to purchase two pieces from Zen. You'll need the FP-100 port designed for the 45mm macro lens and the ER-EP-25 Extension Ring, which extends the FP-100 port so it works with the Olympus 60mm Macro. You can also use the 12-50mm lens behind the flat port. Olympus' UW mode controls allows you to shoot at Wide and Tele, not full zoom control or the dedicated macro mode.

Using the 14-42mm EZ Lens

From tests with the housing the 14-42mm EZ lens would only be recommended if you are looking for a very easy to use, simple, single lens set up with the housing. Olympus is not making a zoom gear to function with this lens. This means that you are limited to shooting at 14mm or 42mm by utilizing Olympus' built in Underwater WIDE and Underwater TELE controls, which automatically zooms the lens with a touch of a button on the camera. Unfortunately this also presets the camera to P Mode, Underwater White Balance, Flash at Fill-In and ISO Auto. You can override these settings to any others in a matter of seconds, but it does get annoying, and does not allow for quick changes at a moments notice.

In addition, the smaller flat port with the 14-42mm EZ lens does allow for the use of some wet lenses for both wide angle and marco. This makes the camera set up more similar to a compact camera, where you can change from wide to macro underwater and should allow the use of wet lenses. However you are still limited to shooting full wide or full zoom, so do not hav the flexibility of intermediate zoom ranges for portrait type shots. Stay tuned for wet lens tests.

E-PL7 lens selection for underwater

For underwater, most people will end up using the following lenses:

  • Panasonic 8mm fisheye - for ultra-wide angle

  • Olympus 9-18mm fisheye, for general wide-angle and sharks

  • Olympus 14-42mm EZ lens - for those wanting a simple single lens system

  • Olympus 60mm lens - for small fish, macro, supermacro

For more details and lens choices, visit our guide to the best mirrorless lenses for underwater.



Olympus E-PL7 Settings & Shooting Guide

Visit Bluewater Photo to view our detailed Settings & Shooting Guide for the Olympus E-PL7.


Olympus E-PL7 conclusions

The Olympus E-PL5 has been an extremely popular and recommended camera for underwater photography, and the E-PL7 will follow in its footsteps nicely, especially when paired with the economical Olympus brand housing.

We recommend this camera for those wanting the great quality of the micro-four thirds sensors and interchangeable lenses. It works best with the lenses recommended above. Alternately this is a great option for folks looking for a higher quality single lens system as an upgrade from a compact camera, planning to shoot mostly auto mode.

Users who want a better quality housing and more port choices will want to either go for the Nauticam OM-D E-M10, or the high-end Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 4 OM-D E-M1 underwater housing choices.

The camera is available now. In the USA it will be $599 body only, or $699 with the 14-42mm kit lens.


Further Reading


Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Culver City, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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