Design and features
The E-PL2 is targeted towards users who value the size of a compact camera but don't want to relinquish controls found on digital SLRs or the flexibility of changing lenses. As the successor to the E-PL1, the entry-level interchangeable lens camera from Olympus, this camera has a whole lot of similar features with the key one being the same 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor.
Elsewhere, though, the body design and general look and feel has been given an overhaul and things feel more streamlined, less boxy, and definitely more value for the asking price of AU$800 for the body and a kit Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.
The 3-inch screen is now higher (though not the highest) resolution at 460,000 dots. Controls are accessible via the mode dial at the top, with full PASM control as well as intelligent automatic, scene modes, art filters and a movie mode option. The six filters include pop art, soft focus, grainy film, pin hole, diorama and dramatic tone. The E-PL2 can shoot in a range of aspect ratios, including 4:3, 16:9, 3:2 and 6:6.
The art filters on the E-PL2 (Credit: CBSi)
Key to the flexibility of interchangeable lens cameras, Olympus provides the E-PL2 with an accessory port at the top, just underneath the hotshoe and alongside the pop-up flash. There are three new converter lenses (fish-eye, wide and macro) that fit to the 14-42mm kit lens, a macro arm light-powered from the accessory port and the communication unit with Bluetooth connectivity. When attached to the accessory port, it allows the camera to transfer images to any Bluetooth-compatible device (with BIP or OPP profile) with the Olympus Penpal software installed. An underwater casing for the E-PL2 rounds out the impressive set of add-ons.
Connectivity is provided via mini-HDMI and a proprietary mini-USB-out port to the side.
|Panasonic GF2||Sony NEX-5||Olympus E-PL2||Samsung NX100|
|12.1-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type)||14.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS||12.3-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type)||14.6-megapixel APS-C CMOS|
|3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen||3-inch, flip-down 921,600-dot screen||3-inch, 460,000-dot screen||3-inch, 610,000-dot AMOLED screen|
|Pop-up flash||Optional flash attachment||Pop-up flash||Optional hotshoe flash|
|Full HD video (1080i, AVCHD)||Full HD video (1080i, AVCHD)||HD video (720p, Motion JPEG)||HD video (720p, H.264)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Olympus E-PL18.104.22.168.3
- Panasonic Lumix GF21.01.30.80.2
- Samsung NX1001.13.71.30.3
- Sony NEX-22.214.171.124.4
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Olympus E-PL23.1
- Panasonic GF23
- Samsung NX1002.5
- Sony NEX-52.6
Olympus rates the battery at 280 shots.
As the image sensor is the same as found on the E-PL1, one would expect image quality to be very similar. That's true to some extent, though we found that the E-PL2's images were generally nicer than those produced by its predecessor.
By "nicer", we're referring to colour reproduction in default JPEG settings, exposures being accurate and white balance hitting the mark in automatic mode. One anomaly we did notice was in iAuto, where the default colour mode is set to i-Enhance and can't be changed like in other PASM modes. The only way to reduce the saturation is to press the OK button to get the simplified exposure controls.
We tested the E-PL2 with the twin lens kit of the previously mentioned Zuiko Digital 14-42mm and the 40-150mm f/4-5.6 lens. The 14-42mm lens in particular is very sharp and displays little evidence of chromatic aberration or fringing on high contrast areas. Automatic focus is quick, but not without its issues, particularly in action situations. Our review of the 40-150mm lens can be found here.
Operational quirks are characteristic of interchangeable lens cameras, and the E-PL2 is no exception. Adjusting manual exposure is rather tricky, as it's not entirely clear at first glance how to tweak the aperture value. The rotating wheel at the rear of the camera adjusts shutter speed and after a few minutes of button pressing and tweaking we resorted to the manual to discover that pressing up on the control pad was the key.RAW vs. JPEG
As can be seen from this comparison between RAW and JPEG images from the E-PL2, the camera produces an incredibly similar level of detail in both files. (Credit: CBSi)
The E-PL2 encodes its videos as AVI, using motion JPEG. The image quality on video is the best we've seen from an Olympus Pen camera so far, though the internal microphones pick up wind noise and the audio settings are few and far between (turning the microphone on and off). There is full manual control when shooting video from the movie selector option on the mode dial. You can record video in any other mode by pressing the dedicated record button. Video can be shot in the different art filter modes, but the frame rate drops significantly as the camera attempts to process the effect and the HD video.
Click each image for a full size photo straight from the E-PL2.
Exposure: 1/250, f/10, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/125, f/4.5, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/15, f/4.1, ISO 1600
Exposure: 1/100, f/4.2, ISO 1600
Operational quirks aside, the E-PL2 is a great addition to the burgeoning interchangeable lens camera market. Needless to say, if you value tweaking and changing settings frequently, the Olympus E-PL2 isn't the camera for you due to its steep operational learning curve for any mode beyond automatic.
The E-PL2 is sold as body only for AU$699, as a single lens kit with 14-42mm for AU$799, twin lens kit with 14-42mm and 40-150mm for AU$999 and with 14-150mm lens for AU$1299.