Archive: Interchangeable Lens Camera Reviews 2010-2012

REVIEW / Olympus Pen E-P2

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Franck Mée Published on February 8, 2010
Updated on February 8, 2010
Translated by
 
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SPECIFICATIONS

  • Sensor CMOS 12 Mpx, 4/3" , 5.3 Mpx/cm
  • Lens NAx 14-42 mm f/3.5 -5.6
  • Stabilisation Mechanical
  • Viewfinder Electronic
  • Screen 7.6 cm, not TN, 230000 dots, 4:3, Not touch-sensitive
  • Sensitivity (ISO range) 100 - 6400 ISO ext. NC
Less than six months after the launch of the Pen E-P1, Olympus is back with the E-P2, the latest incarnation of its collection of compact Micro Four-Thirds cameras. 

Not much has changed, and the body, sensor and screen are all exactly the same as before.  The main innovation is the arrival of the adjustable electronic viewfinder, much vaunted by Olympus and capable of focusing using any lens; the E-P1's optical viewfinder was stuck at 17 mm.

Handling

The body of the E-P2 is almost exactly the same as the E-P1.  The only difference is that the top is a little higher, leaving room for et excellent viewfinder (see inset).  We weren't surprised to find that it felt the same and that the same things stood out.  It's clearly been carefully built, handles well, is compact and has an excellent scroll wheel and options dial.  Less impressive are the location of the strap, the 230 000 pixel LCD screen and the never-ending menus with confusing options. 


Responsiveness

Olympus claims to have improved the responsiveness of its camera, and while we don't like to be contrary, we simply couldn't see any improvement at all in this area.  There's just no comparison with SLRs, which remain unbeaten, especially for moving subjects.  That's true when using the viewfinder at least: live view on the screen is often another story ...

But whether you use the 17 mm lens or the 14-42 lens, the E-P2 is noticeably faster than your average compact.  Its autofocus is up there with the very best of them--except, perhaps, its cousins from Panasonic, like the GF1, which is just a tiny bit speedier.

The difference in performance is even more pronounced with video: Panasonic's micro 4/3 cameras spot a subject and don't let go, immediately correcting any loss of focus, but Olympus' really struggle.  They try focusing near, then far and often find the subject before losing it again.  That said, the E-P2 can easily beat SLRs with a video mode, because the few that have a continuous autofocus mode are nothing short of dreadful in this area.

Image Quality

Once again, we're familiar with the Pen E-P2's performance from our experience with its predecessor.  Indeed, everything seems to point to them being identical internally.


We could almost lay this ISO test chart on top of the E-P1's and you wouldn't be able to see the difference.  The automatic white balancing produces warm tones (which is normal given the incandescent light in our studio); noise is kept under control up to 800 ISO and the quality drops off rapidly at 3200 ISO.  Like its cousins, this micro four-thirds camera can't quite keep up with an SLR, but easily beats any compact we've seen.

The stabilisation is the same as that on the E-P1: our test portrait shot was sharp at 1/12 s, which is good for a camera with a large sensor but less impressive then the performances managed by some of the latest compacts or Panasonic's micro 4/3 cameras.

Video

The E-P2 uses the same video mode as the E-P1, and the 720p HD video is clear and attractive.  Unfortunately, the weakness of the continuous autofocus system counts against it.  And if you want decent sound, you need to use an accessory that connects a mic to the hot shoe--meaning you can't use the viewfinder or the flash.  If video is an important aspect for you, then there's another member of the 4/3 family that will suit you better: the Panasonic GF1.  It doesn't produce incredible video, but its continuous autofocus is much more effective. 
Viewfinder
The main--if not the only--difference between the E-P1 and E-P2 is the arrival of an electronic viewfinder.

It has a high resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, giving 1 440 000 pixels in total, compared to the standard of just 200 000 on bridge cameras and Panasonic's GF1. Unlike the viewfinder on the G1 and the GH1, though, it doesn't use LCoS technology: this is an LCD display.

In the past, LCoS displays had the advantage of a higher resolution. But because they show one colour after another, they also create the same irritating rainbow effect as some projectors for some users. The latest LCDs have now caught up in resolution, and have the advantage of showing red, green and blue at the same time.

The result is a simply incredible viewfinder for the E-P2, with a clear, sharp, accurate image and excellent contrast. We were originally impressed by the Panasonic G1's viewfinder, but it's been roundly beaten here. We're hoping that this new type of viewfinder will find its way into the next generation of bridge cameras.

PROS

  • Excellent quality viewfider
  • Solidly buily with retro styling
  • Small, especially with the 17 mm lens
  • General handling

CONS

  • Screen resolution still low
  • Viewfinder takes up the hot shoe
  • Menus are complicated
  • Battery life not good enough

CONCLUSION 3/5

The E-P2 updates a few details of the E-P1--but doesn't fix any of its problems. In particular, the screen is still disgraceful for a camera in this segment. It can still claim an incredible electronic viewfinder--which, for the time being, is unique.
3 Olympus Pen E-P2 DigitalVersus 2010-02-08 00:00:00
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