Hands-on with the Olympus E-PL2

Olympus's E-PL2 Micro Four Thirds camera gently improves upon last year's E-PL1.

For its latest addition to the PEN ILC line, Olympus makes a few design and feature enhancements to its E-PL1 Micro Four Thirds camera, resulting in the subtly--but not significantly improved, E-PL2.

The most obvious functional differences include a larger LCD, multiple variations for come of the Art Filters, support for the new accessory connector and redesign of the buttons. It also supports an extra stop of sensitivity, up to ISO 6,400.

 Olympus E-PL1Olympus E-PL2Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10Samsung NX100Sony Alpha NEX-3
Sensor (effective resolution)12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.1-megapixel Live MOS14.6-megapixel CMOS14.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm23.4mm x 15.6mm23.4mm x 15.6mm
Color depthn/an/aVenus Engine HD IIn/an/a
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 3,200ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/6,400 (expanded)ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Focal-length multiplier2x2x2x1.5x1.5x
Continuous shooting3.0 fps
3.0 fps
3.2 fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.0 fps
10 JPEG/ 3 raw
unlimited JPEG/8 raw
(effective magnification)
Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
202,000 dots
Optional plug-in EVF
201,000 dots
Autofocus11-area contrast AF11-area contrast AF23-area contrast AF15-point contrast AF25-point contrast AF
Metering324 area324 area144 zone247 segment49 segment
Shutter60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/24000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes30-1/4000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes30-1/4000 sec; bulb
FlashYesYesYesAdd-on onlyYes
LCD2.7-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed AMOLED
921,000 dots
3-inch tiltable 921,600 dots
Image stabilizationSensor shiftSensor shiftOpticalOpticalOptical
Video (max resolution at 30fps)720p Motion JPEG AVI720p Motion JPEG AVI720p Motion JPEG MOV720p H.264 MPEG-4720p H.264 MPEG-4
Audio I/OMicMicNoneNoneNone
Battery life (CIPA rating)290 shotsn/a380 shots420 shots330 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.5 x 2.8 x 1.64.5 x 2.8 x 1.64.9 x 3.3 x 2.94.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.6 × 2.5 × 1.4
Weight (ounces)12.412.413.911 (est)10.5 (est)
Mfr. Price$499.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)$599.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 MSC lens)
$599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$599 (with 20-50mm 3.5-5.6 lens)$599.99 (with 18-55mm lens)

The kit comes bundled with a new version of the 14-42mm lens, dubbed MSC, that's designed to operate more quietly when shooting video--it doesn't use any fancy new technologies, just internal focus. And it is quieter. But the continuous autofocus is just as inconsistent as the with the older lens and PEN cameras, with a tendency to continue hunting even on stationary subjects. The lens has a bayonet mount on the front as well for filters and add-ons; Olympus will be adding a line of these types of accessories.

The LCD is a nice upgrade from the earlier models, bright and crisp, and much nicer for manual focusing. I also like the control redesign, which includes a return to the control dial (rather than individual navigation buttons), and the recessed power and record buttons.

In other features, Olympus' Live Guide, with its user-friendly adjustment interface and shooting tips, now works with video, and the company has expanded its Art Filters to accommodate more variations on each filter. There's also a new Art Frame that you can add in-camera as well as overlay two filters. For those who use it, Olympus has tweaked its face detection algorithms to lock focus on the eyes, which is how it should work. This newer generation model also supports the more recent version of the accessory connector for an add-on EVF, the new PEN Pal Bluetooth module and the antenna-like macro light.

While we haven't yet performance-tested the camera, the innards are pretty much the same as the E-PL1, and it feels the same--that is, okay for still subjects but otherwise a little sluggish at both shooting and autofocus.

There will be four colors of the E-PL2: black, silver, white, and red, and it's slated to ship this month.

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