Preview: Is Olympus E-P2 enough of an update?

Olympus doesn't address the lack of a flash or the E-P1's performance woes, but does toss in a nice add-on EVF.

The E-P2 is Olympus' newly announced follow up to its first mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera, the E-P1, which also adheres to the Micro Four Thirds Standard (MFT). But while the E-P2 offers some nice enhancements over its line mate, it doesn't seem to address two of the major problems in its almost-identical body. That's too bad, because the E-P1 had serious shutter lag and focus issues. The E-P2 adds AF tracking in continuous autofocus and movie modes, which the company thinks should ameliorate many user complaints, but unfortunately the E-P1's performance woes occurred in single autofocus mode.

The E-P2 is extremely similar to the E-P1, though it will only come in an elegant shiny black as opposed to the silver and white versions of the E-P1. It'll be available with the same kit lenses, the 14-42mm and the 17mm pancake, with each kit costing about $1,100. The most notable addition to the body is an accessory port, which makes the body slightly higher. One of the first accessories Olympus will offer is an add-on tiltable electronic viewfinder that slides into the hot shoe, which the company will bundle with the camera. That's nice--it's an extra-cost option with the Panasonic GF1. The viewfinder seems pretty good and quite bright and contrasty. The other accessory is an adapter for an external microphone.

  Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Olympus E-P1 Olympus E-P2
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS
17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm
Color depth n/a 12 bits 12 bits
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400
Focal-length multiplier 2x 2x 2x
Continuous shooting 3.0 fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
Viewfinder Optional plug-in articulating EVF Optional optical with 17mm lens Bundled plug-in articulating EVF
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF 11-area contrast AF 11-area contrast AF
Metering 144 zone 324 zone 324 zone
Shutter 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes
Flash Yes No No
LCD 3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 1,280x720 AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG MOV 1,280x720 Motion JPEG AVI 1,280x720 Motion JPEG AVI
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 300 shots 300 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4
Weight (ounces) 10.3 (estimated) 13.9 13.8; 14.9 (with EVF)
Mfr. Price n/a $749.99 (body)
n/a
$899.95 (with 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$799.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)

$1,099.98 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$899.95 (with 20mm f1.7 lens) $899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens and optical viewfinder) $1,099.98 (with 17mm f2.8 lens)

Comparison: enthusiast compact models Olympus E-P2 Canon PowerShot G11 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 10-megapixel CCD 10.1-megapixel CCD
17.3mm x 13mm 1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multiplier 2x n/a n/a
Continuous shooting 3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
1.1fps
n/a
2.5 fps
4 JPEG/3 raw
Viewfinder Bundled plug-in articulating EVF Optical None
Autofocus 11-area contrast AF Contrast AF Contrast AF
Metering 324 zone n/a n/a
Shutter 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 15-1/4000 sec; n/a 60-1/2000 sec; n/a
Flash No Yes Yes
LCD 3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
460,000 dots, 3-inch fixed
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 1,280x720 Motion JPEG AVI 640x480 H.264 MOV 848x480 Motion JPEG MOV
Battery life (CIPA rating) 300 shots 420 shots 380 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.0 4.3 x 2.3 x 1.1
Weight (ounces) 13.8; 14.9 (with EVF) 14.3 (estimated) 9.1
Mfr. Price $1,099.98
(with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens or 17mm f2.8 lens)
$499.99
(integrated f2.8-4.5 28-140mm-equivalent lens)
$499.95
(integrated 24-60mm f2.0-2.8 lens)

Comparison: Similarly priced dSLRs Olympus E-P2 Canon EOS Rebel T1i Nikon D5000
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 15.1-megapixel CMOS 12.3-megapixel CCD
17.3mm x 13mm 22.3mm x 14.9mm 23.6mm x 15.8mm
Focal-length multiplier 2x 1.6x 1.5x
Color depth 12 bits 14 bits 12 bits
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/ISO 12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/ISO 200 - ISO 3,200/ISO 6,400 (expanded)
Continuous shooting 3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
3.4fps
170 JPEG/9 raw
4 fps
9 raw/100 JPEG (medium/fine)
Viewfinder Bundled plug-in articulating EVF Optical Optical
Autofocus 11-area contrast AF 9-area phase detect AF (contrast AF in Live View) 11-area phase detect AF (contrast AF in Live View)
Metering 324 zone 35 zone 420 pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II
Shutter 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 1/4000 sec. to 30 sec.; bulb 1/4000 sec. to 30 sec; bulb
Flash No Yes Yes
LCD 3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
920,000 dots
2.7-inch articulated
230,000 dots
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 1,280x720 Motion JPEG AVI 1,280x720 H.264 MOV No 30fps mode; 1,280x720 24fps Motion JPEG AVI
Battery life (CIPA rating) 300 shots 400 shots 400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1
Weight (ounces) 13.8; 14.9 (with EVF) 18.6 21.6
Mfr. Price $1,099.98
(with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens or 17mm f2.8 lens)
$799.99 (body est.)
$899.99 (with 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$729.95 (body)
$849.99 (est. with 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens)

It gives you more control in movie mode, with support for adjusting aperture and shutter speed. For automatic shooters, there's an improved iEnhance auto adjustment mode that operates a little more intelligently by isolating the elements of the scene it operates on. The company tweaked its focus-assist mode by linking the manual focus magnifcation to the focus point. Olympus also adds a couple of new art filters. Diorama delivers a simulated tilt-shift lens effect that makes big cities look like fuzzy Lilliputs, and Cross Process thatf simulates color and contrast shifts like those produced by processing film with the wrong chemicals. Like the current crop of Art filters, these will work in movie mode.

Finally, the E-P2 adds CEC support for TV control via HDMI.

Olympus also announced plans to ship a couple of new MFT lenses in the first half of next year, a 9-18mm f4-5.6 (18-36mm equivalent) and 14-150mm f4-5.6 (28-300mm equivalent). My first thought was that both have awfully narrow maximum apertures. I haven't moved past that thought. But pricing is still undetermined; perhaps they'll be really affordable.

Unfortunately, the E-P2 still lacks a built-in flash, so you'll have to choose between using the hot shoe for the EVF or for an add-on flash. That remains a big drawback for potential upgraders from a point-and-shoot. And without overall improvements to the AF system, I can't see how the E-P2 can do much better than its predecessor. Still, that's for us to figure out when we can test it. It's slated to ship in December.

 

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