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.

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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-GF1Olympus E-P1Olympus E-P2
Sensor (effective resolution)12.1-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS
17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm
Color depthn/a12 bits12 bits
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 3,200ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 100 - ISO 6,400
Focal-length multiplier2x2x2x
Continuous shooting3.0 fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
ViewfinderOptional plug-in articulating EVFOptional optical with 17mm lensBundled plug-in articulating EVF
Autofocus23-area contrast AF11-area contrast AF11-area contrast AF
Metering144 zone324 zone324 zone
Shutter60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes
FlashYesNoNo
LCD3-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 MOV1,280x720 Motion JPEG AVI1,280x720 Motion JPEG AVI
Battery life (CIPA rating)350 shots300 shots300 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.7 x 2.8 x 1.44.7 x 2.8 x 1.44.8 x 2.8 x 1.4
Weight (ounces)10.3 (estimated)13.913.8; 14.9 (with EVF)
Mfr. Pricen/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 modelsOlympus E-P2 Canon PowerShot G11Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Sensor (effective resolution)12.3-megapixel Live MOS10-megapixel CCD10.1-megapixel CCD
17.3mm x 13mm1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 80 - ISO 3,200ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multiplier2xn/an/a
Continuous shooting3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
1.1fps
n/a
2.5 fps
4 JPEG/3 raw
ViewfinderBundled plug-in articulating EVFOpticalNone
Autofocus11-area contrast AFContrast AFContrast AF
Metering324 zonen/an/a
Shutter60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes15-1/4000 sec; n/a60-1/2000 sec; n/a
FlashNoYesYes
LCD3-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 AVI640x480 H.264 MOV848x480 Motion JPEG MOV
Battery life (CIPA rating)300 shots420 shots380 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.8 x 2.8 x 1.44.4 x 3.0 x 1.04.3 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 dSLRsOlympus E-P2Canon EOS Rebel T1iNikon D5000
Sensor (effective resolution)12.3-megapixel Live MOS15.1-megapixel CMOS12.3-megapixel CCD
17.3mm x 13mm22.3mm x 14.9mm23.6mm x 15.8mm
Focal-length multiplier2x1.6x1.5x
Color depth12 bits14 bits12 bits
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/ISO 12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/ISO 200 - ISO 3,200/ISO 6,400 (expanded)
Continuous shooting3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
3.4fps
170 JPEG/9 raw
4 fps
9 raw/100 JPEG (medium/fine)
ViewfinderBundled plug-in articulating EVFOpticalOptical
Autofocus11-area contrast AF9-area phase detect AF (contrast AF in Live View)11-area phase detect AF (contrast AF in Live View)
Metering324 zone35 zone420 pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II
Shutter60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes1/4000 sec. to 30 sec.; bulb 1/4000 sec. to 30 sec; bulb
FlashNoYesYes
LCD3-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 AVI1,280x720 H.264 MOVNo 30fps mode; 1,280x720 24fps Motion JPEG AVI
Battery life (CIPA rating)300 shots400 shots400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.8 x 2.8 x 1.45.1 x 3.8 x 2.45.0 x 4.1 x 3.1
Weight (ounces)13.8; 14.9 (with EVF)18.621.6
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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