Olympus E-PL2 review: Olympus E-PL2

The LCD is a nice upgrade from the earlier models, bright and crisp, and better for manual focusing.

  Olympus E-PL1 Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Samsung NX100
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 14.6-megapixel CMOS
17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded)
Focal-length multiplier 2x 2x 2x 1.5x
Continuous shooting 3.0 fps
n/a
3.0 fps
n/a
3.2fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.0 fps
10 JPEG/ 3 raw
Viewfinder
(effective magnification)
Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
0.58x
Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
0.58x
Optional Electronic
n/a
Optional plug-in EVF
201,000 dots
0.55x
Autofocus 11-area contrast AF 11-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 15-point contrast AF
Metering 324 area 324 area 144 zone 247 segment
Shutter 60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 30-1/4000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes
Flash Yes Yes Yes Add-on only
LCD 2.7-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed AMOLED
921,000 dots
Image stabilization Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical Optical
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 720p Motion JPEG AVI 720p Motion JPEG AVI 1080/60i/50i @ 17, 13 Mbps
720/60p @17, 13 Mbps AVCHD or Motion JPEG QuickTime MOV
720p H.264 MPEG-4
Audio Mono; Mic input Mono; Mic input Stereo Mono
Battery life (CIPA rating) 290 shots n/a 300 shots 420 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.5 x 2.8 x 1.6 4.5 x 2.8 x 1.6 4.4 x 2.7 x 1.3 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4
Weight (ounces) 12.4 12.4 11 11 (est)
Mfr. Price $449.99 (body only) n/a $499.95 (body only, est) n/a
$499.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $599.99 (with 14-42mm II lens) $599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $499.99 (est, with 20-50mm f3.5-5.6 i-Function lens)
$699.00 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses) $799.99 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses) n/a $599.00 (with 50-200mm lens)
  $899.99 (with 14-150mm lens) n/a $699.95 (with 14mm f2.5 lens) n/a
Ship date March 2010 January 2011 January 2011 October 2010

The body design and shape is fundamentally the same as the E-PL1, but I like the E-PL2's all black a little better than the black with silver of its predecessor. It's still very well built and sturdy, and it managed to survive an accidental fall off my desk. There's one oddity, however; equipped with the 14-42mm msc kit lens, the body overbalances and wobbles in a Weebles kind of way. Not a problem, but a little disconcerting when you put it down.

Its fundamental layout remains unchanged. The top dial includes typical manual, semimanual, and preset automatic modes as well as a dedicated movie mode and Art Filters. Olympus' Live Guide, which appears in automatic, provides a user-friendly adjustment interface and shooting tips; it now works with video. I really like that you don't have to be in movie mode to record. 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. Real-time Art Filter preview processing can be burdensome for the camera--display refresh slows down to a crawl--so Olympus added a second display mode for Art Filters that provides a lower-quality preview. That ratchets up their usefulness quite a bit.

For shooting, Olympus changed the large buttons and four-way-navigation keys to smaller buttons and a dial for navigation. It looks a lot nicer and I like the dial, but the buttons may be small for some people. The movie record button is also recessed a bit more, to prevent accidental operation.

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. There's also a ton of advanced features in the camera, but you have to read the manual, and you must turn on the double-secret menu system to know some of them exist. For instance, it's now more flexible for HDR shooting, with up to a seven-frame bracket. Every button on the camera can be redefined. You can hardwire in an exposure shift for each metering mode independently, specify how long many of the adjustment control displays persist, and add copyright information. There are also four slots for saving custom settings, but accessing them seems to be a fairly clunky process as far as I can tell; you can map one to the Fn button, but to use any other but the mapped default you have to go into the menu system. The one feature that would be nice to have is time lapse. (For a full account of the E-PL2's features and operation, download the PDF manual.)

Conclusion
A notable update over the E-PL1, the Olympus PEN E-PL2 delivers better photo quality and performance, as well as a nice shooting experience. But while I'd definitely recommend it to people who want to upgrade from a point-and-shoot to get better overall (and especially low-light) photo quality, it remains a little too sluggish to recommend for shooting active kids and pets.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Olympus PEN E-PL2
0.8 
1.4 
1.3 
0.7 
0.4 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2
1.7 
0.9 
0.7 
0.7 
0.4 
Sony Alpha NEX-5
0.4 
0.9 
0.9 
0.8 
0.4 
Olympus PEN E-P2
1.6 
2 
1.9 
1.1 
0.9 
Olympus PEN E-PL1
1.8 
2.1 
1.9 
1.4 
0.9 

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Olympus PEN E-PL2
3.1 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jan 25, 2011
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type High speed Live MOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.3 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (image sensor shift mechanism)
  • Lens 28 - 84mm F/3.5
  • Optical Sensor Size 13.0 x 17.3mm