The Micro Four Thirds-based E-P2, Olympus' slightly more feature-rich, significantly more expensive brother to the E-P1, inherits a lot of what I liked about that camera--and some of what I didn't. It shares the elegant-but-functional body design and smooth, natural photo quality of its predecessor as well as the slow performance.
The E-P2 is extremely similar to the E-P1, though it only comes in an elegant shiny black as opposed to the silver and white versions of the E-P1. The most notable addition to the body is an accessory port, which makes the body slightly higher. Olympus currently offers two accessories for the port: an add-on tiltable electronic viewfinder that slides into the hot shoe, which comes bundled with the camera. That's nice--it's an extra-cost option with the Panasonic GF1. Though I'm not a big fan of EVFs, the viewfinder is a very nice example of the breed. It's quite bright and contrasty, well magnified and sufficiently high-resolution for manual focusing. The updated manual focusing system, in which the manual focus magnification is linked to the focus point, helps as well. And the tilt makes a big difference in shooting flexibility. The other accessory is an adapter for an external microphone.
In addition, the E-P2 gives you more control in movie mode, with support for adjusting aperture and shutter speed. For automatic shooters, there's an improved i-Enhance autoadjustment mode that operates a little more intelligently by isolating the elements of the scene it operates on. 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 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 E-PL1||Olympus E-P1||Olympus E-P2|
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Olympus offers optional adapters for Four Thirds mount lenses (MMF-1) and for the older film OM lenses (MF-2). I used an adapter with the E-P1 and the relatively big and heavy (and pricey) 12-60mm f2.8-4 lens, and it felt surprisingly well balanced. Usually solutions like these feel clunky--though of course one-handed shooting is out.
Though it's retro from the front, in back it's all digital, with a pretty typical control layout. Along the right side of the LCD run AF and AE lock buttons, playback, delete, and menu. To their right sits a user-definable function button, which you can assign to invoke face detection mode, provide a depth-of-field preview, set manual white balance, reset the AF area to its home position, use manual focus, override raw settings, take an unsaved test picture, pull up MyMode custom settings, toggle the LCD backlight, or disable the button entirely. As we've seen with other Olympus models, this method of setting the manual white balance is confusing, especially the first time; unless you know to program the function button for it first, you'll never figure out how to set the manual white balance. A back dial includes direct-access buttons for ISO sensitivity, white balance, focus mode, and drive mode. There's also a vertical subdial; the combination of the two dials is nice, and both feel relatively responsive and comfortable to operate.
The prettily inset mode dial atop the left side of the camera offers theand intelligent auto, plus movie capture and access to the variety of scene modes and the eight Art Filters. Next to the shutter is a dedicated exposure-compensation button.
The camera operates identically to the E-P1. An info button cycles through a lot of (some might say too many) display choices: a two-axis digital level, detailed current settings, basic settings plus a histogram or AF area, selectable thumbnail previews of exposure or white-balance compensation, scale/grid display, or image only. You can also pull up Olympus' typical Super Control Panel, an overstuffed display where you can adjust most frequently needed shooting settings plus some not-so-frequently used ones, like white-balance compensation, sharpness, contrast, saturation, gradation, black and white filter, and Picture Tone. There's a much more useful simplified version in which you cycle around the outer edge of the display to adjust shutter speed, aperture, white balance, drive mode, image stabilization mode, aspect ratio, image size and quality, flash options, ISO sensitivity, metering, autofocus, face detection, and AF target (auto using all 11 AF areas or user selectable). For a complete accounting of the E-P2's features and operation, download the PDF manual.
For such a compact model, the 14-42mm (28mm-84mm equivalent) kit lens can be pretty sharp. It does a lot better at macro distances--and can focus pretty close--than at traditional ones, however. Overall, it delivers about the same shooting experience as the 18-55mm lenses from Canon and Nikon, with the exception of manual focus. Though the manual focus rings on those lenses don't feel particularly fluid, they at least use a traditional geared mechanical operation. Like its Micro Four Thirds counterparts from Panasonic, the Olympus uses a servoelectronic ring, resulting in the infinite rotation experience; it's not bad, just relatively loose and imprecise and takes some getting used to. The way you can retract the lens into itself when not in use is quite ingenious, however, and makes the difference between being able to slip the camera into a large jacket pocket and requiring a carrying case. Of course, if you're looking for the most compact solution, you'll have to opt for the 17mm lens, which also has the advantage of a wider maximum aperture.