Steve's Conclusion

By

Steve's SnapShot
olympus_ep2_lens.jpg
  • 12-megapixel Live MOS imager
  • micro Four-Thrids (mFT) mirror-less mount system
  • 3.0-inch LCD with 230K pixels
  • Tilting, detachable VF-2 electronic viewfinder included
  • TruPic V image processor 
  • Movies at 720p HD (1280x720) or SD (640x480) with audio, and a frame rage of 30fps
  • Continuous AF tracking in Movie and Still modes
  • 8 Art filters for creative photography and videography
  • 3fps Burst @ full resolution (we achieved up to 3.5fps)
  • Li-ion power source
  • SD/SDHC card memory slot
  • HDMI output

Pros
  • Compact and Stylish metal body
  • Excellent build quality
  • Captures tac sharp 12-megapixel photos
  • Improved performance over E-P1
  • Capable Continuous AF tracking option
  • Versatile exposure and creative mode options
  • Great High ISO performance up to ISO 3200
  • Large and bright VF-2 electronic viewfinder
  • Accessory port for additional accessories; like the EMA-1 external microphone jack
Cons
  • No built-in flash
  • ISO 6400 shows a great deal of noise
  • Auto WB setting combined with iEnhance produced mixed results under tungsten lighting
  • A bit pricey
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.2 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 6/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.7 seconds
  • Sequential burst =  up to 3.5fp in both JPEG and RAW
Bottom Line
The E-P2 is a welcomed addition to Olympus' extremely popular Digtial PEN line. The added options on the E-P2 are a great improvement over the E-P1, however these come with an additional cost of about $300.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a fun to use EVIL camera that offers excellent image/video quality potential, along with a host of creative features.
Just five months ago, Olympus announced their first ever Micro 4/3 Digital PEN model, the E-P1. Now, they have released an upgraded version, labeled the E-P2. While it seems this is a successor, Olympus has commented that the E-P2 does not replace the E-P1, however  compliments it with added features along with a slightly higher price tag.

The E-P2 continues the retro look and feel we came to love with the E-P1. Olympus' PEN family history dates back to 1959, and the E-P2 continues the tradition of offering powerful options in a sophisticated camera design. Many feel that these new Micro 4/3 cameras are not truly dSLRs, because they do not have an automatic moving mirror system. However, the E-P2/E-P1, along with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, DMC-GH1, and DMC-GF1 are still interchangeable lens cameras that offer almost all of the same features/options one would find on true dSLR.

The E-P2 shares over 90% of it's features with its "little" brother, including a 12.3-Megapixel Live MOS image sensor, TruePic V image processor, Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system, 3.0-inch LCD screen, 324-area TTL ESP metering system, 11-area Contrast Detection AF system, sensor-shift Image Stabilization, built-in digital leveling function, 720p HD video capture, JPEG and RAW image formats (RAW + JPEG available), sensitivity settings from ISO 100 - 6400 (in 1/3 or 1EV steps), sRGB or Adobe RGB color space options, and burst mode shooting at up to 3fps. Olympus has added some "needed" options to the E-P2, such as a new detachable, tilting EVF (VF-2), an accessory port (for the VF-2, EMA-1 optional external microphone jack, as well as future accessories), iEnhance picture mode, new MF assist options, Continuous AF tracking (available in both still and movie modes), two new Art filters, e-Portrait Scene mode, CEC compatibility, full manual exposure control in movie mode, and more.

The body design is almost identical to the E-P1's, with only a slightly taller profile to accommodate the new accessory port located under the hot shoe. Olympus is only offering the E-P2 in one color scheme, which looks Much better than the E-P1 offerings in my opinion, with it's nice anodized black finish.  Like we mentioned with it's brother, Olympus has done a fantastic job at designing the exterior of this camera, with excellent control/button placement, and various comfort features. The hand grip on the right side offers a nice firm grip, making it simple to hold the relatively thin camera steady. Olympus cut no corners when building this camera, as the E-P2 seems to be built like a tank with its heavy all metal frame. As I mentioned earlier, the E-P2 uses the same 3.0-inch LCD screen we saw on the previous model. I was hoping they would have bumped up the resolution a bit from 230,000 pixels, however the display still offers a nice clear picture. Like we saw before, the picture can get a bit grainy when shooting in dim lighting. I was very excited to see the new VF-2 viewfinder, which attaches to the flash hot shoe. This is a Very nice EVF, offering incredible resolution and clarity. The 1.15x magnification offers a nice large eye picture, and the soft rubber eye cup is comfortable, and blocked out a good amount of the ambient light. It also tilts up to 90 degrees, which further enhances the E-P2's framing capabilities. Olympus continues to offer an abundance of optional accessories, like the new EMA-1 external microphone adapter.

The E-P2 performed much better than its predecessor. From power-on till the first image was captured measured 2.2 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing an image, was almost instantaneous when pre-focused, but slowed to an average of 6/10 of a second including autofocus time; which is a big improvment over the E-P1. Rapid shooting in single shot mode allowed me capture images every 1.7 seconds. You can also choose burst mode, which performed very well. Using it, I was able to capture 15 Large/SuperFine JPEGs in 4.4 seconds; approx 3.4fps, surpassing Olympus' claim of 3.0fps. The camera on average was able to capture about 15-20 frames before slowing down due to a full buffer (we used a 133x card, faster media may perform better). When switching to RAW mode, the shot to shot delay in single exposure mode averaged 1.8 seconds between frames, and the burst rates were very similar, only the frame depth changed due to the larger file sizes. In burst mode I captured the first 10 frames in 2.8 seconds (3.6fps), then the buffered filled slowing the camera down to about 1fps. Our tests were done using both a Lexar Professional (133x) 4GB SDHC memory card, the kit M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 3x optical zoom lens, Program mode, ISO Auto, Preview on, Large SuperFine JPEG image quality, and all other settings a default unless noted. Times may vary depending on camera settings, media, and lighting conditions.

Because the E-P2 uses the same 12.3-megapixel Live MOS imager and TruePic V imager processor found on the E-P1, our image quality results were very similar. While working with the E-P2 outdoors, it was able to produce pleasing images when using Program mode, that show true to life colors, along with nice contrast and sharpness. I also saw virtually no edge softness from the kit M-Zuiko zoom lens, which compliments this models imager nicely. The AE (Auto Exposure) system performed much better on the E-P2 than we saw with the E-P1, with the camera producing good exposures in a variety of lighting conditions. Another new feature Olympus added is their new iEnhance picture mode. This is now the default setting when using the intelligent Auto or  iAuto exposure mode. While the colors are not what I would call true, they are very pleasing to the eyes as some of our typical outdoor subjects jump out at you when using these settings. I highly recommend iAuto to anyone who wants to use the E-P2 as a simple point-n-shoot.
 

Like it's predecessor, the E-P2 also handles noise quite well. After reviewing our M&M man ISO series, I found that the camera does quite well all the way up to ISO 3200. At 3200, you do see a good amount of luminous noise when viewing at 80-100%, however I still feel that you can create usable 8x10-inch or larger prints at this setting; as long as there is decent lighting. The fact that the E-P2 does well when using the higher ISO settings adds to its appeal, especially when you consider that this camera does not have a built-in flash. Basically, you can be confident that you will be able to capture usable photos in marginal lighting without the flash.

On top of the 6 Art Filters offered by the E-P1 (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Grainy Film, Light Tone, Pin Hole Camera filter), Olympus has added two new filters on the E-P2 (Diorama and Cross Process). These Art filters will allow you to explore your creative side, helping you produce images that really stand out. Take a look at our Sample Photos page to see an example of each filter being used on our old theater subject, as well as various other shots using these options.

Since the E-P2 still does not offer a built-in flash unit, you'll want to be sure to attach an external unit like the FL-14 when wanting to shoot some nice indoor portraits. The compact size of the FL-14 compliments the E-P2 well, and this unit also offers pretty good flash coverage for such a small unit. These EVIL models are also compatible with Olympus' larger flash units, so you have a great deal of lighting options. While the E-P2 captured nice photos indoors, especially when using the FL-14, I did have some issues with the Auto white balance setting combined with the iEnhance picture mode when shooting with available light. With our tungsten type fluorescent style bulbs, the camera produced photos with a yellow cast when using the camera without a flash. This produced images that were not very pleasing, and it's a shame that one would have to change the white balance when using the iAuto setting. While this is not a real big deal for experienced users, I think beginners might not understand why their photos are not coming out like they had hoped. Plus, you can't manually change the picture mode in iAuto.

Olympus added a new autofocus option on the E-P2, AF Tracking. I played with this setting both in still and movie mode, by following my dogs as they ran around our house. I was surprised that this function worked very well, keeping our mutt shots nice and sharp, even as they were jumping all around. I can see this as being a much used feature on this camera, especially in movie mode.

The video options have not changed much on the E-P2. This model still offers the numerous settings we saw on its sibling, with options for both HD and SD resolution. There are also various settings available, like white balance, IS mode, focus mode, AF target (Single or Multi), AF Tracking, and exposure control mode. You can now choose full manual exposure control, on top of the Program AE, Aperture, and Art filter modes options. This means the E-P2's will allow you to be a lot more creative with your videos than with just about any other digicam or dSLR on the market. During our tests, the E-P2 captured nice smooth HD video, with decent audio as well. The exposure system did have some trouble when shooting a small children's choir, where the room was very dark and the lighting on the children was very strong. This caused many of their faces to be blown out. Again, this was an extremely harsh environment, and other models I tested under the same conditions show similar findings.

The E-P2 manages power consumption nicely, thanks in part to its powerful PS-BLS1 7.2v 1150mAh battery pack. This pack is used in the E-P1 as well as some of Olympus' other dSLR models (the E-620 for example), and they claim it can power this camera for up to 300 shots. I captured well over 200 photos on a single pack, which included a good amount of menu browsing, feature testing, and playback. I'd say the E-P2's battery life claims are pretty accurate. I highly recommend you pick up and extra PS-BLS1 battery when you make your purchase, especially if you plan on shooting a good amount of photos, or recording long video clips.

Bottom Line - the E-P2 is defiantly an improvement over the E-P1. As I mentioned earlier, the E-P2 does not replace the E-P1, but rather compliments it with some added features and options. With that said, you might find yourself asking this question: is the E-P2 worth the extra $300 over the E-P1. This is a tough one to answer. With improved performance and features like the added Art filters, new iEnhance option, Continuous AF tracking in both still and movie modes, nice tilting VF-2 electronic viewfinder, manual exposure control in movie mode, and the upgraded MF assist options, I feel the increased price tag is fair. The E-P2 is still quite expensive, with many more capable dSLR models coming in at a lower price. However, Olympus' Digital PEN line offers some unique features and style that you will not find on any dSLR, along with the fact that with the right lens attached, you can put one of these PENs in your pocket. Try that with your dSLR. I have not problem giving the E-P2 a very hig recommendation for anyone in the EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangable Lens) market.

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