Steve's Conclusion

By

Steve's SnapShot
    Steves Conclusion 275.jpg
  • Micro Four Thirds System
  • 16.1 megapixel High-Speed Live MOS
  • 3.0-inch Touch Screen LCD
  • 1080i HD Video Recording
  • TruePic VI Image Processor
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • AF Illuminator
  • Olympus Dust Reduction System
  • Touch AF Shutter
  • FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF
  • 8 frames-per-second high-speed shooting (in Single AF mode)
  • Live Guide Button
  • 11 in-camera Art Filters
  • Monochrome Effect
  • In-camera RAW data editing
Pros
  • Outstanding image quality
  • High-quality widescreen LCD is great
  • Touch screen option on LCD is nice for beginners
  • Various control buttons give you a second option if you choose not to use the touch screen
  • Small camera design versus DSLRs is appealing, yet camera remains comfortable to use
  • Classic retro look of PEN camera design remains
  • Nice mix of automatic and manual control features
  • Fun "Art Filters" are great to use
  • Really good starting price, especially considering E-PM2 includes a starter lens and external flash
  • Pleasing design and color options for a entry-level ILC camera
  • 16.1 megapixel image sensor
  • Great image quality
  • Very good response times
  • Some nice advancements versus E-PM1
  • Optional Wi-Fi connectivity via a Toshiba FlashAir card or Eye-Fi card - Get one free from Olympus
Cons
  • Menu structure can be a little tough to master
  • Doesn't quite have the image quality you'd find in a DSLR camera
  • May require investment in additional lenses in the future
  • No built-in or popup flash option means you have to carry the included external flash unit with you at all times
  • Touchscreen LCD can be a little tough to master at first
  • Camera is missing advanced add-on features found on some ILC models, such as an articulated LCD or built-in GPS
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 1.3 seconds with lens lock off (2.3 seconds with lens locked)
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay without flash = 1.5 seconds between frames with minimum review time On (1.3 seconds with review turned Off)
  • Shot to shot delay with flash = 2.2 seconds between frames with minimum review time On  (2.0 seconds with review turned Off)
  • Sequential High = 16 frames in 2.3 seconds @ 16M
  • Sequential Low = 10 frames in 3.6 seconds @ 16M
  • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The latest camera in the line of the ILC PEN family of cameras from Olympus, the PEN E-PM2 has a desirable combination of features and performance; at a good starting price. This is one of the better ILC models on the market, offering quite a few advancements versus its predecessor. It doesn't have a few of the add-on features that you may expect to find in a 2013 ILC camera, such as a built-in GPS or an articulated LCD screen; but if you're in the market for this type of interchangeable lens camera, the E-PM2 is a great entry-level model offering a very good value.
Pick This Up If...
You want a sharp-looking interchangeable lens camera that offers quite a few above-average photographic features for a model with an entry-level price.
The first Micro Four Thirds system camera was a Panasonic model released in 2008. Olympus soon followed with the first of its revamped PEN family of cameras, called the PEN E-P1, introduced in 2009. These interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) don't use a mirror like you'd find with a DSLR camera, which allows them to be quite a bit smaller than DSLRs. 

Since then, the ILC models have grown in popularity, with several different manufacturers now offering cameras that take advantage of similar mirrorless systems. Still, Olympus has stuck with its PEN family of cameras, offering quite a few versions that differ slightly in size and feature set.

Yet the common thread throughout the PEN family of cameras is the retro look that each of these models has, borrowing its design from the PEN family of film cameras, which Olympus initially introduced in 1959.

The latest member of the PEN ILC line of cameras, the E-PM2, is another great camera, building on the success of the E-PM1. Both members of the E-PM line of ILC cameras -- sometimes called PEN Mini cameras -- have a lot of great photographic options in a small camera body, but the E-PM2 offers some nice upgrades over the E-PM1.

While the PM1 had a 12.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor, Olympus upgraded the PM2's resolution to 16.1 megapixels. Both PEN Mini cameras have 3.0-inch widescreen LCDs, but the E-PM2 offers a touchscreen option. Olympus improved the design of the camera's control buttons on the back panel, which makes the PM2 a bit easier to use. They also chose to include an external flash unit as part of the basic camera kit for the PM2, something that required an extra purchase with the PM1.

The PM2 isn't quite as colorful as the PM1, offering silver, white, black, and red camera bodies. There's no pink or purple PEN Mini models this time around. Still, the E-PM2 is a sharp-looking camera that's going to appeal to a broad selection of photographers; whether they're looking for a high-quality camera that's smaller than a DSLR or they like the retro look of the PEN Mini.

When you consider that the PM1 was a really good camera -- and that the PM2 builds improves on that -- you'll have a terrific mix of value and photographic quality with the PM2.

The PEN Mini 2 includes a 16MP Live MOS image sensor, which is the key component in this camera's really good image quality. As with most ILC cameras, this image sensor is quite a bit larger than what you're going to find with a fixed-lens camera, helping to provide greater image quality.

The E-PM2 is especially strong in low light photography without a flash. Olympus included an ISO setting up to 25600 with this camera, allowing you to capture extreme low light images. You will begin to notice noise at around ISO 6400, but the PEN Mini 2 still does a nice job with mid- to high-ISO ranges compared to other ILC models.

For flash photos, Olympus included an external flash with the E-PM2's kit, which will save you a bit of money; especially since there's no built-in flash with this model. You may find yourself missing a few spontaneous photos while you're fumbling with trying to attach the external flash. When you're working in iAuto mode, flash photos tend to be overexposed a bit with the Mini 2, but you can control the flash intensity through the on screen menus when shooting in more advanced modes.

By not including a popup flash with this unit, Olympus is able to keep the the PM2's body a bit smaller and thinner than some other ILC cameras. The E-PM2 is a little bigger and heavier than the E-PM1, but most people won't notice the difference. 

The PM2's body size is just right for using it either one-handed or with both hands. And the manufacturer included a slightly raised panel on the front of the PEN Mini 2, giving your right-hand fingers an area to grip the camera. There's also a slightly raised area on the back of the camera for your right thumb to grip. The E-PM2 body alone measures about 1.33 inches in thickness, but attaching a necessary lens will give this camera greater depth, of course. The kit lens, when fully extended, adds about 4 inches to the camera's thickness. The external flash hangs almost one-half inch off the back of the camera, too.

Even though this camera is small, it has a hefty, well-built feel to it. Olympus included a pretty thick battery with the PM2, which is great for a long battery life. The manufacturer's estimate for a single battery charge is 360 photographs, which my testing found is a pretty accurate estimate, although perhaps a little high. The PM2 does have a pretty large LCD screen, so if you use the screen a lot to look through menus, you may drain the battery more quickly. Extensive use of the optional flash will drain the battery sooner, too, because the flash draws its power from the camera's battery.

Speaking of the LCD screen, this is one of the better screens you're going to find on a digital camera. The touch screen aspect of the camera is a little tricky to master at first, as it almost seems overly sensitive, but it doesn't take long to figure it out. The screen is very sharp and bright, and I really liked the widescreen 16:9 ratio of the LCD, which makes it easy to frame your HD videos accurately. This is simply one of the best LCDs for a camera in this price range that's currently on the market.

Olympus included an HDMI port with the PM2, making it even more efficient to shoot HD video. However, when shooting movies, the camera's autofocus mechanism works a little more slowly than I like to see, especially when you use the manual zoom to change the focal length.

Other than the slow focus problem with movies, the PEN Mini 2's overall response times are very good. The autofocus mechanism works very quickly when shooting still images, and it works accurately. Shot to shot delays and shutter lag aren't noticeable in most situations, and this camera can shoot up to 8 fps in burst mode.

Not only does the PEN E-PM2 perform at a high level, it's also pretty easy and fun to use. Olympus included a dozen Art Filter options, as well as several color filter options, to help you enhance your photos while you're shooting them. There are quite a few specific special effect options you can apply within those Art Filters and color filters, too, giving you a wide variety of really enjoyable options for creating unique looking images.

The on-screen menu structure for this camera is completely bare bones. Most of the camera's shooting commands are available through popup menus while you're shooting, which is a very easy method for using the camera, once you're used to this feature.

The one area where the PEN Mini 2 seems to be lagging is in terms of its high-end features. For example, Olympus bundled a good -- not great -- Micro Four Thirds lens with the PEN Mini 2, offering a 14-42mm lens. However, not many manufacturers do include top-of-the-line lenses in their DSLR or ILC kits, so Olympus can be forgiven here. There's no option for an articulated LCD with this camera, nor is there a built-in GPS unit. It'd be nice if the E-PM2 had a built-in flash, because you then could use the hot shoe to attach an external viewfinder or microphone. On the plus side, you can share your images wirelessly to a smartphone if you're using a Toshiba FlashAir card (along with te ability to connect to your iOS or Android smart device) or Eye-Fi memory card. Olympus is currently offering a free rebate program for those who purchase a PEN or XZ-2 camera, which allows you to get a free Toshiba FlashAir card. Click here to get yours.

Bottom Line - Certainly some people don't like the form factor that's found with ILC cameras, disliking the small size, inability to find super-telephoto lenses, and slightly lower image quality versus a DSLR camera. However, if you're in the market for one of these types of interchangeable lens cameras, the Olympus PEN E-PM2 is going to give you some very nice image quality and performance. The PM2 works fast, shoots great photos, and includes a high-quality widescreen LCD, which is great for helping you frame your full HD movies. It's also a stylish camera with a retro look. The E-PM2 is missing a few of the newest features, such as an articulated LCD or built-in GPS. Without those items Olympus probably overpriced the PM2 a bit upon its introduction at about $600. The price has been quickly discounted, though, and it now provides a great value, especially considering that Olympus has included a starter lens and an external flash unit with the basic camera kit. The E-PM2 offers quite a few upgrades over its predecessor, the PM1, including a 16.1 megapixel image sensor. Even though the PEN E-PM2 doesn't have high-end features, the camera's performance and image quality results are great for a model in this price range. If you like the smaller form factor of an ILC and you don't need the extra bells and whistles some more expensive ILC cameras offer; the E-PM2 is a great option.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

Buy related cameras and accessories from Amazon.com
Related Product Description Price
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40 Wi-Fi GPS Digital Camera (Black) with 32GB Card + Case + Battery + Tripod + Accessory Kit Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40 Wi-Fi GPS Digital Camera (Black) with 32GB Card + Case + Battery + Tripod + Accessory Kit $449.95
Sony Alpha A5000 Wi-Fi Digital Camera & 16-50mm Lens (Black) with 16GB Card + Case + Battery + Flex Tripod + Filter + Accessory Kit Sony Alpha A5000 Wi-Fi Digital Camera & 16-50mm Lens (Black) with 16GB Card + Case + Battery + Flex Tripod + Filter + Accessory Kit $449.95
Olympus Stylus SH-1 Wi-Fi Digital Camera (Silver) with 32GB Card + Case + Battery/Charger + Tripod + Kit Olympus Stylus SH-1 Wi-Fi Digital Camera (Silver) with 32GB Card + Case + Battery/Charger + Tripod + Kit $449.95
Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG-3 Digital Camera (Black) with 16GB Deluxe Accessory Kit Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG-3 Digital Camera (Black) with 16GB Deluxe Accessory Kit $449.95
Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 iHS Digital Camera (Black), With 64GB SD Memory Card, Professional Monopod, Full Size 50' Extendable Tripod, LCD Screen Protector, Camera Storage Case, Professional Video Stabilizing Grip, Lens Cleaning Pen, Dust Blower, Lens Cleaning Kit and CS Microfiber Cleaning Cloth. Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 iHS Digital Camera (Black), With 64GB SD Memory Card, Professional Monopod, Full Size 50' Extendable Tripod, LCD Screen Protector, Camera Storage Case, Professional Video Stabilizing Grip, Lens Cleaning Pen, Dust Blower, Lens Cleaning Kit and CS Microfiber Cleaning Cloth. $449.95
Wasabi Power Battery for Olympus BLS-5, PS-BLS5 and Olympus OM-D E-M10, PEN E-PL2, E-PL5, E-PL6, E-PM2, Stylus 1 Wasabi Power Battery for Olympus BLS-5, PS-BLS5 and Olympus OM-D E-M10, PEN E-PL2, E-PL5, E-PL6, E-PM2, Stylus 1 $59.99
Olympus BLS-5 Lithium-Ion Battery for Olympus E-PM2 Olympus BLS-5 Lithium-Ion Battery for Olympus E-PM2 $41.99