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Olympus E-PL2 Preview

by Jack Howard, January 2011 (updated March 2011)

As International CES kicks off for 2011, Olympus has announced the 12.1 megapixel E-PL2 camera, the micro four thirds replacement of the E-PL1. The pixel count remains the same as its predecessor, but there are a number of cosmetic changes, feature upgrades, a new 14-42 f/2/5 -5.6 II kit lens, along with a handful of tandemly announced accessories for this fourth generation digital PEN.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Olympus E-PL2 available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Here are some of the highlights:

The E-PL2 comes in four colors including black, white, silver and red. (We previewed the basic black version.) Body styling has changed a good bit between generations—almost entirely for the better, in my opinion, with one notable exception. The On/Off button is now a recessed oval on the E-PL2, which should lead to much less shutter-button confusion from the round, flush button on the E-PL1. The front grip is slightly more curvy on the E-PL2, and there is a much-appreciated back thumb lip/grip on the new camera—something very necessary, yet completely lacking on the E-PL1. The dedicated video capture button is now flush-mounted into that raised lip, meaning less chance of accidentally thumbing your way into video capture. The round themed back-of-camera-button clusters on the E-PL2 are smaller than the very rectangularly designed buttons of the E-PL1, but seem more user-friendly at the same time, which is a fantastic trick to pull off.

My one gripe with the design changes for the E-PL2 involves the camera straps. Strap mount points on the E-PL2 are small round rings that accept triangular d-rings into which the camera straps are then threaded. On the E-PL1, the strap-mount points were oval loops long enough to directly attach the strap. It might be a nit-pick, but the simpler, less rattling (with and without said straps attached) strap-mount design of the E-PL1 is more agreeable to this reviewer.

Overall, the E-PL2 feels good in the hands. The buttons and dials are well damped, and while the camera has some heft, it isn’t unwieldy. The LCD screen improvements are immediately obvious. The new kit lens sheds both weight and size—and is now silent, to boot! The feature set of the E-PL2 should make both enthusiastic beginners and hardcore enthusiasts excited. Live Guide II, Art Filters and 22 scene modes are fun for the beginners. Meanwhile full manual control in 720p video, RAW capture, and a built-in flash that can be used in both E-TTL and manual ratios (these ratios can be used to optically trigger slaved studio lights, which many small-camera onboard flashes cannot do because of pre-flash) offer a lot for more experienced photographers who want total control in a smaller package.

New Kit Lens and Accessory Lens Compatibility

The E-PL2 ships with the second-generation (MSC) ED 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. “(MSC)” stands for “movie and still compatible”, by the way which delivers silent autofocusing during both still and video capture. The E-PL1 and the original kit lens also allowed for autofocusing during video capture, but focus motor noise was an issue.

Also of note: the filter ring size drops to 37mm (first generation kit’s filter ring was 40.5mm) and adds a bayonet mount accessory threading to allow for compatibility with three new add-on lenses, a Fisheye converter, a Wide-Angle converter, and a Macro converter.

Bigger, Higher-Rez, LCD Display

The LCD jumps up to 3 inches diagonally, and doubles the dots to 460K from the 230K 2.7-incher on the E-PL1.

Higher ISO, Max Shutter Speed, and Cable Release Compatibility

Max ISO jumps up to 6400 on the E-PL2. E-PL1’s top ISO was 3200. See comparison images below for ISO 200, 3200, and 6400 on the E-PL2.

Max shutter speed on the E-PL2 is now 1/4000, compared to 1/2000 on the earlier camera. And product specs for the E-PL2 cite cable release compatibility with a USB-based Olympus cable, although further details are unavailable at this time.

Live Guide II

The Live Guide II mode on the E-PL2 works with both stills and movies, and quickly and easily allows for visual image quality adjustments via sliders with real-time previews for different image quality effects (increased/shallower depth of field, action blur/action freeze, for example) for enthusiastic learners.

Eye Detect Face Detection

Olympus is touting this new feature that aims to micro focus face-detection focus on the subject’s eyes. It will be interesting to see user’s results with this.

Manual Mode with Art Filters

Art Filter can now be used with Manual modes for both still and video. Also, some art filter modes can be combined or tweaked for more in-camera effects. There’s now a “Dramatic” art filter in the mix, which stylizes images like aggressive, surrealistic HDRI tone mapping.

Penpal and the “Pen-tenna”

In conjunction with the E-PL2, Olympus has also announced the Penpal, and the MAL-1 macro accessory light, both of which lock into the Accessory Port II. The Penpal is a bluetooth module that can send images directly from the SD card to a bluetooth smartphone, for sending and sharing via a special Penpal Playback mode on the E-PL2 and other Penpal-compatible Olympus cameras. The MAL-1, unofficially dubbed the “Pen-tenna” by some Olympus insiders, is a very interesting shoe-mounted twin macro LED light with two lights at the end of flexible “antennae” that can be adjusted for different macro lighting effects. As far as accessory designs goes, this one looks very interesting, to say the least. It is compatible with Olympus Cameras with Accessory Port II.

Pricing and Availability

The Olympus E-PL2 will be available in January 2011. It includes the E-PL2 Body, M. ZUIKO MSC DIGITAL ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zoom, USB Cable, Video Cable, Li-Ion Battery Pack (BLS-5), Li-Ion Battery Charger (BCS-1), Shoulder Strap, OLYMPUS [ib] software CD-ROM, Manuals and Registration card.

  • E-PL2 Body with MSC M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zoom Lens
    Estimated Street Price: $599.99

Official Olympus Press Release

POWERFULLY SIMPLE OLYMPUS PEN SYSTEM GROWS WITH INTELLIGENT ENHANCEMENTS AND BLUETOOTH CAPABILITY: Enhance Your High Definition Videos and Stills with Movie and Still Compatible Lens Technology, New Live Guide II, More Robust Art Filter Effects and a New Range of Accessories

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., January 5, 2011 — Today Olympus announces the new powerfully simple PEN E-PL2, the fourth generation of the award-winning and pioneering Olympus PEN family of compact interchangeable lens digital cameras. Known for pro quality, point-and-shoot simplicity and high-definition video, the PEN E-PL2 continues the PEN family’s legacy of simple design, intuitive interface and Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) image quality. The new camera also expands your creative potential with Live Guide II, new in-camera creative features, new auxiliary lenses, a new Close-Up Spotlight accessory (MAL-1) and the new Olympus PENPal Bluetooth accessory. Capturing amazing still images and HD video just got a lot more fun. Further proof that Olympus lets you capture it all.

Outstanding Features

  • MSC Lens – the new Movie and Still Compatible (MSC) ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens (28mm-84mm equivalent) features a high-speed, silent autofocus during still shooting and high definition (HD) video capture
  • New 3inch 460,000 dot LCD – for bright and easy image composition;
  • Live Guide II – preview HD video and still image effects on the E-PL2’s high-resolution LCD screen to achieve the perfect result effortlessly
  • Art Filter Variations and Enhancements — choose from different art filter looks to expand your creative horizons or overlay different art filters to create something new, now with full manual control
  • ISO 6400 – take great low-light photos with the camera’s increased ISO sensitivity;
  • New Ergonomic Body Design – shoot stills and videos comfortably with a more ergonomic grip and updated button placement and functionality for ease of use; and
  • Face Detection with iDetect – an amazing new function makes it easier to capture the spirit of your subject, automatically making a person’s eye the focus point of the image. The E-PL2 further reduces the chance of blurred subjects in images by recognizing up to eight faces, tracking them within the image area, and automatically focusing and optimizing exposure for sharp portraits

At an affordable $599.99 with the new MSC ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens (28mm-84mm equiv.), the 12.3 megapixel ergonomically-designed E-PL2 is perfect for everyone from beginners, who want to expand their creative horizons, to experienced photographers who desire high-quality results without the size and weight of a traditional DSLR.

“The innovative PEN E-PL2 is designed to go with you and grow with you—it’s the total compact multimedia package,” said Katie Roseman, product manager, Olympus Imaging America Inc. “We’ve expanded everything but the size of the camera. Live Guide II, new art filter variations and enhancements for instant gratification, three converter lenses and MAL-1 close-up spotlight will all help grow your creative potential, while the Olympus PENPal lets you send images straight from the camera to your smart phone for social sharing.”

New Lens Optimized for Video and Image Stabilization for Every Lens

The E-PL2 comes with the new Movie & Still Compatible (MSC) ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens. This new kit lens has a smooth, silent and uses a quick inner focus mechanism to make it exceptionally fast and nearly silent when recording high-definition movie. The M.Zuiko Digital MICRO Four Thirds® lenses are designed to be more compact and portable, just like the E-PL2 itself. In addition to the kit lens, choose from the ED m17mm f2.8 lens (34mm equivalent), the super wide-angle zoom ED m9-18mm f4.0-5.6 lens (18-36mm equivalent), the high-power wide to telephoto zoom ED m14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens (28-300mm equivalent), the wide zoom ED m40-150mm F4.0-5.6, or the super telephoto ED m75-300mm f4.8-5.6 (35mm equivalent 150–600mm).

If you’re looking for even more options, the MMF-2 Four Thirds System Lens Adapter makes the E-PL2 compatible with all Olympus Zuiko Digital Specific lenses and other Four Thirds System lenses from Sigma, Panasonic and Leica. Olympus OM film-based lenses can be attached to the E-PL2 with the MF-2 OM Lens Adapter, and third-party adapters have been developed for lenses from most other manufacturers.

New Live Guide II for Stills and Movies

The PEN E-PL2’s Live Guide II takes the E-PL1’s popular Live Guide interface for stills and expands it to preview effects for HD videos. Live Guide takes the guesswork out of great photography and videography by previewing effects at the touch of a button. Want more vivid or muted color in your shot? Want warmer or cooler color? Want a brighter or darker subject, or a sharper or softer background? Or maybe you want to capture the fast-moving action of your subject with a little artistic blur, or perhaps freeze the action? Simply select Live Guide and turn the wheel on the back of the camera to slide through numerous photographic and videographic effects. Make adjustments and watch the LCD as the effects are made live—before the image is captured! Don’t worry about learning technical things like f-stops, shutter speed and white balance; jump right in by composing, adjusting exposure and more before the shot is taken.

Seeing the results before snapping the image or shooting a video ensures you are getting the results you want, and it will change the way you use your camera. Shooting Tips are also available with Live Guide, so you can leave the manual at home.

Limitless Creativity with New Art Filter Variations and Enhancements

Olympus pioneered easy-to-use in-camera art filters for still images captured inside its E-System DSLRs and was the first company to offer the ability to apply art filters to HD video recordings captured with the PEN E-P1 camera. The E-PL2 features six art filters: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, and Dramatic Tone. For the first time, the E-PL2 also features art filter variations and enhancements to maximize your creativity and expand the potential results. Give your images a different look by choosing from six art filters. Overlay an art effect over an original image with or without an art filter. Shoot a sunset with Pop Art and then add the Pin Hole Effect. Take a portrait in Grainy Film and then add a funky art frame. The possibilities are limitless.

Whatever you create, it will be easy to display on the big screen. When you’re ready to share your work, just plug the E-PL2’s camera into any high definition television (HDTV) using the camera’s HDMI output with an optional HDMI cable (sold separately) and show it off from the comfort of your living room.

HD Videos and HDMI Control for a Home Theater Experience

The E-PL2 shoots gorgeous 720p HD video, so you’ll always capture the moments you cherish in clear, crisp high-definition at the touch of a button. With HDMI Control, playback is also a breeze. You’ll be the hit of the party or any family event when you proudly display your brilliant images and movies on HDTVs. Simply connect the camera to an HDTV with an optional HDMI cable. With HDMI Control, you can use your HDTV’s remote to control playback functions and navigate the camera’s menus from the comfort of your couch.

New Optional Accessories for Every Shooting Challenge

Along with the E-PL2, Olympus unveils five new accessories to further expand what you can do with PEN cameras.

  • Add-on Conversion Lenses – Olympus has three new affordable and compact conversion lenses that mount on the new MSC ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens to further expand what you can do with the E-PL2: Fish-eye Lens Converter (FCON-37): captures a distorted hemispherical image covering 120 degrees—to generate dramatic shots and edges that wrap around the frame of your image
    Wide-angle Lens Converter (WCON-37): enables the user to capture a broader shot, for example, to include more people in a photograph. It dramatically alters the proportions of close and distant subjects. Subjects close to the lens appear much larger, while subjects in the background appear smaller—creating a dynamic sense of depth; and
    Macro Lens Converter (MCON-58): Enables the user to capture fascinating close-ups from as little as 24cm. away from the subject (depending upon the lens in use). The MCON-58 is also compatible with the ED m14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 lens (28-300mm equivalent), ED m40-150mm f/4.0-5.6, and ED m75-300mm f/4.8-5.6 (35mm equivalent 150-600mm) for close focusing shots.
  • Macro Arm Light (MAL-1)—Not one, but two bright LED lights—each on the end of its own fully flexible metal arm and powered by the camera. Both arms extend up to 17cm. from a sleek and slender unit mounted on the camera’s Accessory Port. For macro shots or attractive close-ups of small items or for online auctions, the MAL-1 is ideal for getting the lighting just right.
  • PENPal—A sleek communication unit for storing up to 2600 images and transferring them via wireless Bluetooth to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a mobile phone, PC or even another PENPal-equipped camera. From there it’s easy to share them with friends in online communities or via e-mail.

In addition to these accessories, the E-PL2 is compatible with the optional VF-2 detachable electronic viewfinder, which provides 1.15x magnification and a 100 percent field of view with sharp resolution, brightness and contrast, and the optional SEMA-1 external microphone adapter set for those who want to capture enhanced audio with any microphone that has a 3.5mm plug. These optional accessories easily slide into the camera’s accessory port and hot shoe.

In-camera Image Stabilization that Supports a Wide Range of Lenses

Olympus has Image Stabilization built right into the body of the E-PL2. This means that any lens (MICRO Four Thirds, Four Thirds and any third-party lens) attached to the E-PL2 will deliver blur-free images thanks to three modes of in-body Image Stabilization that automatically compensate for camera shake, including in low-light situations or when shooting without a tripod.

Achieve More with Automatic Features Including New iDetect

The E-PL2 features Face Detection with a new Eye Detection function called iDetect to make it easier to capture the spirit of your subject. This feature automatically makes a person’s eye the focus point of the image. The E-PL2 further reduces the chance of blurred subjects in images by recognizing up to eight faces, tracking them within the image area, and automatically focusing and optimizing exposure for sharp portraits. In addition, the E-PL2 has a variety of automated technologies to free you up to focus on your subject instead of the camera settings
*22 Scene-Select Modes—from portraits to sunset shots, the E-PL2 is equipped with 22 Scene-Select modes for effortless picture taking, including Fireworks, Sunset, Children, Macro and Panorama, to name a few. Capturing beautiful portraits is easy with the ePortrait mode that enables you to smooth your subject’s complexion. There are even three scene modes that are specific to shooting with the new conversion lenses to optimize the performance of those lenses

  • Intelligent Auto (iAuto) Mode—when you don’t want to use the scene-select modes, the iAuto mode automatically identifies what you’re shooting and adjusts settings to ensure you capture the best result for each situation you encounter
  • In-Camera Panorama—capture three images and stitch them together to create one amazing, seamless panoramic picture. Or use the included OLYMPUS [ib] software to stitch up to 10 images together for the ultimate panorama
  • iEnhance—with this mode the warm yellow and orange colors of a sunset are heightened to a dramatically lifelike color that’s truer to what you see with the naked eye. iEnhance is available in any mode, and automatically engages when using iAuto to enrich color in any subject

Large Sensor for Excellent Image Quality

The E-PL2 features a large image sensor similar to the one inside the top of the line Olympus E-System cameras. The only difference between this sensor and what the pros use is that this big sensor is inside the much smaller body of the E-PL2. This high-performance 12.3-megapixel Live MOS Sensor (eight times larger than the average point-and-shoot camera sensor) delivers excellent dynamic range, accurate color fidelity, and a state-of-the-art amplifier circuit to reduce noise and capture fine image details in both highlight and shadow areas.

True-to-Life Color

The E-PL2’s Live MOS image sensor is complemented by Olympus’ TruePic™ V Image Processor, which produces clear and colorful photos using all the pixel information for each image to provide the best digital images possible. The image processor is noted for accurate natural color, true-to-life flesh tones, brilliant blue skies and precise tonal expression; it also offers a maximum ISO sensitivity of 6400, to reduce image noise in photos shot at higher ISO settings, enabling great results in low-light situations.

World-renowned Dust Reduction System

The Olympus dust reduction system is an industry first and a proven technology. You don’t have to worry about dust spots on your sensor ruining the perfect image every time you change lenses. Spend more time shooting with the E-PL2 and less time worrying about dust with the superior dust reduction system producing spot-free photos with the exclusive Supersonic Wave Filter, a patented ultrasonic technology that silently vibrates to remove dust and other particles from the front of the image sensor. Dust will no longer get between you and a great shot.

Flash Alternatives for Everyone

For low-light shooting situations photographers can select the built-in flash or choose an optional external unit. Wireless flash control is also possible with the E-PL2, making customized lighting set-ups an easy reality.

Underwater Housing for Aquatic Adventures

The new camera’s compact design makes it the perfect companion for all of your dive trips. Olympus has designed a custom underwater case for the PEN E-PL2, the PT-EP03, which is waterproof to a depth of 40 meters (approximately 130 feet). With its durable, high-quality polycarbonate construction, this Olympus housing protects the camera from water while also cushioning it from knocks and bumps on land. The housing enables viewing from either the camera’s LCD screen or an optional electronic viewfinder. Use up to two UFL-2 underwater flash units via fiber optic cable with the case’s flash connectors. A non-removable front lens port accommodates multiple MICRO Four Thirds lenses.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Olympus E-PL2 available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

View more details on the Olympus E-PL2 from the Olympus web site.


Original text ©2011 Jack Howard.

Article revised March 2011.

Readers' Comments

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Sanford Edelstein , January 06, 2011; 10:47 P.M.

Does the 14-42mm lens have a metal or plastic mounting flange? For that mater, why do they insist on making us purchase a kit lens? Don't they realize many people will be interested in this camera as their second M4/3 camera body and already have lenses? 

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