Feb 022011
 

The Olympus E-PL2 Digital Camera Review/Overview

12 improvements over the E-PL1

By Steve Huff


So Olympus has just this week released the E-PL2 just a short 9 months after they released the E-PL1. Funny, 9 months. So my question is did the E-PL1 mate with the E-P2 and give birth to the E-PL2? Seems like it to me as the new camera looks like a combo of the E-P2 and E-PL1! The new E-PL2 by Olympus may not be an all new E-P series camera with new advancements, but let me just say that I like to call it an “improvement” to the E-PL1. The E-PL2 looks nicer and is more sleek than the box like E-Pl1. It also looks more like a camera and less like a toy. It feels solid in my hand much like the E-P2 and the new features it has over the E-Pl2 will not be noticed in the image quality department, but they will be noticed in other areas. First off, if you have not seen my E-PL1 review you can do so HERE. To see the official Olympus page on the E-Pl2 click HERE.

The new on/off button is recessed into the body

The Improvements over the E-PL1. All 12 of them…

This review will be short, sweet and to the point. No use in dragging out this one with 8,000 words when it is basically the same camera as the E-PL1 with some improvements. So what are the improvements over the E-PL1? There are a DOZEN of them!

  1. The E-Pl2 design has been changed to a sleeker and more streamlined design. Sort of looks like a fatter E-P2 with some curves.
  2. The E-Pl2 Feels better in the hand due to the rubberized (or is it plasticized?) grip.
  3. The E-Pl2 has a much nicer 3″ 460,000 dot LCD on the back. The E-PL1 had a 2.7 inch 230,000 dot LCD. In use the E-Pl2 rear LCD is so much better. The resolution is double of the E-P2 LCD as well.
  4. The E-Pl2 has a smaller and newly redesigned kit zoom lens. The 14-42 II is now silent in its AF for HD movie use. It does feel nicer and extended is smaller than the previous version. AF seems faster as well.
  5. ISO now goes up to 6400 which is higher than the E-PL1′s 3200. BUT ISO 6400 is not so hot on the E-PL2 in dark situations but is usable if there is some light. Also, base ISO went from ISO 100 to ISO 200.
  6. All new battery design and charger.
  7. All new Live Guide for stills and HD. This may be useful for newbies but those who are more advanced will not even use this one.
  8. New “eye detect” AF where the AF will automatically focus on the eyes. Hmmm. Interesting.
  9. New Art Filter called “Dramatic Tone” which works well in some situations and is horrific in others (portraits can be scary with this one)
  10. Finally, the E-Pl2 now has a dial on the back instead of the cheap felling buttons on the E-Pl1. I like this one though it may be a little quirky. I found it almost too easy to move.
  11. My favorite – the shutter now is capable of 1/4000s. The E-PL1 maxed out at 1/2000s which was not good for using fast glass in the full sun/daylight. I like shooting with shallow DOF, even in the day. Now I don’t need an ND filter.
  12. The E-Pl2 now accepts SDXC cards as well as the SDHC we all know and love.

So there you go! Twelve improvements over the E-PL1. Sounds impressive but in all reality the images you get from either camera will be the same. Image quality wise, when shooting with the kit lens, out of camera images are just about the same as I got from my old E-Pl1. I no longer have an E-PL1 but going from my 41 year old memory I really do not see much of a difference in out of camera images between the two. If you remember when I reviewed the E-PL1 I used the tagline “The Best JPEG Camera Ever”. JPEGS from the E-Pl2 are very very good right out of the camera.

All of the images you see in this short review were shot as JPEGS as none of my software will read the Olympus RAW files yet.

Before I go further, in case some of you reading this are not aware the Micro 4/3 camera system uses an imaging sensor that is much larger than a point and shoot camera but also much smaller than an APS-C or full frame size sensor. The M4/3 cameras will give us better file quality than a point and shoot like the Leica D-Lux 5 or the Ricoh GRD III but the high ISO performance will suffer when compared to an APS-C camera like the Leica X1, or Ricoh GRX with 28mm module. Also, all lenses that you mount to the Micro 4/3 mount will have a 2X crop. For example, the kit zoom at 14mm will act more like a 28mm lens. To get a 14mm view you would need a 7mm lens. Just one of the quirks of M4/3. Some like it, some hate it  and some do not care either way. Me, it bothered me at 1st but now that I have used these cameras for almost two years now I know their strengths (size & portability & IQ) and their weaknesses (more noise at high ISO, lower dynamic range). It is what it is and I am a big fan of these cameras as many of you know. I have seen results that are just fantastic come from these little boxes. Quality that rivaled larger DSLRs at times.

Still on of my favorite in camera filters of ANY digital camera made the grainy B&W mode is still here on the E-PL2. The next two shots were taken in this mode. 1st  ISO 1250, 2nd ISO 1600

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I know there are many of shooters out there who bought the E-PL1 or E-P2 and now just nine months later Olympus goes and spits out a baby and they name it the E-Pl2. Some of you are upset that Olympus keeps popping out these cameras like this as it makes those who spent their hard earned cash on an E-Pl1 feel kind of silly. You ask yourself “should I upgrade”? Well, if you recently bought an E-Pl1 there really is no need to upgrade to the E-PL2 unless you REALLY need or want one of the 12 improvements that were made to the camera. Out of the 12 there really is only ONE in my opinion that matters and that is the shutter speed improvement. The new design and LCD is very nice but it will not affect the quality of your photos. So if you bought an E-Pl1 no need to be upset as you still have a wonderful micro 4/3 camera that is just as capable of delivering the results.

The E-PL2 uses the same sensor, has the same 12.3 megapixel resolution, and uses the same Truepic V image processor. Is it a good camera? Hell yea it is!

“Happy Hour” – All shot with the E-PL2 and the cool little SLR Magic 26 1.4 Toy Lens. All at 1.4 – click any image for a larger and better version

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True, Ive been in a black & white mood lately… but here are some color shots..”Happy Hour in color” Ha ha..

The Features of the E-Pl2

IN-BODY IMAGE STABILIZATION

Say goodbye to blurry images. In both still and movie modes – the E-PL2 Image Stabilization excels. The E-PL2’s three-mode In-body Image Stabilization system compensates for up to three shutter speed steps in the still shooting modes with any of its interchangeable lenses: Mode 1 for general shooting, Mode 2 for creative high-speed horizontal capture, and Mode 3 for high-speed vertical capture. The camera’s Mechanical Image Stabilization automatically compensates for camera shake in low-light situations or when using a telephoto lens. In the Movie Modes the advanced Electronic Image Stabilization tracts the images both vertically and horizontally to achieve clear sharp movies, matching the performance of the in body IS.

BUILT-IN POP-UP FLASH

Illuminate low-light subjects, reduce red eye, and fill in dark areas. Set the built-in pop-up flash to auto or control the amount of light the flash emits.

12.3 MEGAPIXEL

The E-PL2’s powerful 12.3 megapixel Live-MOS sensor packs a powerful high-quality imaging punch for such a compact camera, allowing you to capture more detail than ever before. The Live MOS image sensor delivers excellent dynamic range, accurate color fidelity and fine image details in both highlight and shadow areas.

TRUEPIC V IMAGE PROCESSOR

In addition to more detail, the image sensor, combined with the next-generation TruePic V Image Processor, delivers excellent dynamic range, accurate color fidelity and reduced noise, all the way up to 3200 ISO.

DUST REDUCTION SYSTEM

A Dust Reduction System assures spot-free images. Every time you turn on the camera, the patented Supersonic Wave Filter silently vibrates, flinging and collecting dust so that it cannot interfere with the picture imaging at any time.

HD MOVIE WITH MANUAL CONTROL, ART FILTER MOVIE, AND NEW DIRECT MOVIE BUTTON

Shoot movies at 30 frames per second, with high-quality sound, in 720p with available manual control over aperture and shutter speed. This new level of control allows you to express your vision exactly how you want in your HD videos. A Direct HD Movie Button switches you from still to movie mode with the press of a button. You can also capture HD video (720p) using one of the six Art Filters for more creative shooting options.

ACCESSORY PORT

The E-PL2 includes a port (AP2) for new accessories including the MAL-1 accessory light, the PENPAL Bluetooth® accessory – which makes it easier than ever to share your images – as well as the VF-2 viewfinder, a detachable electronic viewfinder. The external accessory port also allows for connection with the new EMA-1 external microphone adapter for enhanced audio capture.

PENPAL

This Bluetooth accessory plugs into the camera’s accessory port to easily save albums, send pictures from your PEN to a smart phone or another PEN. This makes it easier than ever to share images to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. When the information is sent, it includes shooting location to make geo-tagging easier than ever before.

NEW EASY-TO USE-LIVE GUIDE CONTROL

Seeing the results before you shoot can change the way you take a picture. Want more vivid or muted color in your shot? Want warmer or cooler hues? 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 set the camera to iAuto, press OK to engage Live Guide, then press the up and down arrows on the back of the E-PL2 to easily slide through numerous photographic effects. Make adjustments and watch the LCD as the effects are made live — before the image is captured! Live Guide also features a Tips section on how to compose a shot or shoot kids, pets, flowers and more.

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.

IAUTO WITH IENHANCE

iAuto automatically identifies the scene you’re shooting – portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro, or sport – and adjusts the settings to optimize results. iEnhance can be used in any mode, and automatically engages when using iAuto to enrich color in any subject, just as the human eye sees it.

MICRO FOUR THIRDS MOUNT

The Micro Four Thirds Mount on the E-PL2 provides many key benefits, including the effectiveness of a digitally designed image sensor, an ultra-compact design, and expandability and compatibility with all Micro Four Thirds Lenses and Four Thirds System Lens via the MMF-2 Adapter.

AUTOFOCUS LIVE VIEW WITH AUTOFOCUS TRACKING

Keep fast-moving and unpredictable subjects in focus. AF Live View displays subjects, in focus, on the LCD the instant the shutter is pressed half way. AF Tracking locks your subject into focus and adjusts focus and brightness whether you or your subject is moving.

MEDIA CARDS

The E-PL2 is capable of recording video to SDHC and SDXC media cards to accommodate large files. (SDHC Class 6 cards are recommended.) Videos, stills and high-fidelity audio can also be output via HDMI cable – direct to any HD television.

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HIGH ISO TEST

The E-Pl2 should be giving us the same high ISO output as the E-Pl1 but now we have the option of ISO 6400. Is it useful? See for yourself. Here are the results AT ISO 3200 AND 6400. You must click on the photos to see the larger versions with the true 100% crop. This was taken in a dark room with the ONLY light coming from my IMac display. The whole  house was dark as it was midnight :)

ISO 3200 – click image for larger version and true 100% crop. The only light was coming from my Imac display. It seems to be a little better in the noise dept. than the same shot from my E-PL1 review.

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ISO 6400 – again, click image for larger view and 100% crop – same lighting

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and for giggles, here is a shot from my E-PL1 review of the same keyboard and the same lighting at ISO 3200

ISO 1600 is good and I would use it without hesitation. Here is a low light shot of my used and abused keyboard that gets a workout daily due to this site…ISO 1600, B&W, f/1.4 with the SLR Magic 26mm Toy Lens.

The new Art Filter “Dramatic Tone”

One thing the Olympus M4/3 cameras have that the Panasonics do not have is the Art Filters. Some say these are just silly gimmiks but to be honest, I use the B&W grainy filter ALL OF THE TIME! It’s a great art filter and there is no need to mess with processing and converting the images. They look fantastic right out of the camera with the grit, grime,and noise. It seems that every time Olympus releases a new Micro 4/3 camera they include a new art filter. This time they give us “Dramatic Tone” and it sort of resembles an HDR effect to some degree. I have tested it on everything and sometimes it seems to work and enhance the drama, and others it doesn’t. I wouldn’t recommend it for portraits unless you want the person you are photographing to looks grimy and grungy. Here are a few out of camera samples with the new “Dramatic Tone” art filter.

Shot with the “Dramatic Tone” Art Filter in full sun daylight – kit zoom at 14mm (28mm) You can set the camera to create a frame if you like. Pretty cool!

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What I would have liked to see in the E-Pl2

It is no secret I am a fan of the Micro 4/3 mount cameras. Hell, I love them all it seems. With the E-PL2 Olympus decided to upgrade the camera with specs and features that even surpass the E-P2, their m4/3 flagship. Higher res LCD, sharper JPEGS, sleek design, etc. This tells me that there is an E-P3 on the way and from what I hear it will be more of a “pro” Micro 4/3 camera. Yea, I think the E-P3 is the one to wait for if you are seriously into photography and dig the M4/3 bodies. For everyone else the E-Pl2 is a SUPERB camera to really get into and it is an improvement over the E-PL1 in many areas. BUT, Olympus could have made it even better. If I were redesigning the E-Pl1 I would have added a swivel LCD. I love swivel LCD’s and find I can get more out of the camera when it has one. Overhead shots, side shots, low level shots…all easier with a swivel LCD. Also, I would have created the E-PL2 with a built in EVF (maybe the E-P2 will have one) and made it a complete camera. WIth a swivel LCD and built in EVF this would have been the M4/3 camera to beat. Oh wait..isn’t there a Panasonic G2 that already does this? Yea, there is..and I reviewed it HERE. Only problem with the G2 is that it has a fatter more SLR like body style. I do know I really enjoyed the G2 but there is a difference in the color signature between the Panny and Oly cameras. Which you prefer is all up to personal preference. At the end of the day when I have shot both I think I prefer the Olympus color signature better but it’s a toss up really.

OK, now back to the E-Pl2 and what I would have added…

While we are at it..add STEREO mics for video to the E-PL2. I am not a fan of the mono mic in the E-Pl2 but I have to remember that this is their “starter” M4/3 camera. When I think of that I sit here and say “Damn, they did a great job with the E-Pl2″ and then I wonder if these upgrades I desire may make it to the rumored E-P3. I hope so.

sexy….

So overall the E-Pl2 is a great addition to the Olympus m4/3 line. It takes the same great quality photos as the E-Pl1 but does it with a bit more style and finesse. It feels much nicer in my hand than the E-Pl1 and loses much of its “boxy” feel. It’s sexy to look at and it comes in four colors. The white looks sweet, the red looks flashy, the silver is classic and the black is sexy and stealthy. I’ve seen the white and  black in person and personally enjoyed the white but ended up with a black one. Yep, I bought one to replace my E-P2 for now as I like the output and high ISO out of the E-Pl2 better than the E-P2.

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Shot with the basic 14-42 kit lens out of my car window while driving. 14mm.

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The 6X6 square format is still here on the E-PL2. Love it!

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6X6 in grainy B&W mode!

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more from the grainy B&W mode, my fave art filter

HD Video Capabilities

Basically, the video quality of the E-PL2 is exactly the same as that of the E-Pl1. The only difference is that the new lens is silent during AF so you will not get the lens noise in your video. This is a good thing. There is a video sample in my E-PL1 review. I do think that the Sony NEX-5 puts out much nicer video quality with its 1080P video than the E-PL2 720 P video. The sony seems richer in color to me for video with higher resolution. Still, I can’t complain about the E-PL2 video capabilities. Combined with the IN BODY image stabilization the E-PL2 puts out very good quality video.

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Noise Reduction – Turn it off!

I noticed that when I started shooting with the E-PL2 that the in camera noise reduction was working overtime! My ISO 800 and up shots were WAY too smooth and looked like paintings. I immediately went into the settings and turned OFF the in camera NR. After I did this everything was good so if you get the E-PL2 do know that it seems to ship with the NR jacked up. Why camera companies do this I have no idea as the overly smooth results look awful.

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The E-PL2 or the E-P2? Also, my final thoughts.

With the release of the E-PL2 Olympus has created yet another great M4/3 body. If I were in the market today for a M4/3 Olympus body I would 100% buy the E-PL2 over the E-P2. The ONLY thing missing is the stereo mics so if video is your #1 concern the E-P2 may be better (but a panasonic GH2 would be best) but in all other areas I prefer the E-PL2. Besides, for $65 or so you can buy the Olympus Stereo mic for the camera if you want better sounding video.

Another big BUT! I suspect an E-P3 is in the works and I cant wait to see what Olympus pulls out of their hats for that one. If it has a built in EVF and swivel screen I’m sold! As of this writing, the E-PL2 is the best Olympus PEN yet, IMO of course.

The E-P2 can be had these days with the Kit lens for $670 (AT BH PHOTO HERE) and the E-Pl2 with THE BETTER kit lens can be had for $599 (ALSO AT BH PHOTO). The cost difference is small and if you wanted an E-P2 it would only cost you $70 more but I feel the E-PL2 is a bit more polished than even the E-P2. Seems faster to AF, JPEG output is nicer, and it has the latest and greatest tech from Oly. For me, the E-PL2 is THE Olympus M4/3 to get at this time, and I was and still am a HUGE fan of the E-P2. It’s already a classic IMO. Amazon also sells the E-P2 kit! and usually has stock!

The days are finally here where we have multiple choices for a small camera that gives us superb quality. The M4/3 offerings, the Leica X1, the Ricoh GXR and even the little Sony NEX-5 all have their strengths and weaknesses. Any one of them is capable of delivering results that surpass most of our skills. With Micro 4/3 and even the Sony NEX I am waiting for more high quality prime lenses as I feel it’s the glass that really makes the quality shine. Voigtlander already made the new 25 f/0.95 lens for Micro 4/3 so it appears really good glass is on the way and I hope to review this lens soon. Another promising lens is the new Panasonic 14 2.5 for Micro 4/3. I have one on the way to review so look out for that soon as well.

I think I will always have one of these in my bag because even now they deliver consistent results and make for an awesome “take anywhere” or vacation camera. Stills, HD video, small size and good lenses…what else does the casual shooter need?

I said this review was going to be short and it ended up at 4300 words. Sorry about that! Its more of a medium length review but everything there is to say about this camera has been said in the E-PL1 review, and now here. The E-PL2 is basically a “Hot Rodded” E-PL1 and it really is a fantastic photographic tool. I already said I would choose this over the E-P2 if choosing today but what about cameras in the same price range like the Sony NEX-5? The NEX-5 has the capability to pump out a better quality file but the Sony is seriously lacking in the lens department. As of today they still only have the 16, and 18-55 Zoom. Both of which are mediocre.

Micro 4/3 is a more polished system with loads of lenses AND bodies. Also, the E-Pl2 is more of a photographers camera than the NEX-5. I love them all and especially enjoy the Sony for its high ISO capabilities. It would be a tough call but if you are deciding between the E-PL2 and the NEX-5 just ask yourself what you want and need in a small high quality camera. The Sony will give better video and better high ISO but the Olympus feels more like a real camera. Add on the SUPERB Olympus EVF and it’s really awesome. Tough call as I enjoy both systems for what they offer. Micro 4/3 is indeed maturing nicely. At this rate we may have our dream PEN camera within 2-3 years :) Until then I will be excited to see what new models surface and I will enjoy shooting with them. Man, I love my job!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief write up of the Olympus E-PL2. You can buy it at B&H Photo HERE. You can also find it at Amazon. I have yet to shoot this camera with the Panasonic 20 1.7 as I sold mine a while ago because I did not think I would be sticking with M4/3 due  to the NEX-5, Ricoh GXR and even the new Fuji X100 that is coming soon. But after shooting this one I think I will always keep a Micro 4/3 body on hand as they somehow always get me back with their charms and simplicity. The E-Pl2 gets a thumbs up from me, just as the E-PL1 and E-P2 did. It’s not perfect but for those who know the limitations of micro 4/3 will love this camera. Damn…now I have to order a new 20 1.7, and probably the new 14 2.5 as well :)

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  54 Responses to “The Olympus E-PL2 Digital Camera Review. 12 Improvements over the E-PL1!”

  1. Hi Steve,

    first of all I wanted to thank you for your great work on this site. I am an every day reader and really love the simplicity of your reviews. No much tech spec, just photography.
    This review helps me a lot, because I am between the EP-2 and the EPL-2. Just one question: Is there a big difference between this two how the body feels. Because the the EP-2 has a very solid feeling.

    Keep up your very good work,

    Torsten

    • No, there is not a big difference. They both feel solid in my hand. The E-PL2 feels a little “chunkier” and the E-PL2 a bit more “thin”. Thanks for reading!

      • Thank´s Steve for your quick response. I will go for the EPL-2 then, or the X100.. ;-)
        It´s so confusing this time. This little beast getting better and better…

  2. I think the Voigtlander 25mm is f/0.95 not f/1.4.

  3. I am looking forward to your thoughts when (hopefully) we get your hands on a GF-2. Although by most accounts (also with a range of new features) neither of these will make better photographers of most of us! For me, the great thing is the more these body’s get into the market, the more we may see some more good lenses.

    As always, thanks for another review!

  4. Damn you Steve Huff, you cant just go on writing such great reviews as Im always wanting the stuff you write about after reading them! :D

    No, truth be told, I really enjoyed this review and am glad to see the mft-system evolve. It makes me love my “old” E-P1 even more as there will be a continued stream of new lenses and improvements.

    And then, someday (not now, thats for sure) I might replace my E-P1 with a worthy sucessor :)

    Oh and btw, its awesome that youre also reviewing such niche products like the toy lenses! And still without all the technical mumbo-jumbo, so nice (I cant stand reading reviews on dpreview, and that despite me being an engineer! They’re just so boring^^)

  5. great review, I too went m43 route as a backup cam to dslr, then went for an m9 and Sony nex5. I have to say I think the Sony is much easier to use with leica lenses with it’s superb implementation of manual focus assist, except of course in bright daylight, then the olympus vf2 would be preferable

    btw I love your site’s customised display on my iphone! as you say across the pond, IT ROCKS!!

  6. 1/4000 shutter speed is great, but I think I read they dished the “low noise ISO 100″ mode in ISO settings. So ISO 200 is minimum to get? Is that right? So I don’t see any advantage in the faster shutter speed. Ok, a little bit more dynamic range in base ISO 200. Would have been great to have ISO 100 option to get the most of fast lenses in daylight.

  7. Excellent review and sounds like a great rig. As you said there are many fine cameras out now that play in this field. I went with the NEX primarily for the reasons you offer but also because it really rocks with my stable of M Mount glass. Cheers.

  8. Sweet, good to know that there is no drastic difference between the E-PL1 and E-PL2 so that at least some of the buyers feel relaxed :) Now lets hope Sony introduces some new Quality lenses for the NEX system! Thanks for the review as always Steve!

  9. Great review Steve! Just wanted to add a few personal observations.

    I am/was a fan of the EPL1. However, I sold it and purchased a EPL2 because I felt several of those 12 differences were in fact significant to my personal shooting style.

    The lens alone is a major upgrade IMHO – more solidly built, silent, and I find the AF to be greatly improved (I think it’s faster now than the Panasonic 20/1.7). Speaking of AF, it really does seem much quicker with the new camera/lens combo, and seems to focus much better in low light conditions. Personally, I believe the higher ISO is nothing more than a tweaked noise-reduction algorithm, so I don’t consider that an actual gain – but I agree that the 1/4000 shutter speed is significant – again, as it applies to my shooting style.

    As a general note, I think many mainstream reviewers are missing the appeal these cameras have for enthusiasts. Their small size is just as much of a feature as, say, the extra resolution or high ISO on a DSLR. I may lose certain shots by not being able to shoot at ISO 12800, or by not having an extra stop (or two) of latitude – but for my style of shooting, I would lose far more shots were I not able to carry the camera with me at virtually all times. It fits nicely into a small courier bag along with my Leica M6, or into the pocket of my fall or winter jacket.

    I’m sure the Sony NEX series has better IQ – but I’m turned off by the ergonomics/handling, and the lack of native lens choices. Again, handling is – to me – as much of a “feature” as any other quality a camera may possess, and something I use every single time I take a picture (as opposed to high ISO, which probably affects less than 10% of my photos). The EPL2, like the PL1, is also just plain fun to shoot.

    What would get me to switch to NEX, or another mirrorless system, would be a significant improvement in handling (for me), such as an integrated viewfinder and more traditional ergonomics, along with a wider/better choice of AF lenses. A bump in IQ is pretty close to the bottom of the list. I mean, geez, photos from my five year old Nikon D40x can look fantastic. Frankly, the IQ of all the interchangeable lens cameras (including DSLRs) seems good enough at this point that any weakness in the final results are due solely to the photographer, and not to the chip/image processor/firmware version.

    Just my two cents. Thanks again for a great review and a terrific website.

    I

    • Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Go look at IR and DPR comparisons – the NEX doesn’t necessarily have ‘better IQ’. It varies somewhat, but it blooms/halos highlights, has lesser contrast and detail at base ISO. Higher ISO above 1600 favors the NEX, but up to 800 it’s really very close. Sony needs better glass on the NEX.

  10. While I agree that m4/3 is a more mature system at this point (at least until the new Sony lenses come,) and I wished my NEX-5 had 1:1 ratio, an EVF option and internal IS, I don’t think of the E-PL2 as more of a “photographer’s camera.” I’ve not handled the E-PL2, but I have shot the E-PL1, and I was surprised how relatively cheap feeling it was in comparison, and the lack of an ISO button surprised me.

    I consider myself a “photographer,” and I shoot only in M mode with manual lenses, and, from a usability stand point, I think the NEX’s programmable soft-buttons are about as good as it gets for my uses. Switching any shooting setting is a breeze.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I have to disagree with you when you say the E-P1 was “cheap” feeling, especially when compared to the NEX-5. The NEX-5 feels GREAT in its build and feel but the E-P1 and 2 do not feel cheap at all. In fact, they are usually highly regarded for their solid feel. I stand by my statement that the body and controls of an E-P2, or E-PL2 is more of a “photographers camera” than the NEX is. I love the NEX-5 and for overall IQ it beats the PEN series but for build and feel Id give it to Olympus.

      BUT everyone has an opinion, these are just mine. Thanks for reading!

      Steve

      • Another phenomenal review! But you already had me at the NEX-5 (despite the menus) and I took the plunge and bought it through your link to B&H. I also bought the MAgic SLR and love it! I’m having the time of my life with it and finding that adding Leica lenses also makes the NEX-5 fun. but you are correct, there are only two dedicated lenses for the NEX right now.

      • Hi, Steve. I was referring to the E-PL1, not the E-P1. The E-P1 certainly feels more solid and less “plasticky” to me than the E-PL1.

        As for photographers controls, as I mentioned, I shoot all manual (occasionally A mode) with manual lenses in center weighted mode, just like any other camera I’ve used in my lifetime, and the NEX-5 with firmware V3 leaves anything I’d need only a button away. Of course, if one cares about the more gadgety aspects of the camera, there is menu diving involved, but I might be tempted to say that makes it MORE of a “photographer’s camera,” since a real “photographer” ignores that stuff! lol. ;)

        • The EPL2 is way, way more of a photographers camera than any NEX camera will ever be. This is not even debatable. The EPL2 looks like a real camera as well, the NEX looks like a spaceship.

          The EPL2 is like a cheap Leica, and the NEX is like a souped up pro-sumer super zoom.

    • NEX advocates often call the E-PL1 ‘cheap’ and tout the (much needed) revised UI as ‘everything at the touch of a button’. Well, pretty much the same story with the E-PL1 and now E-PL2. You just have to get used to either system.

      Sony’s APS based mirrorless is not considered more of a photographer’s camera by anyone except NEX fans.

  11. There is a 13th feature, namely the E-PL2 adds back support for the wired shutter release (RM-UC1) that was in the E-P1 and E-P2, but dropped in the E-PL1. There are starting to appear various 3rd party devices that connect to the camera and provide both video review and shutter release, so that you can use the camera at a distance (mounted on a pole or tripod and you are not next to the camera). I know of 2 wired devices (Yongnuo and Apature) and 1 wireless device (Apature) with another wireless device (Hahnel) probably could be used if you want to splice cables.

    In terms of stereo microphones, there is the SEMA-1 attachment that plugs into the accessory port. The microphone that comes with the SEMA-1 is pretty low level, but you should be able to plug in other 3.5mm microphones into.

  12. Because the base ISO is 200 rather than 100, you will not be able to use your lenses any more wide open than before, even though your max shutter speed has increased to 4000.
    Of your 12 points, if as you said that’s the most important difference to you, than perhaps wait for the next version.

  13. Hi Steve,
    I love reading your reviews….and I hate reading your reviews, only because it makes me want to buy whatever it is you’re reviewing! I am very happy with my GF1 (thank you for the final push to purchase btw) but Im looking for a good point and shoot. Will you pls review the Olympus XZ1? I’d like to know what your take is comparing it to the DLUX5, cause those are my choices. I’m almost convinced I like the DLUX5 better, but I’ll never know, you may just swing my vote around.

    Thanks for you time!

  14. It’s a small difference, but the neck strap attachment has changed from the slotted lug to the palm-piercing stud with the video-noise-making dangling strap hanger. While the grip may initially be more comfortable (probably you mean it feels more secure), I’d probably pass on the epl2 because of the neck strap studs. With or without a strap, I have found that they really irritate my hand after a day of carrying and shooting with the camera. I moved from the E450 and 420 to the eplI just for that reason.

  15. I can’t wait for you to review the Fujian X100. I’m not sure if I should hang on to my m4/3s with the X100 around the corner. But like you said, the simplicity and flexibility of m4/3s keeps pulling me back in.

    Btw, you’re reviews are always great. Thanks for doing it :).

  16. Just wondering… if the newly redesigned kit zoom lens 14-42 II is paired with the E-PL1 body , will it focus significantly faster?

    Or if the old 14-42 kit lens paired with the E-PL2 body, will it focus slower?

  17. I am a convert to the mft format also. I love the size, the quality of the images, and versatility. I have the Panasonic GF1, pancake 20mm lens, and a zoom which has served me well on two trips. What makes it better is the evf I added.

    Your review of this new Olympus shows me that these cameras are continually improving. Maybe the next one will have a built in evf.

    Good reporting , Steve.

  18. Hey Steve, what about the new Olympus xz-1 28-112mm point-&-shoot with F/1.8-2.5? It appears to present a daunting challenge to the Leica/Panasonic D-lux 5/ Lx-5 and Canon S95! Some interesting optional accessories are Olympus’s latest electronic viewfinder, a special external flash for macro photography, and an underwater housing.

  19. Well done, but you see a thousand miles she is a partisan of Oly. Bravo!

    Ps Shhhh I’m like you shhhhh

  20. Hi steve, great great review. by the way, do you know about the EPL2 red spot problem?

  21. Thx for the review, I was curious to see what features Oly saw fit to release in the form of a new model. I just bought the PL1 late last year, now there’s already a rework, arghh. However, I am really eager to see what Oly releases in the form of a pro body, rumored for later this year.

    Steve – I have to take (minor) issue with your preference for the dial on the back and w/Oly for dropping the buttons. Check out these pics; http://sites.google.com/site/sandtosnow/trips/trips-1/mt_wash_jan_11 taken in an environment of -12F/20-60mph winds. There’s just no way to work a dial in those conditions, but you can take a stab at a button, even remove a glove for the second it takes to punch a button. Gimme buttons and big physical dials, such as on top of the PL1 any day. Heck, that can almost always be operated with gloves on.

    What I’d really like to see someone offer, is a m4/3, weather-proofed or weather-resistant body with large dials. That said, the PL1 was out in aforementioned conditions for over an hour and the battery remained well charged and nothing locked up! Way to go Oly!

  22. Thanks Steve for such a great review.
    I am new to the MFT as I am a long time Canon DSLR user.

    But since I have been traveling, I needed a more compact camera before I break my back due to
    the heavy Canon camera.
    EPL-2 seems like a good buy. But as u say, the EP-3 might be coming out soon after the teaser was captured on Olympus website.
    Should I wait for the EP-3 or get the EPL-2? I am not in the hurry as I can wait for a few more months : )

    I may sell away my Canon DSLR once I move to the MFT… is time to go back to enjoy photography instead of carrying more than 1kg of Canon equipment. It is hell when I need to climb mountains, cross rivers, walk in forest and so on…

    Thanks for your advice

    Cheers : )

  23. There is also a 18-200 lens to use on the nex-5 which is kind of big, but the quality seems fine.

  24. Hey Steve. Don’t know if you will even see this in this older thread, but here goes:

    You said: “the E-Pl2 with THE BETTER kit lens can be had for $599………”

    I looked carefully and discovered that the two lenses are indeed different. One has a 37mm filter size, and the other, 40.5mm. B&H even sells both of them in both black and silver. The 37mm one is about $50 more. But there’s not a word at B&H about the difference between the two, or why there are two nearly identical lenses being marketed at the same time. That’s a little weird.

    Maybe you’ve written about the new lens somewhere, and I missed it. If you have, could you point me to that discussion? If you haven’t, could you briefly describe how the newer lens is different?

    Thanks…

  25. [...] The Olympus E-PL2 Digital Camera Review. 12 Improvements over the E-PL1! So Olympus has just this week released the E-PL2 just a short 9 months after they released the E-PL1. Funny, 9 months. So my question is did the E-PL1 mate with the E-P2 and give birth to the E-PL2? Seems like it to me as the new camera looks like a combo of the E-P2 and E-PL1! The new E-PL2 by Olympus may not be an all new E-P series camera with new advancements, but let me just say that I like to call it an “improvement” to the E-PL1. The E-PL2 looks nicer and is more sleek than the box like E-PL1. It also looks more like a camera and less like a toy. It feels solid in my hand much like the E-P2 and the new features it has over the E-PL2 will not be noticed in the image quality department, but they will be noticed in other areas. 2nd February 2011 [...]

  26. Great reviews Steve, which were just enough to push me over the edge!! A few weeks ago I purchased an E-PL2 with the 14-42mm kit lens. It’s a lovely camera with very good overall performance. The only negative thing I can say about it is its excessive dark area noise…even compared to the sample shots posted on the web, mine are obviously noisier in the dark areas. And yesterday I purchased a Lumix 20mm/f1.7 as I wanted a ‘pancake’ lens and had read – including in Steve’s website – a lot of good things about EP-2/Lumix 20mm combo. I haven’t tried my E-PL2/Lumix 20mm outdoor yet, but from indoor shots I’ve taken so far I haven’t noticed much of a difference in terms of IQ, compared with the kit lens. Obviously it performs significantly better in low light with lower ISO settings, which apparently that’s the whole point of a fast lens! I’d appreciate any suggestions to make the most out of my 20mm lens. Also, the Panasonic 20mm lens is quite noisy at times, sometimes even when you just move the camera. The lens’ manual says “this lens uses a lens drive system to enable a compact and bright F1.7. As a result of this, there are operating sounds and vibrations when focusing (exactly!), but this is not a malfunction (a sigh of relief!). Operating sounds are recorded when auto-focusing during motion picture recording.” In such cases the manual recommends using manual focus and focusing before shooting. Also, “A sound is heard when the camera is turned on and off” which is resulted from the normal aperture movement. The lens is also not very much smaller than the new Olympus 14-42 lens, generally focuses slower than the Olympus 14-42mm lens and has sometimes trouble focusing in low light – which might be an interface issue with the E-PL2.

  27. Steve- Thanks for the great review.

    I picked up the EPL-2 but have been somewhat disappointed with it’s low light capabilities with the kit lens (even though I knew it had its shortcoming in this area). I’m thinking about getting the Oly 17mm or Panny 20 mm lens to overcome this but wonder if I just shouldn’t get the Gf1 with 20mm lens instead.

    Can you speak to your preference,if any, between the GF1 and EPL-2 in low light? I noticed you’ve used the GF1 in other reviews. Is this a subconscious tellI?

  28. Hi Steve,

    this again is a very nice review to read. And your review makes the E-PL2 even more tasty to me.
    I am thinking to change my GF1 to the E-PL2.
    I could imagine that the in body stabalizor and the much better Jpeg output would be a good upgrade to the allready great GF1.
    I do like my Pana but am not very happy with the Jpeg output at all.
    Would you consider the PL2 an alternative?

    Greetings from Germany

  29. Coming back to the subject… After using my E-PL2/Pana 20mm combination I can only say I love it! There seems to be some interoperability issues yes, such as occasional micro or low-light focusing problems, and it is very noisy when doing it, but in general it produces great sharp photos. The kit lens’ low-light performance is nowhere near this baby. With E-PL2 you have full – well almost full – control over all your camera’s features. The only issue with my now-beloved E-PL2 is dark-area noise, even in daylight at ISO 200. I wish it could be rectified with a firmware update, but don’t think it can. Also it isn’t very comfortable while being operated with one hand for prolonged periods. Otherwise, it’s a great camera which outstanding JPEG output for its size.

    • I have the same combination of camera/lens like you and I have to tell you that I’m a bit displeased with the shadow-noise I’m seeing in my jpegs. I thought about exchanging the camera but later on realized this was happening to other people. I’ve changed settings here and there but the problem persists! I now miss my GF1 which I sold to get the EPL2.

  30. Hello Steve,
    First let me say that I really enjoy your reviews! I’ve visited your site for over a year now, congrats!
    Now I have a question, I know you get asked this hundreds of times…
    I’ve been debating on getting a GF1 body or EPL2 body. I picked up a Pana 20mm a month ago dirt cheap! ($150-craigslist). So now that I got some money I’d like to invest on a good body…bases on your experience, which one would you buy if you were a first time buyer? Thanks a lot Steve,

  31. Hi Steve,
    Nice to be back here. The site has grown so much, congrats! I was just checking out for a review of E-pL2, as I had a few days ago exchanged my E-P2 for it. Phew..! I think I ‘d made the right decision, your nice review had just confirmed all the reasons I gave myself for the Exchange. I am sad to let go the E-P2, after having it for the last 16 months or so, but is expecting the E-pL2 with a big heart. Thanks.

  32. [...] X1. Sin embargo para compensar la tardanza, he tenido la oportunidad de comparar la X1 con una Olympus EPL2, una cámara que parte con un desventaja clara en cuanto al tamaño del sensor (la mitad de un [...]

  33. Hi Steve, thanks for this site, what a great resource!
    If you, or someone who’s reading this, can help me with my E-PL2, I’d be most appreciative.
    ALL, and I mean ALL my landscape or portrait+landscape shots come out horribly muted and grainy, like the ISO is set too high, but it isn’t.

    I’ve tried every setting, manual and automatic, and I can’t get those shots I keep seeing people posting, like yours above from your car.
    If I had taken that shot with my PEN, the sky and clouds would not have that same zing. I don’t even try using the iAuto mode anymore, I know it’ll disappoint.

    It focuses fine, and macro nature shots come out pretty good, as do indoor portraits, but once I’m outside, it all goes downhill.

    I’m thinking it might be the lens? At this point I’m thinking something somewhere is defective.
    My wife has the Lumix G2, and her shots just kill mine every time, except in low light, then mine win.

    Any thoughts? Pointers? I know this great camera has potential, as proven by shots like yours.

  34. Thanks for the great review Steve. I purchased a white E-PL2 yesterday. The E-PL3 has been reviewed already I saw and it has faster AF, 1080p and a swivel LCD, but just from the pics alone, I’m not into it. It’s smaller and doesn’t look as easy to hold as the E-PL2. I seriously rarely use video, but a swivel screen on the E-PL2 would be nice.

  35. Hi Mr Huff, thanks for the fantastic reviews:D I’m actually really confused between the EPL2 and the Pentax K-r right now. It’d be great if I could have the proper advice from you? Thank you so much:)

  36. Many thanks for all your hard work in reviewing and writing! :-) I read your article to help decide between the PL1 and PL2. I think, on balance, your article would suggest that if you already have the Pl1 it is questionable whether it is worth upgrading to the PL2 (since, as you remark, the out-of-picture pic quality is similar). However, I am not quite so clear which you would prefer if you were upgrading from a basic compact camera. I used to be into photography years ago (had an old Olympus OM camera!). In the digital age I have made do for several years with an Olympus Camedia C-5000 (good compact for its day) – but now am a bit ‘reinvigorated’ for photography and have decided I want to buy a PEN. But I am still toying between the PL1 and PL2 (price is a bit of a factor, especially as you can sometimes find bargain bundles on the PL1 offering both the 14-40mm and 40-150mm lens). The ease of the PL2′s dial also interests me, as it seems potentially easier to access different settings than Olympus’ button menu system (which I think the PL1 employs). I would like to hear your views on which to buy if upgrading from a simple compact.

  37. Thanks for great review. It has made my decision easier to jump into the M4/3 market for the first time after using Canon S5IS for 5 years (It’s still a pefect camera in very bright daylight). Last week, I bought the E-PL2 + 14-42 Kit lens and 40-150mm lens from henry’s warehouse sale for only $450 (excl. tax), what a deal!!!.

  38. I know its 8 months after the last response to your review, but things have changed. Basically the drop from $500 to $300 and that makes it afordable for a retired person like myself.

    However, I’m facing a major challenge. With my 80 yr-old eyes, I am still depending on an eye-level finder (Canon). I wanted to buy an e420, but there are none left, so I now turn to the EPL2 and will have to depend entirely on the LCD. Which brings me to a second concern; and that is, using this camera in low light. You don’t seem to address this issue … low-light focusing in particular.

    One final issue. Being an engineer, I am interested in the technical stuff. I would like you to state the material, from which the body is made. I understand that modern synthetics are replacing the titanium and other alloys from which quite a few premium camera bodies are (or were) bring made. Are these synthetic polymers as good? Do they absorb moisture?

    Gord Clark
    Rockburn, Qué.

  39. I discovered your site, with your review, I brought an used EPL-2, Basically I am a Nikon DSLR user, but I like to try this ILC mirror-less system, because I had an old Olympus Pen-F 42mmF1.2 in my lens collection. After I took some portrait shots of my new born grand son, I fell in love with it. I have even order another adapter for using all my Nikon lenses!

    Thank you very much for your review! Now I I have myself a NEW TOY!

  40. [...] first impressions are that this is a mind blowing little box. It has been described by Steve Huff as possibly the best JPEG camera going! My only criticism is that the jog wheel feels a bit flimsy [...]

  41. […] first impressions are that this is a mind blowing little box. It has been described by Steve Huff as possibly the best JPEG camera going! My only criticism is that the jog wheel feels a bit flimsy […]

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