The 12.3-megapixel E-P2 tops a trio of Micro Four Thirds digital cameras from Olympus, following the E-P1 and E-PL1. Its retro aluminium and stainless steel body harking back to the manufacturer’s classic PEN cameras of the 60s. What we have here is a cross between a compact and physically larger digital SLR, a class of camera rapidly becoming known as a ‘hybrid’, with the portability and ease of use of the former, yet image quality comparable to the latter.
The better picture quality is partly down to the size of the sensor, it being much larger than that traditionally found in a compact camera and partly down to the fact that the lens in use can be changed to best suit any given subject or scene. A general-purpose 14-42mm zoom lens is provided as standard, but the E-P2 is also available as a body only proposition should you favour a different one.
Retaining the same well-labelled control layout as its predecessor, the E-P2 comes across as more a refinement of Olympus’ E-P1 than a revolutionary advance. Two new additions to its eight-strong set of digital effects in Diorama and Cross Process are fun, although writing time to SD or SDHC card is three to four seconds longer if using these instead of standard settings.
There’s no optical viewfinder, but the Pen does come with a top-mounted electronic viewfinder (EVF) as an alternative to the three-inch, 230k-pixel LCD for framing and reviewing pictures. This can be tilted upwards through 90 degrees, so that you can glance down instead of keeping it at face level – useful for low-angle shots.
To keep the camera as compact as possible, the zoom lens retracts into its housing and you need to get used to manually extending it before use, or an error message flashes up. Partly also for reasons of space but more irksome, a flash is not built in. Olympus says this is deliberate and that photo enthusiasts will want to opt for better results from an optional FL-14 accessory flashgun, that, like the EVF, slots onto the top-mounted hotshoe. Still, the manufacturer has seen fit to include a flash with the new baby of the range, the Olympus E-PL1.
And the Results…
The E-P2’s pictures are warm in tone, partly due to the new saturation-boosting i-Enhance setting, and plentifully sharp. They’re better than those from just about any bridge compact, but fall just short of DSLR quality.
Crystal-clear HD video at 1280×720 pixels with stereo sound completes the package, and an enticing package it is, despite the rather excessive asking price. If money’s tight consider the very similar Panasonic G-F1 instead.