My Long, Final Rambling Review of the Olympus EP-2 Camera.

I'll start by saying that I've been seduced by a number of cameras over the last two decades so any reader should take this review for what it most certainly is:  an infatuation with an exotic new stranger.  That can't be helped.  What I'd like to do is talk about the way the camera works, what are the weak points and what are its strengths.  What is it good at and what kinds of things it will let you down on.  Don't bother asking because I'm not going to run out and buy a Panasonic GF-1 and run hours of esoteric tests in order to tell you the differences in the way it focuses with extreme telephotos.  I won't put up charts that prove or disprove the levels of noise in the files.  I will tell you what is annoying as well as the attributes that led me to pull out my wallet in one of the worst years I've suffered thru as a professional photographer and plunk down for a new camera.  So with all that in mind I'm ready to begin.

I've used a bunch of different cameras and different systems over the years and there are a few systems that are very well designed for ultimate user pleasure.  The best I've used are the Leica M series cameras and I used them to shoot for business and pleasure, in conjunction with medium format cameras, for many years.  The immediacy of the finders and the Spartan control interface made shooting very straight forward.  I also loved the Contax ST SLR film camera in conjunction with the 50mm 1.4 lens and the 85mm 1.4 lens.  And in my opinion usability comes before ultimate image quality in the hierarchy of features.  The EP-2 is good here and bad here.  The good:  When the camera is set up the way you want it and all the controls have been customized there are usually only two controls you might need.  One is the +/- exposure compensation and the other is the aperture control.  If you shoot manually you might add a third to the list and that would be shutter speed.  If you can shoot without constantly changing controls, aspect ratios, quality settings, color settings and more then you'll love the camera and you'll be able to use it the same way people use their Leicas.  Look through the finder, let the camera find the focus and then shoot.

If you are obsessed about constantly trying to shift parameters to match small nuances in scenes or you just can't make up your mind you may be doomed to float through the Olympus menu structure for a while till you get the hang of it.  And while Olympus has their own logic and it is learnable it is very different from Nikon's sensible interface and almost as bad as Canon's nearly indecipherable GUI.

I tend to use the camera the same way when I'm shooting for my own enjoyment.  I set the focus for the center sensor, shoot in single shot mode instead of continuous, and I have the camera set for to lock the exposure and focus with a gentle, but not complete push of the shutter button.  I set the noise reduction to off and the noise filter to low.  I generally shoot in aperture preferred mode and usually choose to work one stop down from wide open.  I think the kit lenses and most of the e series lenses that I use with an adapter are sharpest at that setting.  If I'm walking around during the day I'll set the WB at "daylight" and if I'm inside I'll set the WB at "auto".  If I use the camera after dark I'm almost certain to use a custom WB of 2800.  It works well for most interior lights (fewer florescents in Austin and more MR16 and other tungsten track lights).

I love image stabilization and keep the camera set at IS #1 unless I'm using a tripod.  Then I turn off IS altogether because I'm convinced that it degrades the image slightly.  If I'm out in the sunlight I use the custom color setting called "#1 enhance" which seems to try an in-camera HDR kind of thing that brings up the shadows and tramps down a bit on the highlights.  I'll add a little black back into the mix with levels or curves when I process the images.

When I'm shooting out in the streets I generally use the electronic viewfinder all the time.  I think it's the real step forward for all of these cameras.  In this regard I consider myself an early adopter as I have two of the Sony R1 cameras that also came with decent (but light years worse than the EP-2 EVF) electronic viewfinders.  I hardly every use the rear LCD screen unless I'm showing a frame to someone.  Which is rare in itself.

Controversy Alert:  I know this is going to sound scary to all the people who've been doing digital for a long time, but I tend to use the camera almost exclusively in SHQ (super high quality) Jpeg.  Now before you get all lathered up please understand that I'm using the camera to do my own art.  If a corporate client puts money on the table I always fire up the whole RAW workflow deal to make sure I've covered all my bases.  But for the most part it's totally unnecessary.  One of the main reasons I switched systems from Nikon is that I found that Jpegs straight out of the camera were really nice from the Olympus cameras and always a bit problematic with the Nikons.  For my taste the Nikon ones had too dark a midtone curve and too red a skin tone.  Yes, I know I can spend hours in Lightroom making exactly calibrations.  I know I can spend hours creating and uploading custom curves in Nikon Capture and uploading them to the camera but the whole point was that I didn't have to do any of that to get pleasing color and contrast from the Olympus cameras.  And the EP-2 might be the best of the bunch from O just by dint of being the most recent.  Somehow the same people who depend on RAW are the same people who denounce using a meter.  Go figure.  I shoot Jpeg. You can shoot raw.  The Olympus does a big, fat 12 bit raw file.  It's less compressed than raw files from their competitors.  Whether that makes it better I have no clue.  I just know that the EP2 EVF gives great feedback for color and density, letting you get a Jpeg just right in the field and saving you a lot of butt time back home in the Photoshop saddle.

Also, you can denounce me as a heretic if you like but nothing beats the Olympus blue.  You can shift curves and play with hue and saturation with other brand files but every time you change a setting you mess up another part of the curve.  First Controversy Alert Over....

I've now spent over a month shooting daily with the EP-2 and I find the ergonomics of the camera just right for my admittedly small hands.  I buy medium sized gloves.  I wish I had big paws because then I could swim faster.  But I don't and it seems that the EP-2 is aimed at medium and small sized people.  I can imagine it might feel a bit small to all the 6 foot, plus people in the world.  That's what makes camera choice so damn subjective:  everyone is different sized!  The camera is solid but even with the attached kit lens it's still half the weight of a Nikon D300 with a similar lens.  Maybe even lighter than half!  And that means that a tromp around downtown Austin for three or four hours doesn't wear me down or hurt my shoulder.  I wish Olympus would make a micro 4:3rds version of the 25mm 2.8 e series lens.  I like it pretty well and use it frequently on the camera with the MMF-1 adapter but it would be great if it was reduced down in size equal to loosing the adapter.  That way the camera and lens would be about the size of most cheezy point and shoot cameras and would, at that point, become almost invisible to the rank and file subject on the street.  Two of these cameras, a 9-18 and the 14-42 lenses and one longer focal length would be the absolute perfect travel system.  No question.

IS.  Image stabilization.  I use it whenever the camera is in my hands.  When I'm using the kit zoom I can handhold really sharp stuff reliably down to around 1/13th of a second.  If I stopped drinking coffee for a month I bet I could hold that rascal still at 1/4th of a second.  We're down in the zone where the tripod is almost vestigial for this camera.  I keep one in the car but the nice thing about the way I like to shoot is that I can kill two problems with one tripod.  Since I almost always set the aspect ratio on the camera to 6:6 (or square) I use a fluid head on my tripod.  This allows means I'm prepared to go either way: Stills or Video!

So, now that I've brought up the video let's talk about that for a second or two.  Remember when you switched to digital in 2000 or 2001 and a bunch of your friends kept saying that digital wasn't ready for prime time and that film would be around for years and years?  Well, they were largely wrong and no one in the film or photo industry could believe how fast the curve of adaptation changed and accelerated.  It took Kodak completely by surprise and Fuji is still catching up.

Well, that's where we are with video and digital stills today.  Most older (post 35) photographers profess to have little interest in video and instead are waiting for the market to turn around.  Good luck with that. The market has already turned and it's now voraciously devour the advertising market for single image still work.  Those pros who are waiting are going to be waiting a long while for everything to come back to the way it was.  But then maybe time is a big moebius strip and everything will be the same somewhere on the continuum.  I think we're heading down the big slide of video at the water park of imaging and it's pretty hard to put on the brakes when you are going 60 MPH surrounded by torrents of rushing water.  But we could argue this point forever.  I may be totally wrong but I'm so happy that Olympus put just the right kind of video into this camera.

Are there things they missed?  Sure, but they'll add em to the next model.  Here's where I vent:  Those dim product managers at Olympus have a really nice video tool here but I can't really leverage all the power locked up in this tool for want of a $50 plastic adapter that should have been ready to roll at the launch.  It's called an EMA-1 and it fits in the accessory slot in place of the beautiful EVF.  It provides an interface that allows you to plug in just about any kind of microphone you might want to use.  I'd love to plug my friend, Will's Sennheiser shotgun microphone in the plug and get great voice recordings alongside the video footage.  But I can't because these unfortunate dunderheads didn't bother to get all the product synced up.  I hope Charles Garcia or someone else from Olympus reads this and gets on the stick to get me an EMA-1 because I'm stacking up projects that need to have sound and it's so last century to use a separate digital sound recorder and a clapper board to do modern video.  It's just not right.

On to the video.  It works well.  You can set focus, shutter speed and aperture in manual.  With the enormous number of manual focus lenses that can be used with adapters, from the original Olympus Pen's to the AIS Nikkors, there are tons of lenses that you can do follow focus with.  I haven't done big projects with the camera as a video camera yet but I see one big pitfall.  You have to remove the EVF and use the EMA-1 in it's place if you want to have external microphone capability.

I've shot test footage in a number of different lighting situations and, as long as your exposure is on the money, the footage looks great with very little to none of the jello effect that plagues other c-mos type DSLR hybrids.  Everyone else seems to be chasing 1080p resolution but I'm very happy that Olympus chose to go with 720p and here's why.  The vast majority of markets going forward are going to be web based communications and some on site display footage at trade shows and retail stores.  We're not going to broadcast with this stuff just yet.  It may be years until my skills are up to speed as a video producer for the big time.  But in the meanwhile 720 is actually many levels of overkill for the web but much less of a hassle to edit because the files sizes are so much smaller and the non-jpeg compression algorithm is much more efficient.  That means that, compared to say Canon 5Dmk2 HD files the edits will be fast as lightning.  And time is money.

Before I leave the video part of the camera I want to tell you what  a pleasure it is to work with Olympus'  really wonderful 35-100mm f2 zoom lens.  The thing is, this monster is sharp wide open and the out of focus areas have a beautiful, round quality to them.  Stop this lens down to 2.8 (which is where most of its equivalent competitors start) and you've got an optic that is as sharp as the other guy's dedicated macro lenses.  Honest.  While that lens and the EP-2 look like the marriage of a hummingbird and a python you'll undoubtably be using the pair on a rig or a fluid head tripod, using the tripod socket on the lens.  When used in that fashion it's a perfect balance.  But maybe you're not considering the EP-2 for video........

Let's talk DPreivew style performance metrics for a second to keep the IT guys and the pro's happy.  Here's where the Canon people and the Nikon people can crow about the parameter inequality.  The EP-2 has acceptable noise levels at proper exposures, right up to about ISO 800.  Maybe ISO 1000 and then you start to see color splotching.  And noise.  The Olympus people will jump up and start talking about Noise Ninja and Define but let's be frank;  the camera has noise that a D3s and a 1Dmk4 won't see until you hit 12,000 ISO or some other astronomically cool level.  Don't buy this camera if you love doing super high ISO in low light or if you have your heart set on a collection of fast primes (but don't write off the primes too quickly---more on that below).  In good light this camera is a champ.  When the light drops too far down (about where the human eye has trouble focusing a manual camera) the focusing falls apart and the noise comes along for a ride.  This is not the ultimate low light camera by a long shot.

It doesn't do fast, continuous focus either.  If you shoot sports you'll find that using this camera for fast moving stuff is like wearing cowboy boots at a track meet.  OUCH.  Gotta be honest, if I'm headed out to shoot some competitive swimming I'm going to borrow my friend's Nikon D3 or I'm going to try my luck with the Olympus E3 and a fast piece of specialty glass, like the 90-250 f2.8.  Pretty much the equivalent of a 180-500 mm f2.8.  (And yes, they are equivalent when we're talking about exposure!!!--don't even start with me about the 4:3rds lens being two stops less light.  It doesn't make any sense.)

Next on the list of things you might not want this camera for is shooting in the studio with studio flash.  Why?  Because there's no sync socket on the body.  You have to use the hot shoe to trigger flashes; either with an adapter or a radio trigger.  That means you don't get to use the wonderful EVF and if I can't use the EVF I really don't want to use the camera.  Tonight I shot portraits of Ben with the camera but I used florescent devices from Westcott, called TD-5 Spiderlights.  I put them in 30 inch Chimera lanterns for a soft, even glow.  But it made sense since I was trying to shoot wide open at f2 with the Olympus macro lens.

The other thing you don't want to attempt with the camera is shooting any wedding that requires focus in low light or flash.  Again, with the flash in the shoe there's no EVF and I don't like the camera without the EVF.  For all these reasons I would suggest the EP2 as an art camera or a second system but not as a primary camera systems for a busy professional or a photographer who wants to shoot in a wide range of conditions. Oh, and it is not waterproofed or weather proofed so don't sit in the "Splash" section at Seaworld and expect to be using the camera later at the dolphin pool......

With all these faults why do I like the camera at all?  Well, I spent 20 years getting to know big, square, medium format cameras inside and out.  They were slow to operate and required you to work at getting everything just right but they rewarded you with little squares of perfection.  Jewel like photographs that filled every square millimeter of the frame with subject matter and crucial negative space.  I use the EP-2 in just the same fashion.  My favorite way of working is with the 50mm Olympus Macro lens attached and in the manual focus mode.  When you have the camera set up this way, and you've enabled "manual focus assist" in one of the menu menus here's what happens:  1.  You look through the camera and get a general idea of your composition.  2.  You touch the focus ring of the lens and the image jumps up to seven time magnification.  3.  You focus on eyelashes or irises that fill the frame and when you let go of the focus ring the camera image snaps back to normal size. 4.  Shoot the image.

I also love to play around with my favorite old Nikon 50mm 1.1.2 lens on the front of two different adapter rings.  I try to shoot it wide open or at f2 or f2.8.  The whole reason to use that lens is the narrow depth of field.

Which brings me to a very interesting facet of the camera and one that few people will get to experience. You probably know that this camera system was/is based on the old Olympus Pen half frame cameras made from the 1950's until the early 1970's but you probably don't know much about that system if you are relatively new to photography.  Oh hell, even the old timers didn't really pay attention to that system (except for Eugene Smith.....).  But here's the deal:  Olympus made a half frame SLR with a full line of lenses.  They've always been a leading edge optics manufacturer and they had their work cut out for them with the half frame.  The lenses had to be twice as sharp as the lenses designed for 35mm work in order to equal the resolution when photographers enlarged them.  The lenses they made were really, really good.  Breathtakingly good!  You've got to remember that Olympus has always been considered second only to Leica in making world class microscope lenses.  And they brought that expertise with them when they designed the half frame lenses.

Surprise, with the right adapter you can use all of these lenses with the new EP1, EP2 and Panasonic M4:3rds cameras.   So what can you get?  How about a 60mm f1.5?  Maybe you'd rather have a (sharp wide open) 70mm f2.  Or a 25mm f2.8.  Or a 20mm.  How about a 150mm 3.5 that weighs next to nothing.  I've even got a 2X Olympus teleconverter that works with that.  Then there's the 38mm 1.8 and the 42mm 1.4 and even a 50 to 90mm zoom lens.  But the glass everyone wants are the fast lenses.  Because, in this format they'll give Leica and Zeiss a run for their money.  They really are that good.

If you aren't into 50 year old glass you'll be happy to know that you can buy an adapter to use most of the Leica M glass with the camera as well.  I ran into my friend, Paul, the other day and he was hauling around a Panasonic GF1 with a ASPH Summilux 35mm on the front.  Very sexy.  Extremely sharp.  Maybe sharp in a way that only Leica M9 shooters can only rival.

So, by all measures this camera is enigmatic.  Not a top performer.  No usable as a sole business camera. Not a sports machine.  Not a D3s rival by any stretch of the imagination.  So why do so many people love this camera and why are they rushing to use them? At the risk of sounding "new age-y" again I'll say that it's because the camera has some soul to it.  It sits right in your hand.  For me, it's about so many good usability features.  I like the accurate, bright and convenient EVF.  I like the ability to define my own favorite aspect ratio.  I like the quality of the video.  There's no mirror slap and the camera is very stable which makes it a natural for image stabilization-enabled long exposures.

But the bottom line is that it's so fun to use that you find yourself ignoring things that would bug you in other cameras.  Just like a romantic relationship you make excuses for the things you can't change and embrace the things you love.  And really, when you get right down to it so many of the images we love and have loved were made with the simplest equipment, the simple cameras of the day.  In the 1940's the images from Henri Cartier Bresson came from screw mount Leica cameras with separate windows for viewing and focusing, not the big Speed Graphics used by the pro's of that age.  In the 1950's the work of Robert Frank speaks for the decade.  Again, he used a small 35mm rangefinder because the goal was to capture the raw emotion not to map the ultimate potential sharpness of the time.  He used a small camera while the professionals used Rollei's and 4x5's.

If they built a camera that captured emotions and feelings instead of enormous numbers of sharp pixels would you buy one?  If the camera became transparent in your hands would you use one?  If your work calls for seeing things in conservative angles of view (28mm-100mm) and you don't usually print bigger than 11 by 17 do you really need to carry around something the size of a small cat to do your work with?

But again,  I have other cameras.  If I desperately need shallow depth of field I can still shove a 180mm lens on a Rollei medium format camera and show you REALLY shallow depth of field.  But it's sure nice to have something I can carry everywhere and know that, for 90% of what I like to shoot (as opposed to what clients want me to shoot) I can do it with this camera.

Now.  Where the hell is that EMA-1?

We've got a comment section below.  But before you hit it please know that if you tried an EP2 (or a Canon G11, etc.) and you didn't like it that doesn't mean I can't like it.  Also know that neither you nor I can really test lenses at our houses or studios in any meaningful way so it's kind of futile to argue about which brand of lenses "rules".  Your idea of photography may be all about shooting football games and you'll never use a camera like this but that doesn't mean that everyone shoots football games or should be in a state of constant readiness to shoot football games so let's not go into that either.

I like the camera.  The lenses are good. The ability to use everyone else's lenses is even better.  The Panasonic GH1 may  be better but I've never played with one.  Etc.

That sums up my whole thought process about the EP2 to date.  Next time we'll branch out a little bit.
Thanks for reading.

All of the images in this article were done on my EP-2 using an MMF-1 adapter and a 50mm Olympus e series Macro lens.  All of the images are ©2010 Kirk Tuck Photography.  I bought all the gear used in the shooting and production of the article and I don't get money or other consideration from Olympus or any retailer to write these articles.  They are solely my opinions.

If you have a moment, please consider writing a review for any my books you may have read over at Amazon.com.  It costs you nothing and my help me sell a few more books.  Here is the link to my author's page:

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ch said...

Great subjective review of this camera. I ended up with a GF-1 after trying out an EP-1 for a while, and I would consider these two cameras very similar in concept and utility. The slightly better focusing speed of the GF-1 was what tipped me in its favor, but the difference is inconsequential in most situations.

I agree with virtually everything you say about the Olympus. I think if I could sum up your review, it would be that the EP-1 is pretty much good enough pretty much most of the time to do what you want. If you want to make 30x40 inch prints of sports action shots, it is probably not the camera for you. But for 95% of the photos for 95% of the people, it is pretty darn good. And it is small. And very likely to be with you when you want to make a photo. That is no small thing.

Bill Beebe said...

I cannot believe how close we are in our opinions about this camera. Even to the use of the 50mm on the body. It's flawed, and I intend to write my own small review later this month, but I love the E-P2, flaws and all.

Excellent article, as usual.

obakesan said...

Hi there

nice writeup

maybe you should get your hands on a GH1 ... no reason you can't use both ;-)

dwaine said...

My takeaway from your fine article is for photographers to get a camera that suits them and go shoot.

I enjoy your view of photography and hope you continue to contribute to the web world.

Thanks Kirk.

Kurt Shoens said...

I really wanted to get one of these m4/3 cameras but got the Canon G11 instead. I love it for some of the same reasons you love the E-P2. The G11 simplifies things for me even further because it doesn't have interchangeable lenses, which I find an advantage. I didn't want to start feeding lenses to a third system plus when I walk around with the G11, I don't fret about which lens to bring. I'm using the tilt/swivel LCD on it like a waist-level viewer.

Just as you like the square format, I'm really enjoying the 4x3 format of a compact.

The G11 isn't as good a camera as the E-P2 and does fewer things well. It's still really fun.

I can't get a m4/3 camera just now because there's too much overlap with the G11. I'm watching what the m4/3 manufacturers do with great interest, though.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog Kirk. Enjoyed it as always. I'm still debating whether or not to keep the EP2. It has its flaws indeed, but it's just so fun to use. I keep wishing that Oly had made the AF at least up to par to the GF1. But oh well ...


Nghia said...

Especially like this saying from you "Just like a romantic relationship you make excuses for the things you can't change and embrace the things you love.". Great post, as usual :)

MD said...

Nice article as usual.

One thing that I just can understan is how everybody keeps thinking that Nikons menu system is more logical than Olympus'. There just is not anything simpler or better than Super Control Panel.

David L said...

If you want something like the e-series 25mm sans adapter, consider Panasonic's micro-4/3 20mm/1.7 pancake. It's obviously not the same focal length, but is similar in spirit.

Dave Jenkins said...

Thanks for the gratuitus swipe at the Canon user interface, which I find intuitive while Nikon's is indecipherable! Different strokes and all that. But nonetheless a very interesting post.

My carry-around camera these days is a well-used Canon 20D with a 24-85 lens. I only pack heavier artillery if I have a job or something specific to shoot. I learned a long time ago that when I tote enough equipment to shoot anything, I almost never actually shoot anything much. As Picasso said (as quoted by David Douglas Duncan) "Limiting the means unleashes creativity."

kirk tuck said...

Dave. Sorry for the swipe at Canon. I tried to use the 5dmk2 to shoot some video yesterday and nearly gave up from menu trauma.

Thank you for the great Picasso quote. It's philosophically right for me.

steveburns said...

Kirk: Good article, and thanks for the personal insight as to the camera in real use. Its sibling the GF1 may be replacing my Contax G2 for a personal camera in the near future.

Also thanks for mentioning the older Oly 1/2 frame lenses, as I was unaware of them. That focus assit mode, does it also work with them?

Frank M. said...

Very interesting review!
One thing about using older lenses on a 4/3 camera is the 2x conversion factor (field of view equivalence to 35mm). I have an old set of manual Zeiss lenses. I have my favorites for landscape, portraits, etc. But on a 4/3, my 25mm becomes a 50mm equivalent! On an APS-C sensor, it can still be used for landscape (35mm equivalent). On a 4/3, that makes no sense anymore.
But this is just a minor, idiosyncratic complaint. I'm actually just waiting for the EP-2 to be sold "body only". Them I'll seriously consider buying it and a Panasonic 20mm 1.7.

Rafael Edwards said...

thank you! I find your review very helpful. I just bought the E-P2 as a merge-replacement for my E-620 and Canon G9. So far I feel it does the job quite well and the EVF and colors are superb. I will try your settings and see what happens. Thanks again

Marcelo Guarini said...

Thanks for the review. Just after reading it I hit the "Proceed with order" button in the B&H web page. I had the e-p2 with Novoflex leica M to MFT adapter in the shopping cart for the last 3 days trying to make my mind. You solved my problem. I have 5 Leica M lenses (21mm f2.8 Asph, 35mm f2 Summicron, 50mm f2 Summicron, 90mm f2.8 Elmarit and 135m Apo Telyt) I'm dying to try them on the e-p2. I will have in a very small and sexy package a 42, a 70, a 100, a 180 and a 270 equivalent, I just cannot believe it. Thanks again.

Andrew said...

Thanks for the thoughtful review Kirk. i could not agree more with your write up. I am currently using the EP-1 and am shooting more than ever and loving every minute of it! I would love the EVF of the EP-2 but just can't justify the cost just for that one feature.

6p00d83451723b69e2 said...


I have an Oly 510, , how different is the EPwithout a viewfinder or with the add on from the 450 or 620 which at least are smaller DSLRs? looked at an EP in the store, seems the superior screen on the back is a big selling point.

I think the rest of us that bought Oly DSLRs and the lenses are a bit worried that Oly abandons that and goes micro given the hard time they are having taking share away from nikon and canon

Ken Pichon said...

Great review. Thanks. I guess I'll have to reconsider the EP2. I had dismissed the EP2 from consideration because of an experience I had with the Oly E510: the focus-lock beep was not audible and Olympus admitted that it could not be changed or fixed. It is just a quirk of mine, but I depend on the beep while I am trying to assimilate all the other data as I shoot. Does the EP2 have a focus-lock beep that the average person can hear?

Jason said...


Nice review of the EP-2. I've been looking for a smaller 'carryaround' camera myself. I know you have a G11 as well. I'd be interested to know how the two compare, in your estimation.

GOCGO Youth said...

Putting third party prime lenses on these is totally addictive and makes the camera even more fun (if that is possible). I really wonder if Nikon, Canon or Samsung can come close to the magic combination of intangibles that make this such a nice combo? I doubt it.

John Ricard said...

I love revies like this that come from a real user perspective. I'm curious as to why you don't use the Leica M9. Is it the cost? Or some other reason. For me the best thing about the Olympus camera would be the rear LCD instead of a viewfinder, but I see you don't use that. So I wonder then, what your take is on the Leica vs this Olympus.

Amin said...

Hi Kirk,

I always enjoy your thoughts, photographs, and reviews, and have been linking to them from my sites (Serious Compacts and others).

I hope you'll take a look at a new Micro 4/3 site I've started at www.mu-43.com. There are a lot of us excited about MFT, and we've got some great discussion and photos going there already.

All best,

Eric said...

As far as menus go I think everyone should take a lesson from Leica. On my E-P1 I found the default menu to be fairly simple, but certain features were hidden that I needed. To get to the things I needed I had to turn on the optional full menu, and with that came about 50 options I never used. They should include three menu's on cameras:

1) Beginner Simple
2) Advanced User Basic Mode (just the bare essentials for a pro, similar to Leica)
3) The Kitchen Sink (everything they have on the camera)

The first time you turn the camera on you are given the options, choose the one that best suits you.

And for what it's worth I also despise Nikon's UI. IMO Sony actually has the best UI these days. I also like the functionality of the Pentax UI, but graphically speaking it looks like Windows 3.1 where as Canon would be Windows 7. Finally, the menu system on the new Samsung NX looks very promising...perhaps they'll be the first to do it right.

Brad C said...

Thanks Kirk - I have a GF1 and find the same thing: I find myself getting excited about things I would complain about on my DSLR :) I love having the ability to shoot with a live square preview in black and white, and the shallow depth of field that is possible with a fast lens...

Tony Collins said...

I'd be in the market for a variation with a fixed collapsing lens a la G series Canon so I'll wait a bit with my G9,(210mm long end is very useful),and perhaps fill in with an S90 for wider/darker until someone makes one

kirk tuck said...

Several people have asked about Canon G series cameras in comparison to the Olympus. I have to say that in bright conditions I would be hard pressed to tell a big difference between the EP2 with the kit lens and the Canon G11. I think the G11 is a great camera. Some people grumble about HD video but that's a somewhat over sold feature set for most web uses. I'm happy either way. Actually, the G11 gives you fewer choices and according to Picasso (see above) that may help you make better art.....

Anonymous said...

Once again, a stunningly good post. I loved reading it. It's funny how other people's writing sounds like writing while your sound like you are talking to me over coffee. How do you do that? Why haven't you written more books? Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for great review! Myself, two days ago, after much deliberation and reading I ordered E-P2 @BH and was able to locate Panny 20/1.7. I chose E-P2 over GF1 from reasons you mention - great colors out of the box.

Yes GF1 may be faster, yes it has flash which I use so often for filling back light on the trails (and now I will have to carry extra!). Yes it may be more familiar to me since I have LX3 but I just liked the pictures coming out of Oly better! Everything else is secondary to me.

And I can't wait using various primes for stabilized video shooting!

Curt Schimmels said...

As an EP-1 owner, who also have an E-1 and an E-510, I agree with much of your review, with certain exceptions. I rarely pick up either of the DSLRs, now, as I find the PEN more suited to my taste for making photographs. I feel much more attuned to the composition and the art of the moment with this camera than I have with any other since I started shooting in the early 70s.
I also mainly shoot with my Oly 50mm F2 Macro, although I love and use the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens extensively. I also find the kit lens to be entirely serviceable.
Obviously my first exception would be the need for the EVF in shooting. I have come to love to compose with the display screen. I'm sure the EVF would provide additional functionality, but I have no problems "seeing" the composition on the display, and like the EVF, appreciate the immediate feedback it provides. I've found I can hold the camera stable, and do not have to hold it at arm's length. So for me, it's entirely comfortable. I caveat this by saying I bought the EP-1 when it first came out. Perhaps had I waited, I would have spent the extra for the 2, but no matter. To me, this is a personal preference, and I respect yours.
I, like several other commenters here, love the Olympus menu system. I find it very easy to use, especially the super menu. Again, though, I think that depends on what one is used to working with in making these choices.
Casting those points aside, I think the gist of this review, and the point with which I most agree is that this camera is romantic, both in use, and in results.

PS: thanks for the tip on the PEN glass, I will be looking for some of these lenses!

kwaphoto said...

I am an Olympus E-3, E-1 and Canon G11 user. I drool over the EP-2 but the G11 does so much of the same for me that I can't see switching right now. I find I am leaving the E-3 home most of the time and just using the G11, even indoors with a little bounce flash. It's a different experience not worrying about gear everyday.

I've written a little about at my blog and I've started to go back through my archives of digital images dating back to 2001. What I'm finding is my favorite images, and consequently the ones that have sold the best and are best loved, came from "crappy gear". Some, gasp, even came from....film?

I love the trend of m4/3, what Samsung is doing now and what I believe others will do in the future. These are exciting times for those of us who embrace change...for the better!

BB W said...

I really enjoyed reading your review and if it is "rambling" then your rambling is refreshing!

As a long ago former OM-1 photographer who has been treading water in the P & S digital camera world, I've become intrigued with the new Olympus EP series. Now I just have to decide whether to go with the 1 or the 2.

Many thanks for your insights. If you haven't yet read Eamon Hickey's review over on http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/camera-reviews/ - I think you'd find a kindred spirit.

Neil Gaudet said...

Lovely article.

Anonymous said...

Hi kirk,
Great review as usual. Only I ask myself how does my and your old sony r1 compare to these new cameras? IQ and low Iso wise, of course.
Mauro, Italy

Jules said...

I still have my Pen FT (circa 1967). Appreciate your comments about the original Pen, which evokes a "romantic" attachment if a camera ever could.

Just one little correction: the 42mm lens has max aperture of 1.2, not 1.4. Just may be my most esteemed lens of all time. Imagine it would be sensational on the EP2.


Eric said...


Great review. I've been drawn the the new Olympus PEN cameras ever since the announcement of the E-P1, but have yet to pull trigger on either model - I fully intend on changing that shortly.

You mention a frustration at not being able to shoot video with the EVF and use the external mic at the same time. While not the most elegant solution, I've seen some users of the E-P1 compensate for the lack of an EVF by using a Hoodman Loupe affixed to the LCD. This might be a reasonable workaround for shooting video, allowing the camera to be held to your eye while still maintaining the external mic connection.

kirk tuck said...

Speaking of romantic attachments, my wife gave me a small Pen FT system when we got engaged. A black camera body, the zoom, the 42mm, the 25mm and the 70mm. She bought them from KEH for a song in 1985. I still have them. We are still married.

Reza Farivar said...

Great Review. I have an E-P1 and love it the same way.

Which brings me to my question: Are your pictures in this article post-processed or not? I love the colors, but I rarely can get anything straight out of camera to have colors like yours.

Also, how do you get such awesome dynamic range in your skies? My skies are usually an overblown white. My guess is you shot these during the sunset hours (hence the turned on street light) but if you are using any other techniques I'd love to learn

Damen said...

Hi Kirk - just wondering if that second photo of your son was taken with the inbuilt "soft filter" effect or was it done in post-processing ? Also were you using your normal B/W + Dreen filter mode for those 2 shots ? I would buy the EP-2/viewfinder if it was available "body only", so that I could buy and use a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake lens without paying for a kit lens I don't want (or if the GF-1 gave manual control of shuter speeds in Video mode I would consider that) ... hmmn ...
I also think the Panasonic Gh-1 would cure some of the things you don't like about the Olympus - unfortunately it is SLIGHTLY larger. a bit less "charming" and, more importantly, lacks the in-body IS.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's so obvious I'm overlooking it, but when I get an RSS feed that has UPDATE in the title, I can't find what has been updated. Is it possible to mark the updated material in some way?


Mark V. said...

What a great review. Sounds like the EP-2 is great when you need to focus on content and not get hung up on technical details.

purpledot said...

Great review Kirk - thanks.

Could you shed (no pun intended) some light on the EVFs quality when shooting outside in strong sunlight? I have a few cameras with EVFs with very different behaviour. The GX100 is a wonderful camera, the EVF is good enough in most situations but awful when the light is really strong and one needs it most.

Thanks in advance,

BB W. said...

The EVF is excellent but the best way to test it is for yourself if you can. That's what I was able to do and it sealed the deal for me. Granted some people don't care about an EVF and like the LCD...but I'm not one of them.

We just had a big snow storm here in the mid atlantic states in the USA and it's an incredibly sunny day here now. The EVF works wonderfully.

You can check out some more photos and ask some more questions of some other active owners over on mu-43.com if you'd like.

kirk tuck said...

I've come to prefer the EVF for outdoors shooting. It's really well done. The only place it falters at all is under low light and even there it's quite usable down to the point that you can no longer handhold it.

BB W. is right. Go try it for yourself if you can. It's a game changer.

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mikoloh said...

Dear Kirk,

What a wonderful down to earth review of the lil EP2.I have been using the OM2ns during the film era and was really caught off when digital age came into the picture...was using ps for quite awhile.

The EP2 to me is like a digitalised OM2n and their dimensions are nearly the same too...to me the Ep2 is god sent for the lenses that l thought were redundant are back in action.

Thank You again for the wonderful write up.


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