Everything I said about the EPL1. It goes for the EPL2 as well.

I know this is old news on the web but Olympus just introduced my cheap "dream system" camera.  I'll take it in black, please.  It's basically an upgrade of the EPL1 that's been on the market for the better part of a year.  I've used mine (the EPL1)  extensively and I've found it to be the best of all the smaller cameras on the market.  Even better than the EP-2.  Why? Because they optimized the 12 megapixel sensor so that, for a while, it was the sharpest and lowest noise Olympus camera on the market.

The one reason people preferred about the EP2 over the EPL was the control interface.  This has been improved on the EPL-2.  The LCD on the back is now three inches (measured diagonally) and roughly twice the resolution of it's predecessor's screen.  Of course it still has the port just below the flash shoe, on the back, so you can use the exquisite VF-2 electronic finder (which is my standard set up), or a microphone adapter should you care to give the video a spin.  The EP2 gives you an extra dial but you give up a bit of speed in shooting.

I've pre-ordered an EPL2 to go with the EP2 and the EPL1 and I've sent a few e-mails to people I know in the Olympus USA hierarchy hoping to get a review copy to play with.  The day I get my hands on one I'll clear the decks and use the hell out of it with every lens I have in the drawer.  These little Pens are my "art" cameras.  When I head out the door to do gestalt snaps these are the ones I carry.

My day spent shooting the EPL1 recently, with the older 20mm Pen lens, was amazing.  The manual, hyperfocal, focus setting was a great way to shoot and took me right back to the way we used to do street shooting in the 1980's.

Pros:  Small, easy to carry.  Capable of taking an wide range of lenses from just about every manufacturer, including Leica M series.  Great electronic viewfinder/interchangeable with all other Pens and the new compact XZ-1.  Assuming great Jpeg files.  Yes to raw files. Yes to HD video.  Yes to perfect in my hand.  Built in IS works with 50 year old lenses.  Damn cute.

Cons:  I can't drive to Precision Camera and put my hands on one tomorrow morning.   

While I understand how upset Olympus four thirds users are at the apparent demise of the larger system I'm amazed at the balls Olympus is showing by burning a big bridge and jumping in with both feet to a new system and a new standard.  While we photo nerds love carrying around massive metal and big stuff the reality is that 90% of camera users will be perfectly happy with cameras just like this.  

Me?  I'll keep the Canon stuff for all the clients who want/need bigger files with more resolution.  I'll also keep those fun lenses, and especially the ones with image stabilization.  But when I pack for vacation, street shooting, art projects and general goofing around you can pretty much bet there's going to be Pen close by.  $599.   With a lens?  Really?  Amazing.

A little historical context:  In 2002 this would be a $20,000 camera.  Based on specs.

update note:  (8:04 pm):  Just got back an reply from Olympus.  Their PR agency will be getting in touch tomorrow to arrange a loaner of the EPL2 for my evaluation.  Wow.  That was quick!


obakesan said...

Kirk ... I'm also amazed and happy that Oly is doing this. Best steps forward in photography I've seen in ages

Anonymous said...


My local camera shop (that I have dealing with for 30 years) is not currently selling the Olympus 4/3's line. The owner tells me Olympus is requiring he carry more inventory than he can manage. I may for the first time buy a camera (EPL-2) without actually putting my hands physically on the camera itself.


Larry C.

Steve Dodds said...

In black with the square lenshood. Yes. Nice. So, I ask myself...should I wait until Pentax stops dropping vague hints and actually makes a mirrorless camera that can use their sweet little pancakes, or do I go for this little beauty? By the way, Kirk, didn’t you recently pronounce that we all have all the gear we’ll ever need to create great photography? Gear lust is a curious disease. Now Pentax, what about that K5 spec rangefinder?

Billy said...

The pens are great little cameras. You are absolutely right about the panasonic 20mm it is fantastic. I use my EP2 a lot with the 12-60 SWD with great results.

Hope you get to play with a loaner.

Ed Lara said...

Kirk - look forward to your review of the E-PL2. The new Pens are really sweet. I caved and have bid on a used E-PL1 body now that my beloved E-P1's screen is broken---hope to get a VF-2 as well, seems there are more affordable ones out there..

You referenced that Oly is dropping further development on the E-series DSLRs? A shame. I never got farther than the E-500 and E-510, but they continue to be great cameras (even if I've used the E-P1 far more frequently since I got it), and the OM lenses really work well on them. But if it means more focus on Pen innovation (including a Fuji X100 type pen with a real shutter speed dial), maybe it's all for the good.

Raianerastha said...

Ah Kirk, I wouldn't say Olympus is burning the bridge so much as refining the concept of 4/3 dslr in the E-5.

The spec sheet people have been dismissing the E-5. People actually shooting it have said it finally shows what the best ZD lenses, such as the 12-60 or 50-200, and especially the 50 f2 macro, 14-35 and 35-100 can actually do (plus a few people loving the results with the 150 f2)

Many of those lamenting the discontinuation of most of the 4/3 slrs are also those who think video has no place in "pro spec" cameras, EVFs will never replace OVFs, and high ISO noise is the de facto standard of dslr performance.

Many Olympus fans, on the other hand, feel that if Olympus continues their course with m4/3 and does as well in designing a "pro spec" PEN as they have so far, it will be the digital equivalent of the OM series cameras (or the original PENS) that established Olympus' rep for small, innovative cameras with superlative optics.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

I had my "aha" experience last Saturday, when we visited a large shopping mall in Frankfurt, bringing our cameras as usual. I didn't even bother to get the DSLR out of my backpack, and held our small one's hand most of the time, since it was really full of people. But my wife happily shot away street style with her E-PL1 and the Panny 1.7/20mm I bought her lately (and which is practically glued to her camera since). An amazing street shooting combo - tho I'd probably prefer to do it hyperfocal style, like you mentioned.

That said, I *do* miss the smaller DSLRs from Olympus, since they are practically gone by now - and that leads to the situation that lenses also are hard to get already, and more expensive than before (because the few dealers that still *do* have those ask more money for them, that simple). So I'm glad I finally found a used 2.0/50mm macro used, and for a good price.

The future may be mirrorless - at 600$/€ for an E-PL2 kit with just one lens, these are at the same time more expensive than my E-520 double zoom kit was (under 500€), while cheaper to produce at the same time, so the margin is way better. But at the moment, AF speed and some other criteria still aren't there yet, so yes, I miss the chance to get an E-650, or an E-50.

The E-5? Hmmm yes, for sure a nod goes to the technical quality and to its developers, but at that price point there's also a D700, or a 5DMkII, or an Alpha 850, and your 7D or a D300s are much cheaper than that one already. Not to speak of a 60D, D7000, or a Pentax K-5.

So yes, I miss those small but perfect Oly E-xxx cameras...

efix said...

Kirk, when your review the E-PL2, I'd love to know if there are any differences in image quality with the new kit lens, i.e. how does it "draw" compared to the old kit lens? (Or are they the same optically?)

Thanks in advance, and looking forward to your review!

Patrick said...

The lens hood for the new kit zoom is sexy.

Padgreen said...

Hmm, not all Olympus fan's want a pro spec Pen. I've been an Olympus user since the 1970s (I own an OM1N, I went digital with a C5060, then an E1 and now an E30) and as much as I try (and I have tried) I hate electronic viewfinders period. I just cannot see them ever matching an optical viewfinders in terms of quality: so I fear that the EVF will be one Olympus innovation too many for me.

Sure the Pen's might be fun to carry round with small lenses, but they are seriously unbalanced if you put anything bigger than a 14-54 on there. I don't want to switch to another brand, Zukio glass is streets ahead, in my view, of either Nikon or Canon but that's what I will have to do if Olympus continues on the path it's set itself.

Wataru Maruyama said...

Kirk, can you please, please ask Olympus what is the part number, availability, and price of that lens hood? There is no mention of it in the official accessories page http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/product.asp?product=1552&page=accessories

And it is also not listed as an item that comes with the camera (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page) http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/product.asp?product=1552&page=specs

Thank you in advance

FrankG said...

Hello Kirk,

I have been reading your blog for a few months. I have been an Olympus user for awhile. I started with an E-500 stepped up to an E-520 and just recently acquired an E-5. I have several Oly lenses including the 12-60 and 50-200. I received the E-PL1 as a gift and have already mounted a Minolta MD 50mm and look forward to getting out once the temps go up here in Austin. I struggle everyday with all the Olympus bashing and I look forward to reading you enthusiasm for the platform. Can't wait to read you review.

Dan Fogel said...

I saw this reported elsewhere and am looking forward to your real world test. I read your earlier article about your use of the old Pen lenses on your M4/3. Sadly, ebay is not the place to buy those lenses. The prices are really quite crazy.

Godfrey DiGiorgi said...

Looks like a great new addition to the line.

I think Olympus is doing exactly the right things. The E-5 is a superb camera ... they've done a super job of improving every niggle I might have had with the E-3 brilliantly. It's a solid, excellent performer and the lenses are as good as you get.

Dropping the lower-end SLRs with their dim, small viewfinders for the bright EVF experience of the Pen E-Px line is exactly right. The Pens out-perform all the lower end SLRs in every way except for focusing speed, and I think it's only a matter of time to when even that is no longer the case.

Add the ability to use all my FourThirds SLR lenses on the Pens ... it's quite a compelling case.

FrankG said...

Minolta Rokkor MD lenses are a little under the radar and are still reasonably priced.

meandmycanon said...

I don't know which amazes me more. Olympus 4/3 photographers who don't realize Olympus has dumped the 4/3's system or Pentax enthusiasts with no clue as to how close to bankruptcy the K5 staining issue will push the company.
The E-PL1 is a fantastic camera. I hoping for a body with 2 dials and an evf.

FrankG said...

What amazes me is the image quality I get from my Olympus gear. If the E-5 is the last of the breed I have a least 150,000 snaps left.I will enjoy every last one.

Geir said...

Olympus France says, according to 4/3 Rumours that Olympus will deliver a new series of groundbreaking cameras both within the m43 section and something else. I don't believe Oly are burning anything, just moving their customers another level up and away from the herd.
As a travel photographer I can't wait for the rugged pro version of the PEN series.

Robert said...

I started digital with an 8080. Looking back I have no idea why I sold it. I bought an E300 which I dropped in a river. Bought another E300. Loved the color on both. Was persuaded by friends that buying a Fuji S5pro would be a major upgrade. The Fuji's ability to hold highlights is probably still unbeaten but I missed Olympus blues. Bought an EPl last summer. Never used anything else since. The camera you have with you is always better than the one in the drawer at home. I am looking into a mount for my old Canon F1 lenses. If its do-able I will be a happy man until I see a 25mp camera for less than $1,000.

steveH said...

I got my E5 a couple weeks ago, along with two new lenses for my kit. Last Monday I went out for the first time in several months (there's more wait in surgeries than hurry up, apparently) to do some shakedown checks of the new gear.

When I got around to sorting through the take, a series of gulls drinking in a stream crossing a Big Sur beach just about knocked me over; my wife came down the hall to find out what was going on. Guess I'll have to go out there again, and bring the E30 to see whether the improved detail and sharpness and clarity was due to the E5 or the Zuiko 150/f2, or both together. The only downside is that I can't blame any technically poor images on the equipment; it's all going to be my fault.

I can hardly wait.

steveH said...

I finally got my E5 a couple weeks back, and got to go out for the first time in several months (surgeries seems to involve a lot more waiting around than the procedures) to shake down the new kit around Big Sur.

I can't remember the last time I was bowled over at the first look at some new images (my wife came down the hall to find out what was going on). I don't know if it was the E5, the Zuiko 150/f2, or both that account for the detail/sharpness/clarity, but I do need to go back with the oldish E30 along and do some more tests. I can hardly wait.

I made do (happily) with a Canon F-1/F-1n set up for the better part of 25 years (shooting mostly bugs and weeds), it looks like this one ought to be good for about that long, too.

Daryl said...

I have this on my "Notify when in stock right now dammit!" list at B&H.

I'm really looking forward to your review, Kirk. Much more informative than the ones that drone on about lp/mm, fps, and how it's impossible to shoot sports without nanosecond autofocus as if no one shot sports in the MF days...

JJ Semple said...

Given the latest financial results, Olympus enthusiasts — myself included — may want to rethink our optimism. http://www.43rumors.com/olympus-will-become-less-japanese-bad-financial-results/