When I head out the door to shoot I usually have a Pen camera configured like this.
The VF-2 electronic finder is not an optional accessory to me. It should be part of every package.
It's small, light and unobtrusive. Perfect for the street.
Ergonomics. When you read through this keep in mind that I'm five feet, eight inches tall and have medium sized hands. If the camera feels just right to me it probably won't matter to you if you are six foot, six inches tall and have hands like big baseball gloves. Go to a store and handle it yourself if you know your build falls outside the general norm. Some people like big cameras and some like small cameras. If you are considering the EPL2 I hope you've sorted yourself into the second category.
Another happy benefit might be that you click thru a link to Amazon and buy something. If you click thru from my blog I'll get a small amount of money and you'll pay no more or less. But for all intents and purposes I'm putting this out there for free and that's the extent of my disclosures. I make the bulk of my income from photography assignments and I can't think of very many clients who come here to read about the latest cameras. I wish. So enjoy. Let's get started.
I passed on the EP1 camera, the first of the new Pens, for one reason: No electronic or optical viewfinder, and no provision to add an electronic one on. I've spent decades looking through viewfinders and I can't get used to using a rear screen as a focusing and compositional tool unless the whole deal is locked down on a tripod and I've got a loupe with me to block out the surrounding light. I bought the EP2 because it had the EVF and it was very beautiful. Of all the Pen cameras it feels the best in my hand, and, truthfully, it's the one I like to shoot with the most. Here's the rub: While the EP2 is the best designed and has the right heft the EPL1 obviously has a better sensor implementation. It's sharper and cleaner (in the image files) than the EP1 or the EP2 and it was priced so well I couldn't help myself.....I snapped one up. And less than a year later, along comes the EPL2. Styling that looks more like the EP2 but performance like the EPL1. Throw in a better screen and........?
The smaller sensor means that the lenses have different angles of view relative to what fussy old timers are used to from the 35mm days. Ostensibly, smaller lenses are easier to design and manufacture so that should mean good glass at a lower cost.
Why did Olympus create the Four Thirds and then the micro Four Thirds standards? Because in the early days of sensor design and manufacture it was ruinously expensive to make bigger sensors because the failure rate in manufacturing was so high. The catering analogy is caviar. You might get some on your deviled eggs or on your sushi but the unit cost would break a restaurant if they decided to chunk a few ounces on every plate. A bigger sensor is still more expensive and it still requires bigger optics but now we have choices again. Just like the film days we can choose a day in day out format that works well for everything that will go into electronic media ( the smaller than 35mm frame size) or we can choose cameras with sensors that are the same size as a frame of 35mm film and now more or less take the place of the medium format cameras of the film era, or we can take the bitter and frightening plunge and grab for all the gusto of a medium format digital system (for around the price of a nice car) and have the ultimate in resolution and dynamic range. 80 megapixels anyone?
But the thing that attracts me to smaller cameras is
the same thing that led photojournalists to gravitate to 35mm for the bulk of their work with film: They are the perfect fit for most of the media they'll serve. I've made the point before that, with current HD TV standards, and iPad-like tablet sizes, the maximum most of us need to deliver to clients is 12 megapixels. And, indeed, that still gives us lots of room to crop with quality to spare. I make a pretty definitive demarcation between my two main camera systems. The full frame Canons are for paying jobs and my collection of Olympus Pen cameras and lenses is for art and play. And it's nice, as a working pro, to have that division. I play more with my art cameras. I get all technical and detail oriented with my work cameras.
Chef from the W Hotel taking a break. Shot downtown while walking around for fun. I'll remove the orange cone if I decide to use the image for something else....
I've owned lots of different compact cameras and while they are really pretty darn good there are three things that have made me divest most of them and stick with bigger, more robust cameras. 1. They are pretty noisy at every setting over ISO 200 and the noise processing makes them look sloppy and unsharp. 2. They shoot too slow. When I've used them in raw the buffers are too small and the focus is too slow. 3. You better like the lens the manufacturers put on the front because it's not coming off.
Try Kirk's Novel:
Ever since I picked up my first Leica rangefinder camera I've been intrigued with compact cameras that deliver great images. The Leica M series and the Leica CL were great in that they stripped photography down to its essence. They were small and subtle and yet the images that gushed out of them were superior to the bulky, motor driven Nikon F2's, F3's, and F5's of their day. And they were equally superior, when it came to on film performance compared to the professional Canons as well.
When I first picked up the EPL2 I hoped it would be the Leica of our era (never mind that Leica is still the "Leica" of our era....) but it's not. It's just a very, very good small camera that can accept a wide range of lenses and do a really great job generating very, very good 12 megapixel files.
The EPL2 is pretty perfectly sorted. It's a massive step up in flexibility and image quality from the fixed lens crowd. Under most shooting conditions it's in the same handling and quality ballpark as the under $1,000 traditional DSLR's like the Canon Rebels or the Nikon 3100's. At ISO 200, given good light and equivalent lenses I think you'd be hard pressed to see the difference between the cameras.
When I consider that the $5,000 Nikon D2x I bought in 2004 is in the same IQ ballpark as this $599 camera (with lens) I have to stop and consider how far we've come. And when I see how hard the EPL2 spanks the Nikon D2x at ISO 1600 I am actually amazed.
So let's delve into a comparative quality discussion. First I'd like to compare the performance of the EPL2 to the EPL1. In a nutshell......they are pretty much equal across the board. In sharpness, ISO performance and color rendition I would not be able to tell the difference on a full screen blow up on a 27 inch Apple monitor. While the EPL2 has higher ISO settings available it's really the same thing as taking a Honda Element and putting in a speedometer that goes to 160 MPH. Just because you have the setting doesn't mean the performance has changed. I'm sure there are small tweaks to the firmware between the two cameras but I've been told that the sensor chip set is identical. It's also the same sensor as is used on both the e620 and the e30 from Olympus. If you have the EPL1 and you are thinking of upgrading there are really only four reasons I can see to do so: 1. You like the styling better. 2. You always wanted a control dial on the back. 3. You don't plan on using the VF-2 electronic viewfinder so the screen real estate is important to you. 4. You like the "distressed" filter in the art filter pack.
I forgot, they've also added wireless flash control to the new model. You might want that too. (Although I always use mine as an available light camera.....). That's all the difference. So don't be persuaded that by trading in your EPL1 and getting an EPL2 that you are suddenly going to start shooting stuff at 6400 that looks like your older Pen at ISO 400. The guts that count are pretty much the same.
While the EPL2 is a good, all around art camera there are some things I wouldn't use it for based on my overall experience with the whole family of cameras, and this one in particular. I wouldn't use any of the Pens to shoot fast breaking action in low light. That last phrase is basically a euphemism for "WEDDINGS." While the files might work out well in terms of quality and color the slow, low light focusing will eat your lunch and crater your craft. If pressed into using the Pen cameras at a low light reception I'd default to a wide angle lens, stopped down to at least f8 and zoned focused in manual focus mode. Then I'd add auto flash and go to town. The shoot and review function and the focusing is too slow for action sports. Okay for outdoor swimming races but not football or soccer. While I can see improvement over the EP2 and even over the EPL1 it's still not anywhere near the same league as that of the Canon 1d series or even the Canon 7D or the Nikon D300s. Not close. Add to that the very limited selection (none) of fast optics and it's a collision course for a career change. But be rational, that's not what these cameras were made for.
Fadya. Taken in the studio with the EPL2 set to monochrome. Lens: 40-150mm mFT's. ISO 400. Lit by LED panels diffused thru a Chimera 4x4 panel.
Where these cameras shine is in day-to-day street photography, art photography, portraiture, still life and food photography. Any area where you aren't shooting at fast frame rates, under lousy conditions. In fact, it may be the perfect travel camera system. Small and light and yet extremely flexible, with lenses ranging from 7mm to 300 or more. And most of them small, light and sharp.
When we talk about ISO performance the first thing I want to do is compare it to two cameras I've been shooting for a while, the Canons 7D and 60D. They both share the same sensor although the 60D has newer firmware and maybe a newer processing chip.
At ISO 200 All three cameras are essentially noise free. In Jpeg files, straight out of the camera, everyone I've shown images to strongly prefers the color palette of the Olympus camera. Especially landscape photographers.
At ISO 400 the field is still even.
At ISO 800 you start to see a rising noise bed in all three cameras. With the menu setting for noise set to standard the EPL2 has the appearance of keeping up with the other cameras but on close inspection you see that the camera is starting to reduce sharpness in order to keep the appearance of noise low. The Canons have more detail overall and a lot of the difference is probably due to the bigger file sizes. In effect, when comparing between files you are reducing the noise when you reduce the overall file size in order to do a direct comparison. But that's one of the realities of the megapixel race.
At ISO 1600 the EPL starts to look more noise "treated" than the other two cameras. The 60D in particular still looks very good. The 7D has a definite grain noise in the shadows.
At ISO 3200 the EPL should just pick up the marbles it has left and go home. This is still a desperation setting for this camera. Use it for effect, or if aliens have landed in your back yard and they are sponsoring a chess game between Barrack Obama and Sarah Palin and you're the only photographer on the scene. And you left your flash at home. And....
There's a certain level of physics in play and, I think, some engineering decisions.
So, what do we have so far? Great camera for shooting in good to mediocre light. Great color in the Jpegs. The focus has been improved but it's still not in the uber-professional ballpark. The camera is small and beautiful. Let's move on.
The EPL2 is a stealth camera. It's got more flex and better imaging capablity than anything I could have bought for under $5000 just four years ago and yet you can wear it all day long without the camera becoming a burden.
It doesn't scream "professional camera" when you point it at a subject so you are less likely to be challenged by authorities or refused by cute girls or threatened by vicious bikers.
The camera does great work while flying under the radar in so many ways.
All of this devastatingly good imaging potential is hidden under a price tag that is eminently affordable by students, artists and even freelance photographers.
It's so un-intimidating that you can hand it to just about anyone, set to program, and they'll be able to take great images with it.
If you take it into a war zone and it is rendered asunder by bullets, bombs or bludgeons you'll be able to replace it without teetering on the edge of insolvency and insanity.
Whether you buy the EPL2 or the EPL1 or the EP2 you really need to consider getting the VF-2 viewfinder. While it's not the same as looking thru an really good optical finder it has its own charm and its own special powers. And it's the best of its kind. I have one for both of my Pen cameras. The finder uses a 1 million+ pixel density display and under almost all light conditions is bright and well color corrected vis-a-vis the final file. I like it because I can access the menu with the camera up to my eye, make changes, and never slow down my shooting.
Take exposure compensation, for instance. I can hit the top part of the rear control wheel (it acts like a series of buttons when you click at noon, three, six and nine) and the graphics for the compensation scale pop up in the bottom of the finder window. A click to the left or the right side of the wheel or a spin of the wheel in either direction gets you a 1/3 stop correction, plus or minus. Three clicks is one stop......and you can see the effect in the finder, real time, as you manipulate the control. It's not the iterative process you go thru on a DLSR. It actually guides you to the "right" compensation.
Ditto for color settings, AF point shifting and pretty much anything else you can access thru the "super panel control." People complain about the complexity of the scroll menu when setting up the camera but pretty much all of the most commonly used settings can be set on what Olympus calls the Super Control Panel . One push of the button inside the back wheel will pull up the SCP on either the external screen or right in the finder. Use the new control wheel on the back as a series of buttons (up, down, left, right) and you can quickly navigate thru the menu with ease. I can set the frame rate, the color setting and the files size without ever taking my eye from the EVF. Can I do that with my Canon 5Dmk2? Not a chance. Does it make shooting easier? Without a doubt.
|French Fries from P.Terry's. MMMMMM.|
And once you've taken the shot you can see an instant review in the finder. You can also choose the turn this off and you'll get faster shot to shot performance.
My only gripe at all with the implementation of the electronic viewfinder is that it takes up the real estate of the accessory shoe on the top of the camera and keeps you from being about to use the shoe for all the other things you usually use a hot shoe for. Like.....flash. I hate shooting studio flash with my EP2 because I want so badly to use the EVF. If I do there's no way to trigger the flashes (maybe that sparked my inquiries into LED lighting....???). At least, with the EPL family, you can always keep the EVF firmly in place and use the built in flash as a low powered, white light trigger for your bigger flashes. You can set the flash to fire manually at various ratios all the way down to 1/64th power. The flash is also articulated so you can point it up toward a white ceiling for bounce flash. Admittedly, this is a last ditch technique as the built in flash is small and quite under powered for that kind of work. But as a flash trigger it works quite well.
Can we talk lenses for a minute? I've been using Olympus lenses for a long time and for the most part they're really good. I think some of the zooms they've been making for their e system are the best in the market. See my review of the 35-100 f2 and the 14-35mm f2 on Michael Johnston's site Here.
So what can we say about the Micro Four Thirds lenses? I've mixed and matched. I've got the first gen, kit lens and I've been pleased with it's performance but I've also gotten some Panasonic lenses and they're a great addition to Olympus's still meager line up of dedicated optics. My favorite autofocus lens to use with the system is the Panasonic 20mm 1.7. It's tiny, super sharp and fast. Also from Panasonic, the 45-200 mm tele zoom is very sharp and handles quite well. With that lens you have the choice of using Image Stabilization from the body or from the lens. Whichever one you choose, be sure to turn off the other.
In the last week I've been able to play around alot with the 40 to 150. It's the only lens I took with me on my walk around downtown today and I must say that it makes the whole thing look too darn easy. You look thru the medium to long setting of the lens and everything looks good. Coupled with the body IS I'm able to shoot wide open at the longest telephoto setting handheld at a 60th of a second, reliably. Just remember to pay attention to subject motion. At the other end of the catalog, Panasonic makes a lens that is so beautiful that it is a must have for anyone using this camera for serious work. It's the 7-14mm. It's like a tiny piece of industrial sculpture. And according to both my architectural photographer friend, Paul, and all of the lens testing websites; it is magnificently sharp wide open and at all focal lengths. It's the miniature counterpart to Nikon's legendary 14-24mm. but with a bit more range......
But the neat thing about these small cameras is that they've developed a new standard that calls for a much shorter distance between the sensor and the lens mount. What that means on a practical level is that
just about any lens created for 35mm cameras can be used on the front of the camera by compensating for the distance differential with an adapter ring for each brand. I've mounted Nikon macros and high speed fifties and I mounted a Leica 35mm 1.4 Aspherical to the front of my Pens (pretty funny to see a $5000 lens cobbled onto the front of a $500 camera body) and all have worked flawlessly, albeit, only with manual focus and exposure.
There is also an adapter that will allow you to use most of the Olympus e system lenses as well, and those work in autofocus and with full metering capabilities. This make the system incredibly fun and flexible. And I know many a Leica M shooter who sees the EPL2 and it's cousins as a quick and sensible digital back end for large collections of M series lenses.
But for me the greatest pleasure in testing the new camera was in using my collection of ancient Olympus Pen F lenses. Many years ago Olympus introduced a revolutionary line of smaller cameras that came to be called "half frame" cameras. That's because they used half of a full 35mm still frame and gave the photographer 72 shots on a standard roll of film. Olympus designed a fairly extensive line of lenses for the cameras and famous photographers like Eugene Smith swore by them and routinely used them on assignments for some of the biggest magazines in the world.
I became fascinated by the system back in the 1980's and started collecting the cameras and the lenses. You can read more about them in one of my older blogs here. My collection includes some lenses that are just naturals for the EPL2, including: the 20mm f4 ( a great street shooter with a manual focus ring that reminds you what fine machinery was all about). The 38 1.8 and the 40 1.4 (great short tele lenses with high image quality when stopped down two stops and a mechanical feel that will make you want to focus manually for the rest of your life). There are also two very sexy lenses. The 60mm 1.5 and the 70mm f2. Both are great optics, optimized for this sensor size (albeit, originally to film) and faster than anything you can get in the current system. Fortunately, when you use any of these lenses on the EPL2 you can get full exposure automation in the A mode.
A quick note about manual focusing. Several other photographers have noticed this and conveyed it to me. When you rack in and out of focus with a manual lens you'll get a slight shimmer in the finder when you hit the point of "in focus". If you watch for the shimmer you have a built in autofocus indicator. Makes the whole process much quicker than zooming in to high magnification to check sharpness......
There are so many ways to go with lenses. What would I do? If I were just starting out in the system I would go one of two ways. Probably the smartest thing to do if you have lots of different kinds of subjects you like to shoot is to get the EPL2 with the kit lens (14-42) and also pick up the 40-150mm. I could go on a trip around the world with these two and not miss much. But I'm greedy so my real plan would be to cover my ass with the fun stuff too. I'd put together a system like this: 7-14mm f4 Panasonic, 14-42 kit lens, 20mm 1.7 Panasonic, and then the Olympus 40-150mm. With four lenses I'd have a really powerful shooting system that I could stick into a Spiderman lunch box with lots of room left over for batteries and memory cards.
To recap this section I'd say that all the available lenses are good. Some are great. You get to pick and choose on your own because I know I'm a real lens addict and I could probably make a good case for you to adapt a bunch of Zeiss stuff to your EPL2. Know your uses and test, test, test.
Let's move on to another aspect of the camera. The art filters. I won't recap the ones that came on the older cameras. I like the grainy film one just fine and, in some instances I like the pinhole as well but the one that's intriguing and weirdly cliche on the new camera is the distressed filter. It's a cross between cross processing and HDR. A right unholy alliance if I've ever heard of one.
Here's the scene with the diorama (or LaForet effect) filter:
See? Things get blurry on the top and the bottom of the frame.....
But here's the one I'm calling the distressed filter:
Let's try another one:
And here's what the scene really looked like (below)
I also like what it does in this image:
The camera has some other controls called "scene modes" and a setting called iAuto that's just perfect for people that don't want to know squat about how to take photos.
And that's okay because that's a big market for cameras like the EPL2. In fact, one of the great things about cameras now is that manufacturers can hit two ends of the market with the same product. It's almost as if cameras have become scalable imaging solutions. It's all in the feature set.
But I'm not going to spend much of our time on scene menus or beginner menus. I figure we've both got that covered and we're using the camera in its highest and best use scenario. If you want cheat and use the fireworks setting that's fine. You just don't need to tell me about it.
Now. Let's go thru all the stuff people asked me about when I first announced the test.
1. Is this camera less sharp than its predecessor, the EPL1?
A: No. It's the same sensor, and the same basic software and firmware for the imaging systems. If you like the sharpness (and color ) of the previous camera you will also like this one. It's also the same sensor as the ones in the e30 and the e620.
2. Is the new kit lens better, sharper, faster?
A: While the whole camera system seems to focus faster and with more assurance than all previous Pens I can't say whether the kit lens is responsible. It does extend more firmly but, in truth, I haven't noticed a performance difference in practice.
3. Can I shoot tethered to a bluetooth enabled Mac with the PenPal?
A: I couldn't get it to work with my studio laptop but the menu indicates that the biggest file you can transfer has 1900 pixels or so on the long end so I'm not sure it would help much in a real production environment. The real use seems to be intended to get them to your phone or other "upload to the web" devide to share, etc.
4. How's the video?
A: I covered that whole subject in an earlier post, here: Kirk's Video Appraisal
5. Does it look sexier and more professional than the EP2 or the EPL1?
A: No. Yes. The EP2 is still a very gorgeous camera. But the EPL2 is much better looking that the EPL1.
6. Will I be rushing out to buy one right away?
A: I'm still on the fence. If I didn't have the two other cameras I'm sure this is where I'd start. The price is great and performance is wonderful.
7. Will I please shoot a thousand test shots at every ISO with every lens?
No thanks. I shot some stuff at 1600 and I wasn't really happy with it. Like most of my cameras (including the Canon 60D and 7D) I'm happiest if I keep all of them under the 1600 mark. The closer to 200 the better it is for everyone and every camera.
8. Did the addition of the little wheel on the back make any difference at all in the performance of the camera?
A: Not really. Once you learn the menu system of the EPL1 it's pretty much the same thing on the two but with the option to use a wheel instead of a button. Not much difference in speed or complexity.
Finally, I get to eat crow. I was able, today (the first totally clear day in the time I've had the camera) to make the dreaded and catastrophic red dot/spot problem show itself.
I shot a sunset last week and none of those shots showed any dots. Just to be thorough in the review I took the camera out in the blazing sun this afternoon, put on the 40-150mm lens, aimed it directly at the sun and shot in program (knowing that the camera would underexpose the sky by at least three stops.
I hit the review button and there it was. The red dot disaster. But I stick by my original article on the issue. And I will also quote from page 95 of the English version of the owner's manual under "Safety Precautions": "DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN OR STRONG LIGHTS WITH THE CAMERA"
Now we know this can happen. It's not a manufacturing defect, it's just the way digital cameras are. I would suspect that the proximity of the rear element to the sensor and the directly collimated light rays are the two factors that cause this to happen. You are forewarned: If you point the camera directly at the sun this might happen. If this is something you fear or distrust. DO NOT BUY THIS CAMERA.
The rest of use will probably be able to use the camera for a good long time and not see anything like this. But in the interest of a totally honest review I just had to include this finding. Again, Don't shoot directly into the sun or strong lights.
What have I missed? Why do I like this camera? Let me sum the whole thing up. There are guys who like to pack up like mules and drag all their stuff around with them when they go out shooting. You've seen them. Big, professional cameras over each shoulder, 70-200 on one, 24-70 on the other. A waist bag filled with fast, prime lenses. Black Rapid straps crisscrossed over one another. A camera backpack with a tripod strapped on for good measure, and a couple of flashes on sticks just in case. Add a vest with special pockets and some sort of backward facing baseball cap and you've just drawn the cartoon of someone who's sucked all the joy out of photography for themselves and everyone around them.
If you have style and a vision you've probably been able to narrow your shooting down to a concise set of three primes or two zooms. And if you're going to spend time on your feet, in the heat or the cold, you know that every piece of gear demands your attention and every extra pound saps your energy like a vampire.
I want to shoot as discreetly as possible. I want people to believe I am a hapless tourist or a rank amateur so that I don't become part of a distracting, self sabotaging center of attention. And you can't do that if you are a walking camera store.
I want to emulate Henri Cartier Bresson or Elliot Erwitt. One small camera. One or two little lenses. Nothing too noisy. Nothing too bright or precious. For a long time HCB used screw mount Leicas that are not bigger than the Pens. In fact, the collapsible 50 Elmar lens he used is smaller than any of the current lenses for the Pens. In his later life he "graduated" to the smallest of the M mount Leicas, the CL ( which stood for Compact Leica).
All of that reportage skill depended on an unobtrusive camera and leveraged access and vision. One can't help but think that these things were foremost in the minds of Olympus designers when they sat down to re-invent their Pen cameras.
While I like the EP2 I find that the real reason to want the EPL2 is its sheer stealth. The matte black finish is less showy and more businesslike. The lines of the design serve to visually reduce it's profile. It fits in my hand with very little to spare around the edges and when I wear it against my chest on a black sweat shirt its aspect nearly vanishes. I can barely feel its weight on the strap. Little more than the premium compacts in size and weight and price but a huge step up in performance. At $599 it's hard to make a case against it.
In the right hands it can be an amazing tool for the creation of extemporaneous art. There are other cameras for heavier lifting. I can do portraits in and out of the studio with this camera. It allows me to select the shooting aspect (I like squares) and I can shoot video as well. Amazing how far the m4:3 cameras have come in so little time.....that's it.
Two Corrections added at 6:25 PM Central time: 1. I forgot to mention that the camera's top shutter speed has been increased. The EPL1 went to 1/2000 while the new, EPL2 goes to 1/4000th of a second. This is pretty important as the lenses are at their best under f8. 2. I wrongly suggested that flash control was added to this camera and labeled it an improvement. Readers have corrected me and reminded me that the EPL1 also had this ability.
A great link about getting better high ISO from the EPL's: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/06/iso-6400-from-an-ep1.html From Michael Johnston's, The Online Photographer, blog. (see VSL hotlinks on the left side).
Several posters in forums suggested that I did not supply enough "good" information about the camera. What is your opinion?
in other news: Belinda and I finished working on, The Lisbon Portfolio. The photo/action novel I started back in 2002. I humbly think it is the perfect Summer vacation read. And the perfect, "oh crap, I have to fly across the country" read. It's in a Kindle version right now at Amazon. The Lisbon Portfolio. Action. Adventure. Photography. See how our hero, Henry White, blows up a Range Rover with a Leica rangefinder.....
He like it. I think.
Excellent review. I can see how a camera like this would be a wonderful "second system" for a lot of shooters, and perhaps even primary for a few. As for me, I like action photography too much, and the Pens just aren't there yet in that regard, but for a stealth street shooter, and as a general "all purpose camera --it might be perfect.
A good honest 'everyman's' review Kirk.
Thanks for the review Kirk. One new feature you failed to mention is the 1/4000 max shutter speed vs the the 1/2000 of the EPl1. For me it's big. Most 4/3 lenses max out in quality by F4-F5.6. On my EPL1 I can hit that 1/2000 too quick on a sunny day. (I did get a nice B&W ND filter for daytime use so I can control (lessen) the DOF some with fast lenses.
Thanks for a very clear and honest review.
I'll spare not a little money and keep the PL1 for a while, but others might decide differently.
As for the red GRID, I find it very funny. After all the Chinese were right. Never heard it before with other Micro 4/3 cameras though.
Greetings from India!
I have keenly followed your blogs so far and love the way you put things from a p.o.v of a layman photographer leaving us with a real world perspective and not serious maths analysing cameras.
I have keenly followed your review of the EPL2 and am seriously thinking of picking it up the moment i get a chance.
Thanks for a wonderful review.
Great review, thank you. I believe this will be my next (digital) camera. I do have to correct one thing though. The E-PL2 uses a revised version of the TruePix V image processor, the same as the E-5 and E-PL1. The E620 and E-30 use the older TruepiX III. The difference primarily being the lighter anti-alias filter on the V, which seems to make a difference.
One other reason to buy the EPL-2 over the EPL-1, is the return of the remote shutter release! This makes doing panos much easier.
Thanks Kirk! To add to what Ronald said re action photography for those of us who want to carry light weight gear and use flash! The Olympus trade off is LCD for composition to use the TTL flash! I wonder if a viewfinder or other attachment is coming that allows for both viewfinder and flash at the same time! Still my wife will like it as a step up from point and shoot. Now the question is how do I get it away from her when we are out strolling around?
It's so much fun to read your stuff, Kirk. It is so much more than just information. Its your refreshing perspective. Yes, it is just opinion, but a lot of us have clearly come to respect it.
Oly has really done a nice job with this one. While not appreciably different than the EPL1 it has enough refinements to make it worthwhile, especially for us E-P1 owners. Thank you for being so prolific with the updates and for a great, real world style test. This means a great deal more to me than some pseudo scientific test by a guy wearing a photographic bandolero. This actually peaks my curiosity over what the E-P2 replacement might hold in store. If the EPL2 is THIS good will Oly recreate some magic that makes us forget about that new gadget from Fuji? I'd still like a 45mm f/1.8 lens from them though!
David, Just from a sybaritic point of view I'd love to see what Olympus does with their next "top of the line" m4:3rds camera. I'd love the sharper sensor and faster response of the EPL2 in an EP2 body. But I'd also like to see them come out with a conventional style body with a built in EVF like Panasonics GH2 (which, incidentally, is on a one to two month backorder at Amazon...).
Nicely done. I want one, but upgrading from the EPL1 without a big bump in AF speed probably doesn't make much sense.
Thanks for your lens recommendations. I was debating on which wide angle zoom to get.I will take a look at the Panny. I would like to add that the EPL1 & EPL2 support the Oly wireles RC flash control system with the FL50R and FL36R flash guns.
Many thanks for the detailed and still "human" and easy to understand review. I think that at last found the camera to replace my Olympus RC35. (In a reasonable price).
Many thanks Kirk.
You need to change it's to its in many places.
One place, you have that instead of than.
Other than that, great article. Very helpful. Many thanks!
What a great review! I find it really refreshing to read something like this that talks about the real world use of these cameras.
I had a Nikon D-200, then sold that body because it was just too heavy for me and got a D-90. I love the IQ of the D-90, but it does not go with me every day because it is just not a portable system, and, as you said, it calls attention to itself in use. I have been looking for years for an affordable small camera that gave me better IQ than the P&S tiny little Canon that I normally have with me, and was waiting for the E-PL2 reviews to see if that might be the one.
Surprisingly enough, after reading everything I could about the two, I decided to get the E-PL1, mostly because the price was right and the differences in performance between the E-PL1 and E-PL2 just didn't seem to be significant.
End result: I am thrilled with this little camera. After using it, I think you hit the nail on the head about the best uses of these cameras and why they are so great at what they do. (And why they aren't so great for certain uses...none of which I do, fortunately!).
Thank you so much for providing a breath of fresh air in the reviewer's corner.
why does anyone not mention that the VF2 would be much better placed on the top left corner of the camera. that way the nose does not soil the screen (if you use your right eye). Just like a leica M system or the many rangefinder cameras of yore.
Then the flash can be in the middle instead.
Kudos from me too. The 'not-DP review' review we need in addition to the DP review reviews!
I already own the G1 with the 20mm pancake. I'm torn between the gh2 and this epl2.
One question, the 7-14 is, by all accounts, superb. Might the 9-18 serve similarly for a small 'lunchbox' kit?
Incidentally, how do you customize a kids lunchbox with foam inserts? I love the idea of a lunchbox to fool would-be thieves as to the nature of the contents. I used to use a padded diaper-changing bag (unused, of course) for camera equipment.
Ran into your blog when 'googling' EPL-2, and have thoroughly enjoyed your series on the camera. I especially appreciate how straight-forward and practical you are and that one can ascertain where you stand on something---at the least at that point in time. A user of Olympus products for 30 years, I'm attracted to the EPL-2 as I'm looking for something compact and secondary. I think the Olympus XZ-1 may be another good prospect because of its diminutive size, but I worry about having a sensor even smaller than a four-thirds. At any rate, thanks for the articles. When do you find the time?
Hopefully if they do they won't follow suit on the megapixels. 12 is enough on an M43 sensor (in my opinion). I've always been fascinated with the GH series video capabilities but its an amazingly different craft from stills. I agree, an M43 body with similar to the GH1 & 2 would be a great add for them as they wither their DSLR line up.
I was one of the people who took you to task for not finding the red dot problem over on DPReview. I am amazed and delighted that you: a. found it. b. owned up to it, and c. were totally honest. Now....how are they going to fix it?
Thanks. I don't really have a donkey in the race with this camera. I just find the whole "small camera/big performance" paradigm interesting and refreshing. I think a lot of the technology will end up in bigger cameras. And I think these are more than enough camera for many family pix and documentation of day to day life. They lower the barriers of entry to art.
What is most interesting to me is all the talk about Oly color and how gorgeous the skies always are. I am really not a fan of their blue rendering of the sky. It can be seen very well in the difference between the diorama shot and then the distressed just below it. I like the rendition of the distressed sky better.
There's so much control in the menu and the color settings that you can pretty much get any type of sky you want. The constant reference is that you get pleasing results (and more often) straight out of camera without a lot of fiddling. All the cameras in this class can be modified to please your color sense. But they all do have a native palette that some prefer and others don't...
Great review, thanks. One note of clarification/addition. The E-pl1 (and I presume e-pl2) can simultaneously use the VF-2 and wirelessly control FL-36r/50r strobe off camera (TTL!)though its built in flash. My daughter uses this set up for weddings and events with an umbrella and a reflector. ISO 1600 is usable if you are careful about exposure in prints up to 4 x 6". Most album pictures are smaller than this. For the 8 x 10" money shots (portrait of the bride, altar shots) we think the E-pl1 needs a high quality legacy lens. We use M Rokkor 40mm F 2.0 and 90mm F 4.0 for these shots. At ISO 400-800 you can still get reasonable shutter speeds, and if the subjet is reasonably static, IBIS definatley helps. So, if someone is just starting out, we recomend the kit lens (sharp but slow), a fast 40-50mm legacy prime lens and a legacy moderate telephoto (80-135mm) as well as the FL-36r flash (can sync. at any speed, good for bright light portrait fill). With that set up you can shoot just about anything and it is very portable.
P.S. I think I will get her your Commercial Photography book for her birthday!
Kirk, thanks for the informative review.
One question: does this red spot phenomenon also occur with the EPL-1?
Thanks for the nice review, Kirk. Your feelings fit well with my own about these cameras. I see the Pens as being an excellent adjunct/complement to my DSLR system ... I'd use them instead of any of the lower-end models, but they are not a competitor to the top of the line models.
The E-PL2 is a darn nice little package. Add VF2, fast wide-normal lens (Lumix 20/1.7), maybe a portrait tele (Macro-Elmarit 45/2.8) too. Done, perfect.
Good review, and I can understand where you are coming from, even if I make different choices. One minor nit, you mentioned they added wireless flash control to the E-PL2, but the E-PL1 also had the feature (page 103 of the E-PL1 manual). Since neither the E-P1 nor the E-P2 had the pop-up flash, they didn't have the support.
In terms of VF-2 and external flash I agree with you. It would have been so convenient if they had moved the VF-2 over to the left and/or provided an extension cord for the accessory port so we could mount the EV-2 on a bracket or something and still use the flash. With my E-P2, I've been tempted to get out my soldering iron and make a flash connection underneath the VF-2 so that I can mount a flash on a CB-FL05 cable and use both. In the same vein, when I'm doing video, I really would prefer to use both the VF-2 and SEMA-1 (external microphone) at the same time.
In terms of the bluetooth, I had a suspicion that the Penpal really was only for transferring reduced size pictures to your cell phone so you can update your facebook page (not something I do, but I can imagine there are some who do). Thanks for confirming that.
I do wish Olympus had really thought about using either bluetooth or WiFi for tethered support. The newly announced Samsung SH100 that you can fully control from your android phone seems to be what I wish Olympus had done with the Penpal.
In terms of alternatives to the VF-2, there is the possibility of using A/V out, possibly to a real small LCD, such as used for viewing movies from your ipad. Unfortunately, Olympus put the cable in perhaps the worst possible position, where you grip the camera with your right hand. Also, the image quality isn't as good (the A/V output is 320x240 pixels compared to the VF-2's 800x600). There are some ebay remote live view and shutter release combinations out on the market now.
Kirk, After reading your review I feel like I've handled the camera. I can't say I've ever felt the same way after reading DPReviews posts. Never much into measurbation. That said could you fix the link referenced by your words below? I think you intended to link to an older blog post of the earlier pen lenses. I am curious about it. Thanks!!
I became fascinated by the system back in the 1980's and started collecting the cameras and the lenses. You can read more about them in one of my older blogs here. <--right here.
Kirk had me at the beautiful and totally different product shot that graces the top of this blog. What a beautiful way to photograph a camera. The review was nice too.
Thanks for a very down to earth & bto-the-point review, Kirk!
Now, Mark Olwick wrote this:
"The E-PL2 uses a revised version of the TruePix V image processor, the same as the E-5 and E-PL1. The E620 and E-30 use the older TruepiX III. The difference primarily being the lighter anti-alias filter on the V, which seems to make a difference"
Yes, and no.The processor info = correct.
But, the Anti Alias filter is not in the processor, it´s a physical part, a glass that is mounted in front of the actual sensor surface, in order to a degree to soften the sharpness so that moiré will not destroy IQ with some subject matter (fine and evenly occurring patterns mostly)
The E-5 AA-filter is weaker (=less softening) thus increasing sharpness a bit, while the new Truepic V+ processor is said to/expected to to some extent reduce the possible remaining moiré artefacts.
Kirk, thanks for your sensible review. Seems like a sweet little camera, especially with that 20 1.7.
Can you comment on autofocus performance? I realize this is not an action camera, but how would it work as a "decisive moment digital" for shooting people on the street? Is autofocus point selection quite quick?
Thanks for the review, I am a reader from Hong Kong and have been reading your blog since I bought a EP-2 in Feb 2010. I recently saw a new len coming from Voigtlander made for M4/3, it seem to be a realy interesting len.
Great review, Kirk. I do think Olympus should have waited a bit longer and thought more about the type of upgrades to make vs. the E-PL1, but I guess they need to appear as fleet-footed as Panasonic. I was most intrigued by your comments on the new 40-150; I recently sold my Oly 4/3 40-150 and bought a used OM MF 70-150 because it felt more balanced on the E-P1/E-PL1. Your comments are upping the volume on my "gotta have it" voice again!
I did not know about the "shimmer" when manually focusing on my E-PL1 with the VF-2. Cudo's on that!
Thanks for your review. Easy to read and keeping it simple. Agree with your comments on the Vf2. The Olympus 9-18 lens is also excellent. I have the EPL1 - a little gem!
"I want to emulate Henri Cartier Bresson or Elliot Erwitt."
YES, you are have one 100% of my respect now.
Thank you for the review, I'll be sending all my friends to your site to convince them to go for micro 4/3 =).
Hi Kirk. I like this review this much because you've fleshed out the pros and cons of this camera in an extremely reasonable way.
It's possible that Oly can do even more to deliver much better high ISO performance. What I have noticed with the E-PL1 and E-P2 that I have is that whilst the noise levels at say 1600 and beyond are apparently higher than a Canon 7D, there's actually a fair bit of detail in them high ISO PEN shots. I reckon what Olympus has done is to go for more detail at high ISOs and actually less noise processing, so that its up to the photographer to apply further post-processing to zap away the unwanted noise in these shots. Ctein has written an interesting tutorial to get good quality shots at 6400 with the E-P1 for instance (http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/06/iso-6400-from-an-ep1.html). Thanks for taking the time to write this review!
Kirk, thanks once again for a comprehensive and practical review.
For all the red spot doomsayers, can I tell you that I get exactly that same matrix of red spots on an Olympus e-520. It only happens when you do stupid stuff like point it directly at the sun, no wonder Kirk was having a hard time repeating a noob error like that.
Thanks Kirk... another very nice review. It's always nice to read your practical assessments which tell us a lot about usability without a lot of boring specs!
A wonderful and thorough review. Thanks!
Thanks for the review, I boght an EPL2 yesterday and so far am delighted especially when I mount my Panny 20mm F1.7 on the front and use the Aperture priority setting. The tip about bounce flash was a great tip as I would never have thought of it. I tried it and found that it is easy to angle the flash head backwards with a tip of the finger and the results are much improved over direct flash.
I'm not sure how to define "Good Information". For me the review was exactly the kind of insight on the practical use the micro four thirds camera system. The strong and weak points were explained in a way that reflects real world use. The review provided a forum for like minded photographers to add their experiences with the Pen cameras. I am learning a lot from you and your blog. Graphs and charts bore me to death but if need that info I can go elsewhere. I look forward to your next article.
Kirk posts a great camera review and it draws 45 (and counting) comments. He posts a great article on making portraits and it draws eight responses. Sheesh! Are there any gearheads in the house?
Thanks for a great review. There’s one detail that I haven’t been able to find out yet.
I have an EPL-1 and on Manual exposure, the up/down arrow buttons control the shutter speed, while the left/right arrow buttons control the aperture. Not as fast as a wheel, but at least I don’t have to hold down a 2nd button while turning the wheel in order to switch from shutter speed to aperture (like on a Canon Rebel).
Now that the EPL-2 has a scroll wheel, what does it control by default in Manual mode - shutter or aperture? And how do you switch over to control the other? Do you have to hold down another button while rotating the wheel or is there some kind of toggle?
Dave, When I first started writing I wrote about shoots and philosophy but I quickly found that a gear review trumps a real world assignment story by a factor of four. I'll still write about portrait shooting. that's my passion!
Wheel ?: Answer: You can use the wheel exactly the same way you do the buttons. A click on the top (12 o'clock) switches between shutter speeds and apertures. Then you can go left/ right/ up /down.
Thanks for the great review Kirk. If I ever get around to stumping up for a Pen, I'll be using your links!
Thanks for the great review.
Like you, I still compose with a viewfinder. Too bad neither Pany nor Oly have incorporated it into a m43 rangefinder-style body (the DMC-L1 has something akin to it, but is long discontinued, and its fast wide prime lens selection is sorely lacking). For that major reason, I have not bought into m43, even as the bodies get progressively cheaper. I'll wait for either a used M8 or the new Fuji X100, both of which have a built-in viewfinder, don't weigh a ton or call attention to themselves (just like you pointed out).
Greetings from Portugal!
Thanks for another wonderful review!
I love your blog and come here almost everyday.
I'm also a very happy owner of a E-PL2 with the indispensable VF-2.
I was just curious about one thing...
Have you ever tried the m4/3 Olympus 9-18mm lens?
It is supposed to be a great little lens and a nice (and much cheaper) alternative to the Panny 7-14mm (though not so wide, obviously).
Thanks again for your blog and this particular review (which also spared me the impulse of even thinking of upgrading from the E-PL1!)!
> What is your opinion?
Enjoyed your review. That style, oblivious to the raw technicalities and lacking brick wall shots, should be more widespread.
It's rather inspiring to see the return of the photography to the photography. (As in "joy of making photos" vs. "counting pixes," "camera for the photog" vs. "photog for the camera.")
One the little gripe:
> At $599 it's hard to make a case against it.
That sound way too optimistic. Since earlier you have mentioned that you also have 3 non-kit lenses and the VF2. E.g. EPL2+VF2+20mm combo would cost $600+$200+$300=$1100.
When I was buying my first dSLR, most of the time I have actually spent calculating the "hidden" costs, as most (all?) reviews omit the gritty details about full system cost.
Re: good information.
I think there is enough "good" information floating around on the web, so that what we need is more in-depth, hands-on reviews like yours. You drum home the points important to your real-world photography and provide many fine examples. To be sure, the article is a bit overwritten and rambling, but makes up for that with an entertaining perspective.
I would add that the PENs have some major design limitations that have been a turn-off to me. First, the focus speed is dreadful with Zuiko four-thirds lenses and an adapter, to the point that someone looking to expand their E-series system with a PEN should think twice about it until Olympus can come up with a better solution. Second, the controls are too easy to inadvertently change when handling or carrying the camera. This happens to me frequently whereas I never had the problem with the larger E-series bodies. Third, there is the EVF: if this is such an essential item why isn't it built in? The ease of carrying the PEN and its price value are severely compromised by having to attach a semi-permanent gadget to the hot shoe. Finally, there is the poor flexibility in video format which limits recording a performance to 7 minutes among other things.
Its great to read your blog on a daily basis and posts/reviews like this from a real world perspective are invaluable.
One thing has me puzzled though. Your comment ' The camera is one of the family of Micro Four Thirds cameras which use a sensor that is about 20% smaller than an APS-C sized sensor used in a Canon Rebel or 60D. Sounds scary but the sensor is six times bigger than the sensors in cameras like the Canon G 12 and the Lumix LX-5 from Panasonic. '
The six times bigger is the puzzling bit. One sixth of 80% of an APS-C size sensor sounds kind of minimal.
Between your review and the accompanying comments I feel as if I know everything I really need to know about this camera, pro and con. My overall impression is that as long as you let it do what it does best you'll be a very happy camper. I just might have to try me one-a them.
I agree with Ihar's comment regarding the $599 cost being overly optimistic when the $249 VF-2 is to be considered essential. An $850 price tag for an EPL2+VF2 kit does put it out of the realm of being a legitimate enthusiast compact competitor based on price. That said, after a couple years of being on the fence regarding the PEN series cameras, I'll finally be shelling out for an EPL2+VF2 as a complement to my 5DMkII.
Thank you for the ongoing real-world perspective reviews, Kirk - they're much preferred to the more scientific analysis so many sites focus on.
Thanks Kirk for a good review.
I am amazed by the colors in your pictures, especially the skies. I can never get these colors with my GF1.
I wonder what settings did you use in you e-pl2 to get these awesome colors ? Is that vivid ?
Thank you for the fantastic real-world style review; very helpful as I'm looking to pick up a micro to compliment my D7K system.
Question for you. I'm either going to grab this (e-pl2) or pick up the panny gf1 for about 420 from b&H. Heck of a nice price - I'm more of a raw guy so the crappy panny jpgs don't scare me. Any other big reason to spend more with the Oly?
Frank, the only compelling reasons are being able to use in body IS with older lenses and the fact that I refuse to use these cameras without the electronic viewfinders. Olympus' viewfinder is better. That's about it.
If you compare the samples between EPL-1 and 2 at the Imaging Resource website you will notice that the EPL-2 uses slightly stronger noise processing so the images are a bit softer and less detailed. Not that you will really notice when reduced to normal viewing size.
A question about the shimmer in manual focus : It works only with the VF-2 EVF? or does it works with the LCD?
Thanks and great review.
Excuse my poor English, it's not my native language.
A nice and useful review.
I was considering getting the new Nikon p7000, but now I'm leaning toward E-PL2.
How bad are small sensor cameras with depth of field control ?
Can P7000 or G12 take a picture like the one you are showing with the plates on the table ( one before last picture) ?
It's much harder to get that out of focus effect with smaller sensor cameras from the same position and angle of view. The sensors are 1/6th the size so the lens focal lengths are much shorter for the same angle of view and that means they have more DOF at equivalent f-stops.
Christophe, The shimmer works on both screens. I've been told it's an "interference pattern" that appears.
Three above: I have both cameras and have shot them both. I don't see the difference they seem to show at Imaging Resource. Perhaps it only changes the highest ISO files...
Someone posted a link on photography blog to your site. I looked at some pics there and some of your pics as well. I also looked at some youtube videos taken with this unit. I think this camera is a superb picture taker. It can with an outside stereo mic shoot videos in stereo sound. When you see a camera take a picture and the sharpness and image liveliness looks great from distance shots of buildings,mountains etc. you know you have a good unit and this one bakes the cake. If I were doing any kind of major photography at this moment, this would be the camera that I would own.
Great review! My wife is looking for a new camera, for three main purposes 1. everyday use camera 2. capture photos of our fast-moving kids 3. develop her photography skills to move beyond just point and shoot
I was going to get her a Canon Rebel T1i kit, but found a deal on the E-PL1 for under $400, about $250 less than the Rebel kit.
My main concern is whether the E-Pl1 will be "fast" enough to capture our 4yr old and 2 yr old (they move pretty fast!) or if she would be better served with a starter dslr. I know the trade-off regarding size with a regular dslr, but was hoping you could offer some real-world advice regarding this.
If fast focusing is the important metric you'll want to go with the Rebel.
Good and fine review. It is nice to read review like this when you pour your heart and soul in to it.
I have been balancing between superzoom/Small SLR.
I´m sold. This is my next camera.
Ville from Finland
Great review - thanks for your thoughtful insights, well expressed. My interest in photography has been re-ignited recently by my lovely little black Panasonic LX3. I'm now looking for similar quality and handling in a system camera and have been trying to make sense of the confusing Olympus EP(L)1/2 line-up... which is now much clearer to me: I'm tempted to go straight for the new EPL2, or maybe secondhand EP2. I'm also excited by the variety of lens options available and the EVF, which sounds (looks?) like being a genuinely essential 'accessory'.
Btw... I love the mental image of a Palin v Obama chess match, sponsored by aliens - great stuff...!!
In the UK, we hapless punters have to pay £760 for the EPL 2 body with the electronic viewfinder: then add a lens.
I'm looking forward to my imminent 40-150 micro even more now. I have the 45-200 and it's great but a relative beast, whereas the 40-150 is nearly a clone of my Lumix 14-45 in size + weight. For easy use on bright days I'm sure the m.Zuiko will be the tele lens of choice, but the 45-200 has its place esp. with OIS on Pana bodies. Thanks for the report + images on the m.Z!
Really useful review - no mention of the Olympus M4/3 18-150 zoom? Fits right into the EPL1, but it's larger than the body so you wind up essentially carrying the camera around by the lens.
I did try this lens for a while (belonged to a friend) and it was smallish, beautiful. Wonder what you think.
The only problem I have with my GF1 is a problem it shares with a Nikon D3 (or my F5 for that matter) and that is limited size prints with FAP quality. For that I'm now considering a GX680 II or III. But if that behemoth is a step up from the GF1 for me, that says something about this camera (a the GX680 has 6x8 cm on 120 rollfilm in it) yeps the 3x4 format to which i'm thouroughly hooked. Would I sell it? Never, the micro4/3 is here to stay a great format, and for those of you that don't believe that look a t www.giannigalassi.com, the Italian you can call the true wizard of micro4/3.
Greetings, Ed Kuipers
Great job. Many thanks for your work.
What I like about this review is your unapologetic (celebrated?) subjectivity. Your passion makes me (as a reader) care.
Specs are not everything for me. Apparently a Subaru is a great car. But I don't like their logo.
I have found it very difficult prioritising my needs on buying a camera.
The one issue that is non negotiable is a view finder. DSLR? Perhaps. But I am tremendously influenced by the notion that I'll be taking more pictures if the hardware is smaller.
That led me to the Leica M9. I was OK with that until I realised the lenses were going to get me over $10K. So I decided I cant do it.
Now of corse, everything seems ridiculously cheap.
The only thing stopping me from buying one of these is the worry that an P3 is immanent.
Nic, that's not the E-P3. That's the E-PL1 from last year.
Thank You for a well written and entertainingly honest review.
I've been shooting for over 35 years in press/editorial work so am very much old school, so I must admit that it's difficult to plow through pages of technical specs for digital cameras that are offered by other reviewers.
Technical specs are of interest (and somewhat essential I guess) but it's the feel of a camera in my hand that will finally get me.
I'm still looking for that digital camera that I can love (like my old F2) so it's always a pleasure to read from someone who (obviously) also loves this job.
Thanks Kirk for the great review. I've had my EPL-2 for three days now and I noticed the camera screen has yellow and black bars running from the bottom to the top whenever I shoot under fluorecent light. My older EPl-1 and Panny GF1 didn't have this kind of problems under the same lighting condition. Did you notice it? Is it normal?
Richard, I notice this with my Canon 5D2 when I shoot under florescent lights at higher shutter speeds. In fact, it affects all cameras. Film or digital. It's the cycle of the flo. shoot at 1/30th or slower to achieve 100% reliable results with all cameras. It's hit or miss at other. It's crazy up at 1/500th. Ran into this last week with three different brands of digital camera. Video guys have been dealing with this for years. It's not the fault of a camera although leaf shutters don't suffer from this because the whole frame is illuminated at once. Swear.
Ha, I almost had a conspiracy theory that Olympus cut the corner on the LCD that resolution went up and refresh rate came down. But, what do I know? lol
Just hope Olympsu pro m4/3 will have more DSLR like housing-a bit bigger grip.
I just purchased this camera - and love it! However, this afternoon I (deliberating) took it out when the sun was going down for two reasons. First because the reflections from the sun, the shadows, etc. were perfect for shooting. Secondly for hoping I would not get the "dreaded red dots." Well, I got them - on almost every shot I took where the sun was facing me; i.e. directly toward the sun - and/or anywhere around the area of where the sun was shining.
I want to keep this camera, but I have a question. Do you think the red dots are more prevalent on some "copies" of the E-PL2? IOW, maybe one production line or something similar. Also, has anyone asked Olympus what this is?
I'm leaning toward keeping the camera, but because I got so many images with the red dots, I'm wondering if it is just some of the cameras that could be more vulnerable to this situation? Thanks for any input.
I took some pictures (in door, good light condition) with the same memory card and viewed with my vaio laptop, enlarge the pictures to 100% or actual size. With the same settings (manual) iso 200, shutter speed 1/10, f3.5. In almost all of the pictures I took, Sony next 5 has sharper area than e-pl2. The only way to know this if you enlarge it to 100% or actual size. Can any of you confirm these findings? I want to buy one of them very soon. Thanks
Sony NEX 5
1. Good video length unlimited (memory size)
2. Better image quality may be due to better image stabilizer.
3. Auto focus works very well on video mode
1. Colour bit brighter than actual
2. Control dial, time consuming compare to e-pl2
3. Body bit too small if you use long range
1. It looks great even with long range lenses
2. Control dial works very well
3. The colour of the pictures look natural
1. Very short video length as limited to 7:15 minutes
2. Slow auto focus on video mode
3. Tend to produce blurry images when use in door without tripod.
Sony's never bothered to lend me a camera to test. I make my living as a photographer, not a camera testing service. If it wasn't in the review you might need to get ahold of both the cameras and test them yourself. There are a lot more important parameters than whether or not one camera is marginally sharper than another at 100%......
Why is the video time limited to 7 minutes ?
Shouldn't that be a function of the card capacity ?
I'm not the product engineer but I'll tell you that all the DSLR's are limited by the a 4gb max limit per take. It has to do with CF and SD memory conventions. Any engineers want to weigh in?
It seems as if everyone is focusing on sensor-size as the important and qualifying thing. Big is better, small is worse. That is why DSLR is superior to SLR 4/3.
But micro 4/3 is still a new standard, and therefore sensor-size is not all there is to it.
The system is not just another scaled down DSLR without the mirror. It is still a brandnew digitally oriented standard with a great not yet unfolded potential and we haven't seen the limits of it either. We are at the beginning.
For instance the micro four thirds as a standard has its technical advantages:
The new lenses are telecentric. A much better solution than in the old DSLRs because the light is hitting the sensor overall in a more vertical angel. The sensor benefits from this and thus receive MORE not less light than DSLR's - a promising s/n system-factor in the future.
Camera and lens in 4/3 has become communicative united.
The microlens-offset can be optimized in relation to the optic center resulting in higher output than before throughout the entire lens range from wide to tele. And in the near future this effort can be perfected by slightly curved sensors to secure absolute vertical lightangels for all pixels.
So, it is almost impossible to predict who has the upper hand in a future perspective - but for sure not the old fashioned DSLRs. DSLRs may be better for now, but technologically they are outdated.
I wrote yesterday that the sensor receives 'MORE not less light'. I should have added - relative to size.
As you can imagine I'm not the least afraid of neither the standard nor its capacity. Therefore I confidently bought an EPL 2 myself a week ago.
I already know the standard from the Panasonic GF1.because I bought it as a birthday present for my wife a year ago.
I have shot some real-world shots during the week to test it and so far I agree to all Kirk Tuck has to say about this little digital jewel. I have been most sceptical leaving film - entering the digital photo-era myself being an old dedicated film-Leica man. But 12 MP looks quite sufficient and the IQ - it is ... forgive me - close to sexcellent. And no, it isn't a Leica, but its appeal is the same, classical - small, leight-weight, versatile, extremely portable and quality all the way.
As far as noise goes the past week has been very assuring especially compared to old times and film-grain. My handheld indoor-shots under low-light conditions (late afternoon / before nightfall) and by the window side - showed that the 'grain' (noise) at for instance (ISO 1600) looks finer to me than Tri-X did (400 ASA) in my screen blow-ups. That's an achievement - technically! - And even though I'm fully aware that other and heavier DSLRs out there are performing better and perhaps much better I couldn't care less. and I didn't thirty years ago - in those days fully aware that just because of size 6x6 was definitely better than 24-36.
With kind regards...
Since I shoot mostly RAW I am concerned how well Olympus RAW files will do in Adobe Camera RAW and PS for accurate rendition. Did you test that?
Also, what about the AF? You seemed to shoot a lot in manual, so I'm wondering how accurate and effective AF is with this?
Rob. Now one knows about Olympus RAW files in camera raw yet. The autofocus is nice and snappy. Remember that it takes a while for Apple and Adobe to get that raw file converter updated.....
Well, I for one think your reviews are chock full of pertinent information, most importantly: what it's like to work with the camera, in hand and to eye.
Regarding the improved top shutter speed of 1/4000: correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't any advantage vis a vis wider apertures erased by the new higher minimum ISO of 200 (compared to the EPL1's 1/2000 max shutter speed and minimum ISO of 100)? The only advantage then would seem to be in stopping action.
to all (particularly red spots doomsayers), please show the red spot problems on other cameras before banging on the E-PL2
Great review by the way, Kirk
I like PL2 very much. It's what I want by a camera. I wanted to change my FZ28 with it but now with these red dots... :(
Rarely I shot to the sun but it can be happen. I saw a photo posted by a DPR user taken by night with red dots around the street lamps!
I like very much night shots.
Valerio (sorry for my english)
Greetings from beautiful, Bali Indonesia!
it is great and very helpful review, thanks.
I think I will pick one EPL-2 soon :-)
To all red spotters.
It was never a good idea in the past to point and shoot directly towards the sun. Who really want to do such a thing. In the old days you risked to burn a hole in the shutter cloth or film. To day I think it is just as risky because of the possible burning out the center of your camera's sensor. I never look directly at the sun either.
To anonymous Rob.
Use Olympus viewer momentarily. Or if Apple, then Olympus viewer leaves an applet in iPhoto as you install it onto your harddis, so that you can manage the Raw-file like any other file from iPhoto.
Wow. We're nearing the 100 comment mark. I guess this camera was of interest to more than just a few people....
Looking at sensitive Fadya shows what an artist you are. She must be very, very pleased and thank you very much for your review, convincing pictures and comments.
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hey there :)
please give me persuasive points for and against this camera. I'm having a really hard time deciding hahaha.
If you can't decide after this review then you need to pay for a personal consultation. We'll be happy to schedule you as soon as we get your credit card info..... :-)
Hi Kirk, I'm planning the lenses kit. :)
Other than a wide lens and a prime (I'm thinking about Oly 9-18 and Pany 20) do you think it's better a 14-42 AND 40-150 combo or a 14-150 single-solution?
I'd go with the two lenses. I'm old fashion enough to think that they'd be easier to design well if they don't cover as many focal lengths.
I'm still in trouble with the camera: E-P2 or E-PL2?
Sometime I like to shot the sun making silhouette of landscape or night shots with street lamps. Damn, these red dots...
what do you suggest?
I suggest nothing. If you can't make up your mind you didn't need it in the first place.
Thanks for the excellent review. I recently purchased an Olympus E-PL2 (have not received it yet) and I have some questions for you:
1.- Which telephoto lens do you recommend? The Panasonic 45-200mm? or the Olympus 40-150mm and why?
2.- I have a Panasonic 14-45mm lens but a friend wants to purchase it from me. Do you recommend that I sell this lens? or does it have better optics than the E-PL2 Kit lens?
Sorry Francisco, I don't have time test everything and don't want to give you the wrong advice. You'll have to do some research with your own needs in mind.
Any chance you could pass along the EXIF/mode info for the shots included in the review?
I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information. I'll definitely add this great post in my article section.
60 years of camera and my hands need something lighter than my big canon body and a 24-70. I've been reading about 4/3 for the last few months and finally bought the EL2 about 2 weeks ago. It was a window to the rebirth of my photography! I am constantly amazed by the results I am getting from this small but wonderfully designed and engineered piece of artwork. It is easy on my neck and my hands. The 3" screen is a blessing to my old eye however I will purchase the Viewfinder for daylight outdoor work. I am retired but have earned a living in the field. Without going into technical jargon, whatever shortcoming this camera migh have...it is a wonderful camera
and I do not regret purchasing the kit, 14-42mm & 40-150mm. I would also like to purchase the super wide lens for this and have a system that will allow me to carry it all day without a backache and still be a complete system.
Just for the fun of it I also purchased an adapter for 4/3 to EF and some old Minolta MC/MD
lenses I had inherited from an old friend. Since the MD/MC have aperature control rings it is easy to use the aperature priority mode.
I had a Spiratone 400mm preset lens from the 1960's. With a t-mount I was able to attach it to the PL2. On a tripod, with an 800mm equivilance, the photos were a joy....lots of fun. Next, I have a 2x extender I am going to try with this lens making it a 1600mm. Using a remote shutter release and mounted securely on the solid tripod, I am looking forward to see the results. My backyard is wooded land with many animals. Kirk, thank you for your review.
I really liked this real-world review. I will have to check out this new Pen model.
You noted something that I've observed about ISO performance on the Canon models 60D and 7D. I find the 60D seems slightly better at 1600 ISO than the 7D. It's only noticeable in the dark portions of a shot, but would you agree ?
Funny thing about 35mm photography - it started with cameras that took double frames for cinematographers who wanted preview exposures for their films. I say double, because it was twice the size of the frame being made by the movie cameras. The small cameras were adopted by the press corps as alternatives to the Speed Graphic, a 4x5 sheet camera. Fast forward to years later and "everyone" being used to a frame size that took the photography world by storm. Olympus makes a camera that puts the frame across the sprocketed film width and calls it half frame.
Oh, and this is a fabulous review. No adequate way to thank you.
It looks good in red too.
By good, I mean lovely like the e-P2 should've been had it been red, and not like the e-pL1 was.
I want one, I want the EVF, I have a G1 ... I'll wait and get 'em second-hand.
Nice review, thanks Kirk.
Got mine a bit over a week ago; I'm having fun using it with a Nikkor 50/1.8 from 1982 and a Cosmicar 75/1.4 c-mount lens. With the Panasonic 20/1.7 it replaces the LX3 in my everyday bag.
I'm still working to get really happy color balance out of it, but that's just learning curve (I hope). Or maybe the Bibble Pro settings aren't quite right for it yet.
My big annoyance? It's putting "OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA " (yes, with the spaces) in the EXIF Description field, and I can't find how to turn it off, and I can't get my bulk metadata editor (Thumbs Plus) to get rid of it.
I've recently been looking seriously into 4/3rds systems, including the Old Olympus E-3. I have a bunch of old manual focus Minolta and Nikkor lenses.
I own a nikon D60 and D90 and have the D5100 on order. Will probably pull the trigger on something soon.
Thanks for the fine 'real world' review!
If I go M4/3 it will be the E-PL2...
Thank you for your thorough yet easy to understand review. I already own E-PL2 before reading your review. While mostly I am pleased with the day shoot using this camera (in many ways I am amazed with the built-in creative filter effect), I still found it difficult to produce good and crispt pictures on low light situation. Either I end up with slow shutter speed, or have to crank the ISO to 1600 (which produce not so nice grain). Do you have the same experience and have a way to get around this situation, or should I use the built in flash instead?
Didit, Use a tripod or other stabilizing attachment (monopod, gorilla-pod, convenient wall). There is no magic camera that's immune to operator movement at lower shutter speeds. The camera does not become less sharp as the light drops. Keep the ISO reasonable and anchor the camera. You'll be most pleased that way.
Hi Kirk, here is a What if?
What if you could choose either the EPL2 OR the Fuji x100, what would you choose and why?
Depends on what I had for lunch.....
No, really. I'd get an EP-2 with a finder so I could use other lenses. Not a fair question because, though I really like the Fuji, I don't warm up to the focal length on the front and that makes it a very limited app camera for me....
You might love the wide angle lens. You might be happier NOT to make lens choices. Who knows?
Now one for you: If you were going to read a novel tonight which one would it be?
Nice review. I bought an E-PL1 about this time last year and shot with it nearly every day on the street all summer. Sadly I sold it after being seduced by the prospect of another digital rangefinder like camera.
Lately I've been using my big black Canon to shoot in tight places like the weekend music and biker scene at Luckenbach. I can't tell you how much I missed having that tiny E-PL1 for this type of shooting.
Today I put aside my fascination with the Fuji X camera until V2.0 rolls around. I can't wait for my new E-PL2 and 20mm 1.7 to be delivered.
A nice and useful review but I'm still a bit confused about the differences between EP1, EP2, EPL1, and EPL2, except the price. I don't yet possess any of them but am seriously considering - my Canon + lenses is now too heavy and large for me to carry up mountains. In my ignorance I would tend to go for the newest in the range - EPL2, but what would be your choice. I won't hold you responsible!
I'm not a shopping guide. If you can't read through this and decide then go and play with the cameras at a real retail dealer. And when you've made your decision buy your camera there. Apparently there is great value to actually having the cameras in your hands before making a decision. Every hand and brain is different. All the cameras you listed are probably better instruments than most people will take advantage of. There is no right decision. Just a calculus that works for you.
Excellent review! The best I've read by far. Love your practical and free style. Thank you very much!
Thanks for the review. I recently purchased an EPL2 and paired it up with a 14-150mm. I'm still trying to figure out the settings to reduce the noise when I shoot everyday normal situations like restos etc. Broad daylight is not a problem. Jpegs are excellent but when I'm indoors and trying to shoot under low light and seeing the noise on the LCD even if I adjust the ISO isn't great. I'm trying not to be disappointed with the noise issue. Maybe I missed a step somewhere but will go over your post again to figure it out. Any suggestions would be a big help. Thanks!
Thanks for the great post. I've been looking at this camera for a while, but I didn't know which set-up to get. There are some kits on Amazon that have multiple lenses. Your info, especially the paragraph about the set-up you would go with near the end, were what I needed to make a choice. Also appreciated the whole article, the sample photos (beautiful) and detailed explanations. I was sure this was the camera I was looking for after reading. Thanks!
Very informative review. Have you had the opportunity to examine a vf-3? I'm interested in the relative merits of the 2 vs the 3 for manual focus on third party lenses. It seems to me that the vf-2 would be better because of higher resolution.
Great review. I am in the market for another m4/3 (sold my E-P1 a few months ago). Already got the Panny 20mm. I was thinking of the E-PL3 but having read your reviews, the E-PL2 seems like a better bargain and almost as capable... and actually better in some area.
How would you compare E-PL2 and E-PL3? Would love to hear your opinion. Thanks.
First off, as a writer, I love your style. Writing style. Also you take great pictures, but some of the images you create with your words are scrumptious. Aliens, Barrack Obama and Sarah Palin ... and you with your E-PL2 ... and no flash. I couldn't stop laughing. I have the PL1 w/14-42mm + 40-150mm and still awaiting arrival of the VF-2. It's on the way. I'm still feeling my way around the undetected mines hidden here and there ... the un-mentioned differences between the DOF on the 4/3 system vs. SLR, for example. You DID discuss the slowness of the system in lower light and I was grateful. I thought it was me. I learned, to my regret, that F8 is not the sweet spot on the 40-150mm. Apparently it's more like F4. Oops. So I'm just noodling for more information. Books that might tell me more. I can take pictures. Pretty good ones. But the camera is sufficiently different than others with which i've worked that I've got a bit'o learnin' to do before I will feel secure. I'm hoping that this will do it for me and I will NOT need another bigger camera. My wrists will sing a hosanna to Olympus and maybe i won't need carpal tunnel surgery after all. So again, thanks, and if you have suggestions about where I can find more information, preferably the kind that will lead to the taking of better pictures, I pray you, DO tell! And again...THANK you.
Kirk, well written reivew.
I have had the E-Pl1 since it came out and love.
But once I held the E-PL2 the feel of the camera is far more comfortable.
I love the stealthy back finish and the bigger screen with 3:2 ratio.
I love my XZ-1 but find it almost too small unless I am where every centimeter and gram counts.
The bigger sensor for the win!
My wife has an E-PL1, and I've got a XZ-1, but for more serious :-) shooting we carry one Pentax K-5 each.
Normally I bring the XZ-1, and my Sony DSC-HX9V to work (the latter superb video camera), but these two are radically different - the Sony really shines as long as the sun does the same (not least in video), while the Olympus is better in low light (using the EVF from my wife's E-PL1 inproves its usefulness a lot). Both very pocketable (without the EVF, that is)!
I've been both a tiny gear enthusiast (used only Minox 35s for years), and a big lens enthusiast, depending on the occasion: Birds, or other shy animals, usually crave long lenses, and that you're static, as not to spook them, while walking down-town I prefer something discreet - possibly the wife's E-PL1, with the Lumix 20/1.7 lens, or the XZ-1 comes to mind! Even the 'old' Pentax K-x (one of the tinier DSLRs around), with its DA40 (or DA21, or DA15) is excellent in such situations.
Should add that my take on the Fujufilm X100 is similar to yours, that I try to avoid cameras with just one focal length!
Great writeup - thanks!
Question, did you consider at all the Panasonic's or was it a non-issue given that you already had a bunch of Oly 1/2 lenses? And, in a nutshell why would you prefer the Oly to the Panasonic? Not a fair question, but in your personal style I'm sure you can conjure a good one liner ;D
Also, shouldn't the review be about the E-P2, not the E-PL2, tho i know they have very similar features - at least it would match the illustration..
Andre, the photo at the top of the column is an EPL2 with a VF-2 finder. Yes, I looked at Panasonic stuff but the thing that made the Olympus gear work best was the VF-2 finder which is a whole new way of looking at things.
Interesting review for an interesting camera. And the Harley group photo is gorgeous.
Kirk, I would love more info on your workflow - particularly how you handle multiple cameras. I have a Canon 40D - workflow is pretty well sorted and I shoot in RAW. But I've recently bought a E-PL2 - problems are Art Filters and lens correction aren't available in LR3 - I'm almost tempted to shoot in JPEG only mode
For what it's worth: you can clear the EXIF "Description" field with Adobe Bridge, as well as with other editing and cataloging programs.
Kirk ... What is according to you, the best setting on this camera? Do you use P of auto? And what further settings do you most of the time use??
Happy new year by the way ...
thanks in advance,
André from Holland
Kirk, Nice and long-standing post. Two comments:
1. From other reviewing website, EPL1 seems sharper than EPL2 at its "default" settings for sharpness and noise reduction. However, you could fiddle those two settings in EPL2 to achieve the same degree of sharpness as in EPL1.
2. I try to reproduce the nice film-like portrait from my EPL2 (with 14-42 II kit lens though) but all the pictures do not have that low-key, film-like definition. My B-W pictures look greyish. Is Fadya portrait straight from JPEG engine or did you post-process the picture? Please share us the settings you used to produce that nice picture. Thanks.
K: Thank thank thank you for this informative post. My Panasonic Lumix P&S died a few months ago, and if I could buy the same one for under a $100 I would have in a NY second. Great little camera....but of course, long gone. Taking my working Oly E-3 on a couple of vacations and returning with aching arms and back from carting the d%$#m thing, but always afraid something would happen to it, made me realize I needed to get a new small travel camera. Your article was so critical in my decision. You are the only one that posts reviews about the "soul" of the camera. Cnet's and dpreview are so tech oriented they make my head spin. I'm very Pen-swayed as I have a Pen collection, with everything except the F series (which is never in my budget, especially for just a collection) I love to play with them, they feel so good in my hand and when I heard Oly was reintroducing them, I was so excited. The critical issues I've got from your article is the fact that I can get an EVF, small size, reasonable price, wonderful pictures, good ergonomics, and I can attach some of my old Oly lenses both digital and film, yeah!!! I was never a big supporter of the "sneaky" street photographer. I am an extrovert and don't mind asking people for their images, but the portability is crucial, as I ususally take a dog to my "coffee shop outings" LOL. I got some Valentine/B-day money...off I go to Best Buy, yeah!!
Late to the party, I know, but...
I'm trying to figure out a workaround to a certain problem, the fact that I can't sync a flash via radio while using the EVF. Since I suspect Kirk Tuck to be a person who would know such things, I decided to ask here. Is this at all doable? (hoping that it might be possible via the usb port, since it can fire the shutter...)
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