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!