Olympus E-P2 Review

Only one real change

What is It?

The E-P2 is a relatively minor update to the E-P1. I'm not going to repeat the discussion of what that camera is here (see my review of the E-P1), but rather point out the differences.

There aren't many differences! The primary change Olympus made was to add a slot underneath the hot shoe. This slot has electrical connectors that power accessories, most notably the VF-2 and VF-3 Viewfinders. But Olympus has other accessories that use this slot, too (see Olympus m4/3 Accessories). The addition of the EVF I'll address in the "How's it Handle?" section that comes next.

Other differences are very minor. The E-P2 has two new Art Filters (Cross Process and Diorama). Cross Process gives an edgy and miscolored look similar to what happened when you processed slide film in negative chemicals. Diorama imitates using a tilt-shift lens to produce very little depth of field with a directional blur component. Add a menu option to adjust the brightness of the EVF and you've got all the changes between the E-P1 and E-P2.


How's it Handle?

With the E-P1 you had to shoot like a compact camera user: at arm's length from you so you could see the rear LCD. Put an EVF (VF-2 or VF-3) into the hot shoe/accessory slot and you can use the camera much more like a DSLR: at your eye. 

An EVF isn't the same as an optical viewfinder, though. You're looking at a flat, backlit surface with the EVF, and your eye responds to that a bit differently. You already see any "flatness" that your composition has produced, whereas in optical viewfinders there's more of a 3D effect. The good news is that you're seeing 100% of the composition. The bad news is that even the high-end EVF with it's ~800x600 resolution is still pretty coarse to look at, and introduces a bit of lag you don't get in an optical viewfinder.

The VF-2 doesn't come with a good eyecup, either (its optional), so it feels a bit awkward looking through the small hole to see what's basically a small LCD. It's a good thing Olympus provided the menu setting for brightness, as at night you can lose your night vision looking at a lit screen like this. 

Both EVFs do tilt up to 90 degrees vertical. So you can put the camera down low and look down through the EVF. 

I'm not a huge fan of EVFs, but it does give you a shooting option that's useful. Being able to put the camera up to your face and brace it normally helps considerably in some situations, and in bright light the EVF is better than looking at a washed out rear LCD. 


How's it Perform?

Just like an E-P1.

Focus performance was improved slightly over the original E-P1, but Olympus updated the E-P1 firmware (1.1) to give the same benefit. So: Just like an E-P1.

One additional comment is needed though: powering something through the accessory slot reduces battery life. If you're always using an accessory, you may cut your battery life by 33% or more. Consider that when considering how many batteries to carry.


Final Thoughts

The addition of the accessory slot makes the E-P2 preferable to the E-P1. Significantly preferable, and mostly because of the ability to use an EVF. Other than that, my thoughts about the E-P2 are the same as they were for the E-P1: good enough for me to adopt as my casual shooting camera. I've now had almost two years of experience with an E-P2 (most of that side-by-side with my E-P1) and my opinions expressed in my E-P1 review really haven't changed. 

Drawbacks

  • Bigger than you think. Definitely not a shirt pocket camera, though it fit into my big vest and jacket pockets with the lens collapsed.
  • Retro look, but too-modern controls. Hope you don't need to dip down into the menus often. Game Boy meets Pinball Machine.
  • Details get in the way of shooting. Needs a better LCD, a rethink on the compact camera-like control buttons, a better autofocus system, and a host of other small tweaks.

Positives

  • Smaller than its cousins. Finally, 4/3 in an appropriate camera size. A much more comfortable travel camera than any other DSLR-level camera to date.
  • Almost any lens fits. I can't think of many lenses you couldn't mount to this camera (with the appropriate adapter). I'm using some Leica lenses (the Voigtlander 12mm is a nice companion), but I can mount my Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 on this camera, too (it won't autofocus or use VR, though).
  • Image Quality about right. Smallest camera with decent image quality to date. With care, DSLR quality and little compromise. 
stars3

Features

stars3

Performance

stars3

Value -- Since this item is often part of Olympus promotions, when it is sold under US$499 with lens, I'd move the Value rating to four stars. At US$399 or less, it approaches five stars

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