DCRP

Olympus E-P2 Preview

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: November 4, 2009

Last Updated: February 2, 2010

This is a preview of the Olympus E-P2 interchangeable lens camera. The camera described here is preproduction, and the features described in this article may be different in the final product. Olympus has requested that photos from this preproduction camera not be posted. Since this camera is nearly identical to the E-P1, a full review of the E-P2 is unlikely.

The Olympus E-P2 ($1099) is the second "Digital Pen" interchangeable lens camera from the Japanese photo giant. The E-P2 is essentially an enhanced version of the E-P1, which was introduced just five months ago. The vast majority of the features on these two Micro Four Thirds cameras are identical: same sensor, same image processor, same LCD, same features (mostly). So what has changed on the E-P2? Here's a list:

  • New accessory port supports an electronic viewfinder or an external microphone adapter
  • Articulating electronic viewfinder (included with the camera) has 1.44 million pixels, 1.15X magnification, and better brightness and contrast that competitive models
  • AF tracking for both stills and movies
  • Shutter speed and aperture now adjustable in movie mode
  • iEnhance picture mode finds the dominant color in the frame and enhances the brightness and saturation of just that color
  • Two new art filters: diorama (miniature effect) and cross process
  • Can be controlled from the remote control of an HDTV supporting the CEC protocol (when camera is connected with HDMI cable)
  • New translucent black body

For those of you who were hoping for a built-in flash... well, maybe on the E-P3.

I should add that the E-P1 isn't going anywhere. The two cameras will be sold side-by-side, at least for the time being.

Ready to learn more about the E-P2? Keep reading -- our preview starts right now!

What's in the Box?

The E-P2 will be available in two kits, both of which will be priced at $1099. You can get it with the 17mm pancake lens, or the 14 - 42 collapsible zoom lens. Unlike the E-P1, this camera comes in just one color: black. Here's what you'll find in the box for each of the kits:

  • The 12.3 effective Megapixel Olympus E-P2 camera body
  • F2.8, 17 mm M. Zuiko lens [17 mm kit only]
  • F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm M. Zuiko lens [14-42 kit only]
  • BLS-1 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • Body cap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Master software
  • Camera manual

If you're familiar with the E-P2, then you already know about the two kit lenses that you can get with the E-P2. The 17mm pancake lens is a perfect match for the E-P2's compact body. Photo quality is also quite good. The collapsible 14 - 42 mm lens has some issues with corner softness, but it's a decent lens for everyday shots. There are several other Micro Four Thirds lenses that you can use with the camera, which include:

  • Olympus F4.0-5.6, 9 - 18 mm M. Zuiko (coming in 2010)
  • Olympus F4.0-5.6, 14 - 150 mm M. Zuiko (coming in 2010)
  • Panasonic F1.7, 20mm Lumix G
  • Panasonic/Leica F2.8, 45 mm DG Vario-Elmarit IS macro
  • Panasonic F4.0, 7 - 14 mm Lumix G Vario
  • Panasonic F3.5-5.6, 14 - 45 mm Lumix G Vario IS
  • Panasonic F4.0-5.8, 14 - 140 mm Lumix G Vario HD IS
  • Panasonic F4.0-5.6, 45 - 200 mm Lumix G Vario IS

The E-P2 also works with "legacy" Four Thirds lenses, via the optional MMF-1 adapter. Some older Four Thirds lenses may not support autofocus, though. But wait -- there's more. You can also use classic Olympus OM lenses via another optional adapter (MF-2), and all of these lenses will be manual focus only. If that's still not enough, I don't see any reason why you can't use Panasonic's Leica R and M-mount adapters, as well.

Regardless of what lens you have attached to the E-P2, there will be a 2X focal length conversion ratio. So, the 17 mm pancake lens has a field-of-view of about 34 mm.

Interchangeable lens cameras (which includes digital SLRs) never include memory cards, and that's the case with the E-P2. Thus, you'll need to purchase one, unless you have one laying around already. Just like with its predecessor, the E-P2 uses SD and SDHC memory cards, and I'd recommend a 4GB card to start with. It's definitely worth getting a high speed card, especially if you'll be taking a lot of HD videos.

Not surprisingly, the E-P2 uses the same BLS-1 lithium-ion battery as the E-P1. This battery packs 8.3 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is pretty good for a camera this size. Here's how that translates into battery life -- live view only, of course:

Camera Battery life w/live view
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon EOS Rebel T1i * 170 shots LP-E5
Nikon D5000 * N/A EN-EL9a
Olympus E-P1 / EP-2 * 300 shots BLS-1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 * 350 / 380 shots ** DMW-BLB13
Pentax K-x * N/A D-LI90
Sony Alpha DSLR-A380 230 shots NP-FH50

* Records HD movies
** With 14-45 and 20 mm lenses, respectively

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

The E-P2's battery life is, not surprisingly, identical to that of the E-P1, at least when you're using the LCD (I don't have any numbers for the EVF). As you can see, the E-P2's main rival, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, does a bit better in this department. Trying to compare the E-P2's numbers against those from D-SLRs is nearly impossible, as manufacturers rarely publish battery life data for live view shooting.

I should point out a few things about the proprietary batteries used by the E-P2 and every other camera on the above list. For one, they're pretty expensive -- you'll spend at least $50 for a spare battery. Also, should your rechargeable battery run out of juice, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day.

This may be pretty obvious, but Olympus won't be offering a battery grip for the E-P2. Something else you cannot buy is an AC adapter.

When it's time to charge the BLS-1 battery, just pop it into the included charger. This is one of the slower chargers out there, taking 3.5 hours to power up the battery. This isn't one of those chargers that plugs directly into the wall, either - you must use a power cable.


The E-P2 with its included articulating electronic viewfinder

Probably the biggest new feature on the E-P2 is its included electronic viewfinder. This EVF attaches to the hot shoe and connects to a special accessory port on the back of the camera. This port is is 1) not the same as the one on the Panasonic GF1 and 2) also where you'll plug in the microphone adapter. As you've probably also figured out, you cannot use a flash and the EVF at the same time.


Back of the EVF

As for the EVF itself, it has some of the most impressive specs you'll find. The viewfinder has 1.44 million pixels (SVGA resolution) for an incredibly sharp image. The view is huge, with a magnification of 1.15X and, as you'd expect, you can see 100% of the frame. Olympus also promises better brightness and contrast and less ghosting than on other EVFs. The viewfinder can tilt up to 90 degrees upward, and the eyepiece doubles as the diopter correction knob. One thing I didn't care for was the size of the EVF: it adds a lot of bulk to the other compact E-P2.


EMA-1 external microphone adapter

Another new accessory for the E-P2 is the optional EMA-1 external microphone adapter. It too uses the accessory port (and takes up the hot shoe), but it offers a 3.5 mm stereo microphone input, which will let you record higher quality sound in your movies.

Here's the full list of accessories that you can pick up for the E-P2:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Lenses Varies Varies The E-P2 supports all Micro Four Thirds lenses, with a 2X focal length conversion ratio.
Optical viewfinder VF-1 $100 Same one that was available for the E-P1. Only works with the 17 mm pancake lens.
MC protector PRF-D37
PRF-D40.5
$50
$50
Protects the front elements of the 17 mm and 14 - 42 mm lenses, respectively
Four Thirds Adapter MMF-1 From $179 Lets you use "regular" Four Thirds lenses on the E-P2; do note that not all lenses will support autofocus
OM Adapter MF-2 From $169 Lets you use vintage Olympus OM lenses, which will be manual focus only
External flash

FL-14
FL-36R
FL-50R

From $165
From $180
From $395
The first flash (pictured above) was designed for the EP-2; the other two have been around for a while and can control other flashes wirelessly
Remote shutter release RM-UC1 From $49 Take pictures without touching the camera
External mic adapter EMA-1 ?? Attaches to the hot shoe and accessory port and lets you use an external stereo microphone.
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

I'm sure there will be others, but these are the accessories that most people will be buying. As I mentioned, there's no AC adapter for the E-P2 -- Olympus seems to have an aversion to those for some reason.


Olympus Master 2 in Mac OS X

Olympus includes version 2 of their familiar Olympus Master software with the E-P2. Olympus Master is pretty snappy, the interface is simple, and it can do just about anything you can imagine.

After you've transferred photos over from the camera (either into albums or folders on your hard drive) you'll arrive at the usual thumbnail screen that is standard in all photo viewing software these days. The thumbnail sizes are adjustable, and you can see shooting data and a histogram on the right side of the thumbnails.

From this screen you can organize photos, e-mail or print them, or display them in a slideshow. If you have a sequence of photos that you want to stitch into a panorama, you can do that with a few clicks of your mouse.

You can also use Olympus Master to update the firmware on the camera and any attached lens or flash, which is one of the nice benefits of the Micro (and regular) Four Thirds format.


Editing JPEGs in Olympus Master 2

Above you can see the edit window, which you access by either double-clicking on a thumbnail or by clicking the Edit button in the toolbar. Functions here include resizing, cropping, brightness/contrast/sharpness adjustments, redeye reduction, distortion correction, and much more. When you're performing one of these edits, the software does a side-by-side before and after comparison, so you can see exactly what changes you've made.


Editing RAW images in Olympus Master 2

Olympus Master also features a pretty comprehensive RAW editor. It lets you adjust exposure, white balance, picture mode (color, b&w, sepia), contrast, sharpness, saturation, gradation, the noise filter, and more. When you adjust any of the settings, Olympus Master shows you the results after a few seconds of grinding away. Do note that you don't get the before and after view like you do when you're editing JPEGs.


Edit screen in Olympus Studio 2

If you want more advanced RAW editing tools then you might want to consider buying Olympus Studio 2 ($100). This adds tone curve adjustment, false color suppression, aberration compensation, distortion correction, batch processing, and much more.

At some point, Adobe will update their Camera Raw plug-in to support the E-P2, giving you another option for editing RAW images from the camera.

And what is this RAW thing, anyway? RAW files contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. You'll need to process it on your computer first (or on the camera -- more on this later), but this allows you to adjust things like white balance, exposure, and noise reduction without reducing the quality of the original image. It's almost like taking the photo again. Be warned that RAW images are considerably larger than JPEGs, which means that they take up more space on your memory card and decrease camera performance.

I cannot comment on the documentation included with the E-P2, since my preproduction model did not come with any.