Olympus E-P2 Preview
Using the Olympus E-P2
It takes the E-P2 about 1.3 seconds to run through its dust reduction cycle and prepare for shooting. That's on the slow side for an interchangeable lens camera (which includes digital SLRs).
Autofocus felt a little bit faster on the E-P2, but that's only because I hadn't used the 14 - 42 mm lens with the newer firmware (the camera's AF system has not changed). Olympus says that the E-P1 and E-P2 focus twice as fast as their regular D-SLRs, and I'd add that cameras like the Panasonic GF1 focus twice as fast as the E-P1/P2. Focus times typically start at just under one second (wide-angle and telephoto speeds didn't vary by much). If the camera has a more challenging subject to deal with, focus time can be two or three seconds long. That won't be a huge issue for still life photos, but for action shooting, the E-P2 just isn't responsive enough. The camera also refocuses for every shot, which slows things down even further. In low light the camera has a lot trouble as well, as it has no AF-assist lamp to illuminate your subject. Olympus doesn't say whether the E-P2 can use the AF illuminator on the FL-36R and FL-50R flashes, but I would imagine so.
One thing that wasn't an issue was shutter lag -- I certainly didn't notice any. Shot-to-shot delays were also brief, regardless of the image quality setting.
There is no quick way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode for that. To save you a button press, you can set Auto Review to "Auto Playback" and the camera will go there after a picture is taken.
Now, here are the various image size and quality options on the E-P2 (these are from the E-P1, but they should be the same):
Whew! That's a long list... and that's only at the default 4:3 aspect ratio, too! You can take a RAW image alone, or with a JPEG at the size of your choosing.
The E-P2 has a regular menu, in addition to the Live Control and Super Control Panel features that I showed you earlier. The main menu is the same as on Olympus' digital SLRs. It's divided up into several tabs, covering shooting, playback, custom, and setup options. Do note that the custom menu isn't shown by default (you have to turn it on), and many of the menu options will be unavailable in the auto, art filter, and scene modes. And with that, here's the full list:
|Shooting Menu 1
|Shooting menu 2
While I covered most of the menu options up there, I want to describe a few in some more detail for you.
|Picture Mode menu||Editing the custom picture mode|
Picture Modes contain sets of color, sharpness, and exposure settings. There are several presets, including vivid, natural, or muted colors, plus portrait for smooth skin tones. There's also the new iEnhance option (which is used in iAuto mode), which finds the primary color in a photo and boosts the saturation and contrast of just that color. For each of the presets you can tweak the contrast, sharpness, and saturation. For black and white shooting, there's a monotone mode. There you can apply virtual color filters, or add a color tint to the image. Finally, a custom option lets you select a Picture Mode as a starting point, and you can then adjust the settings I just mentioned, plus gradation.
The gradation feature takes advantage of Olympus' Shadow Adjustment Technology. The normal option is your standard automatic contrast feature. Auto gradation breaks the image down into smaller segments, and adjusts the contrast for each of those areas. This should result in more shadow detail. You can also use the high and low key options for subjects that are mostly highlighted and shadowed, respectively. You can see an example of this feature in action in my E-620 review.
There are three different image stabilizer modes to choose from on the E-P2. Mode 1 is for everyday shooting. Mode 2 is for horizontal panning, while mode 3 is for vertical panning. You can also turn the IS system off entirely, which is a good idea if you have the camera on a tripod.
The E-P2 has the same multiple exposure feature as the E-P1. This lets you take two exposure and combine them into a single image. You can also overlay new images onto an existing one. You can leave the brightness of each image untouched, or you can turn on the "auto gain" feature to make things blend in better. In playback mode, you can use the image overlay feature to combine up to four RAW photos that you've already taken into one, in much the same way.
There are a whopping four types of bracketing on the E-P2. You can bracket for exposure, flash exposure, white balance, and even ISO sensitivity. For each of those, the camera produces anywhere from three to six photos, each with a different exposure/WB setting/ISO. White balance can be bracketing in both the amber/blue and green/magenta directions.
And that's about all for menu options!
Since this is a preview, there are no test shots or sample photos available. Since the "guts" of the E-P2 are the same as the E-P1, take a look at that review to see how the image quality looks.
The E-P2's HD movie mode has been enhanced in a number of ways compared to the E-P1. You still record video at 1280 x 720 at 30 frames/second (with stereo sound), but now you have more manual controls, subject tracking AF and support for an external microphone. Recording stops when the file size hits 2GB, which takes around 7 minutes at the HD resolution. For longer movies, you can lower the resolution to 640 x 480, which allows for continuous video recording for up to 14 minutes. Olympus recommends a Class 6 or higher SD/SDHC card for recording movies.
The E-P2 has the ability to focus continuously while recording a movie. If you've got subject tracking turned on, it'll follow the "target" as they move around the frame. The problem is, the noise from that slow contract detect AF system will be picked up by the microphone. This is where an external microphone comes in, though you'll have to buy that adapter first. The optical image stabilizer is not available in movie mode, though an electronic version tries to substitute for it.
The E-P1 already let you adjust the aperture in movie mode, and on the E-P2, you have a full manual mode which lets you change the shutter speed and aperture at the same time. The ISO is adjustable as well, as long as the range is between 200 and 1600. You can also apply any of the eight art filters to a movie, though some of them significantly reduce the video's frame rate.
The Movie+Still image will save a full resolution still image of the last frame of your movie, automatically. There's no way to take a still image in the middle of video recording, though.
No sample movies are available in this preview. I again refer you to the E-P1 review to find one of those.
The playback mode on the E-P2 appears to be identical to the one on the E-P1. Basic features include slideshows, DPOF print marking, image rotation, image protection, voice captions, and zoom & scroll (playback zoom). The slideshow feature has background music (by some well-known Japanese musician) and transitions.
Photos can be viewing one-at-a-time or as thumbnails of varying sizes (some of which are tiny). You can also navigate to photos that were taken on a certain date by using the calendar view (pictured).
|JPEG edit menu||Shadow adjustment technology in action (from E-P1)|
The camera offers two edit modes -- one for JPEGs, another for RAW images. The JPEG editing feature lets you downsize an image, apply shadow adjustment technology (see above right), remove redeye, crop a photo, change the aspect ratio, apply the e-Portrait filter, or convert it to black and white or sepia. The RAW data edit feature is handy, but not as easy to use as it could be. Instead of just adjusting the RAW properties right there in playback mode, you first need to set the desired settings in the record menu, and then return to playback mode to use the RAW edit function. The resulting image is saved as a JPEG. This is how you can apply art filters to RAW images that you've already taken.
Something else you can do in playback mode is overlay RAW images. You can select between from 2 to 4 images and then combine them into one photo. You can adjust the gain for each of the photos.
By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos, but press the info button a few times and you'll get a lot more, including histograms and a display of over and underexposed areas.
The E-P2 between photos without delay in playback mode.