DCRP

Olympus E-PL2 Review

Using the Olympus E-PL2

Record Mode

You'll wait for about 1.2 seconds while the E-PL2 runs through its dust reduction cycle and prepares for shooting. That's about the same as the E-PL1.

Olympus has steadily been improving the autofocus performance on their Micro Four Thirds cameras, and the E-PL2 (combined with its new kit lens) is the fastest yet. While not as fast as the Panasonic G-series cameras (especially the GH2) or the Sony NEX models, it's close. When lighting is good, the camera will lock focus in about 0.3 - 0.5 seconds at wide-angle, and 0.5 - 0.8 seconds (and sometimes a bit longer) at the telephoto end of the 14 - 42 mm kit lens. In dim lighting conditions, focus times typically hover around a full second. If things get darker, the camera does really struggles -- it'll try to focus for several seconds before giving up entirely. Here's where an AF-assist lamp of some kind would've really helped.

Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal, even when shooting RAW+JPEG. Even when you're using the flash, you won't wait more than 2 seconds before you can take another photo.

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 photo is taken.

Now, here's a look at the numerous image size and quality options that are available on the E-PL2:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
RAW
4032 x 3024
RAW 14.0 MB 108
Large
4032 x 3024
Super fine 8.4 MB 202
Fine 5.9 MB 290
Normal 2.7 MB 640
Basic 1.8 MB 954
Middle
3200 x 2400
Super fine 5.6 MB 308
Fine 3.4 MB 510
Normal 1.7 MB 1008
Basic 1.2 MB 1494
Middle
2560 x 1920
Super fine 3.2 MB 538
Fine 2.2 MB 790
Normal 1.1 MB 1552
Basic 800 KB 2286
Middle
1920 x 1440
Super fine 1.8 MB 946
Fine 1.3 MB 1392
Normal 700 KB 2692
Basic 500 KB 3908
Middle
1600 x 1200
Super fine 1.3 MB 1346
Fine 900 KB 1986
Normal 500 KB 3786
Basic 400 KB 5506
Small
1280 x 960
Super fine 900 KB 2088
Fine 600 KB 3028
Normal 300 KB 3786
Basic 300 KB 5506
Small
1024 x 768
Super fine 600 KB 3188
Fine 400 KB 4486
Normal 300 KB 8078
Basic 200 KB 11014
Small
640 x 480
Super fine 300 KB 7126
Fine 200 KB 10096
Normal 200 KB 17308
Basic 100 KB 20192

Whew, that's a very long list... and that's only at the default 4:3 aspect ratio, too (there are three more to choose from). Do note that you choose which resolution and quality setting to use for the middle and small settings, so changing resolutions isn't quite as overwhelming as it looks.

You can take a RAW image alone, or with a JPEG at the size of your choosing. I explained the benefits of the RAW format earlier in the review.

The E-PL2 has the same menu system as the E-PL1 that came before it, save for one new "tab". It's a pretty standard looking menu system, and could be a bit more user-friendly (there are no help screens to be found here). It's divided into several tabs, covering shooting, playback, custom, accessory port, and setup options. Do note that the custom and AP tabs must be turned on via the setup menu before they'll appear, which is good, as they can overwhelm the beginner (which is Olympus' target audience, after all).

Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of menu options on the Olympus E-PL2:

Shooting Menu 1
  • Card setup (All erase, format)
  • Custom reset setting (Reset, MySet 1-4) - reset to defaults or to the settings of your choice
  • Picture mode (i-Enhance, vivid, natural, muted, portrait, monotone, custom, pop art, soft focus, grainy film, pin hole, diorama, dramatic tone) - more below
  • Image quality
    • Still picture (RAW, Large/Fine, Large/Normal, Middle/Normal, Small/Normal, RAW + Large/Fine, RAW + Large/Normal, RAW + Middle/Normal, RAW + Small/Normal) - you can customize what JPEG sizes/qualities are on this list
    • Movie (HD, SD)
  • Image aspect (4:3, 16:9, 3:2, 6:6)
Shooting menu 2
  • Drive (Single shot, sequential, 2 or 12 sec self-timer)
  • Image stabilizer (Off, mode 1, 2, 3) - see below
  • Bracketing - see below
    • AE bracket (Off, 2 frames/0.3EV, 2 frames/0.7EV, 2 frames/1.0EV, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0 EV, 5 frames/0.3EV, 5 frames/0.7EV, 5 frames/1.0EV, 7 frames/0.3EV, 7 frames/0.7EV) - more options than on the E-PL1
    • WB bracket
      • Amber-blue (Off, 3 frames/2 step, 3 frames/4 step, 3 frames/6 step)
      • Green-magenta (Off, 3 frames/2 step, 3 frames/4 step, 3 frames/6 step)
    • Flash bracket (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0 EV)
    • ISO bracket (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0 EV)
  • Multiple exposure - see below
    • Frame (Off, 2 frame)
    • Auto gain (on/off)
    • Overlay (on/off)
  • Flash exposure compensation (-3EV to +3EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Flash RC mode (on/off) - for wireless flash control
Playback Menu
  • Slideshow
    • Start
    • Background music (Off, beat, cool, joy, love, nostalgic, melancholy)
    • Slide (All, still picture, movie)
    • Slide interval (2 - 10 sec)
    • Movie interval (Short, full)
  • Edit
    • Select image
      • RAW data edit
      • JPEG edit
      • Voice caption
    • Image overlay (2 - 3 image merge)
  • DPOF print marking (One, all)
  • Reset protect (on/off)
Custom Menu - must be turned on via the setup menu
  • AF/MF
    • AF mode - see below
      • Still picture (S-AF, C-AF, MF, S-AF+MF, C-AF+TR)
      • Movie (S-AF, C-AF, MF, S-AF+MF, C-AF+TR)
    • AF area (All target, single target) - let the camera choose from 11-points, or pick one yourself
    • Reset lens (on/off) - sets focus to infinity when camera is turned off
    • Bulb focusing (on/off) - whether you can adjust the focus during a bulb exposure
    • Focus ring (Clockwise, counterclockwise) - since the focus ring is electronic, you can pull this off
    • MF assist (on/off) - automatic center-frame enlargement in manual focus mode
    • Set home - select a default focus point; you can jump to it quickly by redefining the Function button
  • Button/Dial
    • AE/AF lock - how exposure and focus are locked; I'll save the details for the manual
      • S-AF (Mode 1, 2, 3)
      • C-AF (Mode 1, 2, 3, 4)
      • MF (Mode 1, 2, 3)
    • AE/AF lock memory (on/off) - whether the lock "sticks" when you let go of the button
    • Button function
      • Function button (Face detection, preview, one-touch WB, home focus point, manual focus, RAW + JPEG, test picture, MySet, swap underwater scene modes, AE/AF lock, LCD power off, disabled)
      • Movie recording button (Face detection, preview, one-touch WB, home focus point, manual focus, RAW + JPEG, test picture, MySet, swap underwater scene modes, AE/AF lock, LCD power off, disabled)
      • Four-way controller: down (Exposure compensation, flash setting, drive, ISO, white balance)
      • Four-way controller: right (Exposure compensation, flash setting, drive, ISO, white balance)
    • Button timer (Off, 3, 5, 8 sec, hold) - how long the "direct buttons" are active
    • Dial function - choose what the control dial does
      • Program mode (Exposure compensation, Program Shift)
      • Aperture priority mode (F number, exposure compensation)
      • Shutter priority mode (Shutter speed, exposure compensation)
      • Manual mode (F number, shutter speed)
    • Dial direction
      • Exposure (Clockwise, counterclockwise)
      • Menu (Clockwise, counterclockwise)
    • Dial lock (on/off) - disables the control dial until you press up on the four-way controller
  • Release
    • Release priority S (on/off) - whether focus lock is required for shutter release
    • Release priority C (on/off) - same as above, but for continuous AF mode
  • Display/Sound/PC
    • HDMI
      • HDMI out (1080i, 720p, 480p/576p)
      • HDMI control - lets you control the camera from your TV remote, assuming your TV supports such a thing
    • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
    • Thumbnail/Info settings
      • Playback setting
        • Image only (on/off)
        • Overall (on/off)
        • Histogram (on/off)
        • Highlight & shadow (on/off)
        • Lightbox (on/off)
      • Live view setting
        • Displayed grid (Off, complex, rule-of-thirds, cross hairs, diagonal)
        • Histogram (on/off)
        • Highlight & shadow (on/off)
        • Multi view (on/off) - Perfect Shot Preview
        • Image only (on/off)
      • Thumbnail setting
        • 4 images/screen (on/off)
        • 9 images/screen (on/off)
        • 25 images/screen (on/off)
        • 100 images/screen (on/off)
        • Calendar (on/off)
    • Record control setting - choose which menus are available in each shooting mode
      • iAuto mode
        • Live guide (on/off)
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super control panel (on/off)
      • P/A/S/M mode
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super control panel (on/off)
      • Art mode
        • Art menu (on/off)
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super control panel (on/off)
      • Scene mode
        • Scene menu (on/off)
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super Control panel (on/off)
    • Art live view mode (Mode 1, mode 2) - whether priority is given to accurate preview or frame rate
    • Live view boost (on/off) - brightens the live view in very low light situations
    • Playback close-up mode (Mode 1, mode 2) - how playback zoom works
    • Mode guide (on/off) - shows a description of the shooting mode when the mode dial is turned
    • Histogram setting - set the point at which the histogram shows over or underexposure
      • Highlight (245-255)
      • Shadow (0-10)
    • Face priority AF (on/off)
    • Backlit LCD (8, 30, 60 secs, hold) - how long the LCD backlight stays on
    • Sleep (Off, 1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Volume (0-5)
    • USB mode (Auto, storage, MTP, print)
  • Exposure/Metering/ISO
    • EV step (1/3, 1/2, 1 EV)
    • Metering (Digital ESP, center-weighted, spot, spot w/highlight control, spot w/shadow control)
    • AE Lock metering (Auto, center-weighted, spot, spot w/highlight control, spot w/shadow control)
    • ISO (Auto, 200 - 6400) - everything's been moved up a stop on the E-PL2
    • ISO step (1/3, 1 EV)
    • ISO Auto set
      • High limit (200 - 6400) - max it will go up to
      • Default (200 - 6400) - starting point
    • ISO Auto (P/A/S, all modes) - when auto ISO is available
    • Bulb timer (1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 20, 25, 30 mins) - preset a time for bulb mode
    • Anti-shock (Off, 1/8 - 30 secs) - adds a delay before a photo is taken, to reduce risk of blur
  • Flash custom
    • X-sync (1/60 - 1/180 sec)
    • Slow limit (30 - 1/160 sec)
    • Flash exp comp + exp comp (on/off) - links flash exposure compensation with exposure compensation
  • Quality/Color/WB
    • Noise reduction (Off, on, auto) - for long exposures
    • Noise filter (Off, low, standard, high) - for everything else
    • White balance (Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, underwater, flash, one-touch, color temperature) - see below
    • All white balance compensation
      • All set (-7 to +7) - in either the amber/blue or green/magenta directions
      • All reset
    • Color space (sRGB, AdobeRGB)
    • Shading compensation (on/off) - supposed to help reduce vignetting
    • Image quality set (Large/Medium/Small, Superfine/fine/normal/basic) - select the size and quality of the four JPEG image quality slots
    • Pixel count - select the resolution for these two sizes
      • Middle (3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1920 x 1440, 1600 x 1200)
      • Small (1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480)
  • Record/Erase
    • Quick erase (on/off) - whether camera prompts you to delete a photo
    • RAW+JPEG erase (JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG) - what's removed when you delete a RAW+JPEG photo
    • File name (Auto, reset)
    • Edit file name - you can change the first few characters of the file name, for each color space
    • Priority set (No, yes) - initial position of the cursor when All Erase or Card Format is selected
    • dpi setting (Auto, custom) - the latter lets you select the dpi of your choosing
    • Copyright settings - new to the E-PL2
      • Copyright info (on/off)
      • Artist name
      • Copyright name
  • Movie
    • Movie mode (P, A, M, Art filter 1-6) - select the shooting mode for movies
    • Movie + Still (on/off) - whether the last frame of the movie is saved as a still image
    • Movie sound recording (on/off)
  • Utility
    • Pixel mapping - gets rid of bad pixels
    • Exposure shift (ESP, center-weighted, spot) - lets you fine-tune the exposure metering from -1EV to +1EV, in 1/6EV increments
    • Battery warning level (-2 to +2) - how quickly the low battery warning comes on

 

 

Accessory Port Menu

  • Olympus PENPAL Share - more on this below
    • Please wait - the worst-named item in camera menu history; for receiving images or waiting to be discovered by another device
    • Address book
      • Address list - view the paired devices
      • Search timer (5 - 30 secs) - how long the camera spends looking for a Bluetooth host
      • New pairing - pair with a new device
    • My Olympus PENPAL - shows the name, address, and supported services of the attached PENPAL
    • Picture send size (Small, medium, large) - what size image is sent to the Bluetooth device
  • Olympus PENPAL Album - for managing the images stored in the PENPAL
    • Copy all
    • Reset protect
    • Album memory usage - shows current memory usage and space remaining
    • Album memory setup (All erase, format album)
    • Picture copy size (Medium, large)
  • Electronic viewfinder
    • EVF adjust
      • Brightness (-7 to +7)
      • Color temperature (-7 to +7)
Setup Menu
  • Date/time (set)
  • Language
  • LCD adjust
    • Brightness (-7 to +7)
    • Color balance (-7 to +7)
  • Rec View (Off, auto play, 1 - 20 secs) - post-shot review; the auto play option enters playback mode after a photo is taken
  • Custom/AP menu display - you have to turn these menus on if you want to see them
    • Custom menu display (on/off)
    • Accessory Port menu display (on/off)
  • Firmware - displays the firmware version of the body and attached lens

While I described as many of the options as I could up there, some of the options require more than a sentence. So, here's some further explanation for some of the more important settings on the E-PL2:

Picture Mode menu Editing the Natural picture mode

Let's start with the Picture Mode feature, which is mostly the same as it was on the E-PL1. A Picture Mode contains contrast, sharpness, saturation, and gradation (shadow brightening) settings. There are several presets, including vivid, natural (the default), or muted colors, portrait for smooth skin tones, and monotone for black and white shooting. There's also the i-Enhance option (which is the default in iAuto mode), which finds the primary color in a photo and boosts the saturation and contrast of just that color. You can tweak the aforementioned settings for each of the presets, with the monotone option also letting you add a filter or tint to the image. There's also 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. Something new to the Picture Mode menu are Art Filters, which means that you can now use them in any shooting mode that you wish.

There are three different image stabilizer modes to choose from on the E-PL2. 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.


Like to bracket? Then you'll like the E-PL2

There are a whopping four types of bracketing on the E-PL2. You can bracket for exposure (taking 2 to 7 shots per sequence), white balance (in both the amber-blue and green-magenta directions), flash exposure (3 shots), and ISO (also 3 shots). If you're seeking the perfect photo, the E-PL2's bracketing features will certainly help you reach it.

The E-PL2 has the same multiple exposure feature as the other members of the PEN family. This lets you take two exposures 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 three RAW photos that you've already taken into one, in much the same way.

The E-PL2 has a ton of white balance options, including the bracketing feature that I mentioned above. You have the usual presets like sunlight and cloudy, and you can also use a white or gray card to get accurate color in more unusual lighting. If any of those need further tweaking, you can fine-tune things in the amber-blue and/or green-magenta directions (for one WB setting or all of them at once, if you wish). You can also set the white balance by color temperature, with a wide range of 2000 - 14000 Kelvin.


The PENPAL atop the E-PL2

Now I want to take a moment to tell you more about the PENPAL, an optional accessory. The PENPAL is a Bluetooth receiver that attaches via the hot shoe, and plugs into the Accessory Port. Once attached, your first mission is to get the PENPAL paired up with another Bluetooth device. Doing this is harder than it should be, due to the clunky interface on the camera. While I was able to pair the camera with my mobile phone, I could never get it to work properly with my Bluetooth-equipped Mac Pro. Once you've transferred your photos to your phone, you need to figure out what to do with them, since there's no app on the other end to handle the incoming file. Oh, and one more thing -- the PENPAL holds up to 2600 photos, so you can use it to store images if you need space on your SD card.

Let's move on to our photo tests now, shall we? With the exception of the night shots, all of these were taken with the F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm MSC lens. The night shots were taken with the F4.0-5.6, 40 - 150 mm MSC lens.

The macro test turned out nicely. The subject has the "smooth" look that is a common trait of interchangeable lens and D-SLR cameras. Colors look good, with the reds being especially saturated. I don't see any noise or other artifacting, nor would I expect to.

The 14 - 42 mm kit lens has a minimum focus distance of 25 cm at the wide end of the lens. If you want to get closer without having to buy another lens, try out the new macro conversion lens that I mentioned way back in the accessory section of the review. This will reduce the minimum distance to 14 cm. More serious macro shooters may want the Panasonic/Leica F2.8, 45 mm macro lens, though it's not cheap (over $700). Another option is to pick up the Four Thirds adapter and use one of the classic Olympus macro lenses, such as the F3.5, 35 mm or F2.0, 50 mm.

The night shot, taken with the Olympus 14 - 150 mm lens, turned out quite well. Really, the only issues here are highlight clipping (which is something you have to deal with on all Four Thirds cameras) and some blurring on the left side of the frame. Otherwise, the camera took in plenty of light, as you'd expect from a camera with manual control over shutter speed. The buildings are nice and sharp, save for the far left side. While noise isn't an issue here, you will see some purple fringing in places.

Now, let's use that same scene to see how the E-PL2 performed across its sensitivity range in low light. Everything moved up a full stop on the E-PL2: the ISO range is 200 - 6400, compared to 100 - 3200 on the E-PL1.


ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

The ISO 200 and 400 photos are both free and clear of noise. At ISO 800 we start to see a bit of detail loss, though it shouldn't prevent you from making a midsize or large print at that setting. Noise becomes more visible at ISO 1600, and this is my recommended "stop or switch to RAW" point on the E-PL2. At ISO 3200 there's quite a bit of detail loss, so I'd avoid it. The ISO 6400 is especially unpleasant, with some banding in addition to all the noise.

Can we improve on the ISO 1600 and 3200 shots by shooting RAW and doing some basic post-processing? You bet! In this situation I used Olympus Viewer 2 for the conversions, setting the noise filter to "off". After that, photos took a trip through NeatImage and then had some Unsharp Mask applied. Here are the results:

ISO 1600

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Olympus Viewer)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Olympus Viewer)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

While you're probably not saying "wow!", both of our test photos look better (at least to me) with a little bit of post-processing. If you're going to be using high sensitivities in low light, then I'd spend the extra time shooting RAW and cleaning things up in software.

We'll see how the E-PL2 performs at high sensitivities in normal lighting in a bit.


Straight out of the camera


After using Redeye Fix in playback mode

As with its predecessor, the E-PL2 has a bit of a redeye problem, even with the flash set to redeye reduction. The good news is that there's a tool in playback mode which does an effective job of ridding your photos of this annoyance. If you want to take pictures without redeye (or having to remove it digitally), then you might want to consider attaching an external flash to the E-PL2's hot shoe.

There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the camera's 14 - 42 mm kit lens. You can see what this looks like in the real world by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. Otherwise, the kit lens is pretty sound, with minimal corner blurring and no vignetting to speak of.

Now it's time for our standard studio test photo. Since the lighting is always the same, these photos can be compared with others that I've taken over the years. Those of you comparing the E-PL2 to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 will want to open up the GF2 review at this point. Keeping in mind that the crops below only show a portion of the total image (in other words, view the full size images too), here's how the E-PL2 performed, from ISO 200 to 6400:


ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

Everything looks very good through ISO 800, with just some slight softening when you reach ISO 1600. Things start to get a bit noisy at ISO 3200, and there's a drop in color saturation as well, so switching over to RAW is probably a good idea at this point. That trend continues at ISO 6400, but still, not too bad. The E-PL2 is definitely cleaner than its Panasonic counterpart at these sensitivities.

Let's do another "why shooting RAW at high sensitivities is a good idea" comparison, this time using the ISO 3200 and 6400 photos.

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Olympus Viewer)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Olympus Viewer)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

There are definitely improvements to be had by shooting RAW and spending 30 seconds in Photoshop at ISO 3200 and 6400. The ISO 3200 photo is quite a bit cleaner and, while not perfect, even the ISO 6400 photo is now usable for small or midsize prints.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the photos produced by the Olympus E-PL2, though there's room for improvement. Exposure was generally solid, though like all Four Thirds cameras, the E-PL2 likes to clip highlights. Shadow detail could've been better, as well, and you can change the Gradation setting (in the Picture Mode menu) to "auto" to improve that, though noise levels will increase). Colors seemed a bit dull to me at the default "natural" setting -- I actually like the i-Enhance Picture Mode (the default in iAuto mode) better. The E-PL2 handles noise well in most cases, keeping things clean through ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light. I did notice that the noise reduction system really likes to smudge certain details (and gives images a slightly soft appearance). See my example below for more on this topic. Purple fringing was not a major problem with either of the two lenses I tested with the E-PL2.

Noise filter standard (default)
View Full Size Image
Noise filter off
View Full Size Image

Now, about that noise filter setting. As you can see in the above crop of the purple fringing tunnel of doom (a photo which, unfortunately, I can no longer take), the details on the wall are really smudged. And that's at the base ISO of 200! Since I used RAW+JPEG to take the photo, I was curious to see the effect of turning the noise filter off entirely. As you can see, the image looks a lot better without the noise filter. Thus, if you're noticing a lot of detail smudging in your photos, you may want to visit the noise filter setting in the menu and turn it to low or off.

Alright, enough about my opinions about photo quality. Now it's your turn -- visit our E-PL2 photo gallery, and decide for yourself if the camera's image quality meets your needs!

Movie Mode

The E-PL2's movie mode is exactly the same as the one on its predecessor, save for the ability to use the Live Guide. You can record video at 1280 x 720 (30 frames/second) with monaural sound until you hit the 2GB file size limit. You'll reach that limit in just 7 minutes, thanks the inefficient codec the camera uses. For longer movies, you can lower the resolution to 640 x 480, which allows for continuous video recording of up to 14 minutes. Olympus recommends a Class 6 or faster SD/SDHC card for recording movies.

The E-PL2 has the ability to focus continuously while recording a movie, including tracking a designated subject as they move around the frame (face detection is not available, however). This also means that you can zoom in and out with your heart's content. The new 14 - 42 mm MSC lens focuses quietly and relatively quickly compared to the original model. One thing you cannot use in movie mode is the sensor-shift image stabilization system. Instead, there's a digital SR system, which increases the focal length, and doesn't work very well, either (see earlier example).

As was the case with the E-PL1, there are full manual controls available in the movie mode. You can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or ISO manually. You can also apply any of the six art filters to a movie, though some of them will significantly reduce the frame rate. The Movie+Still image option will save a full resolution still image of the last frame of your movie, automatically. You can take a still photo as you're recording, but the current clip will stop and a new one will begin after the image is saved.

Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the 720p setting. I had to trim some footage off the beginning of the clip and re-save the file as a QuickTime movie, though the quality (which is average) should not have been affected.


Click to play movie (42.1 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, QuickTime format)

Playback Mode

Nothing's changed in the E-PL2's playback menu, either. Basic features include slideshows, DPOF print marking, image rotation (which is useful, since the camera doesn't rotate photos automatically), image protection, voice captions, and zoom & scroll (playback zoom). The slideshow feature has background music (with the default being "melancholy", of all things) and transitions.


Calendar view

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 (see above). There seems to be some kind of side-by-side comparison tool (called lightbox here), but I could never seem to activate it.

JPEG edit menu Shadow adjustment technology in action

The E-PL2 has the ability to edit both JPEG and RAW images, though the former is a lot easier to use than the latter. The JPEG editing feature lets you resize an image, apply shadow adjustment technology (see above right), remove redeye, crop a photo, change the aspect ratio, apply the e-Portrait skin smoothing filter, adjust saturation, 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 (as you can on Nikon's cameras), 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.

Something else you can do in playback mode is overlay RAW images. You can select two or three images and combine them into one photo. You can adjust the gain for each of the photos.

One thing that's sorely missing from the E-PL2's playback mode is any sort of movie editing feature. You can't even trim unwanted footage off the beginning or end of a clip, which sure comes in handy.

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-PL2 between photos instantly in playback mode.

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