The recently announced 12.3Mp Olympus PEN E-PL2 digital camera is extremely promising. We had the opportunity to briefly play around with the PEN E-PL2, and think it's likely to be one of the best interchangeable lens cameras available - especially for shooting video. Here's our preview.
The Olympus PEN E-PL2 digital camera retains the Micro-Four Thirds sensor and lens mounting design of the Olympus PEN E-PL1, as well as the same imaging system. However, there are some differences in the control layout on the body, the size and quality of the screen and the accessories shoe. There are even differences in the new lenses (including the kit lens) that will be available for the new camera.
Olympus PEN E-PL2: Video features
There have been many more changes made under the hood, too, with perhaps the biggest change coming in the way the Olympus PEN E-PL2 shoots video.
With camcorder-like image stabilisation, video that's shot with the Olympus PEN E-PL2 comes out very smoothly. The Live View display looks very smooth and the end result makes it look like you used a steady-cam to shoot the scene. Predictive algorithms are used to create this effect.
From what we saw, the background doesn't bobble much (if at all) if you are on the move while you're shooting, and there isn't noticeable tearing in footage either. The Olympus PEN E-PL2's focusing is very fast and reliable, and you can even use autofocus tracking to home in on a particular subject and keep it in focus regardless of where it ends up in the frame (this works for stills as well).
Olympus PEN E-PL2: Lenses
The autofocus mechanisms in Olympus' range of lenses have also been improved.
The new lenses (including the 14-42mm MkII kit lens) include what Olympus calls its Movies and Stills Compatible (MSC) drive system. The new drive system has shafts that have been created with micron-accuracy, and combined with smaller lens elements. The new lenses can focus faster and more smoothly than the older lenses. The kit lens that we saw also felt a lot sturdier than the kit lens that was provided with the E-PL1, and it's also slightly smaller. All the lenses in the new range except for the pancake lens will have the MSC drive system. In addition to current lenses, Olympus said it will also be releasing more prime lenses.
Macro Converter (left) and wide angle converter lens for Olympus E-PL1
Accessories for the lenses will include converters that can be directly attached, such as a fisheye converter (FCON-P01), a wide-angle converter (WCON-P01) and a macro converter (MCON-P01). Some other cool accessories include a tentacle-like, two-arm macro light, and a Bluetooth module (called PENPAL) will also be available around March or April. These accessories plug into the accessories shoe on the back of the Olympus PEN E-PL2. This shoe is slightly different to the one on the E-PL1 so the new accessories won't work on the older camera, but the older accessories will work on the new camera.
The Olympus PEN E-PL2 features a bigger screen than the PEN E-PL1
Olympus PEN E-PL2: Controls
On the rear of the Olympus PEN E-PL2 you'll find a new control system, which now includes a rotational thumb-control, rather than buttons, for changing settings such as the aperture and shutter speed, and you will also notice a slightly larger screen compared to the E-PL1 - 3in on the E-PL2 versus 2.7in on the E-PL1. The new screen is based on LCD technology and it has a resolution of 460K dots. (The XZ-1 is the first Olympus camera to use an OLED screen.)
Olympus PEN E-PL2: Picture quality
We aren't able to judge the picture quality of the Olympus PEN E-PL2 just yet, but since it retains the same imaging engine as the previous PEN cameras, we expect it to shoot sharp and vibrant photos.
The default ISO setting of the Olympus PEN E-PL2 is now 200 (which is said to provide better dynamic range than ISO 100) and it can go up to 3200 in low-light environments.
The Olympus PEN E-PL2's in-camera filters have been given some tweaking, too. Some exciting filters, such as Pop Art, Grainy Film and Pin Hole can be adjusted now, and some art filters can be combined; you could combine the Soft filter with Pop Art, for example. A new filter is also available to play with: Dramatic. This filter smooths textures and adds plenty of contrast to a scene; it makes a photo look like it's had some HDR treatment, but it's definitely not an HDR filter. A border effect can now be added to photographs, too.
For users who are new to photography and want to learn what different settings can do, or how various effects can be attained, the Olympus PEN E-PL2 retains the Live Guide feature, which is available in the iAUTO mode. This provides on-screen guidance for various shooting objectives, such as showing you how to shoot moving subjects. For professional users, the E-PL2 includes a wireless flash control that can control up to three groups of flashes. This is the same exact feature that's available in Olympus' top-of-the-line digital SLRs.
From what we saw, we can say that the Olympus PEN E-PL2 should become a sought-after little Micro Four Thirds-based digital camera, especially for users who want exceptional video quality. We can't wait to get our hands on it again to give it a thorough workout.
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