by Ian Burley
New Pen E-PL2 bridges gap between E-P2 and E-PL1
Olympus introduced the Pen E-PL1 (PL stands for Pen Lite) almost a year ago to bring the Pen compact system camera or 'hybrid' to a wider audience, incorporating ease of use enhancements in a smaller, lighter, lower specification, and more affordable body. The new E-PL2 is designed to build on the strengths of the E-PL1, while restoring some of the specification lost when the E-PL1 was conceived and to apply some of the style of the original Pen E-P1 and E-P2 models. At the same time, Olympus has replaced the original m.Zuiko 14-42mm kit lens with a smaller, lighter, and more refined Mark II version.
Kit lens issues addressed
Although optically good and innovatively designed, the original m.Zuiko 14-42mm kit lens was criticised for slow autofocus and noisy focus action that spoiled the audio quality of movie recordings. Olympus has totally redesigned the lens and the result is a Mark II 14-42mm kit lens that is lighter and smaller (if slightly longer) and has a much quieter autofocus mechanism. Like the 9-18 mm, 14-150mm, and 40-150mm m.Zuiko lenses, the 14-42 II now has near-silent AF and smoother AF transitions during movie recordings . Olympus data suggests that the AF is also twice as fast as the original 14-42 kit lens.
Unlike its predecessor it focuses internally, which means a non-rotating lens hood can be accommodated, along with add-on wide angle, close-up, and telephoto conversion lenses. The new lens no longer employs any ED glass, but three aspherical elements compensate.
The E-PL1 (left) with its original 14-42 m.Zuiko kit lens next to the new E-PL2 (right)
Key new features of E-PL2 over E-PL1
- 3 inch 460,000 dot LCD screen
- Enhanced Mark 2 Accessory port will support new Pen Pal PP1 Bluetooth and other modules
- 1/4000th second fastest shutter speed
- Face and Eye Detection
- Dramatic Tone Art Filter plus Art Effects and filter variation
- New lighter and more compact 14-42 MSC (Motion and Still Compatible) kit lens with quiet AF
- Conversion lenses for new kit lens in the pipeline
- ISO range extended to 6400 (but ISO 100 setting deleted)
- Cable release support restored
- E-P1/2 styling and metal body
- Enhanced user interface with movie mode extensions
- Dial mode adjustment instead of only buttons
- PT-EP03 underwater case (to 40m) compatible with LCD and VF-2 finder, and UFL-2 underwater flash unit (wireless RC compatible)
Accessory Port 2
An enhanced Accessory Port has been introduced with the E-PL2. It's backwards compatible with the VF-2 1.4m dot electronic finder and SEMA-1 stereo microphone adapter modules, but now features a communications protocol that can support devices like Bluetooth modules. Olympus is planning to release the Pen Pal PP-1 Bluetooth module that will enable image sharing with other Bluetooth devices, like smartphones.
Bluetooth comes to the Pen in the form of the Pen Pal PP-1
Compatible with both Accessory Port 1 and Accessory Port 2 interfaces, Olympus is also going to offer a Macro Arm Light (MAL-1) (below) that provides LED illumination of macro subjects via two flexible arms powered via the Accessory Port.
Art Filter updates
The sepia art filter from the E-PL1 has been replaced by the Dramatic Tone filter first introduced in the Olympus E-5 DSLR. In addition, some filters now have on or two variation options, and a new frame feature can be combined with some art filters if required.
|Olympus Pen E-PL1||Olympus Pen E-PL2|
|Sensor||12MP LiveMOS||12MP LiveMOS|
|Image Processor||TruePic V||TruePic V|
|LCD screen||2.7 inch LCD 230,000 dots 4:3 format||3 inch LCD 460,000 dots 3:2 format|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/2000th sec||1/4000th|
|Accessory port||Mark 1||Mark 2|
|Art filters||6||6 plus Art Effects|
|Image Stabilisation||Sensor shift||Sensor shift|
|Kit lens||m.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED (150g)||m.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II MSC (112g)|
|HD movie mode||HD720 30p up to 7 minute AVI clips||HD720 30p up to 7 minute AVI clips|
|Cable release support||No||Yes|
|RM-1 infra red wireless remote support||No||No|
|Mode adjustment control||Buttons||Dial|
|Dimensions||114.6 x 72.2 x 41.5mm||115 x 72.7 x 42mm|
|Weight||477g with kit zoom lens||474g with kit zoom lens|
New LCD screen
The original Pen E-P1 and E-P2 had 3 inch screens but the E-PL2 went back to the smaller and cheaper 2.7 inch size. The new E-PL2 returns to the 3 inch screen size, but it's a 3:2 aspect ratio screen, which means when viewing a default 4:3 aspect ratio image, not all the screen area is used by the image itself. On the other hand the E-PL2 screen has twice as many dots (460,000) than any of the previous Pens, so it can show more image detail and more refined text. I do find that the stability of the image when changing the viewing angle is not as good as previous Pen screens, though.
Improved user interface
To make any adjustments to settings on the E-P1 and E-P2 you had the luxury of both a dial and a thumb-wheel. With the E-PL1 these were replaced by cheaper but more fiddly buttons. The E-PL2 goes back to a single dial. The Live Guide image adjustment modes now work with the movie function. Olympus decided that E-PL1 users could live without a top shutter speed of 1/4000th so it was limited to 1/2000th. This has been returned to 1/400th on the E-PL2, while another frustrating policy of not supporting the RM-UC1 cable release has also thankfully been abandoned. Meanwhile, the face detection system has been enhanced to include eye-detection, which works to ensure that the eyes in a face are the primary focus points. The E-PL1 also lost the top ISO 6400 setting of the E-P1 and E-P2, and this has been restored with the E-PL2, although ISO 100 is now omitted, so the range starts at ISO 200.
Olympus says the E-PL2 does not replace the E-PL1, at least not for now as the E-PL1 is expected to remain available as the budget price entry point until the summer. Instead, the E-PL2 ushers in some new features and bridges the gap to the more expensive E-P2.