Olympus PEN E-PL2 Review

Olympus PEN E-PL2: Creative and Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera
Text and Images by Allison Gibson

I first got a hands-on look at the Olympus PEN E-PL2 when it was announced at CES Las Vegas earlier this year. Even at first glance, I was impressed by the fourth generation compact, interchangeable lens PEN camera. The new exaggerated rubber hand grip and slightly smaller body (than that of its predecessor–the PEN E-PL1) make the camera more efficient, and updates like the new Live Guide feature for still and video preview, take this travel-friendly camera to a more professional level.

Operating on the Micro Four Thirds standard (read about mirrorless technology, and how it differs from single lens reflex, here), the PEN E-PL2 boasts a 12.3-megapixel Live MOS image sensor—the same size sensor as the one inside the Olympus E-30 and E-620 DSLRs. The most obvious advantage to the Micro Four Thirds camera is that it packs that large image sensor—with its enhanced low-light performance and image quality—into a more svelte and manageable body, while still allowing for interchangeable lenses.

Cosmetic and UI Upgrades

click thumbnails to enlarge

With the new E-PL2, Olympus has not only taken the body size down a fraction but also designed the camera to look less retro and more sleek, by omitting the metal piping on the body and streamlining the function buttons. The on/off button on top is now slightly recessed and a different shape than the larger, protruding shutter release so that there is never any doubt as to which function is being triggered. On the back, the four-way d-pad now sits inside a selection dial for much quicker selection of aperture, exposure, etc., and the menu button is set apart from other buttons, so that it can be quickly depressed for shooting options. The E-PL2 also features a wide 3-inch 460,000 dot LCD, as compared to the E-PL1′s 2.7-inch, 230,000 dot monitor.

All of these upgrades add up to a more professional-feeling piece of equipment, while still remaining at a lower price than the camera at the top of the PEN lineup, the EP2. Apparently, however, it’s my lot in life to bemoan the absence of viewfinders in the current mid-range digital camera market, so here I can’t let the PEN E-PL2 (or the entire PEN lineup, for that matter) slide by unmentioned in this regard.  I know I am not alone in feeling more precise in my framing of a photograph when pressing my face to the viewfinder instead of holding it out, shakily, in front of me. I would take a slightly larger camera any time if it were included. The E-PL2 does include an accessory port, where you can attach a VF-2 detachable electronic viewfinder. The port can also be used to attach the PENPAL Bluetooth accessory for sharing images instantly, the MAL-1 accessory light, and the EMA-1 external mic adapter.

Functional Upgrades & Performance

Art Filters (clockwise from top left):
Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Dramatic Tone, Diorama, Pin Hole
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This is a fun camera and a good image maker. The PEN E-PL2 features Olympus’ long-admired Art Filter selection, which provides quick options for creative capture. The E-PL2 replaced its predecessor’s Gentle Sepia Filter with the new Dramatic Tone selection—a filter that I found to produce exciting, almost HDR-like, tones. (See images above.) In addition to the Art Filters, the guts of the camera got some upgrades, including the new Truepic V Image Processor, which works with the image sensor to deliver high-quality, low-noise images, even in low-light, supporting ISOs up to 6400.

The compact ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 kit lens is “Movie & Still Compatible” (MSC), with an inner focus mechanism for speed and virtual silence during High Definition (720p/30fps) video capture. The E-PL2 also lets you toggle between still and video capture instantly, with the press of the red record button on the back of the camera, so that you record the scene in the best possible medium every time.



The E-PL2 is a smartly upgraded addition to the PEN series, and a good choice for the photographer who is looking for an advanced, interchangeable lens, image maker in a more compact size than even a lighter weight DSLR. The creative controls pair nicely with the low-light quality and advanced image processing to make this a fun and well-rounded piece of shooting equipment.

Olympus PEN E-PL2

  • MSRP:
  • $599.99 (comes with 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 zoom lens)
  • Size/Weight:
  • 115.4mm W x 72.7mm H x 42mm D; 362g loaded
  • Image Sensor:
  • 12.3-megapixels, High speed Live MOS
  • Maximum Resolution:
  • 4032 x 3024 pixels
  • Still Recording Format:
  • RAW (12-bit lossless compression), JPEG, RAW+JPEG
  • Memory:
  • SD Memory Card (SDHC, SDXCcompatible). Class 6 is recommended for Movie shooting
  • Display:
  • 3-inch LCD (460,000 pixels)
  • Manual Exposure Control:
  • Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual, Art Filter
  • Shutter Speed Range:
  • 60 – 1/4000 sec.
  • Special Features:
  • Live Guide system, MSC lens, Face Detection with Eye Detect AF, Acessory Port
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • HD: 1280×720, Aspect 16:9; SD: 640×480, Aspect 4:3 (VGA)
  • Provided Accessories:
  • Body, Li-ion battery BLS-5, Li-ion battery charger BCS-5, USB/Video Multi cable, Shoulder strap, OLYMPUS Viewer 2/ib CD-ROM, Instruction manual, Warranty card
  • Power Source:
  • BLS-5 Li-ion battery
  • Contact:
  • www.olympusamerica.com

3 Responses to “Olympus PEN E-PL2 Review”

  1. Lindsey says:

    I am looking to purchase a camera like this but without the opportunity to hold one in person I was wondering if you could give me an idea of the feel of it. I currently have an old Canon digital rebel which is the super light-weight body. To me it feels plastic and cheap (even though I understand it was possibly made this way to cut down on the weight and make it more portable). I’m hoping this camera feels solid (I’ve held the Canon G9 and it feels very nice). Your opinion on this is very helpful :]

  2. @Lindsey,
    The Olympus PEN E-PL2 definitely does not feel “plastic and cheap,” as you say is the case with some compact cameras. Though it is slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, it is a solid little piece of equipment and feels professional in-hand while still being lightweight enough to manage easily.

    Let us know if you decide to get it! And don’t forget to add your shots to the DP Flickr Group for the chance to be a featured “closeUP” photographer here on the blog! http://www.flickr.com/groups/digiphotomag/

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