Olympus PEN E-P2 Review

Basically, the new added features on the PEN E-P2 are quite minimal. The main differences of the E-P2 vs the E-P1 are:

1. Two NEW ART FILTERS: Cross Process and Diorama,

2. A hot shoe for the highest quality Electronic External Viewfinder currently in the market, in which the same hotshoe is used for the Olympus external mic to collect the best quality sounds during HD video recording,

3. Focus-tracking (it locks the focus on a moving subject. Unfortunately, I tried engaging the continuous-shot/sequential-shot mode but it failed. Focus-tracking can only be used on single-shot mode.),

4. I-enhance mode (if you are a MAC user, it’s like the “enhance” button in “IPhoto”. It does improve the colors.),

5. You can now use remote control to control your slideshow-viewing when the camera is connected to the HDTV via HDMI cable.

Below are some shots I did with the new Art Filters. To show the effects of Cross Process, I did an extreme comparison with the Pop Art filter to show the differences in color rendition. To me, Pop Art gives a “Leica-like” or color slides kind of saturation. Traditionally, if you print a color slide on a photographic print, you get real saturated colors. “Cross Process” brings the colors to another extreme.

Comparison between Pop Art Filter and Cross-Process Filter

Comparison between Pop Art Filter and Cross Process Filter

Cross Process Effects:

Uncleared mess from a torn-down building with apartment flats in the background

Uncleared mess from a torn-down building with apartment flats in the background

Reflection on the ground

Reflection on the ground

My Reflection

My Reflection

Now I know some helicopters have 5 propellers

Now I know some helicopters have 5 propellers

A Corridor View of a Typical HDB Flat in Singapore

A Corridor View of a Typical HDB Flat in Singapore

Malaysia LRT

Malaysia LRT

View from Overhead Bridge, Malaysia LRT

View from Overhead Bridge, Malaysia LRT

Boy waiting on staircase

Boy waiting on staircase

In film days, cross-processing is done by either shooting color slides and processing them using color negative chemicals OR the other way round. Today, this is still very much loved by the lomographers and myself.

Below are some shots done with Diorama Art Filter. It mimics the effects of a tilt and shift lens. If you shoot subjects from a distance, the images give you a miniature effect, like the name “Diorama” describes. I also wrote about a friend purchasing the tilt and shift lens HERE before. To show the difference between Diorama and ordinary images, see below.

Image with No Diorama Art Filter applied

Image shot in Natural Mode with No Diorama Art Filter applied, somehow I found that the E-P2's Natural Mode does not produce as rich colors as the E-P1, this is probably due to me using a pre-production E-P2 with firmware not upgraded yet.

Image with Diorama Art Filter applied

Image with Diorama Art Filter applied

Here are some other images shot in Diorama Art Filter Mode:

Singapore HDB Flats

Singapore HDB Flats

Singapore HDB Playground and Recreational Park

Singapore HDB Playground and Recreational Park
Children playing soccer

Children playing soccer

Another view of the HDB Recreational Park, Singapore HDB Flats are like condominiums!

Another view of the HDB Recreational Park, Singapore HDB Flats are like condominiums!

Just for comparison, here are also some samples of similar effects created with a 5Dmk2 and a 45mm tilt and shift lens shot by Mr Peh:

pehcw1

pehcw2

pehcw3

Summary:

1. I find the two new Art Filters very interesting and useful especially the Cross Process Art Filter, since I love the cross-processed look. The Diorama effect also can freshen up perspectives and inject new inspiration into shooting.

2. The Electronic External Viewfinder is like looking at Live View through a peep hole. It is of very high quality 100% viewing but to me, it does not make much of a difference since I hardly shoot in extreme sunlight glare conditions and so I’d rather use Live View. I have found that using Live View freshens up my perspectives in shooting by offering a whole new range of possibilities and angles achievable! I have no complaints at all on the high quality LCD Live View offered on both the E-P1 and E-P2. Don’t you forget, Olympus pioneered Live View among all other brands! And of course, now they created the highest quality external electronic viewfinder you can ever find in the market. For all those who have this thing about using viewfinder to shoot and “hate” Live Views, the E-P2 is a good option.

3. For video lovers, the E-P2 will be a much better choice since you can get much better sound quality using external mic and also have the option of using the 2 extra Art Filters plus Manual-exposure mode in the video mode for creativity. Almost all the Art Filters are useable in the HD Video Mode except the Pin-Hole Art Filter which does not produce a smooth quality video (video-recording is stunted) and also the Diorama Art Filter which records in 2 frames per second but playback in 15 frames per second. However, the Diorama Art Filter Video gives you another creative option to record a “Charlie Chaplin” kind of comical effect, but in color and creative blur. Even videos shot using Pin Hole Art Filter can appear artistic. It depends on your creativity.

4. Focus-tracking is great but I will love to have it more functional in sequential/continuous-shot mode as it’s better to shoot a few more frames for moving subjects. It’s a pity that when I use it in sequential-shot mode, the frames slow down quite a bit, in which I find it not useable.

5. And as for the i-enhance mode, it’s another great option for nicer colors (actually I find that Olympus’s colors are already very nice by default). The HDMI remote feature frees you from sitting inches-near to a HDTV if you often do on-the-spot presentations. Nice option for family get-togethers if you are often the family photographer.

Olympus is selling the E-P1 alongside with the E-P2 together, so I don’t think E-P2 is a replacement model. At about RM1k more (RRP: RM3799), it’s worth the difference if you are fanatic over the two new Art Filters OR you are a creative video person who would want to use the new Art Filters for Video and get better sound quality OR if you “MUST SHOOT WITH VIEWFINDER”. I believe the E-P1 still caters for the majority in terms of pricing.

Lastly, if RM1k is no big deal to you, BLACK IS NICE! I love BLACK! Cheers!

14 thoughts

  1. Hmmm, I think I will be loving the Diorama effect a lot. I do like the miniature look on some of my photos, and having it being processed inside the camera is a great advantage.
    It is interesting for Olympus to push out another Pen within half a year since the first launch, but I believe many would still opt for E-P1. Of course, many E-system users like myself would still stay loyal to our Olympus DSLRs. There may come a time when I do switch, or add a Pen but it will not so soon for me.
    Owhh and I do think that black is sexy !!!

  2. Hi David,
    Need your opinion..
    Which is better, Whether GF1 or EP2?
    Could u help me?

  3. GF1 has faster AF and more precise AF point, shutter sound is louder and more clanky, lumix 20mm F1.9 gives nice bokeh and has good minimum focusing distance for close up shots. At high ISO (1600 and above), images contain ugly digital noise but recently they have a firmware upgrade to rectify this. Overall, I find that E-P1 and E-P2’s images are nicer-looking, more film-like, nicer colors but this can be individual preferences. One great advantage of E-P1 and E-P2 over the GF1 is the Art Filters which is great fun to play with, especially the grainy B&W and Pin-hole effects which give very pleasing results. Best is you try out both at a shop with your memory card in it and decide. You must like the camera in order to enjoy shooting. Holding a camera you love in your hands makes you happier when you go out there shooting.

  4. the shots taken with the diorama art filter does makes the playground looks like models.. interesting!

  5. Nice review, especially the explanation on the various effects from the new Art Filters.

    I recently bought the E-P2, and am having an absolute BLAST of a time taking photos with it.

    I love the colors and tonality I’m getting from the E-P2 – they’re far more pleasing out of the camera than what I could get from my various Nikon and Canon DSLRs.

    The Art Filters are extremely handy too, much, much more useful than I initially imagined they would be.

    The small size of the camera is such a huge relief from having to lug around DSLR bodies and their lenses – even a small DSLR outfit such as a Nikon D40 plus 18-55mm lens looks huge next to the E-P2 plus 14-42mm kit lens.

    I tried jogging with the E-P2 (since I like taking macro photos along the way) slung across my body this morning – it was a very comfortable affair – I could hardly feel the camera.

    I’m thankful to Olympus for producing such an excellent picture maker.

  6. I am so glad to hear that from you, David. I recently am also busy playing with my newly acquired E-P2 but fitted with the Lumix 20mm F1.7 lens. The results are amazing as I can get back my Bokeh after missing it so long since I started using the E-P1 with kit lens previously. The PEN System is an absolutely amazing system with almost no limitations on the type of lenses that can be fitted on it and the Image-Stabilization and In-camera Processing by Olympus is simply top-notch! Spread and share your joy to all around us man! Cheers!

  7. Hi David,
    I’ve been contemplating on getting either the E-P1 or the E-P2, but i’m still quite unsure which would be a better choice. What’s your opinion on both these cameras, and which do you personally prefer?

    Also, would an external flash be necessary??

    Hope you don’t mind me asking! Thanks! 🙂

  8. Hi Annesue,
    I shall be updating my experience with the e-p2 in my future blog posts soon. What I can say is, the e-p2’s external viewfinder is getting me hooked on using it with my manual focus lenses(Leica, Voigtlander, etc). If you want the option of using manual focus lenses, clearly the e-p2 with the EVF is the only choice as the EVF makes manual focusing a breeze! But if you only plan to use original auto focus lenses, the e-p1 is good enough.

    In addition, I have since tested Panasonic lenses, and they are significantly sharper than the Olympus lenses. The best combination to achieve the best results using original autofocus lenses will be e-p1/2 with Panasonic lenses.

    The micro four thirds cameras have this one thing that is amazing. It can fit an almost limitless range of lenses via adaptors on it! So, keep your old film camera lenses if you have them, be it Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta or Konica… … etc. and etc… I really mean “limitless”!!! Even CCTV lenses!!!

    Get one and start enjoying!!!

  9. External flash not really that necessary as the e-p1/2 handles backlighting conditions quite well. But if you really need one and if you are considering non-Olympus flashes, please remember to try it on first cause many third party flashes cannot work well on the e-p1/2.

  10. hi David, thanks for the fabulous review. saving $ for e-p2 for daily usage lol.. love their filter effect and the colour.

  11. Joanne

    July 21, 2010

    I want to buy Olympus Pen but don’t know which model to choose. E-P1, E-P2, or E-PL1…

    Do you mind to do a review comparing 3 models? In order to have a clearer picture which is better or suitable for a beginner photographer.

    Can we change lens for all three models?

  12. Usually, newer technology is always better than older technology. The PEN is a new generation system camera which can change lenses n produce SLR quality images. It is smaller than SLRs because the mirror in conventional SLRs is removed, but yet, image quality is retained.

    As for which PEN to buy, the E-PL1 produces the best quality images among them, with better high ISO performance even though the max. is at ISO3200, sharper images due to thinner anti-liasing filter, and a pop up flash. The most annoying thing is the lack of “auto-rotate” feature in images taken.

    Overall, if you are a beginner, I personally think the E-PL1 suits you more.

  13. Sheilla

    August 15, 2010

    Hey,

    I’m deciding between the Pen e-p2 and the Lumix GF1, which should I get? or is the best combo the 20mm lens on the Pen?

    I like that the Pen has EVF, the auto focus, and the the art filters, but do the pictures take more time processing if using any of the filters?
    On the other hand, the GF1 har a better screen resolution and flash.
    I’ve seen nicer pics taken with the GF1, and it seems more popular among people. I’ve tried both in a store, but I still cant decide. I want to use the camera for street pictures and portraits. Which one would you recommend?

  14. The PEN’s EVF’s quality is unmatchable in the current market. The ART Filters save you lotsa time behind the computer. Time taken for in-camera Art filter processing is definitely much faster than doing it behind the computer even if you are an expert. It’s worth the wait. And if you are capturing fast moving subjects, it’s advisable to shoot RAW and choose your desired Art Filter via Olympus Software given in the computer afterward. Forget about pop-up flash, it should only be used as a backup since all pop-up flash do not give very pleasing quality. Screen resolution? I would say the E-P2 is already very good and we should focus on the final images more.

    The taste for colors is subjective. GF1 and the PEN produces quite different colors and white balance. Most find that the PEN produces nicer skin tones and more accurate white balance. But as for street photography, the GF1 did also produce fantastic images for me too. I personally find that the GF1 sucks at indoor white balance. As for outdoors, it does produce fantastic images with quite different colors from the PEN. For street photography, I think it’s acceptable.

    I would say, if you plan to use manual focus lenses like the old film lenses, the Olympus EVF2 is a MUST for speed and accuracy. You should check more on http://www.flickr.com for images as reference. The PEN is not at all inferior in image quality to the GF1. Cheers!

Reply