Olympus E-PL2 Review . Part 1

The E-PL2 (SOOC image from XZ-1).

The E-PL2 (SOOC image from XZ-1).

The E-PL2 (SOOC image from XZ-1).


Just like the Olympus XZ-1 Review earlier, this review IS gonna be about the SOOC images! Some may think that SOOC images aren’t important cause they choose to shoot in RAW anyway, BUT RAW does not mean “unprocessed”. It basically means “UNCOMPRESSED”! That’s why Nikon D3x’s RAWs are different from Sony Alpha 900’s RAWs even though they have the same sensors. And having a Good Image Processor saves you more than half the trouble, whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG.

Image Sensor + Image Processor + Optics = Image Quality.

Good image quality does not just rely on one element.

Before showing you the selected images (MORE are in my flickr, kindly follow my instructions at the end of this review), I will like to share my short verdict of the E-PL2. I have used the first digital PEN E-P1, then the E-P2, E-PL1 and now this pre-production E-PL2 and what I have to say in a short conclusion is:

1. THIS IS NO E-PL1 mk2!!! Even though it has the same image sensor and processor as the E-PL1, it’s ergonomics are DIFFERENT. Finally, I have back the DIAL which I personally think is indispensable. Next, it feels much more solid than the plasticky E-PL1. It definitely has a better grip with that nice textured rubber on the side. It is so much better looking than the E-PL1! It’s Matt Black!!! (Not glossy… I hate glossy)

2. The NEW 14-42mm mk2 kit lens has a Remarkable Improvement in AF speed! It is MSC (movie-still-compatible), which means AF is silent and fast, totally no sound recorded in video when lens is zoomed in and out! This is not just as claimed by Olympus! The Difference IS EVIDENT!

3. The E-PL2 has included so many variations to it’s Art Filters, which I personally am having a headache as to what to use in what situation. BUT I fell in love with it’s Grainy Film II Mode which renders the image lower contrast as compared to the often too-overly-contrast grainy film mode which existing PEN users are experiencing. And my favourite workflow which I developed with the E-PL2 shortly in these 10 days is shooting in the Grainy Film Mode II with Art Frame ON and recording it both in JPEG and RAW at the same time. The RAW is my backup in the case when highlights are blown.

I have also been using the NEW Olympus Viewer 2 software to convert the RAW files when necessary and I must say this is the easiest software I have encountered in my years of using different digital cameras. Results from the software are also excellent. The main setbacks of the software which I have found are:

a. Art Filter Variations NOT included. Things like Grainy Film II, Pop Art II, Art Frame, etc.. ONLY the basic Art Filters are included and that includes the Dramatic Tone Art Filter. (I know many “die” for this…) Will there be any hackers who would hack the software and make these Art Filters available to all other RAW files… that I don’t know, I am not a software geek.

b. Certain corrections can’t be done, like Contrast, Picture Tone… this could be due to the pre-production E-PL2 I’m using… so it may be too early to draw a conclusion.

Grainy Film II Mode, with Art Frame, ISO200, F4, 1/50sec.

Grainy Film II Mode, with Art Frame, ISO200, F10, 1/250sec.

Another variation of the Pop Art Filter. This is shot in Pop Art Filter II with Soft Focus Effect.

4. The NEW 14-42mm mk2 lens is designed for fitting the NEW macro converter, wide converter and fisheye converter. So if you think these new converters can be fitted on your existing 14-42mm lens, you are wrong. Soon we’ll see the old 14-42mm kit lenses flooding the used market at dirt cheap prices! The macro converter allows 0.28x magnification at 24cm with the 14-42mm lens at 42mm. The wide converter turns your 14mm to 11mm wide. The fisheye converter gives 120 degree view.

I personally think that the “perfect combo” could be using the m-zuiko 14-150mm lens with a step up ring 37-58mm (available from Olympus) to fit on the NEW macro converter! You can also do the same for the m-zuiko 40-150mm lens since it also has 58mm diameter!

5. Macro Arm Light: This is innovative! It is a pair of alien-looking flexible arms with LED lights for use in macro photography. Now macro photography has gone to a new level of excitement.

However, if you are getting the macro arm light, it’s better to use it with the macro converter, unless you have a short specialized macro lens. Reason being: the arms are NOT long. (in this case, I doubt the compatibility with the 14-150mm and 40-150mm lenses. I haven’t try, so I can’t say for sure…)

Shot with macro arm light attached to the hotshoe with 14-42mm lens zoomed in at 42mm. No macro converter was used as it has not arrived from Japan at the time of shooting.

6. PENPAL: a bluetooth transfer device. I was told that this is NOT compatible with the APPLE iPhones/iPads. Sad… I am still wishing a bluetooth transfer technology to my iPhone for me to upload images on the go to facebook and flickr (which has automated resizing capability).

The following are the rest of the selected images:

iAuto Mode, ISO200, F9, 1/250sec.

Dramatic Tone Art Filter

Dramatic Tone Art Filter

iAuto Mode, ISO200, F10, 1/500sec.

Pinhole Art Filter, ISO200, F4.5, 1/50sec.

iAuto Mode, ISO200, F5.6, 1/200sec.

Shutter Priority Mode, ISO200, F3.5, 1/3sec handheld.

iAuto Mode, ISO400, F3.5, 1/60sec.

With SO MANY FEATURES packed into the E-PL2, this is obviously NOT a E-PL1 mk2!!! To view full resolution images with EXIF data, please have a flickr account, add me (click here), and send me a message. I’ll make sure you see them!

39 thoughts

  1. envy~~ >.<

  2. Great pictures! i like to view more pics. Please send me a login info. Thanks!

  3. with restricitons on releasing pre-production high res images on the internet, please add me in flickr and i’ll make sure you see them. thank you!

  4. Added you in Flickr.. Thanks for the reviews!

  5. kwok yee sing

    January 7, 2011

    beautiful n nicely shots.Good job:)

  6. Thanks Raymond!

  7. Thanks a lot for this preview! I think this is going to be my next camera :o)

  8. David, this excellent review has convinced me to buy the E-PL2 – thank you!

    However,there are claims that the camera produces “red spots” in images where there are sources of direct light (e.g. the sun). See:


    Have you noticed this phenomenon in any of your photographs?

  9. Pls send me the photos from the EPL2 review.

  10. Once again beautiful images and a very practical overview of the E-PL2. I so want one!

  11. Great shots thanks a lot for the preview! I’d love to check out the rest of your pictures. In the meantime, how did you feel the camera performed in low light? I’m planning a trip to Disney where I’d be taking shots at indoor events, night time parades etc. Do you think this camera would get the job done (w/14-150)? (would only be printing pics mostly 4×6 occasional 8×10)


  12. I did not encounter the “red spots” mentioned. I believed the upgrade of firmware should solve this issue. For other types of red spots (hot pixels), you can go into Menu-Pixel-Mapping to clear it, which isn’t a big issue. The red spots mentioned in the forum look like flare to me but it’s rendered red by the sensor/processor… I hope the final firmware and product on sale has no such problems.

  13. Tony,

    If you see my Flickr shots, you would notice I had no problem shooting in low light at all, and images has no visible chromatic aberration (purple fringing on fluorescent lights for example). And Olympus has blown up sample prints from the shots to 30in large, so I believe the E-PL2 is more than enough to satisfy your demands.

  14. Thanks for your response. How’s the shot to shot time–is there a lag like there is w/a p&s? Or, is it like a DSLR where you can just fire off shots? I’m upgrading from a p&s and narrowed down my choices to this and the Sony A55.


  15. Thanks for the beautiful pics.

    I have been thinking about buying this camera.

    How do you find its use without the viewfinder? Do you feel the viewfinder would be necessary? I would like to take MACRO shots, so I would rather get that converter and skip the viewfinder if possible for now. allen

  16. Ouch, sorry to say that those pictures don’t do justice to the camera, a good compact camera will do better. I have great pride in the E-PL1/E-PL2 image quality, and these spoils it. Well, since it seems, at face value, that you know how to take pics, so I guess you were drunk when you did this :).

    Anyway, I highly recommend both E-PL1 and E-PL2 (as long as there are no red spots – why not try shooting a cityscape with bright lights, a very common night scene at very slow speed ?)

  17. If you’re referring to the electronic viewfinder vf-2, it’s useful for the following situations:
    1. manual focusing without mf-assist magnification
    2. long telephotos (like 40-150, 14-150, 70-300) when live view can make you giddy
    3. slower shutter speeds (pressing the camera against your face helps to stabilize the camera)
    4. very glaring sunlight

  18. ricky lee

    January 31, 2011

    How is the autofocus speed? Is it the same as E-PL1 or as fast as GF1?

  19. definitely faster than e-pl1 and gf1 which I tried. this is due to the new 14-42mm mk2 lens.

  20. ricky lee

    February 1, 2011

    Which is a better combination,
    E-PL2 with 20mm/f1.7 or GF1 with 20mm/f1.7?

    E-PL2 has in body stabilizer and better out of camera jpegs, will there be any advantage for the GF1?

  21. Hey,
    thanx for all the effort on your review,
    definitely make choosing camera so much easier
    for people like me, who is totally clueless about camera.
    By the way, I was very sure about the Olympus E-PL2,
    till someone told me they bought the Sony Alpha Nex-5 and loving it.
    Now I’m confused! And again another friend said the Panasonic GF1 is better than Olympus E-PL2.
    So now I have narrow it down to either Olympus E-PL2 or Lumix GF1,
    what do you think? which 1 would you prefer more.
    Thank you so much for your help 🙂

  22. analogic

    February 8, 2011

    You’ve just convinced me to buy this camera. In fact, I just ordered it 2 mins ago. Still wondering what I just have done.

  23. David, thanks for your interesting review. I would like to ask you a question concerning the RAW-qualities of the E-PL2. Do you think there’s a real benefit photographing in RAW in stead of JPG with this particular camera? RAW editing in camera is possible and it is also possible to use art-filters on the RAW-files : does this deliver better images in stead of using the artfilters immediately in JPG files? Thanks and best regards, Hans

  24. Ricky, the AF speed based on the new MSC lenses (new 14-42mm mk2) is 40% faster. To me, it’s faster than GF1.

  25. Ricky, to me, E-PL2 with 20/1.7 is a much better choice.

  26. Anne,

    If you read here: http://www.davidchuaphotography.com/2010/04/08/olympus-e-pl1-vs-panasonic-lumix-dmc-gf1/
    To me, the E-PL1 is already better than the GF1. There’s no doubt I’ll choose the E-PL2 over the GF1. The NEX has a bigger sensor which has better high ISO performance and more depth of field BUT the Sony lenses have poor performance and there’s NO in-body I.S.

  27. Hans,

    The RAW from any camera always gives you higher quality files and the flexibility in post processing. The question is how much better. For Olympus, the margin between it’s RAW and Jpeg is NOT much: means the Jpegs from Olympus are already damn good. BUT, in shooting RAW with Olympus cameras, you have the flexibility of choosing ART filters during post processing and more allowance for tweaking wb, exposure, etc at the post processing stage.

  28. henry chua

    February 19, 2011

    Hi David, great and wonderful review. I’m still confused over both the E-PL1 vs the E-PL 2. I have the photos that you place here in the review and seems the latter one is having better images. Does E-PL 1 has the features like those arts filter with diorama n grainy..etc similar to PL-2. Thank you!

  29. Thomas A Fog

    February 24, 2011

    I have seen several threads of comments on the internet discussing E-PL 2. Much has been on sensor-size and the better performance of DSLRs. Not here! Thank you. You have other concerns.
    I think ‘E’ stands for entry level. But what a quality for an entry! I am deeply impressed having bought one myself – even if I am an old film-Leica man. No, E-PL 2 is not a Leica but to me this little camera still is a digital jewel in its own right offering all the basic-virtues of a Leica at a mere tenth of the price. Weight (less), versatility, portability, flexibility. The problem with Leica is that the camera is ultimate the day you buy it. It still is sixty years later – even if it is bypassed several times by the outer world. Except for one thing – the pictures you get from a Leica is still top-class. The E-PL 2 IQ has to its disadvantage been compared with DSLR IQ. Visibly I see no difference. Isn’t it what we can see, that counts?

  30. Hi David…

    There is two kit set option for EPL2 that is zoom kit set and pancake set. I am wondering which one is more widely use as i just use the camera for travelling use, taking photo of scenery and potrait. I did sometimes use zoom with my compact dc but not really often. Please advice. Thank you.

  31. sy,

    If it’s me, forget about the 17mm pancake. For travelling, if you want more reach, go for the 14-150mm. Alternatively, you can have the 14-42 and 40-150 / 75-300 as a second lens. If you want something like the 17mm pancake, the panasonic 20mm F1.7 is a much better performer!

  32. ricky lee

    March 24, 2011

    Will E-PL2 do chromatic aberration correction when use with Panasonic 20mm lens?


  33. Request for advice. I am trying to decide between Xz-1 and EPL-2. I would go with the Xz-1 UNLESS there will be a visible difference in quality of the images I would typically take. The images I care about are pictures I take around the house of family and pets. I take the pictures indoors mostly and sometimes with indoor lighting, sometimes natural lighting, and sometimes bounce flash. I don’t want to mess with post processing and just want jpegs right out of the camera. I really do want the best most lifelike pictures I can get with the least fuss and they are pictures that are not posed typically. I usually want to grab the camera and take them fast but want the best possible quality for that type of shot in varied lighting conditions (but never in really low light). I won’t be creating prints any bigger than 8 x 10 and usually 4×6 or 5×7 but really want to see expressions in the eyes of the subjects like you see with really good photos. I’m not a photographer but am capable of understanding the technology as required.

  34. Ted,

    If you want no shutter delay/lag, get the PEN. XZ-1 has a little shutter lag.

  35. Ricky, to be honest, I’m not sure.

  36. Jeremy

    May 17, 2011

    Hi David,
    How does the e-pl2 fare with nightscapes and long exposure photography?

  37. Jeremy, it fares pretty well to me when I tried it out for those 15secs – 60secs night shots. Will try to post some at a later date. You can also do a search in Flickr.

  38. David, thank you for the review. Your photos are amazing and show what a camera can produce in the right hands!
    Sold my LX3 and bought an E-PL2. I hate Lumix skin tones, Olympus are far better. Regards

  39. sprintson

    October 28, 2011

    hi david,

    i’m beginner and i plan to buy a camera, 1 is e-pl2 & 1 is nikon d3100 do u think which 1 is better and more function to play??