The Olympus PEN E-PL2 is aimed at users who want the portability of a compact camera but the image quality and manual controls of a digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera. Like its Micro Four Thirds sibling, the now-discontinued Olympus PEN E-PL1, the E-PL2 eliminates the camera's internal mirror to pack DSLR-like features into a compact body. Although both cameras offer manual controls and a large 12.3-megapixel sensor, the PEN E-PL2's 14-42 mm kit lens (28-84 mm equivalent) is lighter and quieter. Olympus also has replaced the E-PL1's all-button interface with a control dial, making the E-PL2 "much more comfortable camera to use in manual exposure modes," says Ken McMahon at CameraLabs.com. Critics also like the E-PL2's 3-inch LCD screen, which doubles resolution to 460,000 dots, though some reviewers recommend purchasing the optional electronic viewfinder (*Est. $250). The Olympus PEN E-PL2 comes bundled with the 14-42 mm kit lens, but a 40-150 mm telephoto zoom lens ($300) is also available.
Image-wise, the E-PL2 produces impressive results, delivering "better photo quality and performance" than its predecessor, says CNET's Lori Grunin. Low-light shots are also good, though both the Nikon D7000 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5 (Discontinued) perform better at high ISO levels. In addition, critics say that despite being quick to start up, shot-to-shot times are sluggish. Unlike the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 (Discontinued) , the E-PL2 features image stabilization, which helps reduce camera shake. Experts agree that the E-PL2's compact dimensions (4.5 inches by 2.8 inches), sturdy build and rounded grip make for easy handling, but autofocus draws mixed reviews. For example, editors at DPReview.com say it "will probably satisfy anyone but sports and action photographers." Nevertheless, the E-PL2 offers experienced shooters plenty of advanced options, though beginners may find the custom menu intimidating. Video mode is decent, but the E-PL2's 720 HD video can't match the quality of still images. If you want better videos, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 (*Est. $900 with kit lens) records sharp frames in full 1080p high definition.
We found the most thorough reviews of the Olympus PEN E-PL2 at DPReview.com and CameraLabs.com, where testers evaluate the E-PL2 in great detail, while CNET compares the camera's image quality and noise profile to competing cameras. A brief review at TrustedReviews.com is also helpful, and E-PL2 owners provide useful feedback at Amazon.com.
1. Camera Labs.com
Ken McMahon highly recommends the Olympus PEN E-PL2, describing notable improvement in handling and image quality over its E-PL1 predecessor. The E-PL2's new kit lens also draws raves for its lightweight design and quiet autofocus. However, while the E-PL2 produces "great quality images," the camera's video resolution is lacking, and advanced options are lost in the E-PL2's "labyrinthine custom menu," he says.
Review: Olympus PEN E-PL2 Review, Ken McMahon, Feb. 2011
Both Lars Rehm and Barnaby Britton consider the Olympus PEN E-PL2 a "great combination of image quality and portability," but they don't recommend it for photographers who frequently change their exposure settings or do lots of low-light shooting. In addition, they find the menu system "overwhelming" for novice users. However, the E-PL2's handling, improved autofocus and LCD screen receive praise.
Review: Olympus E-PL2 Review, Lars Rehm and Barnaby Britton, Feb. 2011
Despite its large, high-resolution LCD screen and improved kits lens, the Olympus PEN E-PL2 is "more a subtle refinement of the E-PL1 than complete makeover," says Gavin Stoker, who finds no reason for existing E-PL1 owners to upgrade a "perfectly commendable camera in its own right." In addition, the E-PL2's image quality -- while very good -- lacks the "bite" of a DSLR.
Review: Olympus E-PL2 Review, Gavin Stoker, March 3, 2011
Lori Grunin finds the Olympus PEN E-PL2 a "notable update over the E-PL1" in terms of photo quality and considers the E-PL2 a "great interchangeable-lens model" for point-and-shoot owners looking to upgrade. She also likes the E-PL2's noise profile, though it's "not quite as good as the Sony Alpha NEX-5." However, sluggish shot times keep the E-PL2 from being an ideal camera for "shooting active kids and pets."
Review: Olympus E- PL2 (Silver, with 14-42mm Lens), Lori Grunin, March 2, 2011
The Olympus PEN E-PL2 earns an average score of 4 out of 5 stars from more than 30 owners. The camera draws raves for sharpness and color saturation as well as its lightweight, compact size. But some bemoan the menu's steep learning curve and prefer the optional electronic viewfinder to the camera's 3-inch LCD panel in bright sunlight.
Review: Olympus PEN E-PL2, Contributors to Amazon.com