Olympus PEN E-P2 Review

Olympus PEN E-P2 Review

Just as this camera arrived on the reviewing desk another PEN was announced: the PEN E-PL1. With three PENs now out there, I could almost hear the old song … ‘Every time it rains, it rains PEN-Es from heaven.” Sorry for the corn!

Olympus first broke away from the crowd with its first Micro Four Thirds camera and was quickly followed by Panasonic with their MFT lineup, then Ricoh put its hand up with the GXR. Now Sony sees a market opportunity in its EVIL range of non-mirror box, interchangeable lens cameras.

Olympus PEN E-P2 1.jpg

Olympus PEN E-P2 2.jpg

The aim, I presume is to fill a demand for quality compact cameras with a small form factor and an attractive lens range that supplies most of what the DSLR experience delivers but without the weight and bulk of the latter. I say — rejoice!

The stainless steel and aluminium body feels solid and weighs 600 grams with 14-42mm lens and viewfinder attached … more than a compact but less than most DSLRs.

Olympus PEN E-P2 3.jpg

Olympus PEN E-P2 4.jpg

As the second PEN E, this model partially attends to the deficiencies of the first in supplying a detachable electronic, Live viewfinder that slips into the accessory shoe and tilts 90 deg upwards. Alas there is still no onboard flash.

The viewfinder has a higher resolution (1.44 million) than the rear LCD screen (230,000) pixels.

The shoe that holds the viewfinder can also hold an optional microphone to improve the audio pickup when shooting video.

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Olympus PEN E-P2 Features

Exposure options: auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority plus manual.

The CMOS sensor captures a maximum 4032×3024 pixel image, leading to a 34x26cm print.

Video is reasonably well served with a maximum size of 1280×720 pixels at 30 fps, replayable via an HDMI output on the camera.

Olympus won many friends with its Art Filters that first appeared in its 2009 DSLR models. Now there’s two more: Diorama and Cross Process filters. I have seen a similar trick to Diorama in other maker’s cameras and have to admit to being a little under-whelmed at its effect …to make a real landscape look like a miniature. However, my bells rang happily with the P2’s cross processing filter. These Art Filter effects can be added to video recordings.

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The camera uses a sensor-shift image-stabiliser built into the camera body that dampens vibration by effectively up to four shutter speeds. There are four modes: off, on, for panning horizontally and vertically. Almost any lens attached to the camera will benefit from this.

Auto focus is well attended to with a new Continuous-Tracking AF function that requires you to ‘lock-on’ to a subject by pressing the AF dial while half-pressing the shutter button. This will then track the subject’s movement within the frame and maintain sharp focus.

Multi exposure? Yes. Take a RAW image then overlay three more to create a multiple exposure. You have the option of overlaying each image at full or half exposure. I would have liked the ability to overlay each at varying exposures. But I guess that’s a bit too much to ask for!

Dust reduction? Yes — activated each time the camera is turned on.

Face detection? Yes, up to eight faces can be optimised for exposure and focus.
Scoffed at by some but liked by others (like this reviewer) the camera has a level gauge display, especially useful for night shooting.

Olympus PEN E-P2 ISO Tests

This shot at ISO 100, f5.4 and 1/15 second shows how clean a base image can be.

At ISO 800 with an aperture of f5.6 and 1/100 second we still have a clean image. No noise, no artefacts.

At ISO 1600, f7.1 and 1/160 second exposure we still have a reasonable image but noise is evident.

Now we reach ISO 6400, f10 and 1/320 second. Noise? Sharpness? Down.


This is a fine camera, beautifully made and set up.

Why you would buy it: compact size; access to Zuiko lenses; HD plus PCM sound capture.

Why you wouldn’t: you want an optical finder and onboard flash.

Get a Price on the Olympus PEN E-P2:

MG car 1.jpg

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The picture quality was well above average, with natural colour rendering and sharp definition. The PEN E-P2 is a camera for picky photographers unwilling to engage with a DSLR.

Olympus PEN E-P2 Specs

  • Image Sensor: Live MOS 12.3 million effective pixels.
  • Metering: Digital ESP, centre-weighted; spot; highlight and shadow spot.
  • Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.0mm (22.5mm diameter).
  • 35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x.
  • Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/4000 second; flash sync 1/30-1/180 second.
  • Memory: SD and SDHC cards.
  • Image Sizes (pixels): 4032×3024, 3200×2400, 2560×1920, 1600×1200, 1280×960, 1024×768, 640×480. Movies: 1280×720, 640×480 at 30 fps.
  • LCD screen: 7.6cm (230,000 pixels).
  • File Formats: JPEG, RAW, AVI Motion JPEG.
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
  • Interface: USB, AV, HDMI.
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
  • Dimensions: 121x70x36 WHDmm.
  • Weight: Approx. 335 g (body only).
  • Price: AUD1799 with finder and f3.4-5.6/14-42mm Zuiko lens.
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Olympus PEN E-P2
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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Achilles Petrides July 9, 2011 10:35 pm

    Thanks for the test and the comments. I'm not an experienced photografer, but I'm working hard at it, this
    camera suits me fine. Thanks again

  • paul richardson July 5, 2010 12:08 am

    The E-P2 is currently available on Amazon for 799.00 with lens and viewfinder.

  • David Petrofsky June 25, 2010 04:24 am

    Curious question...how does it compare to the E-P1? Is the huge price difference worth it if you're on a budget? On amazon, the E-P1 is about $600 and the E-P2 is about $1100, so clearly it's being marketed as a huge improvement. Is the improvement really that big? thanks

  • garyrobert7 June 22, 2010 02:54 pm

    I switched from a Canon EOS 5D Mark II to the E-P2. I wanted less weight, as I am mostly shooting outdoors, including hiking in the mountains. I got that with the E-P2, and of course I gave up megapixels, but the whole system takes up so little space, and I only blow up and print at 13 X 19 in. max. If you want to go larger, then use Genuine Fractals before printing. After doing a little research, I learned that you can use the Panasonic 4/3 lenses on the E-P2, so I bought the Leica 45mm (90mm in 35mm equivalent), as my focus is on macro photography. There are some post that suggest that the Panasonic lenses can't 'talk' to the Olympus camera body, but so far, the Leica 45mm has worked brilliantly!

    Keep shooting!


  • Ed March June 20, 2010 12:04 am

    I have been playing with this camera for about a week now and I am simply astounded by the quality of pictures it takes. The absence of internal flash honestly made me doubt my decision to buy it (I was choosing between this and the new Panasonic G2). But to be honest I have not found it to be an issue at all as it takes amazing pictures in low light. I find the autofocus rather slow, and the lag time between shots (when taking single shots) is annoyingly slow, but I can easily see this becoming my casual day-to-day camera because of its compact size, image quality, and retrolicious beauty.

  • Dazza June 11, 2010 04:55 pm

    I love this gem of a camera. I use it as a backup on my shoots & as my walkabout camera. It has some little draw backs? such as having to swap the electronic eye piece to use either a flash or a pocket wizard. I also wish the lenses had faster glass all the way through the lenses focal range. The other option I suppose is that I could get the adapter & use my Nikon lenses with it & I wish I could find a Polar filter to fit? 49.5mm what an odd size.

    Apart from the Three bug bears this is a cracking camera. It goes everywhere with me & now there are some new lenses out with greater focal range even better. I'd recommend it.

  • Harshit Singhal June 9, 2010 10:41 pm

    i dont see any amazon affiliate ads anywhere on any of your websites !..And yet you report a huge revenue from it.Wonder where the ads are placed

  • Valerie June 8, 2010 07:55 am

    i want one. i will even sell my canon g10 and i love that camera. nice review.

  • Michael June 8, 2010 03:39 am

    Can deny this camera is a great camera, beautiful design, and great features. But it is a camera that I would buy. This is a camera for picky photographers, because not everyone is willing to pay around $1,000 (here in the USA) for a “point-and-shot-DSLR” with interchangeable lens when they can get a good quality DSLR with a viewfinder, build-in flash, amount other great features (you name it!).

    I still prefer the Canon PowerShot G11 because it is more of a“compact DSLR” that can easily fit in your pocket when the Olupums PEN-E-P2 wouldn’t.

  • JohnK June 8, 2010 02:48 am

    The back of the camera looks like it could have been produced by Canon. The multi-function button and labels look lithe they are directly taken from the G-10 and XSi. I guess this is a tribute/compliment to the ease of use of Canon designed controls. Yes, I am a Canon shooter...

  • Graham Fry June 7, 2010 09:14 am

    I got mine this weekend and it has blown me away! I prefer it to my Nikon DSLR, the quality and art filters are just incredible. Four thirds is future!

  • kyle June 7, 2010 08:33 am

    I'd love to read more about the range of lenses available for the PEN range... a future post?! thanks for all...

  • Khürt June 7, 2010 03:23 am

    I think the micro 4/3 format is the future of consumer and amateur pro photography. This review makes me want one NOW!. I'm waiting for Nikon and Canon to enter the market and for prices to become more "reasonable".

  • fatimaS June 7, 2010 01:45 am

    i have one and i love the camera :))) great you did the review :)))) ty