Olympus E-PL2 Review

January 26, 2011 | Mark Goldstein |


The Olympus E-PL2 is a rather modest upgrade of the original E-PL1, with a sleeker design, better kit lens and bigger screen chief amongst the rather short list of improvements. Olympus got most things right first time round with the E-PL1 though, so this new model remains an easy-to-use alternative to a more complicated and bigger DSLR.

The 14-42mm kit lens, possibly the only lens that many E-PL2 users will actually buy, is much improved - smaller, lighter, more compact and quieter, whilst offering faster auto-focusing and the same image quality as its predecessor. The larger and higher-resolution screen is also very welcome, as is the revised control layout that more closely resembles the higher-in-the-range E-P2. Only the Live Wheel selector disappoints amongst the major new features, proving too small and too responsive for reliable use - we'd much prefer to see a DSLR-like control dial (preferably two) on the E-PL3.

Importantly for its target audience, the E-PL2 retains the built-in flash of it predecessor, very neatly implemented with a folding design that raise the unit above the lens and helps reduce red-eye. The improved Live Guide is another beginner-friendly addition that makes understanding and changing apertures and shutter speeds to achieve creative effects very straight-forward indeed - simply move the slider and observe the effects live on the LCD screen, and it now works for movies too.

The E-PL2 offers the same excellent image quality as the E-PL1. Low-light performance up to ISO 3200 is very good, offering comparable quality to an entry-level APS-C DSLR, despite the smaller sensor size. The noise reduction is more aggressive by default on the E-PL2 than the higher-end PEN cameras, but you can change this if you don't like the out-of-the-box results. In terms of movie recording, the E-PL2 is one of the more capable Four Thirds cameras despite its budget price-tag, with 720p HD quality, full manual control, a handy one-touch record button and the much-prized ability to add an optional stereo microphone. Only the lack of full HD, large file sizes and limit of 7 minutes in HD mode detract from what is otherwise a great performer.

This new model also mostly solves one of our major criticisms of the E-PL1 - its painfully slow auto-focusing speed. The E-PL2 and new 14-42mm kit lens are thankfully a lot faster to lock onto the subject in good light or bad, so much so that we only missed the decisive moment due to our own fault, rather than the cameras. The E-PL2 still isn't as fast as the best that the competition has to offer (most notably the Panasonic DMC-GH2), but it no longer gives us cause to curse its good name.

The E-PL2 is one of the best Olympus PEN cameras yet, refining an already appealing design with a few well-thought-out design tweaks (with the exception of the Live Wheel) and a much improved standard kit lens. It's also a little cheaper too, making the new Olympus E-PL2 a serious contender for compact users looking to upgrade to a more full-featured yet still very portable camera.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4.5