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CES 2011: Olympus launches E-PL2 PEN camera

Newcomer in PEN range of micro-four-thirds cameras

Olympus E-PL2

The new Olympus E-PL2 micro-four-thirds camera

Olympus has unveiled its latest addition to the PEN series of micro-four-thirds cameras, the new Olympus E-PL2, at CES 2011.

The E-PL2 builds on its predecessor, 2010’s E-PL1, by adding a larger LCD screen and a new array of shooting modes and accessories.

Take a look at Which? hands-on First Looks of new digital cameras from all the major manufacturers, plus keep up to date with CES news and highlights direct from our reporters at CES 2011.

See the Olympus E-PL2 in action at CES 2011 in our first look video review below:


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The micro-four-thirds camera system

Olympus and Panasonic are the co-developers of the micro-four-thirds camera system, which offers a more compact alternative to a digital SLR.

You can still change lenses with a micro-four-thirds camera, but unlike a DSLR, there’s no mirror inside the camera. This helps to keep the camera body smaller and lighter.

So far, Panasonic has been by far the more active partner in producing micro-four-thirds cameras, having released seven models to date, including its newest models, the Panasonic Lumix GF2 and the Panasonic Lumix GH2. 

The E-PL2 is the fourth micro-four-thirds camera to be released by Olympus, and it comes a year after the release of the E-PL1.

Read our full Which? review of the Olympus E-PL1 digital camera.

Olympus E-PL2 design and features

Upon first inspection, the E-PL2 doesn’t look a great deal different to its predecessor, the E-PL1. The retro styling of the PEN range has been retained.

The camera retains the pop-up flash of the E-PL1, whilst allowing you to attach an external flash or electronic viewfinder to the hot-shoe on top of the camera. There’s no built-in viewfinder on the E-PL2.

One welcome update to the older model is the larger screen – the E-PL1’s 2.7 inch screen looked a little old-fashioned, even for a deliberately retro-styled model, so it’s nice to see a larger 3-inch LCD screen on the E-PL2.

Olympus hasn’t updated the megapixel count on the E-PL2, however. Like its predecessor, the E-PL2 uses a 12.3Mp effective resolution. This still offers plenty of detail for getting shots enlarged or digitally cropping and editing your photos.

The E-PL2 can record HD video at a resolution of 720p, just like its predecessor.

Shooting modes and accessories

If Olympus didn’t exactly redesign the wheel in their approach to the E-PL2, the camera at least benefits from an expanded range of accessories, as well as a larger array of scene modes and art filters to try out on the camera.

With a total of 22 scene modes and art filters, the E-PL2 should appeal to creative shooters looking to try out fun tricks with their camera.

One of the strangest new accessories for the PEN series, announced alongside the E-PL2, is Olympus’ MAL-1 macro arm light. These two LED lights on tentacles attach to the hot shoe of the camera, giving illumination to a subject directly in front of the camera when you’re shooting close-up macro shots.

Another new accessory is the PENPal, described by Olympus as “a communication unit for storing up to 2600 images and transferring them via wireless Bluetooth to other Bluetooth-enabled devices”. You can use the PENPal to transfer photos to a mobile phone, PC, or even another camera if it has its own PENPal attached.

Olympus also unveiled a series of lens converters for its micro-four-thirds lenses, including a macro lens converter, a wide angle converter, and a fish-eye converter.

The Olympus E-PL2 will launch at £500 this January, and we’ll have a full Which? review just as soon as we’ve had a chance to put the camera through our test lab.

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