Olympus PEN E-PM2


    Photo Review 8.5
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    Olympus PEN E-PM2

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
      - You want a smart-looking interchangeable-lens camera for point-and-press shooting.
      - You'd like Full HD video recording with stereophonic sound.|
      - You'd appreciate relatively fast autofocusing.

       Don't buy this camera if:
       - You make extensive use of lens aperture and shutter speed settings.
       - You require a built-in viewfinder and/or flash.
       - You have large hands and/or limited dexterity.

      Full review

      The release of the Olympus PEN E-PM2 in November 2012 updates the E-PM1, which we reviewed in November 2011. Like its predecessor, the E-PM2 is designed for snapshooters but it comes with the same 16.1-megapixel sensor and TruePic VI processor as the OM-D E-M5 we reviewed in May 2012, and the PEN Lite E-PL5 we reviewed in October 2012. It also sports touch-screen controls, similar to those on the E-PL5.

      Angled front view of the PEN E-PM2 in silver with the 14-42mm kit lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      The new camera is offered in black, red, silver or white and can be purchased with an optional ‘FlashAir’ SD card (see below)  for transferring  images wirelessly from the camera to a smart-phone, tablet PC or computer. Olympus also offers a smart-phone app, I.O. Share, which is available for iOS and Android and makes picture uploading from the E-PM2 to Facebook and Twitter straightforward.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Like its predecessor, the E-PM2 has a superficial resemblance to the PEN E-PL5 and is similar in size to Panasonic's recently-released Lumix DMC-GF5, which has lower resolution and costs AU$100 more. The table below compares key features of the trio.

       

      PEN E-PM2

       

      PEN E-PL5

      Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5

      Effective resolution

      16.1 megapixels

      12.1 megapixels

      Image stabilisation

      Body-integrated sensor-shift

      Lens based

      Shutter speed range

      60 - 1/4000 sec

      Bulb exposure limit

      No restrictions

      Bulb exposures not supported

      AF detection points

      35

      23

      ISO range

      200-25600

      160-12800

      Burst shooting (max.)

      8 frames/second

      4 frames/second

      Buffer capacity

      Not specified

      15 JPEGs or 9 RAW frames

      'unlimited' JPEGs or 5 RAW frames

      Flash

      External flash supplied GN10 (ISO 200/m)

      Built-in GN 6.3 (ISO 160/m)

      LCD monitor

      Fixed 3-inch, widescreen TFT LCD with 460,000 dots

      Tilting 3-inch TFT LCD with 460,000 dots

      3-inch, 3:2 aspect  TFT LCD with 920,000 dots

      Touch-screen

      Yes

      External mic. terminal

      Only via AP2 accessory port

      No

      Battery capacity

      360 shots/charge

      360 shots/charge with H-H014 lens

      Body dimensions

      109.8 x 64. x 33.8 mm

      110.5 x 63.7 x 38.2 mm

      107.7 x 66.6 x 36.8 mm

      Body weight

      Approx. 223 grams

      Approx. 279 grams

      Approx. 225 grams 

      RRP (single-lens kit) on release

      AU$599

      AU$799

      AU$699

      The first new feature you notice on the new camera is the grip on the front panel, which addresses one of the handling problems associated with the E-PM1. It's slightly smaller than the grip on the E-PL5 and not removable but it significantly improves overall handling.

      And, although the E-PM2 is marginally larger and heavier than its predecessor, it's still one of the smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens cameras available. It also shares many features with the more sophisticated E-PL5.

      Like the E-PM1, the new camera has very few external controls. There's no mode dial and only six buttons  (two more than the E-PM1) plus a standard arrow pad. Menu diving is required to access most camera settings, showing this camera is designed primarily for point-and-shooters.

      As before, the E-PM2's body is mostly made from metal (probably lightweight aluminium) with a firm, rubber-like material used for the front grip and rear thumb pad. D-ring eyelets for the neck strap are located near the upper edges of each side panel.

      Aside from the addition of the grip pad, the front panel is unchanged from the E-PM1. The off-centre lens mount covers roughly half of it, with the release button roughly 8 mm from the left hand edge. A tiny LED that doubles as a self-timer indicator and AF-assist light is embedded into the top left hand corner of the front panel. 

      Front view of the PEN Mini E-PM2 in red with the 14-42mm kit lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      The top panel gains a new, customisable Live Guide/ Fn button. The default setting is for the Live Guide, although this button can also be programmed to access one of the following functions: exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, white balance, AE lock or AF lock, movie recording, depth-of-field preview, white balance measurement, AF target/AF home, manual focus, magnify,  JPEG/ RAW+JPEG toggle, test picture (displays but does not save shot), Myset, digital tele-converter, HDR bracketing, drive mode, flash mode or off. 

      The top panel of the E-PM2 in white with no lens fitted. (Source: Olympus.)

      Changes to the rear panel include the addition of a dedicated erase (delete) button, which is located on the top left hand side of the camera between the re-located play button and the accessory port. The arrow pad has been moved down to provide space for the new thumb pad, taking the Info and Menu buttons with it. 

      The rear panel of the E-PM2. (Source: Olympus.)

      The accessory port is the standard Olympus fitting, which accepts the supplied clip-on flashgun (GN 10 at ISO 200/m) and accessories like the VF-2 electronic viewfinder, MAL-1 macro arm light, SEMA-1 microphone set and  PENPAL PP-1 communication unit. A lift-up rubber cover on the right hand side panel protects the micro-USB and HDMI interface connections.

      Controls
      Aside from the additional buttons, nothing much has changed since the E-PM1. The user interface is still designed for point-and-press photographers who will keep the camera on the default iAuto setting and only venture occasionally into the Art Filter and SCN preset sub-menus. 

      Pressing the Live Guide/Fn button displays the Live Guide settings, which are designed to assist novice users to achieve specific end results. These settings only work with JPEG files and are presented in a coloured, icon-based toolbar on the right hand side of the monitor, which allows users to:
       -  change colour saturation between 'clear & vivid' and 'flat & muted';
       - change the colour of the image between 'warm' and 'cool';
       - change the brightness level;
       - adjust background blurring between 'blur' and 'sharp' (which adjusts the lens aperture);
       - 'express motions' covering adjustments between 'blurred motion' and 'stop motion' (which adjusts the shutter speed); and
       - access shooting tips.

      The shooting tips are extremely basic and include pages on photographing children and pets, photographing flowers and food, shot composition and using Olympus accessories like close-up and wide-angle lens attachments and the macro arm light. They're probably useful for snapshooters but unnecessary for experienced photographers.

      Experienced photographers will find the A, S and M settings on this camera frustrating to use, largely because of the additional toggling required to adjust aperture and shutter speed settings.  A large part of the problem lies with the user interface design, which assigns multiple functions to the arrow pad buttons.

      You have to check which functions have been set before shooting in any of these modes and make sure the parameters you wish to adjust are accessible. Unfortunately, you have to dive deep into the Custom sub-menu to achieve this, which is probably beyond the reach of most point-and-shooters.

      The dedicated delete button is a welcome addition as it minimises the amount of toggling when you wish to delete shots that didn't work immediately after taking them. Some photographers will also welcome the doubling of the Art Filters options, which now include the same 12 settings as in the E-PL5. As before, they are only applied to JPEGs and are not adjustable.

      Art Filter bracketing is offered and you can turn different settings on and off to choose which three filters are used. In the P, A, S and M modes, AE bracketing is also supported for up to seven shots with exposure adjustable in 0.3, 0.7 or 1EV steps.

      White balance, ISO and flash bracketing are supported and the camera also supports multi-frame HDR capture and double exposures on a single frame. The Overlay setting allows three or more frames to be combined in a raw file exposure post-capture.

      The Digital Tele Converter function is a JPEG-only setting that is located  on page 1 of the shooting menu in the Setup section. When this mode is selected a tiny icon appears on the top edge of the monitor screen to let you know it is engaged (but it's very easy to overlook). If you record RAW+JPEG pairs, the on-screen image will be enlarged accordingly but only the JPEGs will be cropped and enlarged to record roughly one quarter of the original image area captured in the raw file. Raw images are not cropped and will be captured at the set focal length.

      Other functions shared with the E-PL5 include the exposure, WB, flash, ISO, drive modes, customisation options and support for panorama and 3D stills recording (both located within the Scene pre-sets). Interestingly, users can also embed copyright information in image files via a setting in the Custom H sub-menu titled 'Copyright Info'.

      The AF system is also the same as the E-PL5's and designed to  use of the speed of Olympus M.Zuiko MSC-designated lenses. With 35 sensor points to choose from plus the ability to adjust the size of the focus point, it's an improvement on the previous model's already competent system.

      Face detection facilities are quite sophisticated and include the ability to focus on the pupil of the subject's eye. Users can set the camera to look for either the right or left eye and the camera will display a green frame over the selected eye in pupil detection AF mode when Face Priority is selected in the AF/MF sub-menu in the Custom settings.

      Sensor and Image Processing
       With the same sensor as in the E-PL5, image sizes and quality settings are identical and covered in our review of that camera. Movie options are also the same as in the PEN Lite E-PL5.

      You can't adjust aperture or shutter speed settings or apply exposure compensation in movie mode and image stabilisation is digital and involves enlarging the image slightly. This can be disconcerting as the view of the subject changes when you press the movie button.

      Playback and Software
       These features are the same as in the E-PL5 and covered in our review of that camera.

      FlashAir Cards
       The FlashAir SDHC cards offered with Olympus cameras are manufactured by Toshiba and similar to other Wi-Fi cards. Currently, only one capacity is available: 8GB, of which 7.2GB is usable. The card has a designated Class 6 speed and supports both peer-to-peer transfers and uploads to and downloads from servers. It can connect to any device that interfaces with a Wi-Fi hotspot, including smart-phones, tablets and laptop computers.

      According to the Olympus Japan website, FlashAir cards can only be used in the E-PL5, E-PM2 and XZ-2 cameras. They aren't compatible with the E-M5, E-PL3 and E-PM1 'because the communication doesn't work properly'. However, they can be used in cameras from other manufacturers and a full list of compatible cameras can be found at http://www.toshiba.co.jp/p-media/wwsite/compati/pdf/flashair.pdf.

      Setting up the card is straightforward. Once you've slipped it into the camera and switched the power on it will automatically search for a wireless LAN. When a connection is made. you have five minutes to configure the SSID name and wireless security for the card using the camera's interface or the browser on a mobile device (the camera is easier). By default the SSID name is 'flashair_xxxxxxxxxxxx' and the default passcode for the WPA2 security is '12345678'. 

      These should be changed to your own settings, once the Wi-Fi connection has been established. After this is done, you should be able to access images and movie clips on the card by  typinghttp://flashairin your mobile browser.

      Images and movies on the card can be accessed by several different devices simultaneously, although transmission speeds can slow and/or be interrupted when more than about three devices are accessing data. However, this facility enables you to, for instance,  display pictures on a smart-phone while downloading the photos to a computer.

      Installing the Olympus I.O. Share app on a mobile device enables users to view thumbnails of the pictures in the camera on a smart-phone or tablet and select which pictures to import. It also lets users apply Art Filter effects and share selected images through social networking services.

      Data transfer speeds appeared to be similar to those of other Wi-Fi cards, as are the facilities these cards provide. According to Toshiba, FlashAir cards consume very little power as the wireless function is switched on only when necessary.

      Performance
      Our Imatest tests were captured with the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6II R kit lens, which was also used for our review of the PEN MINI E-PM1 in November 2011. (INSERT LINK) We also shot a second batch of images with the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 lens, which will be reviewed separately.

      Although the E-PM2 has the same sensor and processor as the E-PL5, neither of our Imatest tests produced the high resolution results we obtained with the E-PL5. We're not sure why this occurred, although it may be attributable to variations between camera samples.

      Perhaps the E-PL5 is tuned to suit a more discriminating customer, whereas buyers of the E-PM2 are probably auto-everything shooters. Whichever is the case, the E-PM2 will probably deliver 'good enough' image quality for its target user base.

      JPEG images from the review camera appeared quite similar to those from the PEN E-PL5. Colour rendition was slightly warm but Imatest showed saturation to be slightly lower than in similar files taken with the E-PL5. Converted raw files were very colour-accurate with nicely restrained saturation.

      The E-PM2 also matched the E-PL5's low-light and high-sensitivity performance. Image noise only became visible in long exposures at ISO 6400 and shots taken at ISO 12800 were printable up to A4 size. By ISO 25600, apparent sharpness and saturation were reduced and pattern and colour noise were visible, although shots were still printable at snapshot size.

      Flash exposures showed similar characteristics. However, as with the E-PL3, the bundled flash, which has a default aperture setting of f/5.6 in flash mode, wasn't powerful enough to produce correct exposures at ISO settings below 800 or compensate for flash exposures with the highest ISO settings. Shots were a stop or two over-exposed at ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 in the iAuto and P modes but could be brought into line with aperture and shutter speed adjustments, as shown in the samples section below.

      As with available-light exposures, flash shots taken at ISO 25600 appeared soft, slightly flat and noise-affected. Imatest confirmed a gradual decline in resolution as the ISO sensitivity was raised, as shown in the graph below.

       

      White balance performance was similar to that of the E-PL5. The auto setting retained a slight warm cast in incandescent lighting, while under fluorescent lighting the colour balance was close to neutral. The pre-sets over-corrected slightly with both lighting types, leaving a slight blue cast. Neutral colours were obtained with manual white balance measurement.

      We tested the review camera's video capabilities out on Sydney Harbour among a crowd of boats watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race; a challenging situation, to say the least. There were huge challenges to focusing speed and accuracy as well as for the camera's stabilisation system and, although large sections of many clips were unusable through lack of sharpness, the overall performance of the camera was very good under such difficult conditions.

      We also recorded some movies on the opening day of the Sydney Festival from the shores of Cockle Bay. The actual quality of the video clips was quite similar to clips shot with the E-PL5. As with other PEN cameras, the field of view is reduced in movie mode and the monitor image appears slightly enlarged, reflecting the area captured.

      We couldn't see a significant difference in image quality between the Fine and Normal settings in the two HD recording modes, nor between the clips at the different resolutions. As in the E-PL5, the built-in microphones were quite susceptible to wind noise, even when the wind cut filter was engaged.

      We carried out our timing tests with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 memory card, which supports 45MB/second data transfer. The review camera took just under a second to power-up.  Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.7 seconds without flash and 3.1 seconds with.

      Average capture lag was 0.34 seconds without pre-focusing, reducing to 0.06 seconds when shots were pre-focused. When the touch shutter was used, lag times averaged 0.25 seconds.

      Image processing times were faster than the E-PL5, with Large/Fine JPEGs taking approximately 1.6 seconds, ORF.RAW files taking 1.9 seconds and RAW+JPEG pairs 2.1 seconds on average. In the high-speed sequential shooting (burst) mode, we recorded bursts of 10 Large/Super Fine JPEGs in 1.1 seconds. It took 6.2 seconds to process this burst.

      Ten ORF.RAW files were recorded in the same amount of time. It took 8.4 seconds to process this burst. Swapping to RAW+JPEG capture, we recorded 10 pairs in 1.1 seconds. This burst was processed in 14.7 seconds.

      Conclusion
      The E-PM2 is a nice little camera for snapshooters making their first foray into interchangeable-lens photography. However, it won't encourage them to develop their photographic skills and understanding because it is simply too difficult to access and adjust most of the key camera settings (particularly lens aperture and shutter speed settings). For this reason, it's also ill-suited to photo enthusiasts.

      User interface design has long been an issue with Olympus cameras that really needs to be addressed - and we aren't the first review site to remark on this deficiency. Nikon guru, Thom Hogan, has nominated the OM-D EM-5 as his winner of the "Serious Mirrorless Camera" of 2012 award (www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/sansmirror-serious-camera.html), with a parting shot:can I suggest a human interface class for a few of your engineers? We agree.

      Buy this camera if:
      - You want a smart-looking interchangeable-lens camera for point-and-press shooting.
      - You'd like Full HD video recording with stereophonic sound.
      - You'd appreciate relatively fast autofocusing.

       Don't buy this camera if:
       - You make extensive use of lens aperture and shutter speed settings.
       - You require a built-in viewfinder and/or flash.
       - You have large hands and/or limited dexterity.

      SPECS

       Image sensor: 17.3 x 13 mm LiveMOS sensor with 17.2 million photosites (16.1 megapixels effective)
       Image processor: TruePic VI
       A/D processing: 12-bit
       Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
       Focal length crop factor: 2x
       Image formats: Stills – ORF.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies – MOV (MPEG-4AVC/H.264), AVI (Motion JPEG); MPO (3D still)
       Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 aspect: 4608 x 3456, 2560 x1920, 1280 x 960; 3:2 aspect: 4608 x 3072, 2544 x 1696, 1296 x 864;16:9 aspect: 4608 x 2592, 2560 x 1440, 1280 x 720; 1:1 aspect: 3456 x 3456, 1920 x 1920, 960 x 960; 3:4 aspect: 2592 x 3456, 1440 x 1920, 3216 x 2144, 2400 x 2400, 1824 x 2432, 2560 x 1440, 2544 x 1696, 1920 x 1920, 1440 x 1920, 720 x 960; Movies: 1920 x 1080, 60i at 20Mbps; HD: 1280 x 720 at 60p, 30fps, 640 x 480 at 30 fps
       Image Stabilisation: Sensor-shift
       Dust removal: Supersonic Wave Filter
       Shutter speed range: 60 to 1/4000 second plus Bulb and Time exposures; flash synch at up to 1/250 sec.
       Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV in 1/3, 1/2 and 1 EV steps
       Exposure bracketing: 2, 3, 5 or 7 frames in 1/3, 1/2 and 1 EV steps
       Self-timer: 2 or 12 second delay plus Custom (sets delay times and capture intervals)
       Focus system: High-speed imager AF (contrast detection) with 35 sensor points
       Focus modes: Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF)*9 / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / AF tracking (C-AF + TR)
       Exposure metering: 324-area TTL Image sensor metering with Digital ESP multi pattern, centre-weighted average and Spot modes (with highlight/shadow control)
       Shooting modes: iAuto, Program AE (Program shift can be performed), Aperture priority AE, Shutter priority AE, Manual, Bulb, Time, Scene select AE, Art Filter, Underwater wide / macro
       Scene Presets: Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Sport, Night, Night + Portrait, Children, High Key, Low Key, DIS mode, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Fisheye Conv., Wide Conv., Macro Conv., 3D
       Art Filters: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Keyline, Watercolour
       Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
       ISO range: Auto, ISO 200-25600 in 1/3 or 1EV steps
       White balance: Auto, 7 preset WBs (3000K - 7500K) - Sunny(5300K), Shadow(7500K), Cloudy(6000K), Incandescent(3000K), Fluorescent(4000K), Underwater, WB Flash(5500K); Custom, WB bracketing of 3 frames in 2, 4, 6 steps selectable in A-B/G-M axes
       Flash: Bundled clip on flash FL-LM1; GN=7 (ISO100/m) 
       Sequence shooting: Max. 8 frames/second for 19 high-resolution JPEG or 15 ORF.RAW
       Storage Media: SD, SDHC, SDXC memory cards; UHS-I, Flash Air  and Eye-Fi Card compatible
       Viewfinder:  VF-2 (optional)
       LCD monitor: 3-inch LCD capacitive touch-screen with 460,000 dots, 16:9 aspect ratio
       Playback functions: Single-frame, Close-up, Index /Calendar display, Index (4, 9 or 25 frames), Enlarge (2x to 14x), Slideshow with background music and 3 transition effects, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Histogram (independent luminance/RGB available), Shooting information; voice annotation, image overlay (2 or 3 images merging)
       In-camera editing: RAW development, Gradation auto, Monochrome, Sepia, Red-eye fix, Saturation, Resize (1280x960, 640x480, 320x240), Trimming, Aspect, e-Portrait, Image Overlay, Post-recording
       Interface terminals: USO 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini); accessory port for optional PP-1, VF-2, MAL-1, SEMA-1 accessories
       Power supply: BLS-5 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 360 shots/charge
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 109.8 x 64. x 33.8 mm (body only)
       Weight: Approx. 223 grams (body only)

      TESTS

      JPEG image files

       

       

       

      Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.

       

       

       
       

      SAMPLES

       Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
       
       

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
       
       

      50-second exposure at ISO 200; 15mm focal length, f/4.
       
       

      15-second exposure at ISO 1600; 15mm focal length, f/7.1.
       
       

      5-second exposure at ISO 6400; 15mm focal length, f/8.
       
       

      5-second exposure at ISO 12800; 15mm focal length, f/11.
       
       

      5-second exposure at ISO 25600; 15mm focal length, f/16.
       
       

      Flash exposure with 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Flash exposure with 42mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Flash exposure with 42mm focal length, ISO 6400, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Flash exposure with 42mm focal length, ISO 12800, 1/100 second at f/8.
       
       

      Flash exposure with 42mm focal length, ISO 25600, 1/125 second at f/11.

      M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6II R  lens; 14mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/8.

       

      M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6II R  lens; 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/9.
       
       

      The same scene as the above image with the Digital Tele-Converter switched on; 42mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/10.
       
       

      Portrait taken with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens; ISO 6400, 1/125 second at f/5.6.

      M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6II R  lens at 14mm, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/10.

      M-Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 lens at 300mm, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/22.

       M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6II R  lens at 41mm ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/11.

       

      M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6II R  lens at 36mm, ISO 3200, 1/3 second at f/5.3.
       
       

      M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 lens; ISO 20000, 1/80 second at f/5.6.

       

      Still frames from MPEG-4 video clips recorded with Full HD resolution (H setting).
       
       

      Still frames from MPEG-4 video clips recorded with Full HD resolution (N setting).
       
       

      Still frames from MPEG-4 video clips recorded with HD resolution (H setting).
       
       

      Still frames from MPEG-4 video clips recorded with HD resolution (N setting).
       
       

      Still frames from AVI video clips recorded with HD resolution (1280 x 720 pixels).
       

       

      Still frames from AVI video clips recorded with VGA resolution.

      Rating

      RRP: AU$599 (single lens kit); AU$799 (double zoom kit)

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.5
      • Still image quality JPEG: 8.5
      • Still image quality RAW: 8.5
      • Video quality: 8.5

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