Olympus E-PL2: Video and Image Quality

by Jerry Jackson Reads (427)
Editor's Rating
7.20

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 6
    • Expandability
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.20
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
What modern digital camera would be complete without the ability to record HD video? The E-PL2 has the ability to capture 720p HD video clips up to 7 minutes in length or standard definition video (640 x 480) clips up to 14 minutes long. Like all Olympus cameras the E-PL2 uses AVI-format for video capture and an onboard HDMI out makes getting this video to your preferred playback source comparatively easy. To get a handle on baseline video quality, we’ve included samples of the video playback below. Overall we found the video quality to be quite good – smooth, crisp, and highly detailed.

To download the original file in its native resolution and format, click the link below.

Sample Video File Download

As with any modern DSLR, the E-PL2 gives the ability to capture video in aperture priority for depth of field control and allows AF with compatible lenses when shooting video. Our initial results on the latter, however, shows that it’s still possible for the camera’s AF system to get confused when there are multiple high-contrast objects moving in the foreground and background … resulting in moments of video where your subject is out of focus. Yes, you can still shoot video in manual focus mode if you don’t want to deal with the possibility of auto focus problems.

One other thing that the digital Pen series cameras have going for them is the ability to add complex digital filters to your footage in camera. Video can be shot using any of the camera’s Art Filters, meaning you can get film-esque black-and-white or high-saturation video straight from the camera.

Image Quality
The new E-PL2 uses essentially the same 12.3 megapixel image sensor that Olympus first used in the E-30 back in 2009. On one hand, this isn’t a bad thing because that sensor continues to deliver fantastic images. Unfortunately, every other major camera manufacturer has released cameras with newer, higher resolution image sensors since 2009. You can still produce some fantastic large prints with a 12-megapixel image file and if you only display your images online you’ll never notice the difference between a screen-sized image from a 12-megapixel camera and a 20-megapixel camera. At the end of the day, the relatively low resolution of this camera shouldn’t be a concern to most people.

Another reason we’re probably not seeing a big increase in resolution from Olympus is the physical limitations of the Four Thirds sensor format. The Four Thirds sensor is smaller than the size of the APS-C sensors used in most DSLRs. Engineers can only squeeze so many pixels into that smaller space. The more pixels you pack into a space, the less efficient they become at collecting light (image data). That’s one of the reasons that cheap compact cameras with even smaller image sensors have worse image quality than cameras like the E-PL2 or the Nikon D3100.

The bottom line is that although the E-PL2 image sensor is good, you should expect to see more high ISO noise and less dynamic range compared to physically larger image sensors.

White balance is generally good on the latest generation of Olympus cameras, but I did notice that the auto white balance is more accurate under sunlight or flash than it is under incandescent lights. Auto white balance under incandescent light is about as expected with the E-P1. As is somewhat common with Olympus digital cameras, the tungsten preset takes the correction too far for typical indoor light, resulting in an unnaturally cool cast.

Both measured and Kelvin temp custom white balance options are available, and in this case, I found the user-set modes more accurate than the presets for getting natural looking white balance.

Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Shots are surprisingly clean through ISO 800. There is some smoothing and softening of fine details showing up at ISO 1600, and detail gives way to some noticeable noise at ISO 3200 and 6400. The image quality is actually quite similar to what we see in the Olympus E-30, E-620, E-P1, E-P2 and E-PL1.

Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 200
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 400
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 800
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop

Additional Sample Images

Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image
Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image Olympus E-PL2 Sample Image


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