With excellent still image quality and good HD video capability, the Olympus E-PM2 is a great choice for an entry level compact ILC.
The E-PM2 is Olympus's newest teammate in the PEN line up. Joining greats like the E-PL3, E-PL5 and the OM-D E-M5, the E-PM2 has a lot to offer first time mirrorless camera users. It follows in the footsteps of it's predecessor, the E-PL1. It is lightweight, portable and fun. This compact micro four thirds camera is available for around $500. At this price and with these features, the E-PM2 has us cheering!
Olympus's initial marketing strategy with the E-PM1 involved giveaways in their PENReady promotional sweepstakes. In this contest, users of these cameras shot lots of photos that were aggregated into a special Tumblr. The camera itself was also quite good: it was small, powerful, fast focusing, and simple to use if you didn't want to go into the complexities of the menu system. The company has updated the camera in the form of the E-PM2--and it can essentially be called the little brother of the EP3.
The E-PM2, like its predecessor, is designed for the person dipping their toes into the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera world. Amongst the main upgrades that the camera features is a 3 inch LCD touchscreen with 460K dots of resolution, a 16.1 MP sensor, a TruePic VI imaging processing engine, 8 fps shooting, and upgraded version of the F.A.S.T. autofocusing system.
In a move that Olympus typically does with its camera line, the sensor is the same one in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and E-PL5. So for a lesser price tag of $549 (body only), a user can get the same image quality that an OMD can. Of course, there is a lot more to the OMD though. For the advanced user, there is absolutely no comparison in the way that the E-M5 and the E-PM2 feel. The OM-D EM-5 feels like a camera that means business, while the E-PM2 feels very much less so.
Users familiar with a point and shoot camera will easily warm up to the EPM2 due to its lack of buttons and controls. The camera also has a little but of a grip to comfortably rest your fingers while the back includes a nice thumb rest. Unfortunately, we're not quite sure who those additions were put there for. In our tests, we put the camera in the hands of quite a few amateur shooters--and many of them held the camera just like they would their iPhone. This means that the grippy areas were totally ignored.
Like its predecessor, it may be best for someone to leave it on an automatic mode and shoot to their heart's content. For the advanced user, you'll get your most pleasurable experience from the camera by shooting in Aperture priority.
The autofocus is an upgrade of Olympus's F.A.S.T. autofocus system that takes advantages of the company's MSC lenses to deliver some of the fastest autofocus performance that we've seen so far from a camera in this class. Indeed, the focusing performance is just as snappy as its bigger brother, the OMD EM5.
The camera also has 1080i HD video shooting capabilities for those that want to record quick movies during their vacation. Additionally, the EPM2 features best of both worlds with the ability to shoot JPEGs, RAWs, or both if they want. To shoot these, the user can take advantage of the 3 inch 460K dot touchscreen or use the shutter button on top of the camera. Like other Olympus cameras, the user has the ability to activate the touchscreen, use it just for focusing, or touch to release the shutter and focus. In playback mode, one can think of it almost like an Android device in terms of flipping through images, zooming in on them, etc.
Build and Design
The E-PM2 has a very point and shoot style camera body that will be familiar to users who are stepping up from such a camera with the exception of the more advanced point and shoots such as the XZ-2. There are very few buttons on the EPM2 due to the intended design emphasis on keeping things simple. When holding the camera, one immediately thinks (and totally gets the point) that this camera is primarily supposed to be operated using the touch screen. This fact is further supported when you turn the camera on and put it in auto--nearly any button press will activate Olympus's Live Guide.
The camera has size dimensions of 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3" / 11 x 6.4 x 3.4 cm and weighs in at 9.49 oz / 269 g. When used for long periods of time, one won't even notice its weight when a light lens is attached. However, what advanced and experienced users will see is a build quality that isn't up to par with Olympus's other Micro Four Thirds cameras.
Ergonomics and Controls
The Olympus E-PM2 retains most of the build and design cues that the E-PM1 had. The front of the camera is now a tiny bit different though. On the E-PM1, there was no grip of any sort. Personally, I put gaffers tape on my unit to give it a bit more texture and gripping ability. On the E-PM2 there is a grip that helps to solve that problem. The rest of the front is characterized only by the lens release and an AF assist lamp.
Once the user looks at the top of the camera, they begin to realize that there is a bi more control. Here you'll find an on/off button, shutter release button, custom function button (this activates the Live Guide but also serves as a control for ISO, which is what I set it to.) There is also a hot shoe up top for mounting the included flash that comes in the box. To the left of this are speakers to play back audio recorded in the video mode.
To record that audio, you can find two microphones on either side of the hot shoe. Ergonomically speaking, these are weird spots for microphones.
The back of the camera is where things become even more complicated. The top left of the back side of the E-PM2 contains a playback button and a trash button--which seem to be the only place they could have been situated as the rest of the back is mostly dominated by the giant 3 inch LCD screen. But around the screen are other controls such as a video record button, thumb grip, info button, four way control dial and buttons for manipulating other settings, and a menu button near the bottom.
The bottom of the E-PM2 is where you'll find a 1/4 20 tripod socket. Next to that is the battery release door--which houses not only the battery but also the SD card.
On the right side of the camera is a small door that protects Olympus's USB port and an HDMI out port. Once again, Olympus utilizes a proprietary USB cord for transferring photos, updating firmware and more. Hang onto that cord as that port is in no way universal.
Menus and Modes
The main shooting control menus (that can be accessed by simply pressing the, "OK" button) are very straightforward for users that understand the lingo when using the P/S/A/M modes. However, if someone chooses to switch to an automatic function, then Olympus's Live Guide comes up to help make everything easier. As was apparent in the past, the user has control over things like saturation, brightness, shutter control, etc; and Olympus tries to break these terms down for people into common vernacular.
Because there is no menu dial of any sort, the menus are digital and will be accessed by pressing the menu button. Here, you'll find all of the different modes outlined and explained. Want to control the camera even more? Then you'll need to hit the menu button, go into the setup menu, and then navigate through even more sub-menus. To take the fullest advantage of the camera, you'll also need to unlock two hidden menus that otherwise keep the interface more straightforward.
The menus that can be accessed by using the menu button are a bit deeper and more complicated to navigate. For those that aren't familiar with Olympus's system, they'll have a tougher time cutting through this forest.
Otherwise, the camera's other shooting modes are fairly straightforward.
Movie: Full HD at 1920x1080 and HD at 1280x720, both at 30 frames per second (fps). Maximum file size is 4GB, maximum recording time is 29 minutes at both settings. Audio is Wave Format Base Stereo PCM/16bit, 48kHz with wind noise reduction.
pop art soft focus
pale & light color light tone
grainy film pin hole
diorama cross process
gentle sepia dramatic tone
key line watercolor
The E-PM2's three inch touchscreen is the primary display for users to focus, compose, and operate the camera, though there are two different electronic viewfinders (VF-1 and VF2) available if the user chooses to go that route. No matter what the lighting conditions were, the screen often had enough resolution for composing and viewing images despite being only 460K. The choice for including such a low resolution display is still puzzling as most competing brands offer a much better experience. To take the fullest advantage the user will need to navigate into the sub-menus of the setup menu in order to unlock the Fast FPS mode--which speeds up the frame rate of the display and makes it much more usable. We're not sure why this isn't available from the start though--perhaps it drains the batteries faster.
In practice, the screen is more than sufficient enough for composing and shooting clearly. It was also more than satisfactory when it came to using the camera's touch to shoot functionality. In terms of the interacting touchscreen, very little has changed from the EP3 and the OM-D E-M5. That statement pertains to the use of autofocus lenses like the 14-42mm kit lens; and we have no doubt in our mind that it would work exceptionally with others such as Olympus's 12mm f2 or 45mm f1.8. In our tests, we were also able to use other autofocus lenses (such as the Sigma 19mm f2.8 and 30mm f2.8) with ease.
For the best and least laggy results, you'll need to stick to Olympus's own lenses. All of these lenses have the company's MSC motors built in, and so would deliver images to the user very quickly due to just how fast the focusing system works.
Many Micro Four Thirds users also love adapting old lenses or lenses from other camera systems onto their cameras. Of any of the current Micro Four Thirds cameras made from Olympus, the EPM2 is the least comfortable to operate and work with such lenses. In practice, we found the experience of looking down at the screen at waist level (such as with the E-PL5 and OM-D E-M5) to be much easier and comfortable. Holding the camera body up at eye-level while focusing the lens manually just creates too much jitter. In that case, you're much better off reaching for a Vanguard Nivello--a tripod designed specifically for mirrorless cameras.
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