Late last summer Olympus resurrected the venerable "Pen" nameplate with the introduction of the Micro Four Thirds Pen E-P1 interchangeable-lens digital camera. Now less than six months later comes the new Olympus Pen E-P2. The E-P2 is essentially the same camera as the E-P1, differing only in color - the E-P1 was "amateur" silver (there was also a white body option) and the E-P2 is "professional" black.
Olympus manufactured "Pen" series 35mm cameras from 1959 until 1983. The first pens were half-frame (providing 72 18x24mm exposures on a 36 exposure roll of film) interchangeable lens SLRs with a small but interesting selection of lenses. In the early seventies the interchangeable-lens Pens were discontinued and a new series of Pen ultra-compacts replaced them. I had a Pen FT (with 40mm f/2.8) for many years and I also had (for a while) a tiny Pen EE point and shoot. I liked them - both were well-made, dependable, and capable. Both featured good glass and both generated excellent quality images.
The new Olympus E-P2 bears a strong (and obviously not accidental) resemblance to my old Pen FT - check out the E-P2's nifty retro mode dial. The E-P2 is lightweight, but it feels solid in your hands. When compared to the clean minimalist look of the classic Pen FT the E-P2 looks a bit cluttered, but photography was much simpler back in the seventies and photographers then didn't have nearly as many options as they do today.
The new Olympus Pen E-P2 is built around an 18x13.5mm Live-MOS sensor that generates 12.3 megapixel images in JPEG, Olympus RAW, or RAW + JPEG image formats. The E-P2 features a 3.0 inch 230k live view LCD and a new clip-on electronic viewfinder (which won't work on the E-P1).
Some E-P1 purchasers complained that AF was slower than it should have been - Olympus says they've added a new E-P2 AF mode called C-AF (continuous AF) with focus tracking that should make it easier to keep up with rapidly evolving action - like photographing active children at play. Other noteworthy features include maximum sensitivity of ISO 6400, sensor shift image stabilization, HD video (AVI format - 1280x720 pixels at 30 fps), and full manual control over aperture, shutter speed, sensitivity, and white balance.
The Micro Four Thirds format was developed jointly by Olympus and Pansonic and presently there are only a handful of Micro Four Thirds cameras available. Micro Four Thirds cameras do away with the reflex mirror assembly (found on Single Lens Reflex cameras) making it possible to manufacture a much smaller camera with an uninterrupted light path and a live view LCD. Micro Four Thirds cameras can mount interchangeable lenses, but in some significant ways they actually function more like point and shoot digicams than DSLRs.
Currently, lens options are pretty slim - Olympus offers the 14-42mm kit zoom and an f/2.8 17mm prime lens, but new lenses (a 9-14mm zoom and a 14mm-150mm zoom) are in the works and should be available soon. Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras can also (with an adaptor) use Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses.
Keep an eye to the sky
Watch for our full review of the E-P2 and a new DCR feature starring the Olympus Pen E-P2 - coming soon.