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Outback Photo Handbook: Cameras

Olympus E-PL2

field notes by Uwe + Bettina Steinmueller

Olympus PEN E-PL2

Note on image processing

As usual we work only with raw files. Images were mostly converted in Lightroom 3.4 RC or Capture One 6.1.

All images are also treated with DOP Optimal Snap and sharpened with our DOP Optimal Sharp scripts (no sharpening in Lightroom or C1).

About our Field Notes

We call this a Field Notes because we do not perform rigid systematic reviews like e.g. DPReview. We share observations from our field sessions and sample images in higher resolution (in the SmugMug you can change the resolution). A field sesion means that we aim for photographs that we can use for our artistic work. We are quite selective in our use of these cameras:

  • We look into possible HDR bracketing
  • Always only use Raw images and do not even look at JPEGs
  • Use good lenses and hardly the kit lenses
  • Rarely use flash
  • Do not use in camera filters because we always do these things in post procesing

We try to photograph often the same scenes with all the cameras which allows you to compare the results from different cameras.

Why not the full sized images? We always try to get images that may end up in our portfolios. Images at full resolution would make it hard for us to protect our copyright.

All our images are processed from Raw and maybe sometimes manipulated (e.g. cloned elements).


In the past we checked out the Olympus E-P1 and E-P2. These are both very capable cameras and the E-PL2 inherits most of their properties. As stills cameras the Olympus cameras always hold their own.

Other reviewers praise the Olympus JPEG quality. We cannot tell much about it because we only use JPEG with cameras (e.g. iPhone 4) that cannot capture in Raw. Sorry, if you plan to shoot mainly JPEGs our images may not help you much for your own evaluation.

We have a hard time to use any camera without an optical viewfinder or EVF. Fortunately we can use the E-PL2 with the optional EVF:

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder

The Olympus swivel(!) EVF works for us very well (like with the E-P2). Unfortunately the VF-2 also costs quite a bit extra.

Lenses used

  • Panasonic 14-140mm f/4-5.8 (with O.I.S.)
  • Olympus 4/3 lens via adapter 14-54mm f?2.8-3.5 Mk. II (we like this lens a lot)

Note on Image Stabilization

Panasonic and Olympus use different strategies for image stabilization:

  • Panasonic O.I.S. lens image stabilization
  • Olympus in body image stabilization

This means all Olympus lenses are not stabilized on Panasonic bodies while we can select the lens O.I.S. system to be used on the E-PL2 (in body IS or O.I.S.). Using both systems at the same time is not advised.

We have no means to test which system is more effective. Seems we had more cases than usual of motion blur using the E-PL2 than we are used to (using the Panasonic 14-140mm lens with O.I.S. to "off"). This can be our fault but we would likely use the O.I.S. in the future.

Camera Handling

  • Working with the EVF is a pleasure
  • Overall the camera is easy to use.
  • The live histogram is very helpful. But we would like to be able to position the histogram on the screen (like with the GH2).
  • AF works fine but we would like to see a smaller focus area. Note: It seems possible but we cannot try because we sent the E-PL2 back to Olympus.
  • We are not very happy with the control dial to control aperture and EV compensation. When using this dial we often get some function key activated.

Note on video

  • Only 720p resolution
  • MJPEG is not very efficient
  • Only mono sound (the stereo sound on the E-P1/2 is quite nice for in camera sound). You can buy an extra stereo microphone but it would use the same port as the EVF.

This all sounds negative but in reality you can create very nice movies in 720p this way. Our first short movie was shot with the E-P1. If you are more serious about movie making you you may want to have 1080p24 mode (e.g. like with the Panasonic GH2).

Sample Images

We have a gallery with sample images here:

Olympus E-PL2 Field Test Gallery

Below are some samples (all part of the gallery).

ISO 800, f/4

ISO 200, f/7.1

ISO 200, f/7.1

ISO 200, f/7.1

ISO 200, f/7.1


All the Olympus digital PEN cameras are very capable. For us personally the extra EVF is essential (we know many people who don't need an EVF though, maybe we are so old-style).

There is a two zoom starter kit "Olympus PEN E-PL2 Digital Camera W/14-42mm & 40-150mm Lenses" (*). This kit gets you started in using the E-PL2 system with two interchangeable lenses at an amazing price and the kit is very small too. The Olympus kit lenses are always a good value for the money.

(*) Olympus please add lens hoods in the box.




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