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Olympus Pen E-PM2 review

Ben Pitt
24 Oct 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
400
inc VAT

Exceptional performance and high image quality, but the controls could be more elegant

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Specifications

17.3x13mm 16.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (28-84mm equivalent), 382g

The E-PM2 is the entry-level model in the PEN range, but it still boasts some upmarket features. Its metal body houses the same 16-megapixel sensor that's used in Olympus's top-of-the-range Olympus OMD E-M5. Continuous shooting is at 8fps – double what most CSCs at this price manage and only a shade behind the E-M5's 9fps performance.

Olympus Pen E-PM2

There's an accessory shoe that accepts not just external flashguns but also an electronic viewfinder, microphone input, Bluetooth dongle (for wireless photo transfers to Android devices) and even a pair of macro LED lamps on flexible arms. There's a small flash unit included in the box, but it's no brighter than a typical integrated flash and rather spoils the camera's sleek design. We suspect a lot of people will leave it in the back of a drawer and forget about it.

Olympus Pen E-PM2

Optical image stabilisation is incorporated into the sensor so it works with any lens. This includes wide-aperture lenses, which rarely have stabilisation built in. It's also worth noting the wide range of compatible Micro Four Thirds lenses – far more than for competing Sony NEX, Nikon 1 and Samsung NX systems.

CONTROLS

It all bodes well for keen photographers who want a sophisticated camera but don't have vast amounts of cash to spend, or perhaps who prefer to stock up on lenses rather than buy the most expensive camera body. However, these kinds of users may be less enamoured by the E-PM2's controls. It's no surprise that there's just a small scattering of buttons – that's typical for entry-level CSCs – but accessing key features is slower than on rival cameras.

There's a quick-access menu with 14 functions laid out over two pages, but fewer functions on a single page would be quicker to navigate. We doubt that many people feel the need to adjust the video resolution or toggle the video soundtrack on and off on a regular basis, and drive mode already has a dedicated labelled button. The six customisable functions on the Sony NEX-3N's quick-access menu work better, as does the Panasonic GF6's 11 functions that are all visible at once and can be jumped to using the touchscreen. The E-PM2's screen is touch-sensitive but it isn't used in either the quick-access or the main menu.

Olympus Pen E-PM2

The touchscreen proves its worth when moving the autofocus point, though. It also goes a long way towards making up for the lack of a mode dial. Pressing the Menu button reveals the various modes, which can be selected by touching the screen.

The main menu is vast, spanning 23 pages. There's huge scope to customise the camera's behaviour but we didn't find it easy tracking down specific functions. It's not helped by cryptic labels such as FL BKT and Rls Priority S. Pressing the info button reveals explanations, but some of these provide no further clarity and they aren't available in sub-menus.

PERFORMANCE

Autofocus is seriously quick, and it's backed up by extremely responsive subject tracking. It took 0.6 seconds between shots in program mode, but iAuto mode was a little slower, at 0.8 seconds. The 8fps continuous shooting lasted for 19 frames before slowing to 2.9fps – a superb result. It maintained this top 8fps speed for 14 raw frames too. It's great to see Olympus pairing this fast performance with a decent-sized buffer. Continuous mode with updating autofocus was at 2.9fps.

CSC Shootout - SPEED TEST - Sony NEX-3N, Olympus Pen E-PM2, Nikon S1 and Panasonic GF6

Here we compare shooting speed, single drive and continuous (JPEG and RAW) between the four current budget CSCs