Behind its simple looks and clean lines, the Olympus Pen E-PL2 compact system camera hides a number of DSLR-worthy features. Richard Sibley tests the 12.3MP, micro four thirds camera
I was recently very impressed with the new contrast-detection AF system that Panasonic has employed in its Lumix DMC-GH2. It is on a par with many phase-detection AF systems. In the Olympus E-PL2 the AF is noticeably slower, but this is really to be expected given the price and target market of the two cameras.
This is not to say that the E-PL2 is slow, though. It is as good as those of other compact system cameras and quickly finds focus on single AF mode. As the E-PL2 is designed as a small, walk-around camera for snapshots, social and travel photography, it doesn’t require the super-fast AF speed of the GH2.
The E-PL2’s continuous AF mode is obviously a little more cumbersome, as is the case with all contrast-detection AF systems. It constantly shifts back and forth and is far slower than continuous phase detection AF.
One AF feature new to the E-PL2 is continuous AF tracking. In this mode, the camera’s focus can be locked to a particular part of a scene and it will then track and continuously focus on the selected target should it, or the camera, move. It is best to set the camera to single-point AF first otherwise the camera will automatically decide for you which subject to track.
As a feature, this is nothing new – most cameras have it these days – but the focus tracking of the Olympus Pen E-PL2 is very responsive and seems to be able to track the subject faster than many other cameras I have tried. However, remember that it is still reliant on the continuous AF being able to keep up with the target.
Manual focusing is an option on the E-PL2, with the lens adjusted using a focusing ring on the lens barrel. It is intuitive to focus in this way and easy to achieve accurate focus using the 3in screen. Making it even easier is the 100% magnification that can be shown on the rear screen. This allows the focus to be checked and adjusted even more precisely.