Olympus Pen Lite E-PL2

Camera manufacturers tend to release new cameras around the third quarter of each year to catch the yearend and Christmas shopping seasons. This is the best time of the year to get good bargain of cameras that are about to be superseded by the newly launched models.

If all you want is a camera to take good photographs most current models in the market will suffice. The newest model might get you faster frame rate, focus faster, better performance in low light and better features in the HD video area. If you need those features or faster performance then wait for those newly released models.

For us we love a good bargain buying brand new camera from reputable shops. That is certainly better than buying used or shopping for second hand goods. We saw an ad on the local newspaper where a large local retailer was having stock clearance of cameras from Canon, Olympus, Sony and others. The E-PL2 single lens camera kits was going at the price of the Panasonic Lumix LX5 camera. The twin lens E-PL2 camera kits was an even better offer, going at slightly cheaper than the Pen Mini E-PM1 single lens kit!

Camera Shop in Kuala Lumpur
Camera shop having clearance sale at a popular mall in Kuala Lumpur with wide range of cameras, Olympus and Sony are near the entrance of the shop. -- Photo taken with The Pen Lite E-PL2 camera and the 14-42 standard zoom lens

A few days later we happened to be in vicinity where the advertised retailer was located and decided to check it out.  Prior to that we thought we should cross check with the camera shop where we got most of our cameras from in the past.  Their best price for the Pen Lite E-PL2 camera was somewhat high so we did a bit of bargaining with them.  However they could not or rather not willing to match the clearance price from that retailer. Their best offer was only RM100 less from their discounted price with an extra battery thrown in.  Actually that was considered quite good already but the stock clearance price was just too attractive.

So we decided to to go to that retailer and asked about the Pen Lite E-PL2. At first the sales guy said the clearance offer was over as it was for weekend only. But we mentioned we saw their ads on the newspapers for the last two weeks, the sales guy was nice enough to check with the supervisor and she said OK. They still had 4 units left - 2 set of white and two sets of red besides the display unit on the shelf which was black though he never mentioned that black one. We chose the red Pen Lite E-PL2 twin lens camera kits and the nice salesman even thrown in some freebies from Olympus to sweeten the deal.

The Olympus Pen Lite E-PL2 camera was launched in January of this year. However it had to make way for the newer model the Pen Lite E-PL3 camera which was released in September 2011, hardly 9 months from the released date of the Pen Lite E-PL2.

The two Olympus Pen Lite cameras the E-PL2 and E-PL3 are based on two distinct  design concept. The E-PL3 has an attractive modern stylish look and comes with a flip-out 3" wide LCD screen. The E-PL2 follows the retro classic Olympus Pen camera look with a well designed hand grip. The well contoured hand grip is what my wife likes about the E-PL2 as it makes this camera very comfortable to hold.

Olympus Pen Lite E-PL2 camera twin lens kits
Olympus Pen Lite camera red E-PL2 twin lens kits. -- Photo taken with Pen E-P1 camera and OM zuiko 24mm f2.8 lens at f4 1/30s ISO 800

Both Pen Lite cameras have a 3" 460,000 dots LCD screen. However the E-PL2 LCD screen is in 3:2 format whereas the E-PL3 has a wide 16:9 format. The 16:9 format screen on the E-PL3 is excellent for HD video. We do little video and shoot most of our photographs in Pen camera's native 4:3 format. When shooting in 4:3 native format the E-PL3 and E-PL2 camera mask out the right and left side of the LCD screen to the 4:3 ratio. The masking at both sides of the screen makes the actual usable area of the LCD screen smaller than its original size. As a result the E-PL3 screen is effectively a 2.4" LCD screen in 4:3 format. The E-PL2 screen is a 2.75" LCD monitor in 4:3 format. For what we use the camera for I prefer the slightly taller 2.75" screen on E-PL2 over the wide screen of the E-PL3.  Of course, it would be ideal if the E-PL2 has a 4:3 format 3" LCD monitor like the Pen E-P1.

The Pen Lite E-PL3 have the same newer high speed 12 mega-pixel FourThirds image sensor as the new Pen E-P3. The new image sensor on the E-PL3 runs at twice the clock speed of the E-PL2 image sensor. It also has some of its green pixel modified with infra-red sensitive pixel to aid focusing. This new E-PL3 image sensor together with the newly revised focusing system makes the newer generation of Pen cameras focus better and faster in some conditions. The E-PL2 focusing is relatively fast for general use and we are happy with it. But it will be an added joy if the E-PL2 has the focus assist light or AF Illuminator like the E-PL3.

As for the image quality from the two Olympus Pen Lite cameras I would say they are equal. The Truepic V image processor of the E-PL3 has stronger denoise on the E-PL3 images which brings the high ISO range up to 12,800. The color on the E-PL3 looks warmer and more contrasty. The images of the E-PL3 also look a little over sharpen. We prefer the more subtle details and less sharpen look of the E-PL2. The weaker denoise of the Truepic IV image processor delivers less smearing of the details on the images from E-PL2. Image quality can be quite subjective mostly depends on what is pleasing to your eyes and what is important to you and your work flow.

Although the clip on flash of the E-PL3 camera looks cool but we much prefer the built-in flash of the Pen Lite E-PL2 camera. The clip on flash when mounted on the E-PL3 occupies the hot-shoe and the accessory port. The built-in flash of the E-PL2 leaves the hot-shoe free for other accessory that you may want to use later. One other point that we like about Pen Lite E-PL2 camera is the built-in flash cannot be misplaced or lost.

The Pen Lite E-PL2 is already a very good camera in itself but the E-PL3 has additional refinements that makes it more desirable to many people. On the E-PL3 Olympus has corrected the red dots problem that some people have experienced on the E-PL2 camera. We are aware of it but not overly concern with that problem as we are unlikely to shoot many photographs in those conditions that trigger the problem.

For us the Pen Lite E-PL2 camera turn out to be a more suitable choice for our type of photography.  All the useful and important features that we wanted most are right there with the E-PL2. The timing of the stock clearance by the retailer just made the deal perfect.

So am I getting the E-PL2 to replace my E-P1 camera? The answer is a big "no", I am not replacing my Olympus Pen E-P1. The original digital Pen the E-P1 is special and it is doing everything I wanted it to do.  Some may think that I should get an EVF and the Olympus Pen E-P1 has no option for the Electronic View Finder therefore I should upgrade. Initially influenced by on line discussion I thought I needed the EVF too so I was taking a bet when I decided on the Pen E-P1 camera. Now after using the Pen E-P1 camera for many months I survived without an EVF or Electronic View Finder.

In the beginning it took some attempts to get used to composing photographs with the LCD screen in mid day. Now I am quite comfortable with composing photographs on the Pen E-P1 LCD screen. Like it or not this is part of the paradigm shift from analogue to digital photography. Others may complain about the low resolution of the Olympus Pen E-P1 camera's LCD screen. However I found the resolution good enough for composing and framing shots; what is more important is the brightness and contrast level of the monitor. The LCD monitor on the E-P1 is quite usable - it is bright and contrasty and the colour rendition is beautiful. For fine points checking and image analysis it is best done on a computer monitor. The LCD monitor on the camera is mostly for framing images and for confirming the photograph has been taken.

Since I am not replacing the E-P1 am I now using two Pen cameras? No, again. In fact some time back my wife was amused by the Olympus XZ-1 camera. However we felt the price of the XZ-1 was too close to the Pen cameras and the Pen is a better camera with better value.  Then, when the E-PM1 was released she was tempted to go for it. But one complaint she has about the XZ-1 and E-PM1 is they have no hand grip. She loves the hand grip of the E-PL2 and it helps to steady and balance the camera and is comfortable to hold. She now has the gorgeous red Pen Lite E-PL2 camera.

Portrait of Olympus Pen Lite E-PL2 in red colour.
Portrait of a red Olympus Pen Lite E-PL2 with its companion the 14-42 f3.5-5.6 II standard zoom lens and the 40-150mm f4-5.6 tele zoom lens. -- Photo taken with E-P1 camera, OM Zuiko 24mm F2.8 lens at f5.6 1/8s and ISO 800

Why both my wife and I stick to the Olympus Pen camera? The logic is when you and your buddies, hubby, wife or girl friend use the same camera system, no matter what brand, both of you can share lenses and accessories.  When both of you are out shooting the same time you only need to carry two cameras with one set of lenses and accessories as not everybody is likely to need the same lens or accessory at the same time. This results in space and weight saving especially when you both are travelling. Another important point is the battery.  When all the cameras use the same type of battery you can standardise the batteries and charger. That is not only good for the environment but your pocket as well. Overall there is little to no system duplication, saves space and weight and more cost efficient.

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