Olympus Announces EP-2 Camera with Electronic Viewfinder and Autofocus Tracking Feature



Nov 4, 2009
By Dan Havlk, PDN's Technology Specialist

Olympus EP-2

They say there are no second acts in Hollywood but there clearly are in the world of digital cameras. Less than six months after releasing the much-hyped but often criticized PEN EP-1 digital camera, Olympus has followed up that model with the EP-2 ($1099) which features an articulating electronic viewfinder, a new autofocus tracking feature, and a black paint job.

The EP-2, however, is largely an incremental step up from the EP-1 and doesn't answer two other main issues with its predecessor, which will remain in Olympus' line-up. There is still no built-in flash in the new model and Olympus does not appear to have addressed the central reason why the camera's autofocus system is so frustratingly slow.

The EP-2, like the EP1, uses a 12.3-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor which is slightly smaller in size than what is found in most digital SLRs. (Olympus' own DSLRs, however, use similarly sized Four Thirds sensors.)

Though the EP-1 was popular when it was launched -- many photo retailers had it on back order for months after the introduction -- some photographers griped that the camera did not have a built-in viewfinder. Olympus has answered those complaints by giving the a EP-2 a small, "coupled" electronic viewfinder accessory that connects to a port on the camera and slides onto the hotshoe.

Since it's coupled, the VF-2 live-finder will zoom in on the subject as you adjust the EP-2's interchangeable lens. The detachable finder won't work with the EP-1 because there's no accessory port on that model. The finder offers 100 percent field of view when shooting with the EP-2 and has 1440K dots (SVGA) of resolution.

"It offers twice the brightness and twice the sharpness of the competitive units that are out there now and there's very little to no ghosting when you start panning with it," said Sally Smith-Clemens, a product manager at Olympus.

The new finder, which is sold as part of a EP-2 kit, can rotate up to 90 degrees for shooting from tricky angles. The accessory port for the finder can be also used to plug in a stereo microphone on the camera, which is another feature that's new to the EP-2.

The EP-1 was also knocked for having a slow, sensor-based Contrast Detection autofocus system that made it difficult to capture candid shots with the camera. In response to those criticisms, Olympus has added a new Continuous Autofocus (C-AF) Tracking system that is designed to lock in and follow a subject moving in a frame.

"For instance, if you're photographing little kids or a dog playing frisbee, you can lock in on that subject and continue to hold the shutter release halfway and a green bounding box will track your subject in the frame," Smith-Clemens explained.

The new CA-F feature also works when shooting video with the EP-2. Smith-Clemens said she wasn't aware of any changes to the EP-2's focusing algorithms to improve the speed of the camera's autofocus system overall.

Other changes to the new model include a thin layer of black paint with a clear coating which has been applied to the EP-2's stainless steel body. (The EP-1 is only available in silver stainless steel or white.) The new camera also adds two art filters -- Diorama and Cross Process -- along with a new iEnhance mode that automatically detects the dominate color in a scene and boosts its saturation throughout.

The EP-2 also offers movie makers full manual control of both aperture and shutter speed in High Def video mode.

Those additional features -- including the new electronic viewfinder -- will come at a premium though. The EP-2, which will be come available in December, will sell for $300 more than the EP-1 ($799).

Like the EP-1, the EP-2 is sold as a kit with a choice of one of two accessory lenses -- a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens; or a 17mm f/2.8 lens. (The Micro Four Thirds format magnifies focal lengths by 2x.)






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