Handling and Operation
Unsurprisingly, the Olympus E-PM2 'Mini' is quite small. Available in grey, white, black and red, it's sold body-only or in kit form with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R collapsible zoom lens. It's small enough to slip into just about any bag or purse, but not quite pocketable with the kit zoom. Adding a pancake lens like Olympus' 17mm F2.8 would slim down the camera's overall footprint.
The addition of a lightly textured, albeit plastic, handgrip on the front of the camera gives the E-PM2 a significant boost in ergonomics over the E-PM1, which lacked a front grip. Still, it's a small camera and holding it with one hand can be somewhat awkward with lenses that are much heavier than the 14-42mm collapsible kit zoom. Those with larger hands will likely find the handgrip and the front of the camera too cramped to comfortably hold with only the right hand.
The E-PM2 gains two additional buttons over its predecessor, but it somehow feels like more. The E-PM1 was a bit too spartan in its control layout for our taste, so the addition is a welcome one. Adding a touch screen also introduces more options for user input. Too impatient to pull up the quick menu and tweak your AF mode? Tap your desired subject on the screen to focus and fire the shutter in one fell swoop. The only time this falls down is in very bright sunlight, where the live view image becomes very hard to see on the (apparently uncoated) LCD.
This showed up a problem that we hadn't noticed indoors - because the live view area is smaller, laterally, than the width of the 16:9 screen, it's almost impossible to achieve accurate lateral framing in bright conditions (you can't see where the unused portion of the display ends and the area to be captured begins).
With the addition of a pair of buttons, the E-PM1 still retains a compact camera look and feel as far as controls are concerned. The image playback button has been moved to the top left of the back panel where it shares real estate with a delete button. On the opposite side of the accessory port sits the dedicated video record button. Back panel controls consist of Info and Menu hard buttons, as well as a compass dial with rotating command ring.
As mentioned, a customizable function button has been added to the camera's top panel, taking up residence to the right of the shutter button. Out of the box, it offers direct access to the E-PM2's on-screen Live Guide feature, a standard Olympus Pen feature that provides simplified control over shooting settings like aperture and shutter speed. Users can re-assign this button to a number of different settings shortcuts, including ISO, WB, exposure/focus lock, and manual focus mode, among many other options.
The Live Guide button is a smart addition compared to the last-generation E-PM1. Novice users will have instant accesses to this mode if they want it, and more advanced users have one more customizable function button to re-assign to their heart's content. The dedicated video record stop/start button can also be customized, as can the right/down compass dial buttons. The exposure mode dial is still missing from the camera's control layout, a key differentiator between this camera and its E-PL5 sibling. Access to shooting modes are in the camera's main menu, along with access to Art Filters, Scene shooting modes and setup menus.
The E-PM2 offers a 'Super Control Panel' (see above) for fast access to shooting settings without leaving the main shooting screen. Pushing the OK button at the center of the compass dial pulls up all of the usual suspects - ISO, White Balance, aspect ratio, and processing mode to name a few. Advanced settings - like assigning those function buttons - are hidden at the camera's default menu mode. They need to be 'un-hidden' with a couple of menu selections, an effort to keep the camera's workings as un-intimidating as possible.
Olympus' camera menus have remained basically the same for years. Even with the advanced stuff hidden away, they can be a bit confusing to navigate. For example, the option to turn off the AF beep is tucked away in one of those hidden menus and the symbol marking it isn't terribly intuitive. Still, the top-level menu with shooting mode options and the helpful on-screen quick menu will be the most often used, and they're straightforward enough for anyone to get to grips with.
An FL-LM1 flash is included in the box, attachable to the E-PM2 via the Accessory Port on the camera's top panel. Optional electronic viewfinder accessories are available for purchase, as is the PP-1 Pen Pal, a Bluetooth device that can pair with compatible smartphones to transfer images wirelessly. Owners of Apple and Android devices can also purchase a FlashAir memory card and download the Olympus Image Share app for another wireless photo sharing option.