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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 is a small, slim camera but thanks to its reasonably meaty handgrip, is very pleasant and comfortable to hold and use. The E-PM2's rear is dominated by its large, 3" touch-sensitive LCD. A traditional control cluster sits to its right (obscured here by our model's hand).
The E-PM2's touchscreen is very useful for performing certain operations, such as manually defining the AF point, but Olympus still has some work to do to to properly integrate touch-sensitivity with its user interface.

The Super Control Panel for instance (simulated here) responds to touch, but it is impossible to adjust settings without using the E-PM2's button-and-dial controls.

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 'Live Guide' designed to literally guide beginners through the process of changing exposure settings using a friendly on-screen interface.
This is the E-PM2's SCP (Super Control Panel), which is geared more towards experienced photographers.

Once activated in the menu system, the SCP is a convenient way of getting a quick overview of key shooting settings, as well as accessing and adjusting their parameters.

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.

The E-PM2 is equipped with Olympus's 'AP2' (Accessory Port II). Various accessories are compatible with the E-PM2, and they interface with this port.
The E-PM2's four-way controller is the camera's main control point. Pressing the 'OK' button brings up a quick menu for fast access to key shooting parameters (see image in the table above) and the four cardinal points allow you to quickly adjust exposure compensation, flash mode, drive mode and AF point.

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.

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Comments

Total comments: 6
Pro Image Photographers

I have owned this camera now for about a year. I love it as my pocket/walking around camera when I'm traveling light. Paired with the Olympus 45mm lens and you get great quality images. Now I'm not biased because I own one, I also an EPL5 and the EM5, but I also shoot Canon and Nikon depending on the assignment. I am however very disappointed to have turned it on (EPM2) after using it last week to find the lcd has malfunctioned :( I have yet to contact Olympus but it must be a defective lcd because it was only sitting on my shelf so it hasn't had any thing happen to it between uses. Aside from this little issue the pics are still coming out clean but my color scale is way out of line (everything is purple). I and my wife shoot so I usually have the D4 or the 1DX depending on which one she chooses and I have to say I really enjoy the Olympus mirrorless when I'm not working and even at work I usually bring the EM5 with the Olympus 45mm for in between shooting with the big cameras..

0 upvotes
Rolfens

I've lost more than a couple of shots already due to the un-intuitiveness and hidden secondary effects within the interface. If you're the type who like to fiddle with settings and have some amount of control over exposure, expect to waste shots during the first months as you get acquainted with the interface and it's traps, quirks, limitation and bugs. It can be a real concern, and it's hard to trust this camera. If you can pay $100 - $200 more take a good look at what Panasonic has to offer, it might be worth it. If you're more the type to shoot full auto or only use a small subset of the camera's interface (ex: always shoot aperture priority and not use video) or only shoot landscape or are not interested at all in low light or action photography then this does not apply to you.

The bundled software is very slow as well.

Yes, it very fast and responsive for a camera of this class. It is compact, the image quality is great, and it's a bargain.

But don't take the rest for granted.

Comment edited 5 times, last edit 14 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
namssurt

The fact is that I looked at a lot of options and have just ordered this camera. Current pricing is $400 with 2 zooms, which is quite a price. Why did I pick this camera?
1) light weight is important due to neck & back problems. Carrying a bigger format all day would be a BIG problem.
2) I wanted something better than a 1/2.3 sensor that is what most compact or bridge cameras use. APS-C increases the weight of both body and lenses that I would need to cover the focal length range See 1)
3) I wanted a good focal length range without having to carry around 30# in lenses. I could get that in a compact or travel zoom like the hx50v from Sony, but that sensor is just too small and the lens's f-stops are pitiful. The package that Olympus/Amazon is offering covers that range quite nicely in just 2 lenses, although I wouldn't mind starting at lower than 14.
4) the image quality is not perfect but is an improvement and the price/quality ratio is excellent.

0 upvotes
Rolfens

Ergonomics are not so good, the software is counter-intuitive and buggy, in the sense where it's very quirky. Many functions and options are fighting each other over a couple of customizable buttons. They shou've allowed for the other buttons to be customizable! The delete button, for example, just sits there and does nothing in shooting mode. One and only one dial used for shutter speed, aperture, iso (or any other setting, actually), browsing photos, browsing the settings menu, dialing in EV compensations, and all the rest. Not that great.
Aside from that, one has to say: it delivers.

2 upvotes
ulfie

Pretty sharp with el cheapo kit zoom lens. Slap on the Panny 20/1.7 and you could lacerate your eyeballs.

3 upvotes
il_alexk

Yeah, this Panny 20/1.7 toy is amazing even with the old E-PM1. IT should be the perfect match for the E-PM2 or GM1.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 6