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Performance and Image Quality

Despite its entry-level billing the E-PM2 is a quick and responsive little camera. Startup time is under a second (unless you include the time it takes to unfold the collapsible 14-42mm kit zoom) and in its continuous (H) drive mode the E-PM2 can capture images at up to 8fps. In typical Olympus fashion this can be customized, and in fact you have control over both continuous L and H modes, allowing you to select anything from 1-8fps (1-3.5 in L and 4-8 in H). As far as focus is concerned, the E-PM2 boasts fast, highly accurate contrast-detection. Like the flagship OM-D, it can't really track focus all that well, but for static subjects, and 99% of everyday shooting situations, it's extremely capable, only being fooled very rarely when the sun or another bright light source intrudes into the frame (see image further down this page). We've also found 'touch to focus' using the rear touch-screen extremely handy in some situations.

On to image quality, and the E-PM2 borrows the highly capable 16MP sensor and TruePic VI image sensor introduced in the E-M5, and offers image quality that is to all practical extent identical. This is great news. As we've come to expect from Olympus the E-PM2 produces images at default JPEG settings that are pleasantly sharp, favoring somewhat saturated reds and greens even shooting in Natural processing mode. Other in-camera processing modes include Vivid, i-Enhance and Monotone options. Raw and Raw + JPEG modes are also available. In-camera Raw processing is included too, allowing for post-capture adjustments to white balance, exposure, noise reduction strength and aspect ratio.

We've come to know these bright, punchy tones as 'Olympus colors', and the E-PM2 delivers great results in bright conditions. 100% crop
This shot, taken towards the wide end of the 14-42mm kit zoom shows good edge-to-edge sharpness but as you can see, JPEGs look a little soft at 100% (great results can be had from shooting Raw - see section below). 100% crop
This is one of only a couple of the hundreds of images we shot of static subjects with the E-PM2 which is out of focus. It's possible that the bright light (sun reflecting from a car window) on the left is to blame. Focus was set on the dog in the foreground. 100% crop

Auto white balance is reliable, shooting predictably warm under incandescent lighting. In most cases, the incandescent white balance setting will provide the right correction. Overall we found the E-PM2's evaluative metering system to be reliable, and we didn't see any noticeable tendency to drastically over or under expose in everyday photography.

Users can set the default and the limit for ISO Auto mode - all the way up to the E-PM2's upper limit of ISO 25,600. As is usually the case in this class, images shot near the ISO 1250 mark and upward tend to fall victim to some noticeable color noise. Images shot up to ISO 1600 display some loss of detail, but are perfectly usable for small prints or web viewing. At ISO 3200, image quality takes a noticeable hit and continues to decline through the top of the range. For a detailed look at the E-PM2's image quality compared to its peers, check out the Image Quality Compared pages of this review.

This shot was taken from a couple of inches away at the long end of the 14-42mm kit zoom. The shot is sharp, shake-free, and depth of field is shallow enough for a nice blurred background, too. 100% crop
This shot was taken at 42mm (84mm equivalent) 'wide open' on the kit zoom at F5.6. My subject was about a meter from the camera, and the foliage in the background was about a meter away from him. As you can see, the background is blurred, but for more control over depth of field with the E-PM2 you should investigate Olympus's fast F1.8 prime lenses. 100% crop
At ISO 1600, image quality is still pretty good, but noise is a factor upon close examination, as you can see. It's only at ISO 3200 and above though that we'd consider it problematic. 100% crop
The E-PM2 doesn't have a flash built-in, but the supplied flash has enough power for close-range work like this medium-length portrait. Coverage is good, and the camera has balanced ambient with flash light very well here.

One of the attractions of an interchangeable lens system versus a compact camera is the potential that a larger sensor provides to isolate a subject against a blurred background. E-PM2 shooters using the kit lens will find this is possible when shooting subjects somewhat close up, or zooming in tightly on subjects at the end of the focal range. Because of the smaller size of the Four Thirds sensor compared to that of a crop- or full-frame DSLR, it's harder to take control over depth of field with most everyday M43 zooms. If you're hankering for those smooth, soft backgrounds you'll do well to add a prime lens with a fast maximum aperture to your Olympus E-PM2.

The E-PM2 ships with a flash that snaps into the camera's hot shoe and smart accessory port. Naturally, the flash can't be used simultaneously with an electronic viewfinder or other accessory designed for the port. Because the flash is low to the top of the camera, lens shadow can be an issue when shooting at wide angles relatively close-up. If you don't plan on adding a viewfinder accessory and don't mind the small amount of added bulk, the flash could comfortably live on top of the E-PM2 for extra illumination in a pinch.

Art Filters

The E-PM2 comes equipped with a range of Art Filters - effectively color effects that are designed to give certain distinctive 'looks' to your pictures, from the aged appearance of an old Polaroid to more outrageous, technicolor treatment. This sort of thing is pretty common these days, but Olympus started the trend, and we enjoy the versatility that Art Filters offer.


Speaking of versatility, the ability to capture multiple different filtered versions of the same shot in a single exposure, shoot JPEG+Raw simultaneously and fun borders all make Olympus's Art Filters stand out from the crowd.
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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