Rear of Camera Controls
The E-P2 has the same two-dial control system as the E-P1 (All its features are discussed in-depth in the original review). The top dial is well placed and comfortable but the second dial (around the four-way controller) is smaller and slightly more awkward to operate. You can select which function is assigned to each dial and set difference preferences for each shooting mode.
Personally I found it hard to consistently move the second dial by the amount I wanted to (regularly selecting 0.7EV of adjustment, rather than the desired 0.3EV). As a result, my favored setup was to have the thumb dial set to select aperture and then use it in combination with the exposure compensation button on the top of the camera if I wanted to apply some exposure compensation - cutting out the second dial entirely.
Olympus was the first manufacturer to introduce live view to its DSLRs and, while we still feel that most live view systems make slightly clunky additions to DSLRs, it has left the company in a strong position on this type of solely live view camera. Through their early adoption of live view, Olympus was one of the first to develop an interactive settings display which it calls its 'Super Control Panel.' Although perhaps a little daunting at first glance, it quickly becomes a reliable way both of checking and changing settings.
|The Super Control Panel shows all the camera's settings and allows you to scroll around and edit them.||Alternatively, pressing the INFO button brings up a more compact-camera-like icon menu.|
|Whichever mode you choose, editing the functions (or pressing the function buttons on the camera - ISO, AF, white balance, drive etc) brings up a small display of options along the bottom of the screen.|
Record Mode displays and operation
The E-P2, like the E-P1, gains its live view screens directly from the E-System DSLRs. This means there's a total of nine different live view modes. These can be enabled and disabled in the settings menu - option 8 in section D (except the level gauge, which is option 10 of section D). All the enabled views, plus the default view can be cycled through by using the INFO button.
|The default view (always available)||Image only|
|Exposure information + histogram||Magnified View Mode (enables free autofocus point selection and up to 10x magnification of the selected area)|
|One of three optional grid overlays||AE/WB compensation preview|
|Finally there's the 'level gauge,' enabled and disabled in a different part of the menu.||Switching modes (using the mode dial) brings up a small display so you don't need to take your eye off the screen.|
All the live view modes behave in the same manner with the exception of magnified live view and the AE/WB compensation view, in which the OK button is used to select, rather than bring up your chosen settings menu. This is an anomaly we've highlighted in the Olympus user interface for some time, and one that has been remedied in the newer E-PL1 and it's one that you're likely to encounter if you ever want to manually focus non-Micro Four Thirds lenses on the E-P2.
The E-P2 has no mirror and therefore, like the Panasonic G1/GH1, relies purely on contrast detect autofocus (using the main imaging sensor) - exactly the same system used on compact cameras, and increasingly offered as an option on live view capable SLRs (including recent Olympus models).
For the G1 and GH1 Panasonic developed an incredibly fast new imager AF system and has been praised for getting contrast detect AF speeds up to near those offered by entry-level phase detect focus systems (as used on all SLRs). The E-P1 didn't share that technology and, when released, was criticized for its noticeably slower AF times. There are, of course, types of shooting that do not require fast AF and it's possible to learn how to compensate for a camera you know won't focus in time (pre-focusing being the obvious technique), but it's undeniable that the majority of people would prefer the fastest system they can get.
The E-P2's performance is slightly improved, compared to the E-P1 that we tested. These same improvements were added to the E-P1 Firmware version 1.1, and a further firmware update leaves both cameras capable of matching the Panasonics, when used with the same lens. However, the Olympus 14-42mm kit lens with its comparatively heavy front element focusing, seems to be the main thing holding the E-P2 back - it's still noticeably slower to focus than the Panasonics if used with this lens.
Unlike the Panasonics, Olympus's PENs will autofocus conventional Four Thirds lenses though the results aren't exactly rapid. Although some of the Four Thirds range has been designed to allow contrast detection AF, none of them have been designed with it exclusively in mind. The result is that all Four Thirds lenses can be autofocused, eventually. Sadly the 50mm F2 Macro (a stand-out Four Thirds lens) is amongst the slowest to focus, pretty much ruling it out as a portrait lens. Generally, we feel Four Thirds compatibility is only of real value to existing Four Thirds lens owners - we wouldn't recommend buying new ones for use on the E-P2.
In normal shooting the E-P2 uses 11 large focus areas (which can be chosen manually or automatically), but if you switch face detection on this increases to 25 (across a wider area of the frame). If you switch to Magnified View mode you can pick a focus point anywhere in the frame (well, there's 225, but you can essentially put it anywhere). However, it is difficult to quickly, manually select an AF point - you either have to change it via the Super Control Panel or re-purpose the four-way controller to offer direct selection (meaning you have to use the Super Control Panel for the functions that would otherwise live there).