The E-PL2 is in general a responsive camera that is enjoyable to work with. As with previous models there can be delays when working with some of the Art Filters, but on the whole you hardly ever find yourself waiting for the camera. Operation of the user interface is not quite as quick as with cameras with a thumb dial such as the E-P2 or most DSLRs, but quicker than the buttons-only E-PL1.
The continuous shooting rate is pretty much identical to the E-PL1. At three frames per second it isn't exactly great but the good news is that the E-PL2's AF-speed has noticeable improved (mainly due to the design of the new kit lens) and therefore your hit rate will be higher when combining continuous shooting with continuous AF. Still, the E-PL2 wasn't designed for sports or action work, so if these types of photography are high up on your priority list you'll probably be happier elsewhere.
Continuous Shooting and Buffering
Shot-to-shot speed is on the same level as the E-PL1: in either RAW or the highest quality JPEG mode you can shoot at about two frames per second by pulsing your finger on the shutter. However, if you release completely, this will prompt the camera to refocus and slow down shot-to-shot speed. With a fast card you can keep this rate almost indefinitely, although after five or six shots the camera will briefly slow down for one or two shots to clear the buffer.
In continuous mode we measured the E-PL2's frame rates as follows:
- JPEG (Superfine): around 3fps for 20 frames, then 2fps
- RAW: around 3fps for 11 frames, then around 1.1fps
- RAW + JPEG: around 3fps for 9 frames, then about 0.6fps
- Recovery time: 4-14 seconds
Autofocus speed / accuracy
The new 14-42mm II kit lens the E-PL2 was designed not only with compact dimensions in mind but most of all AF-speed, and it shows. The E-PL2 with the new kit kit lens is typically around 0.2 sec faster than the E-PL1 with the first generation 12-42mm lens. This may not sound like much, but amounts to an increase in AF speed of almost 30% in some circumstances - a substantial boost. As a bonus the new lens also focuses more silently which not only makes the lens feel swifter in use, but also means that movie footage from the E-PL2 is not marred by the sound of the lens' AF motor racking back and forth.
In addition to the Single AF the camera also offers continuous AF and an AF-tracking mode. As we've mentioned above the former has slightly improved over the E-PL1 but as with most mirrorless cameras it is still a bit of a weakness. If you try and follow a moving subject the AF cannot always keep up (unless the subject is moving very slowly) and you'll inevitably end up with a few out-of-focus shots. Similarly in movie mode you can occasionally see how a subject briefly moves out of focus when the AF struggles to follow.
The same thing happens in AF-tracking mode. While the tracking itself, at least in good light, works quite well, the contrast detect AF cannot always keep up with subject movement. Having said that, this is not an issue specific to the E-PL2 but common to almost all mirrorless cameras. Unlike DSLRs the AF method used in these cameras cannot establish which direction it needs to focus in - instead it has to scan through different focus distances to find the point giving the highest contrast, which can occasionally result in focusing delays.
Nevertheless, with the new kit lens the E-PL2's AF-speed is on par with the best cameras in this sector of the market and the camera's AF-speed will probably satisfy anyone but sports and action photographers, who are much better served with a DSLR anyway.
The E-PL2 features the same IS mechanism as the E-PL1, which is slightly simplified compared to the E-P1/2. Olympus claims this enables the camera to produce stable shots at shutter speeds 3 stops slower than would be possible without it (rather than the four claimed for the other PENs).
In use, shake was rarely a problem, with the stabilization system allowing shots to be taken at least a stop lower than you'd usually expect to be possible. It's not the most effective system we've come across but is not significantly less effective than the E-P1/2 and, of course, it works with any lens you put on the camera.