Compared to Olympus E-P1

As already discussed, the differences between the E-P1 and 2 are subtle. Over the next two pages we'll look at the differences and test whether there's any difference in image quality.

As we've already seen, the only significant difference (beyond the color) between the E-P1 and E-P2 is the bulge beneath the hot shoe that provides space for the accessory port. Ergonomics are identical, with a good thumb roller (the silver rectangle visible at the top right-hand corner), and a tiny, less useful dial around the edge of the four-way controller.

Beyond the physical distinction, there's almost nothing to set the two models apart. The E-P2 offers two additional Art Filters (the mock tilt-shift 'diorama' mode and 'cross-process') and gains a menu option to adjust the brightness of the EVF but that's it. You can almost think of this as an E-P1.1 that needed a more marketable name.

VF-2 Viewfinder

Although the accessory port can be used for a variety of add-ons - an adapter for an external stereo microphone being the other option currently available - its main use is likely to be to allow the use of the VF-2 viewfinder. This is partly because an external viewfinder has the most broad appeal but also because the VF-2 unit is superb.

The VF-2 offers the same 800x600 pixel resolution as the unit that appears in the Panasonic G1, GH1 and G2 but makes each pixel up of three dots (red, green and blue), rather than the Panasonic's field sequential display that draws each color one after the other. This gives the Olympus the advantage that it doesn't suffer from the 'tearing' that can occur if you move the Panasonics quickly (meaning that the camera is trying to draw a slightly different scene by the time is updates each different color, giving vertical objects a red, green and blue edge for a split second).

The detail and clarity of the VF-2 are excellent and even skeptics of slotting a large accessory onto the top of a camera that's meant to be small are easily won-over. The ability to remove the viewfinder and carry it only when you need it, for working in bright light when the rear screen might not be visible or when you want the steadier shooting position that a viewfinder brings, justify the approach. In principle it also means that only customers who want to pay for the viewfinder have to pay for it.

Viewfinder size

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'. As you can see, the VF-2's 1.15x magnification (0.58x once crop factor is taken into account), makes it bigger than most APS-C cameras and equal to largest optical viewfinder that Olympus makes - that of the high-end E-3 DSLR.

As you can see the VF-2 offers a slightly larger view than in the Canon 550D (itself one of the largest in its class). This is a good, large viewfinder with a decent resolution.