Olympus E-PL2 Review
The E-PL2 offers the same 720p HD video mode as the E-PL1 and previous PENs. The footage is compressed in the inefficient but easy-to-use Motion JPEG format. Movie mode allows you to select between program, aperture priority and full manual mode, depending on how much you wish to remain in control of depth-of-field. The movie button on the back of the camera gives you quick access to video capture, no matter what shooting mode you're in.
The Olympus E-PL2 offers a maximum video resolution of 1280x720 (720p) at 30 frames per second. For smaller file sizes you can also record SD video (640x480). The built-in internal microphone captures mono audio, but you can connect the optional SEMA-1 microphone set to the camera's accessory port to record stereo sound. It also allows you to adjust the sound recording sensitivity.
AF is available during movie recording and you can capture in A and M modes (exposure compensation, shutter speed and aperture have to be set before you start recording and cannot be changed during capture). The E-PL2 also makes Art Filters available in movie mode which makes for some interesting effects.
|Sizes|| 1280x720p: 30 fps (HD)
640x480: 30 fps (SD)
|Audio||44.1kHz Mono (Internal Mic), Linear PCM, stereo recording possible with external mic SEMA-1 or 3rd party microphones|
|Format||AVI motion JPEG|
|File size||3.9 MB/sec (720P)|
|Max file size per clip||2GB, HD: 7min, SD: 14min|
Using Movie Mode
Recording a movie on the E-PL2 is a very straightforward exercise. You can press the movie button on the back of the camera at any time to start/stop recording video. If you turn the mode dial to movie mode you can also use the shutter button. If you set Movie+Still in the custom menu to 'on', then a still image is recorded when video capture stops.
You'll also need to set the mode dial to movie mode in order to alter the movie settings. Press the OK button and the on-screen menu appears. You can change IS, shooting mode, WB, self-timer, AF-mode, movie quality and ISO and switch sound recording on and off.
You can shoot in A and M modes but you have to set the mode in the on-screen menu rather than on the mode-dial. In manual mode you can choose shutter speeds from 1/30 to 1/4000 and ISO has to be set manually between 400 and 1600. Auto ISO is not available. Exposure compensation, aperture and shutter speed have to be set before you start recording and cannot be altered during capture. In terms of Auto Focus the E-PL2's video mode offers all the options that are available in stills mode apart from face priority.
Movie mode displays
|This is the movie shooting which cannot be changed. It only shows the selected movie shooting mode, recording time and if sound recording is activated.||Turn the mode dial to movie mode and press the OK button to bring up this menu where you can alter all essential video recording settings.|
|There is also a movie section in the custom menu. Here you can select a movie shooting mode, turn on a the capture of stills image after video recording stops and activate sound recording.||In movie mode you can capture in the P, A and M modes or alternatively use the art filters.|
Video quality comments
The E-Pl2's 720p video mode is from a specification point of view pretty much in line with the direct competitors. The video files aren't quite as big in terms of resolution as the 1080p footage that some DSLRs or the Panasonic GH1 and 2 offer but the footage is still detailed with smooth motion. As expected the E-PL2's video output gets noisier in low light but it's not more intrusive than on other cameras in its class.
With its Micro Four Thirds sensor the Olympus E-PL2 cannot quite produce the shallow depth-of-field footage that APS-C or even full-frame cameras offer but with the right lens it is still possible to achieve a cinema-like look and use depth-of-field creatively. The downside is that it's very easy to record out-of-focus footage or have focus 'jumps' in a clip (when using continuous AF). For 'serious' video capture we would recommend to put the camera on a tripod and focus manually. For shooting a holiday or birthday video you're probably better off with a digital compact camera. Their smaller sensors provide a much greater depth of field and as a consequence keeping the subject in the focal plane is much less of a worry.
As it is common with cameras that use CMOS sensors the E-PL2 can suffer from distortion caused by its rolling shutter. The readout of the sensor means horizontal lines of the image are scanned, one after another, rather than the whole scene being grabbed in one go. The upshot is that verticals can be skewed if the camera (or the subject) moves too fast - the top of the image has been recorded earlier than the bottom, so vertical lines can be rendered as diagonals. On the E-PL2 this effect is noticeable but relatively subtle compared to some previous models, thanks to a fast refresh rate. Exposure transition from bright to dark frames works pretty smoothly and there are no obvious exposure 'jumps' as the camera adjusts the gain and/or aperture.
The internal microphone records monaural sound and is a little prone to wind-noise (there's no wind-cut setting) but thanks to the new kit lens focusing and zooming sounds are hardly ever audible in the footage. If sound quality is a priority you should consider the purchase of the SEMA-1 external microphone.
Caution: very large files
Sample video 1
This video shows the E-PL2's video capabilities in good light. The footage shows good detail and smooth motion.
|1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps, .AVI file, 14 sec. 55.1 MB|
Sample video 2
The E-PL2 performs quite well in sub-optimal light conditions as well. Some image noise becomes visible as the camera turns up the sensitivity but it's well within acceptable limits.
|1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps, .AVI file, 19 sec. 83.7 MB|
Sample video 3
The E-PL2 allows you to apply Art Filters to video footage. This is the same scene as above captured with the 'Grainy Film' filter. As you can see in this art filter the clips are put out at a reduced frame rate.
|1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps, .AVI file, 9 sec. 32.4 MB|
Sample video 4
'Dramatic Tone' Art Filter
|1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps, .AVI file, 12 sec. 49.2 MB|
Sample video 5
One more clip in overcast weather conditions.
|1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps, .AVI file, 11 sec. 48.8 MB|
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