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The Olympus Pen was introduced a couple of years ago and was one of a brace of efforts that introduced a niche into the digital camera market. Due to the mirror-less construction, it was able to be as small as a compact camera yet it had the interchangeable lens ability of a D-SLR. It was the the best of both worlds. However, like any fledgling technology, it did come with drawbacks.
Now Olympus released the E-PL2, the fourth in it's line of micro four thirds cameras but is still aiming for those who want a step up from the point and shoot compacts but don't have the space for a D-SLR. The first thing you notice is the build quality. The E-PL1 had a plastic body which just made it feel like a toy and not a high end piece of technology the price suggested. The E-PL2 has a metal casing although adding weight, does ensure at least a feel of professionalism. The hand-grip on the front is large enough so as to ensure you can maintain a comfortable, yet secure hold while taking photos.
There are a choice of 16 lenses to choose from, but the camera kit usually comes with the standard 14-42mm zoom lens. Slightly down on a standard DSLR with 18-55mm but your saving in price, weight and size to justify the trade off. There is no optical or electronic viewfinder as standard, both are optional extras but it does a have a 3inch rear LCD screen.
The controls are fairly simple to operate and will allow you to pick up usage fairly quickly. The shutter release button is large enough to be used with ease. On the top is a halfpenny sized dial which allows the user to change shooting mode. These options are displayed on the LCD screen and can be changed to suit environment and scene.
The flash is built in and hidden. But the build quality is such that when you do deploy it, it clicks into place with a reassuring thud. It looks, feels and sounds solidly built. It measures 4.2cm x 11.5cm x 7.3cm and weighs 318g.
One really good selling point the E-PL2 has over it's rivals and the reason I chose it was a feature called Olympus Art Filter. It is a digital effects suite that allows the user to customise their pictures in any number of ways from grainy pics to pop art. You can also use them on the HD video clips without any editing software. The natural photos are delivered in as crisp quality as you could wish for allowing you to preserve the scene forever. It can struggle in low light situations, but this is a rare occurrence.
The resolution is 12.3 megapixels, supplied with a 7.2v Li-Ion battery and retails from around the £400 mark on amazon.co.uk. For general usage it is a good camera. Admittedly, it does not outdo the compact in terms of just being able to throw it in you pocket, you have to take the lens of the E-PL2 to achieve that, but it is still a massive leap forward. The amount of accessories on the market is extensive allowing you to cater for all situations.