CES: Olympus announces new PEN E-PL2 Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens camera

Olympus adds the new PEN E-PL2 to its growing line of Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras.
Written by Janice Chen, Inactive on

Olympus is hitting CES 2011 with a bang, announcing 12 new products today. A surefire attention getter is the new Micro Four Thirds compact interchangeable lens camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL2 (photos of which leaked out in December). In addition to the new camera, the company is also announcing some excellent new accessories, including three new converter lenses (macro, fisheye, and wide-angle), a very cool close-up spotlight accessory, and a bluetooth-connectivity accessory.

The new Olympus PEN E-PL2 doesn't replace its predecessor, the E-PL1 (which will still be available), but improves upon it with a number of new features. Most obvious is the new body design, which is sleeker but has a bigger grip that extends off the front and back of the camera, making it easier to grab. There's also a new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) kit lens that offers a bayonet mount for adding a new converter lenses also announced today (the E-PL1 will continue to ship with the older 14-42mm kit lens).  Other new improvements include:

  • An improved Live Guide II which now lets you preview simplified user adjustments (e.g., Depth of Field, Image Brightness, Color Balance) while shooting video as well as still shots. A new Live Wheel rotational dial makes adjusting the settings a smoother motion to help keep video recording stable.
  • There are now six Art Filters, including the new Dramatic Tone HDR art filter borrowed from Olympus' E-5 dSLR, which offers enhanced tonal range between bright and shadow. Art Filters can now be used in manual mode, and you can layer multiple filters in the same image. Some of the existing filters now include multiple variations (e.g., a more saturated Pop Art in addition to the original Pop Art filter)
  • New body design includes a recessed on/off button and a bracket around the direct movie button to help you avoid hitting it accidentally
  • Bigger and higher resolution 3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD, and field of view is 176 degrees
  • Higher sensitivity up to ISO 6400
  • Now accepts SDXC memory cards
  • Shutter speed bumped to 1/4000s
  • New Eye Detection, improves upon the E-PL1's Face Detection by making your subject's eye the focas point
  • New Accessory Port 2 that will work with the newly announced accessories
  • Improved battery and charger that automatically turns off once battery is full, to avoid overcharging the battery and wasting voltage

The new E-PL2 will be available in four different colors (black, silver, white, and red) and will be available this month at $599.99 for a single-lens kit including the new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens or $899.99 for a two-lens kit with the 14-42mm lens and a 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 lens.

Read the next post for details and photos of new accessories for the E-PL2.

For more information on the E-PL2, read the press release »

Powerfully Simple Olympus Pen® System Grows With Intelligent Enhancements And Bluetooth® Capability: The Olympus PEN E-PL2 Camera

Enhance Your High Definition Videos and Stills with Movie and Still Compatible Lens Technology, New Live Guide II, More Robust Art Filter Effects and a New Range of Accessories

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., January 5, 2011 – Today Olympus announces the new powerfully simple PEN E-PL2, the fourth generation of the award-winning and pioneering Olympus PEN family of compact interchangeable lens digital cameras. Known for pro quality, point-and-shoot simplicity and high-definition video, the PEN E-PL2 continues the PEN family’s legacy of simple design, intuitive interface and Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) image quality. The new camera also expands your creative potential with Live Guide II, new in-camera creative features, new auxiliary lenses, a new Close-Up Spotlight accessory (MAL-1) and the new Olympus PENPal™ Bluetooth accessory. Capturing amazing still images and HD video just got a lot more fun. Further proof that Olympus lets you capture it all.

Outstanding Features:

  • MSC Lens - the new Movie & Still Compatible (MSC) ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens (28mm-84mm equivalent) features a high-speed, silent autofocus during still shooting and high definition (HD) video capture;
  • New 3” 460,000 dot LCD - for bright and easy image composition;
  • Live Guide II - preview HD video and still image effects on the E-PL2’s high-resolution LCD screen to achieve the perfect result effortlessly;
  • Art Filter Variations and Enhancements - choose from different art filter looks to expand your creative horizons or overlay different art filters to create something new, now with full manual control;
  • ISO 6400 - take great low-light photos with the camera’s increased ISO sensitivity;
  • New Ergonomic Body Design - shoot stills and videos comfortably with a more ergonomic grip and updated button placement and functionality for ease of use; and
  • Face Detection with iDetect - an amazing new function makes it easier to capture the spirit of your subject, automatically making a person’s eye the focus point of the image. The E-PL2 further reduces the chance of blurred subjects in images by recognizing up to eight faces, tracking them within the image area, and automatically focusing and optimizing exposure for sharp portraits.

At an affordable $599.99 with the new MSC ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens (28mm-84mm equiv.), the 12.3 megapixel ergonomically-designed E-PL2 is perfect for everyone from beginners, who want to expand their creative horizons, to experienced photographers who desire high-quality results without the size and weight of a traditional DSLR.

“The innovative PEN E-PL2 is designed to go with you and grow with you – it’s the total compact multimedia package,” said Katie Roseman, product manager, Olympus Imaging America Inc. “We’ve expanded everything but the size of the camera. Live Guide II, new art filter variations and enhancements for instant gratification, three converter lenses and MAL-1 close-up spotlight will all help grow your creative potential, while the Olympus PENPal lets you send images straight from the camera to your smart phone for social sharing.”

New Lens Optimized for Video and Image Stabilization for Every Lens The E-PL2 comes with the new Movie & Still Compatible (MSC) ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens. This new kit lens has a smooth, silent and uses a quick inner focus mechanism to make it exceptionally fast and nearly silent when recording high-definition movie. The M.Zuiko Digital MICRO Four Thirds® lenses are designed to be more compact and portable, just like the E-PL2 itself. In addition to the kit lens, choose from the ED m17mm f2.8 lens (34mm equivalent), the super wide-angle zoom ED m9-18mm f4.0-5.6 lens (18-36mm equivalent), the high-power wide to telephoto zoom ED m14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens (28-300mm equivalent), the wide zoom ED m40-150mm F4.0-5.6, or the super telephoto ED m75-300mm f4.8-5.6 (35mm equivalent 150–600mm).

If you’re looking for even more options, the MMF-2 Four Thirds™ System Lens Adapter makes the E-PL2 compatible with all Olympus Zuiko® Digital Specific lenses and other Four Thirds System lenses from Sigma, Panasonic and Leica. Olympus OM film-based lenses can be attached to the E-PL2 with the MF-2 OM Lens Adapter, and third-party adapters have been developed for lenses from most other manufacturers.

New Live Guide II for Stills and Movies The PEN E-PL2’s Live Guide II takes the E-PL1’s popular Live Guide interface for stills and expands it to preview effects for HD videos. Live Guide takes the guesswork out of great photography and videography by previewing effects at the touch of a button. Want more vivid or muted color in your shot? Want warmer or cooler color? Want a brighter or darker subject, or a sharper or softer background? Or maybe you want to capture the fast-moving action of your subject with a little artistic blur, or perhaps freeze the action? Simply select Live Guide and turn the wheel on the back of the camera to slide through numerous photographic and videographic effects. Make adjustments and watch the LCD as the effects are made live – before the image is captured! Don’t worry about learning technical things like f-stops, shutter speed and white balance; jump right in by composing, adjusting exposure and more before the shot is taken.

Seeing the results before snapping the image or shooting a video ensures you are getting the results you want, and it will change the way you use your camera. Shooting Tips are also available with Live Guide, so you can leave the manual at home.

Limitless Creativity with New Art Filter Variations and Enhancements Olympus pioneered easy-to-use in-camera art filters for still images captured inside its E-System DSLRs and was the first company to offer the ability to apply art filters to HD video recordings captured with the PEN E-P1 camera. The E-PL2 features six art filters: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, and Dramatic Tone. For the first time, the E-PL2 also features art filter variations and enhancements to maximize your creativity and expand the potential results. Give your images a different look by choosing from six art filters. Overlay an art effect over an original image with or without an art filter. Shoot a sunset with Pop Art and then add the Pin Hole Effect. Take a portrait in Grainy Film and then add a funky art frame. The possibilities are limitless.

Whatever you create, it will be easy to display on the big screen. When you’re ready to share your work, just plug the E-PL2’s camera into any high definition television (HDTV) using the camera’s HDMI output with an optional HDMI cable (sold separately) and show it off from the comfort of your living room.

HD Videos and HDMI Control for a Home Theater Experience The E-PL2 shoots gorgeous 720p HD video, so you’ll always capture the moments you cherish in clear, crisp high-definition at the touch of a button. With HDMI Control, playback is also a breeze. You’ll be the hit of the party or any family event when you proudly display your brilliant images and movies on HDTVs. Simply connect the camera to an HDTV with an optional HDMI cable. With HDMI Control, you can use your HDTV’s remote to control playback functions and navigate the camera’s menus from the comfort of your couch.

New Optional Accessories for Every Shooting Challenge Along with the E-PL2, Olympus unveils five new accessories to further expand what you can do with PEN cameras.

  • Add-on Conversion Lenses - Olympus has three new affordable and compact conversion lenses that mount on the new MSC ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 zoom lens to further expand what you can do with the E-PL2:

  • Fish-eye Lens Converter (FCON-37): captures a distorted hemispherical image covering 120° - to generate dramatic shots and edges that wrap around the frame of your image;
  • Wide-angle Lens Converter (WCON-37): enables the user to capture a broader shot, for example, to include more people in a photograph. It dramatically alters the proportions of close and distant subjects. Subjects close to the lens appear much larger, while subjects in the background appear smaller – creating a dynamic sense of depth; and
  • Macro Lens Converter (MCON-58): Enables the user to capture fascinating close-ups from as little as 24cm. away from the subject (depending upon the lens in use). The MCON-58 is also compatible with the ED m14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens (28-300mm equivalent), ED m40-150mm F4.0-5.6, and ED m75-300mm f4.8-5.6 (35mm equivalent 150–600mm) for close focusing shots.

  • Macro Arm Light (MAL-1) - Not one, but two bright LED lights – each on the end of its own fully flexible metal arm and powered by the camera. Both arms extend up to 17cm. from a sleek and slender unit mounted on the camera’s Accessory Port. For macro shots or attractive close-ups of small items or for online auctions, the MAL-1 is ideal for getting the lighting just right.
  • PENPal - A sleek communication unit for storing up to 2600 images and transferring them via wireless Bluetooth to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a mobile phone, PC or even another PENPal-equipped camera. From there it’s easy to share them with friends in online communities or via e-mail.
  • In addition to these accessories, the E-PL2 is compatible with the optional VF-2 detachable electronic viewfinder, which provides 1.15x magnification and a 100 percent field of view with sharp resolution, brightness and contrast, and the optional SEMA-1 external microphone adapter set for those who want to capture enhanced audio with any microphone that has a 3.5mm plug. These optional accessories easily slide into the camera’s accessory port and hot shoe.

    In-camera Image Stabilization that Supports a Wide Range of Lenses Olympus has Image Stabilization built right into the body of the E-PL2. This means that any lens (MICRO Four Thirds, Four Thirds and any third-party lens) attached to the E-PL2 will deliver blur-free images thanks to three modes of in-body Image Stabilization that automatically compensate for camera shake, including in low-light situations or when shooting without a tripod.

    Achieve More with Automatic Features Including New iDetect The E-PL2 features Face Detection with a new Eye Detection function called iDetect to make it easier to capture the spirit of your subject. This feature automatically makes a person’s eye the focus point of the image. The E-PL2 further reduces the chance of blurred subjects in images by recognizing up to eight faces, tracking them within the image area, and automatically focusing and optimizing exposure for sharp portraits. In addition, the E-PL2 has a variety of automated technologies to free you up to focus on your subject instead of the camera settings.

    • 22 Scene-Select Modes - from portraits to sunset shots, the E-PL2 is equipped with 22 Scene-Select modes for effortless picture taking, including Fireworks, Sunset, Children, Macro and Panorama, to name a few. Capturing beautiful portraits is easy with the ePortrait mode that enables you to smooth your subject’s complexion. There are even three scene modes that are specific to shooting with the new conversion lenses to optimize the performance of those lenses;
    • Intelligent Auto (iAuto) Mode - when you don’t want to use the scene-select modes, the iAuto mode automatically identifies what you’re shooting and adjusts settings to ensure you capture the best result for each situation you encounter;
    • In-Camera Panorama - capture three images and stitch them together to create one amazing, seamless panoramic picture. Or use the included OLYMPUS [ib] software to stitch up to 10 images together for the ultimate panorama; and
    • iEnhance - with this mode the warm yellow and orange colors of a sunset are heightened to a dramatically lifelike color that’s truer to what you see with the naked eye. iEnhance is available in any mode, and automatically engages when using iAuto to enrich color in any subject.

    Large Sensor for Excellent Image Quality The E-PL2 features a large image sensor similar to the one inside the top of the line Olympus E-System cameras. The only difference between this sensor and what the pros use is that this big sensor is inside the much smaller body of the E-PL2. This high-performance 12.3-megapixel Live MOS Sensor (eight times larger than the average point-and-shoot camera sensor) delivers excellent dynamic range, accurate color fidelity, and a state-of-the-art amplifier circuit to reduce noise and capture fine image details in both highlight and shadow areas.

    True-to-Life Color The E-PL2’s Live MOS image sensor is complemented by Olympus’ TruePic™ V Image Processor, which produces clear and colorful photos using all the pixel information for each image to provide the best digital images possible. The image processor is noted for accurate natural color, true-to-life flesh tones, brilliant blue skies and precise tonal expression; it also offers a maximum ISO sensitivity of 6400, to reduce image noise in photos shot at higher ISO settings, enabling great results in low-light situations.

    World-renowned Dust Reduction System The Olympus dust reduction system is an industry first and a proven technology. You don’t have to worry about dust spots on your sensor ruining the perfect image every time you change lenses. Spend more time shooting with the E-PL2 and less time worrying about dust with the superior dust reduction system producing spot-free photos with the exclusive Supersonic Wave Filter, a patented ultrasonic technology that silently vibrates to remove dust and other particles from the front of the image sensor. Dust will no longer get between you and a great shot.

    Flash Alternatives for Everyone For low-light shooting situations photographers can select the built-in flash or choose an optional external unit. Wireless flash control is also possible with the E-PL2, making customized lighting set-ups an easy reality.

    Underwater Housing for Aquatic Adventures The new camera’s compact design makes it the perfect companion for all of your dive trips. Olympus has designed a custom underwater case for the PEN E-PL2, the PT-EP03, which is waterproof to a depth of 40 meters (approximately 130 feet). With its durable, high-quality polycarbonate construction, this Olympus housing protects the camera from water while also cushioning it from knocks and bumps on land. The housing enables viewing from either the camera’s LCD screen or an optional electronic viewfinder. Use up to two UFL-2 underwater flash units via fiber optic cable with the case’s flash connectors. A non-removable front lens port accommodates multiple MICRO Four Thirds lenses.

    Availability The Olympus E-PL2 Kit will be available in January 2011. It includes the E-PL2 Body, M. ZUIKO MSC DIGITAL ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zoom, USB Cable, Video Cable, Li-Ion Battery Pack (BLS-5), Li-Ion Battery Charger (BCS-1), Shoulder Strap, OLYMPUS [ib] software CD-ROM, Manuals and Registration card.

    U.S. Pricing / Product Configurations E-PL2 Body with MSC M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zoom Lens Estimated Street Price: $599.99

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