Ten months passed between the announcement of the Micro Four Thirds mirrorless interchangeable lens format and Olympus unveiling its first model. For much of this time Panasonic had been selling its DSLR-like G1 while all we’d see from Olympus was a design mock-up it admitted wasn’t at that time feasible.
But in June 2009, Olympus finally revealed the camera responsible for our most-read preview ever – the E-P1. The company was able to do what very few of the current big players could – build on a history of compact photographers’ cameras. And, in doing so, appeared to provide the camera we’d been asking manufacturers to make for many years – a small camera with a good level of photographic control and a large sensor (only Sigma had really tried this before).
The E-P1 managed to fit most of the company’s excellent E-620 DSLR into a comparatively small, beautifully styled metal case in a way that appealed to far beyond the camera-geek demographic. It was not without its problems, however – the main one being its autofocus system that was rather sluggish when compared to Panasonic’s G-series. Also its control system, inherited wholesale from the E-System Four Thirds DSLRs, didn’t always perfectly translate to the way its buttons are laid out (The newer, simpler E-PL1 and firmware updated Panasonics make this more apparent than it was at the time of review).
Then, a little under five months later, (and just a few weeks after Epson announced a high-res viewfinder display), Olympus launched the E-P2. The only major difference is the addition of an accessory port at the back of the camera underneath the flash hot shoe mount. This may not sound like a big deal but it does allow users to address one of the criticisms we leveled at the E-P1 – the lack of viewfinder and the difficulty of shooting in bright light that this brings.
Olympus has also been working hard boosting the AF speed of the PEN series and this quick review is based on the latest version which promises the fastest focusing yet across the whole range (E-P1, E-P2 and E-PL1). However, while it has been designing its new lenses, specifically the 9-18mm wide angle and 14-150mm superzoom, with single, lightweight internal focus groups for fast focusing, the company has not redesigned its 14-42mm kit zoom to offer the same advantages.