By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Listening to suggestions of photographers and Micro Four Thirds camera enthusiasts, Olympus released last week the E-P2 Pen-style camera, which offers a handful of more professional level extras to the compact E-P1 introduced five months earlier.
The E-P2 features the same compact Pen retro styling of the E-P1 and adds a new black cosmetic over the stainless-steel body, two additional built-in art filters, a newly-developed Continuous Autofocus (C-AF) tracking system that tracks the subject across or back-and-forward through the frame, a new iEnhance color and contrast adjustment effect, and a removable high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) that mounts on the camera’s hot shoe-like accessory port.
To reduce body size in designing the current E-P1, Olympus dispensed with an integrated hand grip and a top-mounted digital viewfinder that would complement the 3-inch live-view back-chassis LCD screen. But some photographers missed the EVF found on digital SLRs and competitive Micro Four Thirds cameras.
The E-P2’s EVF features twice the brightness of competitive viewfinders and two times the contrast level, Olympus said. It also offers 1.15x magnification, 100 percent field of view and is also articulated to allow angled shooting or to adjust the positioning for the most comfortable use. It has a diopter adjustment for glasses wearers.
The color EVF was requested by some users to enable better shooting in bright sunlight while providing additional stability in holding the camera up against the photographer’s face when framing a subject.
The accessory port that holds the EVF can also be used for other accessories including an external mic for video shooting.
Like the E-P1, which will remain in the line, the E-P2 Micro Four Thirds camera is presented as a hybrid between a digital SLR and a point-and-shoot compact camera. The standard is promoted as packing a d-SLR’s picture quality and interchangeable-lens capability into a smaller package that will encourage point-and-shoot owners to step up.
The camera eliminates the bulk of a d-SLR, as well as many of the intimidating buttons and controls, offering both manual and fully automatic control options.
Both the E-P1 and E-P2 cameras capture images in up to 12.3-megapixel resolution, have stereo CD-quality 16-bit, 44.1kHz PCM recording, 30 fps HD video recording, and selectable built-in melodies for slideshow and movie playback.
Also featured are a digital voice recorder, dust-reduction system, multiple exposure capability and HDMI output.
For HD video, the camera supports 720 by 1,280 resolution with progressive scanning a and 30 fps frame rate. The camera records video in AVI format rather than AVCHD for compatibility with more PCs.
Also included in both models is mechanical image stabilization built into the camera’s stainless-steel body, enabling the feature to be used with multiple lenses, including older film-camera lenses, compared to electronic image stabilization built directly into lenses.
Shutter lag is 70ms, which the company called average for d-SLRs.
Other features added in the E-P2 are two additional built-in art filters — including “diorama,” which can be used to make big objects shot at distance appear smaller, and “cross processing,” which simulates the effect photographers achieved in processing color negative film to add creative tints and hues to the image to produce a “surreal, dreamlike quality.”
Both are added to the six built-in art filters of the E-P1, including pop art, soft focus, pale & light color, light tone, grainy film and pinhole. The effects are viewable on the LCD when using the E-P1 in live view or when reviewing images.
All of the art filters can be applied to the high definition video clips as well as still images recorded by the camera.
Also new in the E-P2 is an iEnhance feature that records the value of the dominant color in an image, looks for that color reference in the entire image area and codes it for color and contrast saturation just in that color area. Olympus said the feature replicates the way the human eye and brain distinguish colors and objects against certain backgrounds in nature, and helps objects standout.
Other extras in the E-P2 include full manual control of shutter/aperture in movie mode and HDMI control of the camera’s playback functions using the TV remote when the camera is connected to an HDTV.
The E-P2 body will be packaged with either an ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zuiko digital zoom lens and EVF or with a 17mm f2.8 Zuiko digital zoom lens and EVF, at an $1,100 estimated selling price, each.
Olympus also introduced two new Micro Four Thirds system lenses for delivery in the first half of 2010. The new super wide-angle zoom M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 lens (18-36mm equivalent) and high-power wide to telephoto zoom M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens (28-300mm equivalent) offer a compact and lightweight design to match with the Olympus Pen cameras.
The Micro Four Thirds system lenses are designed to allow light rays to strike the imaging sensor nearly head-on for optimum edge-to-edge image reproduction. The lenses use a much smaller design than the Four Thirds system standard by reducing the outer diameter of the lens mount by 6mm, and the distance from the lens mount to the focal plane (the flange back distance) by approximately half, Olympus said
Both lenses will use ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements to suppress the color aberration that can degrade image quality, particularly at wide-angle focal lengths.
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