Gadling gear review – first look at the new Olympus E-P2

Santa visited my house early this year, and dropped off the new Olympus E-P2 Micro Four Thirds digital camera. The first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, the E-P1, passed through Gadling earlier this year, and left me mighty impressed, so in this first (and very brief) look, we’ll see what the E-P2 has to offer.

At first glance, the E-P2 looks identical to the E-P1, albeit in a slightly different color. The E-P1 is available in silver/black and white/tan, and the E-P2 only comes in black. It takes a bit to find any differences, but once you reach the flash hot shoe in the middle, you’ll notice a small connector port below it.

This port is in essence the biggest difference between the E-P1 and E-P2. One of the biggest drawbacks of the E-P1 is its lack of a viewfinder. An optical viewfinder is available for using with the 17mm pancake lens, but it won’t work well with the 14-42mm lens.

The connector on the E-P2 works along with the included electronic viewfinder and an upcoming microphone adapter.

The VF-2 viewfinder slides onto the hot shoe, and can tilt upwards. Of course, with the viewfinder attached, you can no longer use the flash, but you obviously won’t need the flash in those situations.

Other changes are all inside the camera – the E-P2 features a new live focus tracking mode, which works for photos and in video mode. It also adds two new art settings (diarama and cross process). The camera also allows for manual control when in video mode, and adds HDMI control when hooked up to a compatible HDTV .

All in all, great changes, but the new viewfinder and additional software tweaks add $300 to the price (the E-P1 is $799.99, the E-P2 will retail for $1099.99). In the coming week, I’ll take the camera for a real test, and determine whether the $300 is easy to justify, or whether it finally prices itself out of where it should be.