Olympus E-PM2 Review

 
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Olympus E-PM2 Optics

 

Kit Lens Test Results

Zoom
Typical zoom range for a kit lens, with good performance.

14mm @ f/8 25mm @ f/8
42mm @ f/8 2x Digital Zoom

The Olympus E-PM2 is available bundled with an Olympus M.ZUIKO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R Micro Four Thirds lens. This kit lens possesses a typical optical zoom range of about 3x, and its 35mm equivalent focal range is about 28-84mm. Far-field performance at 14 and 25mm is very good with strong detail and good contrast across the frame, though some chromatic aberration can be seen in the corners and edges. Results are good at the 42mm setting, with good sharpness and contrast, though some chromatic aberration is still visible, as well as some flare around very bright objects. The camera's 2x digital zoom does a good job, though with the expected loss of fine detail and more visible noise that comes with digital enlargement. Overall, though, above average performance here for an inexpensive kit lens. See below for comments on macro performance, geometric distortion, corner softness, etc.

Macro
An average sized minium area, with good detail. Flash exposure is a bit dim.

Macro with 14-42mm II kit lens
42mm @ f/5.6
Macro with Flash
42mm @ f/5.6

As with zoom performance, the Olympus PEN E-PM2's macro performance will depend entirely on the lens in use. With the 14-42mm II kit lens set to 42mm, the Olympus E-PM2 captured a fairly average minimum area measuring 2.75 x 2.06 inches (70 x 52 millimeters). Sharpness is quite good over most of the frame, though corners are a touch soft. (Most lenses have some softening in the corners at macro distances.) Corners show a very small amount of light falloff, though that's not unusual. The bundled flash throttled down a bit too much at this close distance, resulting in a slightly underexposed image.

Geometric Distortion
Very low to moderate geometric distortion with the 14-42mm II kit lens in JPEGs. High barrel distortion at wide angle in uncorrected raw files.

In-Camera JPEG: Barrel distortion at 14mm is 0.6 percent
In-Camera JPEG: Pincushion distortion at 42mm is practically nonexistent
Uncorrected RAW: Barrel distortion at 14mm is 2.4 percent
Uncorrected RAW: Barrel distortion at 42mm is is practically nonexistent

When shooting JPEGs, the Olympus PEN E-PM2's 14-42mm kit lens produced about 0.6 percent barrel distortion at wide angle, which is slightly less than average but still noticeable in some of its images. At the telephoto end, there is almost no visible distortion, only about two pixels. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide-angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

To see how much correction is taking place in the camera, we converted raw files from the above shots with dcraw, which does not correct for distortion. As you can see, at wide angle, barrel distortion is very high at about 2.4%, though pincushion distortion at telephoto is very low, almost nil. We expect to see high distortion at wide angle from smaller interchangeable lenses though, so it's nothing to be concerned about unless you are using a raw converter which does not understand the embedded "opcodes" to perform distortion corrections automatically. Most raw converters these days are capable of applying distortion correction automatically, as specified by the manufacturer. (There is however going to be some loss of resolution as a result of such correction, because pixels in the corners of the frame are being "stretched" to correct for the distortion. Obviously, a lens that doesn't require such correction, and is also sharp in the corners to begin with would be preferable, but relaxing constraints on barrel and pincushion distortion likely brings other benefits in the lens design, such as cost, size and weight.)

Chromatic Aberration and Corner Sharpness
Moderate chromatic aberration at wide angle and telephoto with the 14-42mm II kit lens. Some corner softening, especially when wide open.

Aperture: maximum
14mm @ f/3.5: Upper right
C.A.: Moderate
Softness: Soft
14mm @ f/3.5: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp
42mm @ f/5.6: Upper right
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Soft
42mm @ f/5.6: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: A hint soft

Chromatic Aberration. Chromatic aberration in the corners with the E-PM2's 14-42mm II kit lens is moderate and noticeable at wide angle (14mm), and a little lower at telephoto (42mm) when wide open.  In both cases, the color fringing gradually reduces in brightness and width as it approaches the center of the image, where it is practically nonexistent.

The Olympus E-PM2 does not appear to be suppressing lateral chromatic aberration in its JPEGs, as uncorrected raw files have similar amounts.

Corner Softness. The Olympus E-PM2's 14-42mm kit lens produced soft corners at full wide angle and telephoto when wide open. At wide angle, the upper right corner is the softest, while at full telephoto, all four corners were about equally soft. The center is quite sharp at wide angle, though, and just a touch soft at telephoto.

Vignetting. There's some mild vignetting (corner shading) particularly at wide angle, as indicated by the darker corner crops compared to the center.

Aperture: f/8
14mm @ f/8: Upper right
C.A.: Moderate
Softness: Fairly sharp
14mm @ f/8: Center
C.A.: Low
Softness: Sharp
42mm @ f/8: Upper right
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Fairly sharp
42mm @ f/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp

Chromatic Aberration. With the aperture stopped down to f/8, chromatic aberration in the corners is still moderate at wide angle, and moderately low at telephoto.

Corner Softness. Corner sharpness improved at both wide angle and telephoto when stopped-down to f/8, though corners were still slightly soft, and sharpness improved in the center at full telephoto as well.

Vignetting. Vignetting also improves to the point of being negligible at f/8. Note that the Olympus E-PM2 does support Shading Compensation, however we did not test that feature.

Pretty good performance overall for an inexpensive zoom kit lens. Yes, chromatic aberration could be lower, but keep in mind that unlike Olympus PENs, most cameras suppress chromatic aberration in JPEGs these days.

 


Olympus E-PM2 Viewfinder

 

Viewfinder Test Results

Accuracy
Excellent accuracy from the LCD monitor.

50mm, LCD

The Olympus PEN E-PM2's LCD monitor proved very accurate in record mode, showing essentially 100% coverage with our Olympus Zuiko Digital 50mm f/2.0 low distortion prime. Excellent results here.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus PEN E-PM2 Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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