Olympus e-pl2

Olympus's Micro Four Thirds standard compact system camera is a bit of a dark horse when it comes to video - perhaps because the majority of its movie controls are tucked away in a sub menu of another menu.

But if you do dig in those menus, the E-PL2 quickly reveals that it can shoot movies in a point-and-shoot fashion yet also offers full user-defined manual control. Aperture, shutter, ISO and exposure compensation values can be adjusted as you please, but, in all cases, only prior to capture taking place. This means you can create those more intricately exposed shots should you care to spend the time experimenting.

One other trump card the E-PL2 has is its swift autofocus system that gleefully glides between one subject and another using the continuous autofocus system. At any time you can use a half depression of the camera's shutter to engage a single autofocus override too, though this does cause slight over- and under-focusing (but it's very quick to resolve focus).

The main qualm with the E-PL2's control is that, despite plenty of focus-point control for stills shooting, the camera's movie mode dictates what's going to be focused on. It's not possible to be more specific and tell the camera to focus on the left-most autofocus point position of the screen, for example.

y

Manual focus can also be employed but, again, there's a lack of thought here: without the ability to zoom into the image shown on screen it's nigh on impossible to fine tune the focus with accuracy (fortunately the autofocus is good, so manual focus is unlikely to be at the top of your list).

Performance

Despite its good points the thorn in the E-PL2's side is the format it records in: while the 720p, 30fps specification looks good on paper, the chosen Motion-JPEG format, which is like a series of compressed still images reeled through in quick succession, looks over-compressed and lacks finer details even when recording in good light.

Movies are rendered as AVI files but the format is large at around 260MB per minute. Big files, low quality - a bit of a let down, really.

Although there's no conventional 2.5 or 3.5mm microphone port, there is an optional microphone accessory that can connect via the E-PL2's Accessory Port. This is the only way to capture stereo sound, as the microphone built into the camera's body is mono only (an oddity, we know), though audio is of good quality despite this single channel format.

Olympus E-PL2 video spec

Approx street price: £470 with 14-42mm kit lens
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds sensor (2x magnification)
Resolution: 720p capture (1280x720px) maximum resolution
Frame rate: 30fps
Compression: 1/12 video compression (for HD)
File format: Stereo PCM 16bit 44.1kHz Wave Format Base audio (however: internal mic is mono only) and AVI (Motion JPEG)
Exposure modes: Programme, Aperture Priority, Manual and Art Modes 1-6
Connectivity: HDMI-C and mini-USB AV out ports