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Today, Olympus unveiled two entry-level Micro Four-Thirds cameras built with technologies from their top-of-the-line OM-D, making its highly-acclaimed image quality more affordable than ever. The redesigned Olympus PEN E-PM2 supersedes the PEN Mini as an extremely compact interchangeable lens camera with simple controls and becomes the new entry-level SLD. The refined Olympus PEN E-PL5 takes over from the PEN E-PL3 as the mid-range model while remaining very compact and providing slightly more direct controls.

The E-PM2 and E-PL5 share the same 16 megapixels LiveMOS sensor used by the OM-D E-M5 which is renowned as the highest quality Micro Four-Thirds camera to date. This high-speed sensor is paired with Olympus’ own TruePic VI image processing engine which allows for ultra-fast focusing speed using Contrast-Detection, something that has been eluding other SLD manufacturers. As a matter, Olympus is very confident in their ability to deliver ultra-fast and extremely accurate autofocus and they claim that on-sensor phase-detection is not needed.

Olympus PEN E-PL5

Like the OM-D, both new cameras have an ISO sensitivity range reaching 25600. They also feature built-in ultrasonic dust-reduction and image stabilization which compensates for camera shake along 3 axis: horizontal, vertical and yaw. Using fast mechanical shutters and a first-curtain electronic shutter, these camera can also shoot full-resolution images continuously at 8 FPS.

Olympus PEN E-PM2

These Micro Four-Thirds camera have a 3″ Touchscreen LCD with 460K pixels with  anti-fingerprint coating to minimize smudges. The touchscreen feature allows to quickly capture an image with focus set exactly where the display was touched. The E-PL5, being the bigger one of the two, can tilt its LCD upwards 170° to take self-portrait shots. The hinge used to enable this feature feels very solid with no flex and is much more durable than typical rotating displays. Additionally, the E-PL5 has a changeable grips.

Olympus PEN E-PL5

The E-PL5 features a dedicated mode-dial, barely visible at the top of the above image, a single control-dial surrounding the 4-way controller and magnification buttons to assist with manual focus. The side of the supplied-but-removable grip is also visible above on the right.

Olympus PEN E-PM2

The E-PM2 is the more compact and basic model with a single control-dial but no mode-dial. Changing most settings, including the exposure-mode,  require use of the menu system which as been redesigned to make simplify touchscreen navigation. The E-PM2 should therefore be more appealing to point-and-shoot users who prefer smaller cameras and rarely make use of photographic controls.

With these new additions, it is clear that Olympus is determined to deliver the same high image quality to all levels of photographers. They are also ensuring that all their Micro Four-Thirds cameras focus quick enough to capture fleeting moments. This leaves the cameras nicely segmented by the amount of controls and advanced features they offer. After all, a high percentage of buyers simply want higher image quality and faster speeds compared to their point-and-shoot cameras.

The Olympus PEN E-PL5 is scheduled to be available in October for $649 USD or $699 with a kit 14-42mm II R F/3.5-5.6 lens. The Olympus PEN E-PM2 is also scheduled for October but for $549 USD or $599 with the same 14-42mm kit lens.

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