Olympus shrinks the OM-D to size with the E-PM2, E-PL5

If there’s one camera we fell in love with this year, it was the Olympus OM-D E-M5, a modern camera with a vintage look. Today, the company is making an announcement at Photokina in Germany, where it’s transplanting much of the technology found inside the OM-D and throwing it inside a couple of smaller bodies.

Two cameras have been announced from Olympus, pairing the 16 megapixel Olympus LiveMOS sensor found in the EM-5 with a smaller camera footprint, occupying far less space in the Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5 and Olympus Pen Mini E-PM2 cameras.

The Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5, with a tilting screen that comes all the way up at the front.

Both bodies feature that lovely sensor we saw when we checked out the OM-D this year, and also include the same TruePic VI image processor for colour quality, as well as the insanely quick “Fast-AF” speedy focus technology, making these cameras smaller versions of the OM-D.

Touch functionality is becoming something of a constant for Olympus, as each camera features a 3 inch capacitive touchscreen LCD, allowing you to touch precisely where you want the camera to focus and fire, and have it performed instantly.

The standard way of shooting is still on offer in each of the cameras here, with a proper physical button-based shutter on the top of each camera, just in case the whole “touch shutter” thing isn’t for you.

Does this look like the Pen Lite E-PL5? Well, this is the Pen Mini 2, or E-PM2, a lighter and less expensive version with a couple of different features.

Full HD video is supported in both bodies too, as well as in-body lens stabilisations, 8 frames per second shooting, low-light sensitivity with ISO up to 25600, and 12 creative art filters that can be layered for even more control. Film buffs will be interested to know that the grain in these artistic film modes have actually been scanned in from real film, making the detail more floral and real, so to speak.

If it sounds like the cameras are very similar, you may be wondering why there are two specific models outside of the vintage looking EM-5.

While they’re similar, they still suit different groups of people, with a few obvious differences.

The Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5 is the top end model (above), and as a result features a removable grip, a control wheel, and an LCD that can tilt so far that it can be seen above the camera when viewed from the front, essentially making it easier to take self portraits.

In fact, self-portraits are even suggested on the E-PL5, with a mode on the E-PL5 acting like a photo booth and taking photos on a timer.

Slightly below this is the Olympus Pen Mini E-PM2 (below), which ditches the tilting screen and control wheel and simplifies things considerably, keeping everything else fast and strong in colour.

Neither camera features a built-in camera, but each will arrives with an external camera in the box that can be plugged into the top’s hot-shoe mount and plug port, normally covered up by a rubber port. This is the same spot where you can plug in a electronic viewfinder, though both can’t be used at once.

The pricing looks very good for each, with the Pen Lite E-PL5 arriving for $799 with a lens later this year, while the Pen Mini E-PM2 will come in for $599 with the lens.

Both felt great in the hands from our short play with pre-production units, and the touchscreen autofocus and firing was insanely fast. Sadly, we don’t have any shots to share, but it shouldn’t be too longer before Olympus lets us play with a proper production model for review.

Meanwhile, Olympus is also expanding its range of Micro Four Thirds lenses with three new entries, increasing the range for these cameras, as well as the ones already released by the brand and Panasonic, too.

The 60mm macro lens from Olympus

One thing we haven’t seen yet from the company is a Micro Four Thirds macro lens, and that’s changing with a 60mm f/2.8 lens coming from the company, providing an equivalent of 120mm in the 35mm space.

Olympus has said that the lens uses its fast drive system for high-speed focusing, and features the Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical coating (ZERO) to reduce flare and increase contrast, making this a reasonably professional lens for the company.

A low-light lens is also coming, with a 17mm f/1.8 built with a metal exterior, the high-speed focus system, and a rough equivalent 35mm focal length.

Finally, there’s a special lens coming, and by special, we actually mean “this lens will appeal to the retro photographers and those who have a love affair with Instagram.”

A professional-grade 17mm f/1.8 from Olympus.

The new lens is the Olympus 15mm f/8.0 body cap lens and reminds us of the sort of technology one would see on a cheap Holga or Woca camera from the Lomo style of photography.

A small lever onthe body cap lens jumps between closed, manual, and infinity, making it a very limited lens for most people, but a very fun lens for those in love with older fixed-lens photography.

Olympus told us that this lens shouldn’t cost much at all, with pricing under a hundred dollars likely. With current plastic film cameras like the Holga grabbing pricetags in excess of $120, this could be a popular option for shooters keen to skip the now high-priced retro photographic scene.