updated 01:55 am EST, Thu January 6, 2011
Olympus aims at prosumers with E-PL2 and XZ-1
Olympus took an aggressive turn at CES tonight and rolled out several new cameras headlined by two cameras for dedicated amateurs. The E-PL2 updates its entry mirrorless interchangeable camera with a better sensor that can handle ISO 6,400 sensitivity. In-body image stabilization and a new lens help as well: the new 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens is badged as Movie and Still Compatible and will quietly autofocus to avoid hurting a movie or giving away the photographer in a quiet photo shoot.
Hands-on usability gets a lift as well with an LCD doubled in resolution and a body that's been redesigned for better grip and more natural button placement. The design rounds out with an enhanced eight-person face detection system and a live preview of visual effects for movies and stills.
Accessories play an important role as well. The previously leaked PenPal can store as many as 2,600 photos and share them over Bluetooth to smartphones as well as to computers or to other E-PL2s. A new spotlight accessory, the Macro Arm Light, helps illuminate subjects up close without having to use an elaborate bounce flash.
Olympus plans a quick ship for the E-PL2 and will have it in stores this month for $600 in a kit with the 14-42mm MSC lens.
The camera maker's second launch chases directly after the audience for wide aperture cameras created by the Canon S90 series and the Panasonic LX line. Carrying a similar 10-megapixel sensor, the XZ-1 has an extremely wide 4X, f1.8-2.5 lens that can take relatively bright photos even at its maximum range. Olympus claims a color accurate sensor and builds in both a pop-up flash and a hot shoe to give experienced photographers much more control over the final shot.
The XZ-1 builds in the art filters reserved for Olympus' interchangeable lens cameras but is otherwise more professional than most other compacts through a built-in adjustment ring and full manual control if necessary.
Olymus' compact flagship should arrive this month only slightly beloe the E-PL2 at $500.