At Photokina in Germany, we're getting a pretty good sense of what camera manufacturers have planned for the coming months. Olympus's tack appears unchanged as it announces some iterations on its popular Pen series of Micro Four Thirds cameras with the new E-PL5 and E-PM2, as well as a refresh of its popular Stylus XZ-1 flagship point-and-shoot with the XZ-2.

What happened to the E-PL4?

The E-PL5 is the sequel to the mid-range E-PL3 (the number four is bad luck in Japan) and feature-wise there are few changes from its predecessor. Outwardly, the biggest differences are the addition of a hand grip and improvements to the articulating LCD, which can now swivel 170 degrees upward to let users take self portraits, and adds touchscreen controls including a single-touch autofocus and shutter. Inside, the same 16.1-megapixel sensor and TruePic VI image processing engine from the well-regarded OM-D E-M5 combine to give you an increased dynamic range and maximum ISO of 25,600 — one stop higher than the 12,800 maximum setting on the E-PL3.

The E-PM2 is the successor to the entry-level E-PM1, and aside from the same improved sensor and image processing found in the E-PL5, it's largely unchanged, save for a new hand grip. Look closely, however, and new touchscreen controls give the E-PM2 the same tap-to-shoot shutter found in the company's more expensive Micro Four Thirds cameras.


Olympus is also readying some new lenses to release alongside the improved bodies. The first is a 60-millimeter f/2.8 macro (120 millimeter equivalent) for $499.99. A dust- and splash-proof exterior houses 13 lens elements in 10 groups, and a three-setting focus limiting switch helps you quickly lock onto your subject when using autofocus. The second new lens is a limited edition (i.e., expensive) black version of its 12-millimeter (24 millimeter equivalent) f/2.0 wide angle prime for $1099.99. Both lenses will be available in early October, and Olympus is working on a fast 17-millimeter (35 millimeter equivalent) f/1.8 lens for the first half of 2013, as well.

The multi-function control wheel gets more customizable

Lastly, the company is unveiling an update to its Stylus XZ series of high-end compact cameras with the XZ-2. The new shooter inherits the same f/1.8-2.5 28- to 112-millimeter equivalent lens of the XZ-1, but adds a new manual control ring that lets you switch between zoom, manual focus, and exposure-related settings — along the lines of the ring on Sony's RX100. The interesting distinction is that the wheel can now be switched on the fly between "smooth" analog and "clicky" digital, giving the user some extra freedom with control configurations. Olympus is also giving the XZ-2 a new tilting touchscreen (with the same Touch AF Shutter mentioned above), adding a removable hand grip (of course), and including the TruePic VI image processing engine and a new 12-megapixel sensor with a maximum ISO of 12,800.

The updated cameras feel nice, but not overly impressive or new. Reps from Olympus tell us the company knows it's on the right track with its lineup, and the refresh is just about refining what it has. The E-PL5 and E-PM2 will both be available in October for $649.99 and $549.99, respectively, while the compact Stylus XZ-2 will be coming a month later for $599.99.