The Micro Four Thirds market is set to boom this year. For those looking for a smaller, lighter compromise to a DSLR, but without having to compromise on image quality, it's an ideal choice.
For those new to the market, or for a more seasoned photographer weighing up the options, here we pit Panasonic's GF1 and Olympus's E-P2 in a close-matched head to head. But which one reigns as true champion and why?
Panasonic GF1 vs Olympus E-P2 review - Features
From the outset there's not a huge margin to separate these two cameras. Both are small and light, have dust reduction, full manual control as well as scene modes and Intelligent Auto to auto-recognise the scene at hand and provide the best results whatever the conditions. Both are dressed in black - no white version this time like the previous incarnation of the E-P series; the E-P1 - and have the very same Micro Four Thirds lens fitting. As such it's possible to exchange lenses between the two cameras - ideal if you own the Olympus but fancy one of the Panasonic lenses or vice versa. Unlike the E-P1, the E-P2 now has an added accessory port to the rear for the fitting of the VF-2 viewfinder, otherwise it's very much business as usual bar some minor tweaks to some modes.
There are a couple of separating factors on both sides however: The Olympus E-P2 has in-camera Image Stabilisation, whereas the Panasonic only provides lens-based stabilisation in some lenses. On the flip side the Panasonic GF1 can proclaim to be the smallest and lightest interchangeable system camera on the market, and yet the Olympus is only a mere 50g heavier at 335g. The LCD screens are both 3in, though the Olympus's ratio is ever so slightly less widescreen, adds a few extra millimetres of real estate in height. It's the screen resolutions that do differ however, with the Panasonic offering 460K-dots to the Olympus's 230K-dots.
So far, so similar, but when push comes to shove, how do they compare in actual use?
Panasonic GF1 vs Olympus E-P2 review - Design
Despite the GF1's smaller stature, the E-P2 still holds the winning look in the style department. Although an all-black offering on this occasion, unlike the attractive white-finish of the original E-P1, it still retains that edge. Perhaps it's a little bit je ne sais quoi, but the brushed metal body with silver-finish and subtle curve is an aesthetic pleasure indeed.
However, from looks to internal control and things shift the other way a little. The GF1, with its one-touch movie button, on/off switch and slightly better layout of buttons and menus just pips it past the E-P2. Furthermore the very presence of a pop-up flash is something that the Olympus currently lacks - yes, it's possible to buy a hotshoe flash, but then there's nowhere left to attach the electronic viewfinder or other accessories.
Both the camera's layouts are otherwise fairly similar, although the GF1 has a one-touch movie mode button, a drive mode switch around the mode dial (which the E-P2 wastefully places on the d-pad), which frees up a space for a very useful Fn (Function) button too. Although the E-P2 does have a rotational d-pad wheel that's nice in use, it can add to the complexity of clicking and shuffling between menus on occasion.