Monday 18 December 2017

Digital Life: A camera fit for a shutterbug's pocket

Olympus PEN E-P2, €1,100

Way back in 1959, Olympus brought us one of the first high-quality cameras small enough to fit in a pocket. They called it the PEN because it was as portable as a biro.

Fifty years later and Olympus has revived the brand for a digital world. The PEN E-P2 aims squarely at amateurs looking for pro quality in a compact package. It uses the Micro Four-Thirds system of interchangeable lenses created by Olympus and Panasonic.

The E-P2 is not small, but at roughly half the size of professional SLR, it would fit into a large coat pocket, even with its 14-42mm lens attached.

As the model name suggests, this is the second digital PEN from Olympus, the E-P1 having impressed but also disappointed shutterbugs.

The E-P2 shares the retro styling and eye-popping photo quality but now includes a detachable electronic viewfinder and goes some way to rectifying the horribly slow focus that crippled the E-P1.

Olympus has more work to do elsewhere. The E-P2 lacks a flash and, though you can buy one as an accessory, it can't be used at the same time as the battery-sapping viewfinder because they plug into the same socket.

The big killer, though, is the price. At roughly €1,100, the EP-2 butts up against seriously pro cameras while rivals such as Panasonic's Lumix GF1 cost hundreds less.

Sony Ericsson Vivaz, available on Three from next month, price TBA

Could Sony Ericsson's Vivaz mobile be the equivalent of a model girlfriend? Pretty but imperfect and a bit dizzy when viewed up close.

The curvy frame certainly makes a great first impression, but pick it up and the plasticky finish dispels some of the lustre.

Sony Ericsson doesn't have a good track record with touchscreens and the Vivaz won't alter that. The small-ish screen requires deliberate pressure to select items, which is fine for the big icons at the top level of the menus. But drill down and hitting the right spot becomes a lottery.

Overall the touchscreen interface is a letdown, requiring a stylus but, bizarrely, providing nowhere to store it.

On the plus side, Sony Ericsson includes a standard headphone jack so that for music and video, the Vivaz isn't a bad choice. The 8MP camera even captures fairly high-res video at decent quality, plus you can't argue with WiFi and FM radio.

Admittedly, when it goes on sale next month, this won't be priced like a smartphone. The Vivaz has got the basics covered but don't expect usable web browsing or email.

Irish Independent

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