Olympus announces today the successor to their rangefinder-style E-P1. The E-P2 now carries the banner for Olympus's chic Micro Four Thirds "Digital Pen" series, boasting improved AF performance, new art filters, and an accessory port ready to accept the articulating EVF announced with the camera today. We've got our hands on a pre-production model, so read on for hands-on photos and video with the E-P2. You know the drill - the E-P2 that Olympus graciously loaned us for the past week is a pre-production unit without finalized firmware. We won't be able to analyze performance or post images from this camera. We did, however, manage to get a whole stack of comparison shots with the E-P1, and rest assured we'll be putting the E-P2 through its paces once we get a production-ready review unit. Second Generation Digital PenThe announcement of the E-P1 back in June raised the collective eyebrows of photo enthusiasts everywhere. The new "Digital Pen" promised a marriage of DSLR-quality images with the old-school style of Olympus's original half frame Pen cameras. Original Olympus Pen It carried a lot of expectations on its slim shoulders. Though Olympus's partner Panasonic had announced two Micro Four Thirds format cameras ahead of it, the E-P1 brought the new concept into focus. Small form factor (micro) met large sensor (four thirds). Style-wise, it was everything we wanted. It fell short on performance, though, with a sluggish AF system and disappointing noise levels at high ISO. Enter the E-P2, a new generation of Digital Pen that Olympus hopes will be mightier than the last one. Back in BlackFor round two, Olympus gives the previous model a black finish. It's not a matte black, so the body retains that nice brushed aluminum look of the previous generation. Aside from the color change, much has remained the same visually - and that's not a complaint. We loved the retro-yet-modern style of the E-P1. Keep in mind, also, that this successor comes less than six months after the debut of the first model, so a total redesign was not likely. In any case, we're happy to see the dashing good looks of the E-P1 revived in this generation. Other similarities include the 12.3 megapixel sensor, 3.0 inch 230k dot LCD, TruePic V image processor, and 720p HD video recording (now with full manual control over shutter and aperture). Shooting modes range from the very beginner-friendly Intelligent Auto and 19 scene modes up to full manual control. Like the E-P1, it skips the xD memory card format in favor of the ubiquitous SDHC format. Up on top of the camera body you'll notice a slight change to the hot shoe mount. This time, Olympus has added an accessory port (that notch behind the hot shoe) that has allowed them to develop a new electronic viewfinder for the E-P2. The VF-2 live view EVF will ship with the camera and is included in the kit price. It offers a 100% field of view and a 1440k dot resolution. Based on a week's worth of use, I can say it's a fantastic little tool. I found it to be very bright, sharp, and accurate. It's not an overstatement to say this is a vast improvement over the first viewfinder Olympus designed for the Digital Pen. Creative OptionsThe E-P2 brings back the six art filter shooting modes of the previous generation and adds two new modes to the mix: Diorama and Cross Process. Diorama mode manipulates depth of field, contrast and color to create an image with a miniaturized look. Cross Process mode will do just what it says - skew colors and contrast to create a stylized image with a slightly surreal look. Also new to the E-P2 in terms of processing is a feature called iEnhance. Available in any shooting mode, this feature is designed to better match the color we see with our own eyes to the colors captured by the camera. It's an interesting concept, and it's one that we'd like to try out in the field. Auto Focus TrackingNew to the E-P2 is an AF tracking mode. With C-AF+TR mode selected, the camera will lock on to a focus target and follow it through the frame. Our brief video demonstrates the new feature against the glitzy backdrop of our parking lot. <object width='486' height='412' classid='clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000' codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0"> <param name="name" value="flashObj" /> <param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" /> <param name="flashvars" value="@videoPlayer=48275035001&playerID=10177856001&domain=embed&" /> <param name="src" value="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9/10177856001?isVid=1&publisherID=1367663370" /><embed src="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9/10177856001?isVid=1&publisherID=1367663370" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width='486' height='412' flashvars="@videoPlayer=48275035001&playerID=10177856001&domain=embed&"></embed> </object> It seems that Olympus has made all the right moves with the E-P2 (unless you're holding out for a built-in flash). They've focused on bringing performance up to the same level as the competition while retaining the style and creative elements that were well-received in the E-P1. Pricing and availabilityThe E-P2 will be available in December with either the 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zuiko zoom lens or 17mm f2.8 Zuiko pancake lens. Both kits will include the EFV accessory and retail for $1099.99.