Hands-On Review: The Olympus E-P5
Did you ever look at a camera and say, “Wow, this thing can do everything!”? My first impression of the Olympus PEN E-P5 Mirrorless Digital Camera was a bit like that; there are so many functions and customizable options, I was concerned that I would get lost in the possibilities. However, as soon as I attached the lens and rattled off 9 frames per second with just a tap on the LCD, I was taken by this handsome and high-performance camera that follows in the footsteps of the previous PEN mirrorless digital cameras, including its predecessor, the E-P3 and its larger, weather-sealed stablemate, the OM-D E-M5. Really getting to know a camera, especially a fully loaded, customizable digital is a long-term project and I am glad I had the opportunity to test the E-P5 not only because it can do so many things, but because it can do them so well.
In terms of form, the camera looks and feels great. It is compact, as befitting its Micro Four Thirds format, but not so compact as to be difficult to handle. It is solid but not overly heavy—you can almost feel how well it is made simply by holding its aluminum-alloy chassis. I had many people ask me about the vintage rangefinder I was using, only to be wowed when I flipped up the LCD and told them it was a brand-new mirrorless camera.
An ergonomic rubber thumb grip on the rear plate really gives you a place to hold onto and lets your fingertip rest right on top of the shutter button. On the E-P3 there was no such thumb grip; instead, there was a vertical rolling control dial which has been replaced by a horizontal dial and made more accessible to the thumb. The E-P5 also has a two-position lever just below this dial that allows you to change what the control dials adjust. Called a 2 x 2 Dial Control, it’s a kind of quick customizer for the two main dials. If you are shooting manually and want to use the dials to control aperture and shutter speed, or in Program Auto and want to adjust ISO and White balance, you can customize to accommodate. A menu item allows you several combinations of customized settings, expediting you through a range of functions.
In general, the dials are smooth. They are easy to adjust with just your thumb, having no big clicks but clearly recognized detents. The buttons are nicely responsive and a four-way controller gives you quick access to important settings like continuous shooting rate, exposure compensation, and flash. Under the 2-way lever is a magnification button, which helps you find critical focus and zoom in on your image in playback. Navigating through the menu was intuitive and allowed me to get to image size, format, and ratio right away and explore the deeper features and art filters that the camera provides.
The 3.0-inch LCD monitor is bright and offers color-accurate playback and composition viewing. It tilts up 80° and down 50° but does not articulate to the side for complete range of motion. When composing with an LCD monitor I like to shoot at belly level and with the E-P5, the monitor extends straight back, not to the side, which was a bit uncomfortable when I kept it open. Also, not being able swing out, the LCD is limited when shooting vertically as you are not able to tilt it up or down for composing odd-angle shots. The hinged mechanism for the LCD’s movement has to flip up and out to get full extension; however, it stood up to my hard use, showed no sign of weakness, and is certainly an improvement over the E-P3, whose LCD did not move at all.
In terms of performance, this camera is top notch. Yes, it is a Micro Four Thirds with its relatively small sensor (17.3 x 13mm), but with 16.1 effective megapixels; fast focus, shutter, and burst speed; in-camera 5-axis Image Stabilization; and an ISO that ranges to 25600; there is very little it cannot do. When shooting in low light, the 5-way in-camera image stabilizer performed as advertised, producing sharp images at slow shutter speeds while correcting vertical and horizontal camera shifts in addition to pitch, yaw, and roll motion. Other IS modes are available to concentrate their effectiveness when panning and/or to apply IS to the image on the LCD and viewfinder. High-ranging ISO turned darkness into light, as I was able to shoot clear handheld images in even the darkest settings. Noise was not noticeable at all on the LCD screen until I got to ISO 1600 and then it was very mild. Of course, it increased as I went up the ladder, but it was never out of hand and the low-light capture that ISO 25600 can offer is really incredible
Speed was never a problem for this camera. Autofocus was quick and locked-on, rarely hunting for focus and, with two settings for continuous shooting, I could rattle off up to 4 fps at slow speeds or up to 9 fps in high-speed-continuous mode. Combining high-speed-continuous shooting with Tracking autofocus and Image Stabilization for Panning, I could capture some great shots of horses speeding by me at the Belmont Stakes. The E-P5 offers shutter speeds up to 1/8000 second for freezing action and it was very effective when I photographed children playing in a water fountain with drops of water suspended in mid-air and the faces of the kids caught in a playful scream or smile.
The LCD monitor on the E-P5 provides touch control of focus, shutter, menu, and playback options and I found the focus control to be particularly adept. The camera’s AF system has 35 separate focus areas spreading corner to corner throughout the image area and you can set the LCD monitor to display that grid pattern. With the grid pattern showing on the LCD, I could touch any square within the image area and focus would land there instantaneously. I tested this while shooting through a chain-link fence and was impressed with how fast and accurate the AF was, achieving focus on objects just through the fence, in the far distance and even right on the fence itself with just a quick tap on the monitor. Focus areas can also be arranged to suit your subject and can be larger 3 x 3 groupings or a small spot-focus point.
Seeing Focus Peaking on the E-P5 was a pleasant surprise and it is a significant upgrade. Focus peaking is a focus assist option not offered on the E-P3 and something I found very effective when using the LCD Live View. Magnified focus assist is also available and I found that more useful when shooting on a tripod with a stationary subject.
The built-in flash unit on the E-P5 was nice, its range is 23’ (GN7/ISO 100) and in TTL auto mode it gave adequate fill and performed well in back-lit situations. It has a simple button on the camera’s rear plate to spring it, and it opened like an attentive jack-in-the-box and closed with a solid click. It cannot be maneuvered to bounce its light from a ceiling, but it does offer commander mode to control off-camera flashes in 4 groups (3 off-camera) and with 4 channels. The shutter on the E-P5 can sync with the built-in flash up to a maximum speed of 1/320 second. A hot-shoe mount is provided for compatible flash units as well as viewfinders, mics, and other accessories.
Speaking of viewfinders, the model I had came with the VF-4, which slides into the hot shoe smoothly and can tilt up 90° for tripod use. For a person who generally does not like electronic viewfinders, this one was great. Image details and colors were accurate and it did not feel like staring into a tiny TV with one eye. Its lag time was minimal enough as to not really be noticed and adjustment information was quite visible. It has a very responsive auto eye sensor; the moment you put your eye to it, the LCD switches off and the EVF illuminates. One thing to keep in mind if you already own one, is that both the VF-2 and VF-3 electronic viewfinders are compatible with the E-P5.
Full HD 1080 video is supported by the E-P5 and while I’m not sure if this camera would be the first choice for someone shooting pro video, it certainly was impressive in the basic steps through which I put it. At one point during a dimly lit concert, I set it to auto-everything and held it high above the crowd. With a lot going against it—dim lighting punctuated by an errant spotlight blast, gyrating crowd, and loud music—the images (and stereo sound) captured by the E-P5 were very impressive. Also, its Micro HD port provided an easy connection to see the accurate focus and sharp resolution on an HDTV.
The E-P5 has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which was easy to set up and utilize. In fact, after a simple tap on the Wi-Fi icon on the LCD, I was offered a QR code to photograph and link with my iPhone. To utilize Wi-Fi functions, the Olympus OI. Share Smartphone app must be installed and, with this done, I could select and transfer images to my phone and also use the phone as a remote. The degree of functionality is basic, as all remote shooting is done in iAuto mode.
The camera I tested came with the M.ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/1.8 lens, which is a compact, all-metal lens that matched the aesthetic of the camera perfectly. Its fast f/1.8 maximum aperture provided opportunities for shallow-depth-of-field portraiture and, combined with the camera’s built-in stabilization and high ISO, made low-light shooting incredibly effective. As an MSC lens, (Movie and Still Compatible) its autofocus was truly silent when focusing. Manual focus is engaged, complete with distance scale, by pulling back a ring on the barrel. The lens's 35mm equivalent focal length is 34mm. The Micro Four Thirds format in general, and Olympus itself, offers a generous range of lenses and focal lengths.
In both stills mode and HD video, color was always spot-on, never overblown. In natural color mode I was impressed with the varying greens of a forest path on a cloudy day. When shooting with art filters, the soft focus, grainy black-and-white and miniature effect were favorites. As I mentioned at the beginning, this camera can do almost everything and I tried all of its capabilities, from interval shooting and bulb mode to multi-exposure, HDR bracketing and Photo Story, which puts together a customizable mini-photo essay. All worked as they should and made me realize how advanced—as embodied by the Olympus E-P5—a mirrorless camera can be and still take great photos.
Click on image at upper left to view slideshow.
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|Camera Type||Micro Four Thirds interchangeable-lens system camera|
|Memory||SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I compatible & Eye-Fi Card compatible)|
|Screen Size||17.3mm (H) x 13.0mm (V)|
|Lens Mount||Micro Four Thirds|
|Sensor||4/3 Live MOS Sensor|
|Recording Format||DCF, DPOF compatible / Exif, PRINT Image Matching III, MPO compatible|
|File Format||RAW (12-bit lossless compression), JPEG, RAW+JPEG, MPO (3D still)|
|RAW Recording Image Size||4608 x 3456 pixels|
|JPEG Recording Image Size||4608 x 3456 pixels - 640 x 480 pixels|
|File Size||RAW: 4608 x3456 - 1/1.5 lossless compressed (17MB)
Set1(LF): 4608 x 3456 - 1/4 compressed (7.5MB)
Set2(LN): 4608 x 3456 - 1/8 compressed (3.5MB)
Set3(MN): 2560 x 1920 - 1/8 compressed (1.1MB)
|Image Stabilization Type||5-axis image stabilization (yaw/pitch/vertical shift/horizontal shift/roll) image sensor shift type for movie & stills|
|Image Stabilization Mode||4 modes (S-I.S.AUTO, S-I.S.1, S-I.S.2, S-I.S.3, OFF)|
|IS for Live View Image||Available by half-pressing the shutter button or enlarging operation|
|Manual Input Focal Length Settings||8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 18, 24, 28, 30, 35, 40, 48, 50, 55, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 100, 105, 120, 135, 150, 180, 200, 210, 250, 300, 350, 400, 500, 600, 800, 1000|
|Shutter Type||Computerized focal-plane shutter|
|Shutter Speed||60 - 1/8000 sec.|
|Live View||100% field of view, Exposure compensation, WB adjustment Gradation auto and Face detection preview (up to 8 faces), Grid line, Histogram, Magnification display (x5/x7/x10/x14)|
|Display Modes||Normal, Histogram, Highlight and Shadow, Level Guide, OFF|
|Monitor Type||3" (7.6cm) 1037K dots (3:2) with electrostatic capacitance touch panel|
|Tilting Angle||Up to 80° (upward) / Up to 50° (downward)|
|Brightness / Color Temperature Control||±7 levels / ±7 levels|
|Color Tone Select||Vivid / Natural|
|AF System||High-speed imager AF (full-time AF available)|
|Focus Mode||Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / AF tracking (C-AF + TR)|
|Magnified Frame AF||Selectable from over 800 AF points
Magnification x5, x7, x10 (default), x14 (selectable)
Super Spot AF (0.02 - 0.16% in view image)
|Eye Detection AF Mode||OFF / Nearer-eye priority / Right-eye priority / Left-eye priority|
|Focusing Point||35-area multiple AF|
|Metering System (TTL Image Sensor Metering)||Digital ESP metering (324-area multi pattern metering), Center weighted average metering, Spot metering, Spot metering with highlight control, Spot metering with shadow control|
|Metering Range||EV 0 - 20 (at normal temperature, 17mm f/2.8, ISO 100)|
|Exposure Modes||i Auto, P: Program AE (program shift can be performed), A: Aperture priority AE, S: Shutter priority AE, M: Manual, Bulb, Time, Scene Select AE, Art Filter, Underwater Wide / Macro, My Set|
|Scene Select AE||Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Sport, Night, Night + Portrait, Children, High Key, Low Key, DIS mode, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Fisheye Conv., Wide Conv., Macro Conv.|
|ISO Sensitivity||AUTO ISO: 100 - 25600 (customizable, default: 100 - 1600)
Manual ISO: 100, 200 - 25600, 1/3 or 1 EV steps selectable
|Exposure Compensation||±3 EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps selectable|
|AE Lock||Locks at 1st release of shutter button (can be set to Fn/Rec button)|
|Flash Method||TTL Auto, Auto, Manual, Super FP1 (FP-TTL AUTO, FP-MANUAL)|
|Flash Control||Up to ±3 EV in 0.3, 0.5, 1 EV steps selectable|
|Built-in Flash||TTL Flash, GN=7 (ISO 100) / GN=10 (ISO 200)|
|Flash Modes||Flash Auto, Redeye, Fill-in, Flash Off, Red-eye Slow sync.(1st curtain), Slow sync.(1st curtain), Slow sync.(2nd curtain), Manual (1/1 - 1/64)|
|Sync Speed||1/320 sec. (built-in flash)
1/250 sec. (external flash)
Super FP: 1/125 - 1/4000 sec.
|Wireless Flash Control||Triggered and controlled by built-in flash (Olympus Wireless RC Flash system compatible)|
|External Flash Type||TTL Auto, Auto, Manual, FP-TTL-AUTO, FP-MANUAL|
|Wireless Flash Control Channels||4|
|Group Number||4 groups (external flash 3 groups + built-in flash)|
|Sequential Shooting Max. Speed||9 fps (H mode), 4.5 - 5 fps (L mode)|
|Max. Recordable Images on Sequential Shooting||RAW: 20 frames (L), 15 frames (H) / JPEG: 70 frames (L), 19 frames (H)|
|Self-Timer||12 sec., 2 sec., custom 1-30 sec. (shooting interval 0.5/1/2/3 sec., 1-10 shots)|
|Exposure Bracketing||2, 3, 5 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1.0 EV steps selectable / 7 frames in 0.3, 0.7 EV steps selectable|
|ISO Bracketing||3 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1.0 EV steps selectable|
|White Balance Bracketing||3 frames in 2, 4, 6 steps selectable in each A-B/G-M axis|
|Flash Bracketing||3 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1.0 EV steps selectable|
|Art Filter Bracketing||i-Enhance, Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone, Custom, Art Filters selectable|
|Bracketing for HDR post process||3, 5 frames in 2.0, 3.0 EV steps selectable / 7 frames in 2.0 EV steps selectable|
|Movie Recording Format||MOV (MPEG-4AVC/H.264) , AVI (Motion JPEG)|
|Movie Mode (MOV)||Full HD 1920 x 1080/30p at 20 or 17 Mbps (16:9); HD 1280 x 720/30p at 13 or 10 Mbps (16:9)|
|Movie Mode (AVI)||HD 1280 x 720 at 30 fps (16:9); SD 640 x 480 at 30 fps (4:3)|
|Max. Recording Time (MOV)||Full HD: 22 - 29 min. / HD: 29 min.|
|Max. Recording Time (AVI)||HD: 7 min. / SD: 14 min.|
|Image Stabilization (Movie Mode)||M-IS (image sensor shift), OFF|
|Exposure Control (Movie Mode)||P: Program AE, A: Aperture priority AE, S: Shutter speed priority AE, M: Manual, Art Filter|
|Compression Ratio||M-JPEG: 1/12 (HD), 1/8 (SD)|
|File Size||MOV: 4GB max / M-JPEG: 2GB max|
|Audio Recording Format||WAV (stereo linear PCM/16-bit, 48kHz)|
|Microphone / Speaker||Stereo / Mono|
|Max. Audio Recording Time||Picture with Sound: 30 sec.|
|White Balance Modes||Auto, 7 Preset, 2 Capture, Custom (K setting)|
|White Balance Compensation||±7 steps in each A-B/G-M axis|
|Preset White Balance||Sunny (5300K), Shadow (7500K), Cloudy (6000K), Incandescent (3000K), Fluorescent (4000K), Underwater, WB Flash (5500K)|
|Color Matrix||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Time-Lapse||1 sec. - 24 hr (99 frames max)|
|Multi-Exposure||2 frames / auto gain, exposing on recorded picture (RAW)|
|Multi-Aspect Ratio||4:3 (default), 3:2, 16:9, 1:1, 3:4|
|Level Gauge Detection||2-axis|
|One Push Tele-Converter Magnification||x2|
|GPS||Available by using smartphone GPS data|
|Wireless Shooting||Live View, Rec View, Wireless Touch AF shutter, Power OFF|
|Image Sharing||JPEG/MOV (connect up to 4 devices simultaneously)|
|QR Code Setting||Yes|
|Playback Modes||Single-frame, Information display, Index display (4/9/25/100 frames), Calendar, Enlargement (2x - 14x), Movie (with sound, FF/REW/Pause), Picture rotation (auto), Slideshow (with sound including BGM, 2 selectable slide show effects, replaceable BGM), Light Box display|
|Information Display||Histogram (independent luminance / RGB available), Highlight/Shadow point warning, AF frame, Photographic information, OFF|
|Menu Languages||English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croat, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Slovakian, Turkish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, Indonesian, Malay, Thai|
|Print Function||Print reservation (DPOF), Direct print (PictBridge compatible)|
|Interfaces||USB 2.0, Micro-HDMI (Type-D), Hot Shoe, Accessory Port (multi-connector), Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)|
|Battery Type||BLN Li-Ion (included)|
|Sleep Mode||1/3/5 min.|
|Battery Life||330 shots (CIPA)|
|Operating Temperature / Humidity||32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C) / 30 - 90%|
|Storage Temperature / Humidity||-4 to 140°F (-20 to 60°C) / 10 - 90%|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||4.81 x 2.71 x 1.46" (122 x 69 x 37mm)|
|Weight (Body Only)||13.3 oz (378 g)|
|Weight with Battery & Memory Card||14.8 oz (420 g)|