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Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Compacts
Hands-On: Olympus Pen E-P5
About The Author

Mason Resnick is the editor of the Adorama Learning Center and a lifetime photography enthusiast.

DSLR performance in Mirrorless Compact Digital Camera

Wi-Fi, 16MP sensor, tons of new features, a refreshed look and solid feel define Olympus’s new flagship digital Pen. We get our hands on a preproduction model.


 

 

When Olympus introduced the Pen E-P1 back in 2009, they brought their half-century of experience designing small, high-quality cameras into the digital era in a big way. The Olympus Pen E-P5, introduced today, is the fourth incarnation of Olympus’s flagship MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Compact digital camera). While the line has branched off to include simple models for snapshooters, mid-range priced models for more serious photographers, and a mirrorless, digital revival of the fabled Olympus OM SLR, the E-P has always been the flagship. The  Olympus E-P5, available for pre-order now at Adorama, promises DSLR performance in a tiny package.


Note: The Olympus Pen E-P5 can be pre-ordered from Adorama now. Follow the links on the right side of this page to order. Orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis. Credit cards will not be charged until orders ship.




Olympus Pen E-P5 Key Features:

 

  • 16MP Four Thirds sensor
  • Customizable Dual control dials
  • Hot shoe accommodates separate EVF
  • First MILC with 1/8000 sec fastest shutter speed
  • Burst rate up to 9fps
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Remote app-based camera control via smart phone/tablet
  • 3-inch, Flip-out 1.04 million dot resolution touchscreen with fingerprint-resistant coating
  • Claims DSLR-speed AF
  • Focus peaking
  • 12 art filters that can be combined
  • Intervalometer
  • Live bulb mode

 

Video Overview of the Olympus Pen E-P5

Join Diane Wallace as she talks you through the E-P5's key features in this exclusive AdoramaTV video!

 

As with all other Olympus MILCs, the Olympus Pen E-P5 is based on the Micro Four Thirds lensmount, and the Four Thirds format sensor. The Olympus Pen E-P5 shares the same 16MP sensor as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, which was introduced to rave reviews last year, and its designed has been tweaked to more closely reflect design elements from the original film Olympus Pen F, which was sold through the ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Olympus Pen F

 

Look familiar? The Olympus Pen E-P5 shares design elements with the original 35mm half-frame Olympus Pen F. You can occasionally find this model available for sale from the Adorama Used department. (Photo ©Hanabi123/Wikimedia Creative Commons)


But the
Olympus Pen E-P5’s headline features go well beyond cosmetic changes. These include a significant performance boost that Olympus claims puts the E-P5 on par with many enthusiast-level DSLRs, new dials and controls, the first Pen with built-in Wi-Fi and smart phone/tablet remote operation, and a bevvy of cool creative functions. I had an opportunity to briefly handle a pre-production version of the camera. Let’s take a closer look at this little camera, and see if it is poised to make a big impression.

Pen E-P5 top

In the hands

The
Olympus Pen E-P5 is the largest of the Pen line, but is still smaller than a DSLR and would certainly not be considered hefty. It’s a small camera, considering its extensive features and abilities. It has an all-metal construction with a solid feel, with a well-contoured, built-in hand grip that makes the camera easy to hold.  Actually, “solid” is a good word to use here, as the entire camera exterior (except for the bottom plate) is a solid mold, with no exterior screws.

New to the E-P5 is a pair of control wheels, one of which is operated by the thumb, and the other placed within reach of the forefinger. Both of these controls can be modified to control, say, aperture and shutter speed respectively, or ISO and EV, through menu changes. This is true for many of the other buttons on the camera body. Overall, controls are well organized and easily marked.

Pen E-P5 back

Key features

Shutter Speed: Olympus is bragging that the E-P5 is the only MILC currently on the market that has a top shutter speed of 1/8000 second. That even surpasses many consumer-level DSLRs.

Startup, AF Acquisition: Shutter speed is not the only thing Olympus is bragging about. They claim the camera can start up in 0.5 seconds when the Quick Start-Up function is turned on.  This means that even if the camera is in sleep mode, it can be awoken in half a second within the first 24 minutes. Otherwise, it will start up in 1 second. Olympus also claims a 20% increase in single-autofocus mode over the previous model, and claim the camera’s AF is at least as fast as, if not faster than, just about all DSLRs. AF has also been added to the wireless touch AF shutter control, and Olympus is claiming that, too, is fast. I’m looking forward to handling a full production version to test this claim.

5-Axis Image Stabilization: Since camera motion happens in 3 dimensions, Olympus employs a group of sensors to detect which directions the camera is moving, so camera shake can be fixed whether the camera is being moved up-down, right-left, front-back, pitched, or rolled. Most likely, it will be a combination of some or all of the above and the E-P3 is set up to compensate for all. The camera can also detect when you are panning and turns stabilization off to optimize the pan based on the direction the camera is moving. The effects of the stabilization can be seen in Live View.

Focus Peaking: Based on user feedback, Olympus added focus peaking. This highlights the in-focus areas of the image. This is key when using a manual focus lens via an adapter. For autofocusers, Super Spot AF lets you reduce or increase the size of the focusing point so you can have precise control over focusing accuracy. The size of the focus point, which can be moved around the screen, ranges from 1/25-1/70 of the diagonal screen length.

New VF-4 Viewfinder: The Olympus VF-4 Viewfinder does not come with the Olympus Pen E-P5 but must be bought separately. That’s too bad: A lot of thought was put into the optics in order to show off the 2.36 million dot image with less distortion that can be seen on competing EVFs. Image latency (the time it takes for an image to appear in on the EVF) is said to be 30% shorter than on the E-P3. Viewfinder magnification is 0.74%, which leads all MILCs; Olympus says it offers greater magnification than all APS-C DSLRs. I highly recommend buying the VF-4 Viewfinder when purchasing this camera.

Wi-Fi: Although Olympus was the first company to introduce a MILC, it’s introducing WiFi relatively late in the game, and they’re compensating by making their Wi-Fi impressive.  Yes, you can transfer photos to your smart phone or directly online via a hotspot. However, the setup is very easy: You connect using your phone or tablet to scan a QR code displayed on the camera’s LCD monitor, and connection is quick and easy after that. The interface for operating the camera remotely is intuitive and in the demonstration we saw it was quite responsive. You can control focus and self-timer, share images online, and geotag your images.

Photo Story:
Here’s a new feature that is probably designed for social networking. Photo Story is essentially a collection of templates to display two to five images. Take the picture in Live View by touching which section of the template you want that shot to appear in.

Art Filters/effect bracketing: There are 12 art filters (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Palen & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line, and Watercolor) but they can be combined with up to 7 art effects for almost infinite variations. Effect bracketing lets you control the intensity  of each effect.

Intervalometer:
An intervalometer lets you shoot from 1 to 99 shots in intervals from 1 second to 24 hours, as well as automatic time-lapse 10-second clips of up to 99 shots.

Live Bulb:
Live bulb lets you view the effect of using long exposures (bulb) in Live View. So, you can see the streaks of lights of moving cars as they’re being shot. Pretty nifty!

 

Pen E-P5 back

 

Conclusion and Recommendation

I look forward to putting a full production Olympus Pen E-P5 through its paces but if the claims hold up, this should be an exciting little camera with DSLR aspirations with enough high-end features to keep serious photographers happy...and busy! The Olympus Pen E-P5 will be available this month for $999.99 body only, in black, silver, or white, and $1449.99 (black or silver) with the black M. Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 lens and VF-4 Electronic Viewfinder. The VF-4 Electronic Viewfinder will also be available separately. In addition to the E-P5, Olympus introduced black versions of three prime lenses: The M. Zuiko Digital 75mm f/1.8, 45mm f/1.8, and 17mm f/1.8.

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