Olympus PEN E-P5 Review
The Olympus PEN E-P5 is flagship compact mirrorless from Olympus, fitting at the top of the PEN range which is just below the professional OM-D series. As the leading one in the PEN lineup, the E-P5 offers dual control-dials and a highly customizable design compared to previous PEN cameras.
This digital camera is built around an all new 16 megapixels Four-Thirds sensor with a maximum ISO of 25600, 9 FPS full-resolution continuous drive and 1080p HD video capture. It features built-in image stabilization, dual control-dials and a dual-axis digital level. The stabilization system of this PEN inherited from PEM E-P5 provides effective image stabilization along 5-axis, two linear and three rotational. This technology is an Olympus invention and shared among a handful of select digital cameras.
Video features of the E-P5 are extremely sophisticated including Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual exposure as well as Art Filters. Video focus modes include continuous autofocus (AF-C), subject-tracking autofocus and direct manual-focus (DMF). Stereo sound is recorded via the built-in microphone or an external one which connects the the hot-shoe's accessory port. This mirrorless provides a large number of external controls and an exceptional amount of customization, including the dual-purposed control-dials who can access secondary functions by toggling the dial selection switch.
This digital camera review covers the usability, performance and image quality of the Olympus O-MD E-P5.
Olympus PEN E-P5 Features
- 16 Megapixels CMOS Four-Thirds sensor
- Micro Four-Thirds lens mount
- 5-Axis Sensor-Shift image stabilization
- Built-in Ultra-Sonic dust-reduction
- ISO 100 to 25600 sensitivity, 1, 1/3 or 1/3 EV steps
- Auto ISO, customizable limit from 200 to 25600
- ISO Bracketing, 3 frames, maximum 1 EV increments
- 1/8000-60s Shutter-speeds, Bulb up to 30 minutes, 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
- PASM Exposure modes with Program-Shift in P mode
- Exposure-Compensation, ±3, 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV increments
- Exposure-Shift, ±1, 1/6 EV increments
- Multi-Segment, Center-Weighed, Spot, Shadow Spot and Highlight Spot metering
- Auto-Exposure Bracketing, 3, 5 or 7 frames, max 1 EV steps except 1/2 EV for 7 frames
- Flash Bracketing, 3 frames, maximum 1 EV increments
- Flash-Compensation, ±3, 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments
- Auto, Redeye, Forced, Off, Slow-Sync+Redeye, Slow-Sync, Rear-Sync and Manual flash modes
- Manual flash power between full and 1/64th power
- Remote-Control flash
- AutomaticTwo types: Normal and Warm-preserving., 7 presetsSunny, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Underwater, Flash, kelvin and custom white-balance
- White-balance fine-tuning along 2 axis in 15 steps
- Digital white-balance preview
- White-balance bracketing, 1 or 2 axis, 3 frames along each axis, 3 step sizes
- Optional One-Touch custom white-balance
- Optional long shutter noise-reduction
- Optional high-ISO noise-reduction, 3 levels
- 16 Color and 2 B&W Picture Modes
- Adjustable contrast, sharpness, saturation, 5 steps each
- Adjustable gradation, automatic or 3 levels
- Adjustable tone curve, 15 steps for highlights and 15 steps of shadows
- sRGB or Adobe RGB color space
- Single-shot (AF-S), continuous (AF-C), direct manual-focus (DMF) or tracking autofocus
- 35-area Contrast-Detect AF system, automatic or manual point-selection
- Manual-focus (MF), optional display magnification up to 14X
- Face-Priority toggle
- Optional AF-Assist lamp
- Optional bulb focusing
- Optionally reset lens focus to infinity
- Controllable focus-ring direction
- 9 FPS Continuous drive, 9 RAW files or JPEG images
- Time-Lapse, 1s-24h Internal, 1-99 frames, Immediate to 24h start delay
- Multiple-Exposure, 2 frames, optional automatic gain and composition overlay
- Self-timer, 2s or 12s
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video using Quicktime MOV codec
- 1280x720 @ 60 FPS Video using MPEG-4 codec
- Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual video exposure
- Automatic and Art-Filter video modes
- Optional stereo sound with built-in microphone
- Optional external stereo microphone via accessory port
Display & Viewfinder
- Optional 0.5" EVF, 2.4 Megapixels, 0.7X magnification, Eye-Start sensor
- Digital-level, 2-Axis
- Tilting 3" LCD, 1 megapixel
- Adjustable brightness, 15 steps
- Adjustable color, 15 steps, 1 axis
- Optional Live-Histogram
- Optional guidelines, 4 types
- Optional blinking highlight
- Optional Touch-Screen controls
- Dual control-dials
- 2x2 System switch between two sets of dial controls.
- 4 Customizable buttons, include AE-L/AF-L
- AE-L/AF-L hold and toggle modes
- Customizable AE-L metering mode
- 4:3 Native aspect ratio
- 3:2, 16:9, 1:1 and 3:4 cropped aspect ratios
- 12, 8, 5, 3, 2 and 1.2 megapixels modes
- JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG capture
- 4 JPEG Compression levels
- Optional vignetting correction
- Hot-Shoe shared the Accessory Port
- HDMI (1080i) output
- A/V (NYSC / PAL) output
- USB 2.0 connectivity
- Lens stabilization control, 3 modesBi-Directional, Horizontal, Vertical
- SDXC memory
- Lithium-Ion battery
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The Olympus E-P5 is compact in size with a largely rectangular body. Its rounded corners and stylized contour resemble closely the E-P3, except with a fixed grip. The grip itself is quite flat with a slight rubberized texture. A pair of eyelets allow the camera to be used with standard shoulder-strap. These eyelets are placed forward and protrude from the sides of a body, so one of them unfortunately digs into the index finger while reaching for the shutter-release.
The E-P5 feels extremely solid and has an impressive weight for its size. Both control-dial are metal and appear very durable. Only the combined battery and memory card compartment door feels a little weak. Buttons have a nice positive action when pressed.
The top of this camera shows some refinements over its predecessor. Power is controlled by a switch instead of a button now. Most importantly, the two main control-dials are level just below the top plate. A small Fn button that can be customized with one of 20 functions is right next to the shutter-release.
The shutter-release is soft with short travel to the halfway point. The full-press is just a hair below, making this camera feel very responsive. Almost level with the top plate is a traditional mode-dial with 9 positions. The dial has good detents and is unlikely to move accidentally.
The mode-dial has the standard PASM modes, a fully automatic mode called iAuto, an Art Filter mode, a Scene mode, a Collage mode and a dedicated Movie mode. The latter 4 offer tons of sub-modes. Movie mode offers a choice of PASM exposure but, most importantly, we are thankful there is a movie mode. This lets the PEN E-P5 preview the correct framing and be ready to immediately record.
The top plate becomes slightly elevated above the lens and gently slopes down all the way to the side of the camera. This places the built-in flash and hot-shoe slightly higher, along with a stereo microphone. The hot-shoe is paired with a proprietary accessory-port which is available on Olympus mirrorless cameras.
This accessory-port allows the Olympus E-P5 to support an optional EVF. The Olympus VF-4, sometimes sold along the E-P5, offers a class-leading 2.4 megapixels with extra-large 0.7X magnification and 100% coverage. An Eye-Start sensor makes the VF-4 a joy to use. This EVF also tilts up to 90° upwards.
Everything else happens on the back of the camera which is dominated by a large 3" LCD with an impressive one megapixel of resolution. The LCD is mounted on a sturdy hinge which lets it tilt down 45° and up 90°. The display is also a touchscreen which can be disabled to avoid accidental shots.
Visibility of the LCD is excellent. It displays a bright image regardless of exposure, except in M mode, which is sometimes misleading. During manual-exposure, it is Exposure-Priority and shows a reasonable preview of exposure and white-balance.
A large number of controls are packed to the right of the LCD. At the top, just below the main rear control-dial, is the customizable Video-Record button which is surrounded by a 2-position switch. This Olympus novelty is part of what they call the 2x2 Control-Dials.
2x2 Control-Dials means the E-P5 has two control-dials and that two different pairs of settings can be controlled with the upper dials. The pair of settings is decided by the position of the 2-position switch. The actual behavior is highly configurable with a large chart in the manual showing which dials can control what.
For most use, the dials will control one or two of Aperture, Shutter-Speed, Exposure-Compensation and Flash-Compensation. The desired behavior is a personal choice. Those of you not worried about accidentally affecting exposure will likely choose to have two parameter controlled which is most efficient. Otherwise, only one setting will be controllable via the two dials with the switch at the 1 position, except in M mode, of course. This makes a control-dial redundant.
With the switch at the 2 position, the upper control-dials can control ISO and WB or vice-versa. This behavior can be changed entirely, allowing the Video-Record button to swap its function for a customizable one or between 2 independently selected focus modes. The latter two choices fix the dial behavior which saves users from having to remember the switch's current position.
Just below the 2-way switch is the Magnify button which can be set to one of 25 functions, including AE-L/AF-L, DOF-Preview and One-Touch WB which do not have dedicated controls. The same options are available for the Video-Record button, the right and the down direction of the 4-way controller. This level of customization is highly impressive yet requires a lot of thought. Those who prefer a modeless interface for changing EC and ISO must assign these functions to independent buttons.
Four buttons surround the 4-way controller: Menu, Info, Delete and Playback. They have a set behavior and work exactly as usual. Delete does nothing in Capture mode. As for the 4-way controller itself:
- Up enters a modal interface to set EC and exposure-parameters. It is preferable to avoid using it because, once pressed, the dials and direction change behavior. Unfortunately, one cannot disable it and this makes for the most common mistakes while using this camera.
- Right defaults to Flash mode but can be set to one of 25 functions.
- Down defaults to Drive mode but can also be set to one of the same functions as the right button.
- Left sets the focus-point and focus-mode, including Face-Detection and even which eye has focus priority.
- OK brings up a quick menu or interactive status display, called Super Control-Panel.
The last button on the E-P5 is the flash-release which is above the LCD and under the popup flash. This switch is mechanical and works even with the camera off. At the bottom of the camera, there is a metal tripod mount. It is neither inline with the optical nor the physical center of the body.
The Olympus PEN E-P5 takes some time to get used to. It also takes time to customize which requires another period of learning afterwards. The default behavior is highly modal which is not ideal since you must remember the state of the camera at all times. This can be improved but leaves several under-used controls, including the third control-dial around the 4-way controller which rarely does anything.
Unless you press Up by accident, the E-P5 rarely gets in the way after it is setup and accustomed to. It proves to be predictable and quite efficient for a compact-size digital camera.
Olympus E-P5 Facts
Mirrorless digital camera
|16 Megapixels Mirrorless||ISO 100-25600|
|Micro Four-Thirds Mount|
Sensor-Size: 17 x 13mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|5-Axis Built-in Stabilization, 5-Stop Improvement||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.50" Optional EVF 2.4 Megapixels (0.74X)||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Spot-Metering|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Hot-Shoe|
|9 FPS Drive, 9 Images||Stereo audio input|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3" LCD 1 Megapixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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