Olympus PEN E-P5 Review - Digital Photography School

Olympus PEN E-P5 Review

Olympus E-P5.jpg

The Olympus PEN E-P5 sure took some getting. Following a briefing by Olympus it was two months before I actually got my sticky fingers on one in the review-atorium. And even then I had to fight, persuade and jollify every Olympus contact I had. It seems every man, beast and journalist wanted a P5.

So, what’s so special?

I know it has nothing to do with photography and camera technology, but this little number sure pulls the heart strings in the retro stakes.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the legendary PEN F film camera, the PEN E-P5 is a digital update of a classic that offers much in digital capture. Its all metal cased body shrieks of Olympus classic — and even a touch of Leica!
Olympus E-P5 back.jpg

The review camera was supplied with the f2.0/12mm, f1.8/45mm and the f1.8/17mm lenses.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Features

Pretty stunning specs:

  • 16.05 million effective pixels
  • Live View CMOS.
  • Mechanical shutter runs from 60 seconds to 1/8000 second; Time and Bulb exposures.
  • Time lapse shooting of stills or movies. Set a time interval between 1 second to 24 hours, setting how many shots the camera will capture in a series (1-99).
  • Built-in Wi-Fi.
  • 5-Axis Image stabilisation.
  • Focus peaking emphasises the contours at the point of focus in white or black.
  • LCD screen can be tilted to face upwards at an 80 degree angle and downwards at a 50 degree angle.

The maximum image size is 4608×3456 pixels, enough to make a 39x29cm print.

Video can be shot in MPEG4 format, up to Full HD 1920×1080 resolution. If you shoot stills in the middle of a video recording, the latter stops.

The stabiliser works remarkably in video shooting but you have to watch focus; a tap on the shutter button and AF comes to heel!

Handling: the camera is nicely balanced in the hand, thanks to a moderate sized speed grip at the right edge. Whilst you could operate the P5 one-handed, it feels better with two.

Pocketability: camera body will fit into one pocket; a lens or two should fit into another.

Controls: pop up flash is to the left, with its switch just beneath; external flash and accessory shoe mid deck.
Photo story 1.JPG

Photo story 2.JPG

The mode dial has positions for auto and PASM; movie settings; the novel photo story setting.
Scene mode.JPG

Art Filter.JPG

Then there are 23 scene modes, including landscape, children, macro, fish eye etc; here are also found 12 Art Filters: Pop Art, Light Tone, Diorama etc.

Photo story: in this fun mode you can shoot multiple shots, then combine them into a single image. Over this you can add handwritten text.

Still on the top deck: the shutter button; on/off lever; and a function button.

On the leading and rear edges are found two dials: when rolled, the for’ard, sub dial can adjust such matters as ISO setting and exposure compensation; the rear, main dial is used to adjust aperture value or white balance.

Put another way: when shooting manually, moving the dial at the front of the camera adjusts the aperture while the back dial affects exposure time. At rear, the dial changes the ISO value and white balance.
Menu.JPG

Shooting tips.JPG

Rear: video record button; a two position lever (see below); menu; info; four way jog dial offering access to exposure compensation, flash options, burst shooting and self timer, AF area positioning.

Lower down are found the replay and erase buttons.

Carving 2.JPG

Narrabeen lake 4 Dramatic tone.JPG

Tree 3 Key line.JPG

The big deal with the P5 is the ease in which it can be linked with a smart device, such as an iPad or smart phone. You can synchronise the screens of the smart device and the E-P5 so you can mirror the camera’s LCD view on the smart device, then control it by touching the smart device display as if it were your camera. Great for self-portraits and for remotely shooting dangerous subjects like wildlife that may be startled or even turn on you! You can even use your smart device to embed GPS info into your shots.

There is no turret finder on the P5, but you can acquire an optional hi def VF-4 viewfinder, with an impressive 1.48X magnification, a high res 2.36 million dot LCD.

Olympus PEN E-P5 ISO Tests

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 200.JPG

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 400.JPG

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 800.JPG

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 1600.JPG

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 3200.JPG

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 6400.JPG

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 12800.JPG

Olympus Pen E-P5 ISO 25600.JPG

Only by ISO 3200 was noise becoming an issue. At ISO 6400 still looking good and sharp. At ISO 12800 noise was up but still useable IMHO. At ISO 25600 noise well up but, for certain subjects, useable.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Review Verdict

Quality: above average
Why you’d buy the P5: plenty of control.
Why you wouldn’t: too good for run-of-the-mill snap-shooting!

I liked the P5 but felt some of the controls unnecessary: like the two control dials.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Specifications

Image Sensor: 16.05 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi pattern, centre-weighted averaging, spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.0mm (22.5mm diagonal) Live MOS.
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x.
Shutter Speed: 60 sec to 1/8000 second, Time, Bulb. Internal/external flash sync: 1/320/250 sec.
Continuous Shooting: 9 fps.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards and Eye-Fi.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4608×3456 to 640×480. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480.
LCD Screen: 7.6cm LCD (1,037,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW, MPEG4.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 200 to 25600.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, AV, accessories.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 122.3×68.9×37.2 WHDmm.
Weight: 420 g (inc battery and card).
Prices: Get a price on the Olympus E-P5 (body only) or Olympus E-P5 17mm with a f1.8 and VF.

Summary
Reviewer
Barrie Smith
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Olympus PEN E-P5
Author Rating
4

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category.

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

  • jack clarfelt

    Looks good spec but no proper viewfinder means my money stays in my wallet.

  • Wesley Norman

    I preordered the E-P5 and have been enjoying using it a lot. I also purchased the 60mm macro lens and that is the one I have been using most of the time. I am getting some pretty amazing close ups of flowers and insects. It is my backup camera for my D800. I am having a lot of fun carrying around this small camera so am always ready for a photo op. So far, I have had no problems. The only downside to the camera is the battery usage. I have purchased 3 extra batteries and can run through them pretty fast. Although I haven’t concentrated on just how many images I can get on a charge. Probably not bad is I would check.

    Thanks for the review. I am sure a more professional photographer than I am will come up with a book soon. In the mean time, I am glad that I purchased the body, 17mm lens and viewfinder, which I a finding very nice to use.

  • Hagane

    “I liked the P5 but felt some of the controls unnecessary: like the two control dials.”

    Sorry, what?!
    Not having two control dials would be a serious flaw in a camera targeted at more experienced photographers. One dial for exposure comp. and one for the choosen parameter (aperture, s-speed). This is the standard set-up in all DSLRs.

    How can you complain about something like that?!

  • Paul Kaye

    Totally agree with Hagane. At the price that this camera sells and the market it’s aimed at, two dials is an absolute necessity. What is the reviewer thinking about??? Totally devalues the review as a serious piece of opinion IMHO.

  • Bob B.

    OK…I have an E-M5 and just sold my Panasonic GX1 & LVF2 and purchased the E-P5 Kit, w/17mm & VF-4. I cannot believe how impressive this camera is. The E-P5 is heads above the GX1 in build quality, features and IQ. Really no comparison. The E-P5 is so well laid out (a LOT of thought went into this camera!) it rivals/compliments my E-M5, wonderfully. I decided to purchase the E-P5 based on very positive reviews, the quality of my E-M5, and my mounting disappointment in my GX1. I decided to bypass the GX7 as I have come to believe that Olympus simply builds better cameras and deliver better files, (built in VF be damned). I also decided not to wait for the M1 release as that is getting to be way more than I need for a small camera kit. (M1 looks fantastic,though). I use my MFT kit to compliment my FF kit.
    The E-P5 is simply a joy to hold in your hand AND use. It is a well-built machine the is intuitively fluid in use.
    If you are on the fence about it because of the EVF or cost…JUST GET ONE…you won’t be disappointed.

  • http://none subroto mukerji

    I’ve always been underwhelmed by this reviewer’s submissions, but his observation that two control dials was an unnecessary feature left me dumbfounded. n fact, it’s those two dials that give such precise and instant control over a shot, whether in manual mode or otherwise. This feature was previously available only in the top-of-the-line OMD E-M5. Just an example of this reviewer’s lack of knowledge / slipshod work. This is the last equipment review by Mr Barrie Smith that I read.

Some older comments

  • subroto mukerji

    September 13, 2013 03:57 pm

    I've always been underwhelmed by this reviewer's submissions, but his observation that two control dials was an unnecessary feature left me dumbfounded. n fact, it's those two dials that give such precise and instant control over a shot, whether in manual mode or otherwise. This feature was previously available only in the top-of-the-line OMD E-M5. Just an example of this reviewer's lack of knowledge / slipshod work. This is the last equipment review by Mr Barrie Smith that I read.

  • Bob B.

    September 9, 2013 11:13 am

    OK...I have an E-M5 and just sold my Panasonic GX1 & LVF2 and purchased the E-P5 Kit, w/17mm & VF-4. I cannot believe how impressive this camera is. The E-P5 is heads above the GX1 in build quality, features and IQ. Really no comparison. The E-P5 is so well laid out (a LOT of thought went into this camera!) it rivals/compliments my E-M5, wonderfully. I decided to purchase the E-P5 based on very positive reviews, the quality of my E-M5, and my mounting disappointment in my GX1. I decided to bypass the GX7 as I have come to believe that Olympus simply builds better cameras and deliver better files, (built in VF be damned). I also decided not to wait for the M1 release as that is getting to be way more than I need for a small camera kit. (M1 looks fantastic,though). I use my MFT kit to compliment my FF kit.
    The E-P5 is simply a joy to hold in your hand AND use. It is a well-built machine the is intuitively fluid in use.
    If you are on the fence about it because of the EVF or cost...JUST GET ONE...you won't be disappointed.

  • Paul Kaye

    September 7, 2013 08:20 am

    Totally agree with Hagane. At the price that this camera sells and the market it's aimed at, two dials is an absolute necessity. What is the reviewer thinking about??? Totally devalues the review as a serious piece of opinion IMHO.

  • Hagane

    September 6, 2013 07:17 pm

    "I liked the P5 but felt some of the controls unnecessary: like the two control dials."

    Sorry, what?!
    Not having two control dials would be a serious flaw in a camera targeted at more experienced photographers. One dial for exposure comp. and one for the choosen parameter (aperture, s-speed). This is the standard set-up in all DSLRs.

    How can you complain about something like that?!

  • Wesley Norman

    September 6, 2013 04:25 am

    I preordered the E-P5 and have been enjoying using it a lot. I also purchased the 60mm macro lens and that is the one I have been using most of the time. I am getting some pretty amazing close ups of flowers and insects. It is my backup camera for my D800. I am having a lot of fun carrying around this small camera so am always ready for a photo op. So far, I have had no problems. The only downside to the camera is the battery usage. I have purchased 3 extra batteries and can run through them pretty fast. Although I haven't concentrated on just how many images I can get on a charge. Probably not bad is I would check.

    Thanks for the review. I am sure a more professional photographer than I am will come up with a book soon. In the mean time, I am glad that I purchased the body, 17mm lens and viewfinder, which I a finding very nice to use.

  • jack clarfelt

    September 6, 2013 12:12 am

    Looks good spec but no proper viewfinder means my money stays in my wallet.

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