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Olympus E-5 Review

Launched with little fanfare and then, according to Olympus, quickly gaining favour with the market, the Olympus E-5 DSLR should attract much attention down the track.

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Using the Four Thirds system, the E-5 is a little startling in its size and weight. When compared to the recently tested budget Nikon D3100 camera, the E-5 is roughly 1.4x the size and 1.8x the weight. This is no Tiny Tim!

But perhaps a more valid assessment lies in comparing the E-5 with its earlier Four Thirds stablemate, the E3: each is almost identical in size and weight.

It is, after all, the company’s flagship DSLR camera and has a mountain of features that will make semi pro and enthusiast photographers whimper with joy.

Olympus E-5 2.jpg

Built around a dust/splash-proof magnesium alloy chassis, Olympus claims a first with the E-5: world’s only professional DSLR with a dual-axis swiveling, high resolution 920,000 pixel, 7.6cm LCD screen. It also uses a SuperSonic Wave Dust Reduction System.

Olympus E-5 Features

As also used in the PEN cameras, the E-5’s Live MOS sensor captures 12.3 megapixel images with a maximum image size of 4032×3042 pixels, enough to make a 34x26cm print at a 300 dpi setting.

Movies? Not so brimming, with the maximum size being only 1280×720 pixels. The good news is that there is a 3.5mm stereo microphone input; the bad news is that you are likely to pick up the sounds of lens and camera operation in your movie … I can confirm the auto focus makes a hell of a racket!

You can use auto focus in movie mode but you need to activate it to get sharp focus … so the clatter it makes on the audio track is far from acceptable.

Also, if you use the onboard image stabiliser, the recorded image is slightly enlarged, presumably because the overall sensor area is used to steady the image.

Art Filters

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Right from the start, Olympus certainly had a winner with its Art Filters, now seen in many of its DSLR and PEN cameras … I must confess to being a fan of the feature. Now it has extended the scope of these powerful helpers: ten Art Filter digital effects can be applied directly in real-time to both stills and video; they also can be used in manual exposure, as well as with shutter or aperture priority.


This shot of a cyclist is a good example of how quickly the camera and its AF can work in an emergency: I had no more than two seconds to frame and focus on this rapidly passing cyclist. Sharp and correctly exposed.

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More: the auto focus system uses an eleven point full twin cross array; top shutter speed is 1/8000 second; continuous shooting can be made at a rate of 5 fps for as long as the shutter button is pressed; the image stabiliser has four settings — off, on, for panning horizontally, for panning vertically; CF and SD card slots; exposure bracketing can be performed in variations of 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 or 1.0 f stops over two to seven frames; camera levelling can be achieved in horizontal or vertical attitudes; multiple exposure can be used, with up to four images, with or without auto gain adjustment and saved as a single image; you can input copyright info into the EXIF image tags and later viewed in Photoshop.

The external control layout is near-identical to the E-3; there is no mode dial, so features such as Program, shutter or aperture priority, etc are selected by a combo of button pushing and rolling command wheels.

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A good example of the exposure latitude of the E-5. The foreground figures still have detail instead of the super bright background.

Olympus E-5 ISO Tests

Right up to ISO800 the images were as clear as a bell. At ISO1600 a tiny bit of noise began to creep in. At ISO3200 slightly more noise but not objectionable. AT ISO6400 more noise and definition was down — but still a useable setting.

Olympus E-5 ISO100 f8 1.15 sec.JPG

Olympus E-5 ISO400 f8 1.80 sec.JPG

Olympus E-5 ISO800 f8 1.160 sec.JPG

Olympus E-5 ISO1600 f8 1.320 sec.JPG

Olympus E-5 ISO3200 f8 1.640 sec.jpg

Olympus E-5 ISO6400 f8 1.1250 sec.JPG


Quality: I found the images from this camera to be excellent in terms of resolution and colour quality. With the right subject in good light colour saturation was top level.

I also found the12-60mm review lens to be excellent for general work; the 5x zoom range was a great help.

Why you would buy the E-5: you want to capture RAW images; you want a high level DSLR at a good price.

Why you wouldn’t: size and weight is too much for you; you need Full HD video.

For me, this is an excellent camera for an enthusiast or a semi pro. Fully blown pro photographers will probably turn up their noses at the feature list. But hey! Look at the price.

Olympus E-5 Specifications

Image Sensor: 12.3 million effective pixels.
Metering: Digital ESP, centre-weighted metering and spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.0 Live MOS.
A/D processing: 12-bit.
Lens Mount: Four Thirds system.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x approx.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: Bulb, 60 to 1/8000 second. Flash sync: 1/250 sec; Super FGP up to 1/8000 sec.
Memory: CF Type 1, SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4032×3042 to 1024×768. Movies: 1280×720, 640×480.
Viewfinders: Eye level pentaprism, 7.6cm LCD (920,000 pixels).
File Formats: RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI mini, DC input, 3.5mm mic input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 142.5×116.5×74.5 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 892 g (with CF card and battery).
Price: Get a price on the Olympus E-5 (body only).

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Olympus E-5
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Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

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

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