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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.

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.

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Olympus PEN E-P5
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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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