Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5 Review

Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5 Review


There’s one thing that Olympus has mostly got right: stylish camera designs, with clearly labelled functions and layout.

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However it seems like decades have been spent as the company has fumbled around with its viewfinder menu layout … and the PL5 is no exception. It is absolutely ghastly, confused and tricky to follow.

Design of the PL5? Well, to be truly honest, the camera appeals at first sight and then, as you live with it longer, you get the impression it is fiddly, with a small textured grip near the right hand and the top deck cluttered with chromey controls. But that’s only my opinion.

Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5 back.jpg

Aside from these whinges, the PEN series of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras has won many friends: they’re small, lightweight and give access to not only Olympus’ own Zuiko lenses but those from other manufacturers such as Carl Zeiss, Sigma and Schneider and Voigtlander (Cosina).

Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5 Features

The top dial offers entrée to the camera’s various modes, including iAuto, Program, shutter and aperture priority plus manual exposure as well as 23 scene modes (portrait, macro etc), 12 Art Filters (Pop Art, Grainy Film etc) and movie mode.

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On a lower, slightly angled deck are buttons for replay, erase, Function, screen magnification plus movie record.

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Rear: the delicious LCD screen tilts 170 degrees upwards and 65 degrees downwards but not sideways. I really don’t miss the sideways option I found that, when using it, I tended to unconsciously tilt the camera … but an upwards tilting LCD is perfect for handheld video shooting on the move.
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To the screen’s left is the control dial, info and menu buttons.

The camera is well-balanced, despite the added 75mm front extension of the review 14-42mm kit lens which when used for table top photography tilted the camera forward.

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The camera’s 16 megapixel Live CMOS can capture a maximum image size of 4608×3456 pixels and lead to a print size of 39x29cm.

Video is shot in MPEG4 up to Full size HD 1920×1080 pixels.

In video recording you can shoot stills but the video is interrupted.

There are a couple of neat features:

  • The Touch Shutter is marvelous. Simply aim the camera, touch the screen and the shot is captured; hold your finger on the screen and it shoots continuously. I found only one hangup with this: you have to arrange your camera holding fingers so the camera is steady …otherwise, you’ll capture heaps of blurry shots.
  • The camera accepts EyeFi cards so you can wirelessly download your images to the computer, tablet or mobile phone.
  • 3D photography with a 1920×1080 pixel size image, with a suitable lens is supported.

Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5 ISO Tests

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Olympus PEN E-PL5 ISO 800.JPG

Olympus PEN E-PL5 ISO 1600.JPG

Olympus PEN E-PL5 ISO 3200.JPG

Olympus PEN E-PL5 ISO 6400.JPG

Olympus PEN E-PL5 ISO 12800.JPG

Olympus PEN E-PL5 ISO 25600.JPG

It was only when ISO 6400 was reached that noise began to intrude. By ISO 12800 it was very visible and even more so at ISO 25600. But that’s quite a performance!

Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5 Review Verdict

Quality: above average in sharpness and colour accuracy.

Why you’d buy the Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5: small, light, access to an enticing range of lenses.

Why you wouldn’t: no reason!

There’s a lot to like in the PL5, once you get used to the chromey look!

Available in black, silver and white.

Olympus PEN LITE E-PL5 Specifications

Image Sensor: 16.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi pattern, centre-weighted averaging, spot.
Exposure Modes: iAuto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.0mm (22.5mm diameter) Live MOS.
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x.
Shutter Speed: 2 to 1/4000 second, Bulb and Time.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC/EyeFi cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4608×3456 to 640×480. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480 at 30fps.
LCD Screen: 7.6cm LCD (460,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW, MPEG4.
Continuous Shooting: up to 8 fps.
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: 110.5×63.7×38.2 WHDmm.
Weight: 325 g (inc battery and card).
Prices: Get a price eon the Olympus E-PL5 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm Lens at Amazon.

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

Some Older Comments

  • Nikolay Mirchev February 16, 2013 08:32 am

    Very nice small discrete camera, I was planing to get my self one of these small cameras for being with me all the time but instead I bought 5D mkII ;) .... the ISO looks very nice but they could of run the test in slightly darkener environment with more shadows, then it was going to be much more comparable friendly ;) But the best thing for me abut this camera is that is interchangeable lens camera.

  • Eric February 10, 2013 03:59 pm

    I picked this camera up a few weeks ago as an upgrade to my E-PM1. I have enough investment in the PEN format with lenses and such that I wanted to stick with the Micro 4/3 format, but I wanted to upgrade the camera body. I was on the fence about going for an OMD because it has had such great reviews, or going with another M43 camera that wasn't quite as expensive as the OMD. I was happy to find out the the E-PL5 shared the same sensor and had many of the good qualities as the OMD, but at a price that was more within my budget

    I could't be happier so far. I really like the extra control I have on the E-PM5 over my E-PM1. The low light performance is a big step up, and the image quality is great (the E-PM1 was not too shabby either).

    The great thing about this camera and the M43 format in general is that these cameras can be so versatile. I can put an old Canon FD 50mm f1.4 lens and an EVF on the camera, or I can put a 15mm f8 body lens cap or pancake lens on the E-PM5 and carry it in my coat pocket.

  • Chris T. February 9, 2013 05:09 am

    Whoa I'm surprised by the ISO performance, definitely advancements in the Pen series!

  • Jasper January 31, 2013 07:13 am

    crazy ISO performance! looks awesome

  • V January 28, 2013 07:16 am

    Going to wait and see what the next olympus body will be. If I don't need it, I will get this one to complement my omd