Olympus Pen E-P5 at a glance:

  • 16.1-million-pixel, four thirds Live MOS sensor
  • ISO 200-25,600 (with low ISO 100 setting)
  • 3in tilt LCD touchscreen with 1.037-million-dot resolution
  • Five-axis image stabilisation
  • 60-1/8000sec shutter speed range plus live view bulb mode
  • Up to 1/320sec flash sync
  • Optional VF-4 electronic viewfinder (around £250)
  • Street price around £899 body only
  • See Olympus Pen E-P5 product shots

Olympus Pen E-P5 review – Introduction

Given the success of the hugely popular Olympus OM-D E-M5 of last year, it comes as no surprise that Olympus has again taken inspiration from one of its own film cameras for its latest flagship Pen camera, the Olympus Pen E-P5. While the OM-D pays homage to the Olympus OM series of film cameras, the E-P5 is similar in appearance to the Pen F, a camera first announced 50 years ago in 1963. On the surface, the E-P5 is a success – it’s a lovely looking camera and the most attractive modern Pen to date. However, beauty is only skin deep, and the E-P5’s success will hinge on the improvements inside. Thankfully, compared to its predecessor, the Pen E-P3, the E-P5 shows numerous and noteworthy changes.

This latest model is the fourth in the line of Olympus’s flagship digital Pen cameras, beginning with the original Olympus Pen E-P1. Clear progress has been made in the E-P5, even when compared to its direct predecessor, the E-P3, not least of which is the inclusion of Olympus’s 16.1-million-pixel four thirds sensor. For those who like to take hold of the camera’s controls, the E-P5 shows some encouraging signs – it offers twin dials for exposure adjustments, a switch to double these dials up for changes to key controls like ISO, and a function button.

Throughout this test I refer not only to the E-P3 to highlight the improvements made to the E-P5, but also to the Olympus OM-D E-M5, which was released between the two cameras. The E-P5 is, in fact, remarkably similar to the OM-D in many areas, which is encouraging as the camera reviewed so very well in AP 7 April 2012, scoring 85%. In the E-P5 we appear to have a compact, stylish camera that is packed with features.

Olympus Pen E-P5 review – Features

Of all Olympus’s compact system cameras, the flagship E-P series is the last from the company to be fitted with its new imaging sensor. So, whereas the E-P3 uses a 12-million-pixel sensor, the E-P5 features a 16.1-million-pixel sensor. The new sensor is also used in the Pen E-PL5, Pen E-PM2 and OM-D E-M5. The Olympus Pen E-P5 also uses the same TruePic VI processing engine as the OM-D, so we can expect equally good images.

Along with this new sensor comes Wi-Fi. In 2012, Wi-Fi was the most popular new feature in CSCs and was even included in the Canon EOS 6D DSLR, although it remained absent from any Olympus CSCs. The E-P5 is the first Olympus CSC to offer Wi-Fi functionality, although the Olympus Image Share app (available free on both Android and iOS platforms) is required for its use. The main menu in the app shows four areas of wireless control from a smart device: remote control, import photos, edit photo and add geotag.

Using a Motorola Razr smartphone, I experienced no issues remotely controlling the camera (available in i-Auto exposure mode only for shutter and AF control). Likewise, logging the geotag points onto the camera – recorded by the smart device during a day out and about – happened without a hitch. A direct upload of images stored in-camera to the smart device is an excellent way to quickly share images. I am impressed with how smoothly the wireless operates, given this is Olympus’s first attempt. I anticipate that the functionality will be developed for future models, especially the level of remote control.

Like other current Pen cameras, the Olympus Pen E-P5 has a five-axis image-stabilisation system, which is claimed to provide up to a 5EV stabilisation range. Good stabilisation like this increases the number of situations in which one can happily use the camera handheld.

The improved shutter-speed range is class-leading for a CSC with mechanical shutter, at 60-1/8000sec, and there is also a bulb mode. Given there are several f/1.8 lenses in the Olympus range now, such as the 17mm, 45m and 75mm optics, this new fast shutter speed gives greater scope to make the most of these wide apertures in bright light. The live bulb mode is a genuine innovation – it displays the progress of the exposure in bulb mode via live view (which now includes a histogram), so the exposure can be stopped at the right time rather than reviewing the image at the end of the exposure and having to shoot again if it turns out to be incorrect.

Drive modes include a continuous high speed of 9fps with the focus locked on the first frame, or 5fps with continuous AF during the sequence. The continuous high-speed burst lasts 2secs in raw or JPEG (18 frames), while the continuous low appears to capture an unlimited burst.

The Olympus Pen E-P5 also offers multiple exposure and time lapse, which are certainly not a given on other similar cameras. Multiple exposure is limited to just two frames, while up to 99 frames are in time lapse, with manual control over the start time and with frame intervals between 1sec and 24hrs.

A new multi-frame mode has generously been given a place on the shooting mode dial. In this mode, up to three images are placed within custom frames, with the option to apply various picture effects to the images. The full-resolution version of each image taken for a multi-frame guide is stored separately. I suspect this mode will be more popular with the consumer than enthusiast photographer. I would like to see these kinds of edits possible in-camera, post-capture, and a space on the dial given to a more useful mode such as bracketing.

Again, there are several art and scene modes, but the camera lacks true panorama and HDR modes. Instead, frames are recorded separately and require the user to stitch them together manually post-capture. I would like to see this achieved in-camera, as is possible with many other camera systems. However, the array of bracketing modes is useful – one can bracket for every art effect with one press of the shutter button. All in all, the Olympus Pen E-P5 is packed with features.

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