Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5 review: Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Excellent flip-up touchscreen. Good image quality. Easy to hold and to use for beginners. Flash Air cards for wireless connectivity work well.

The Bad No built-in flash. Internal microphone not the best for audio recording. Interlaced rather than progressive video recording.

The Bottom Line Olympus has churned out a very nice camera in the form of the Pen Lite E-PL5, which will satisfy many photographers looking for an upgrade from their compact camera or smartphone.

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First impressions

While much of the focus on Olympus in 2012 has been thanks to the success of the OM-D , it's time for the little Pen cameras to take some of the limelight. The Pen Lite E-PL5 succeeds the earlier Lite E-PL3 , and brings a range of improvements and an overhauled design.

Design and features

On the outside, it's slimmer and more lightweight than the previous Lite model. The 3-inch gapless LCD screen can flip up 170 degrees to help take self-portraits, plus it's a touchscreen. Shooting options like touch to focus and touch shutter are available to help lure smartphone owners over to the world of interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs).

To compensate for the rather slippery feel that beleaguered the older E-PL3, this camera now comes with a detachable front grip. It screws into position on the front to make holding the camera a little more sturdy.

Rather than living in the shadow of the OM-D, the E-PL5 and the Pen Mini E-PM2 both take the same 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor and image processor from their older sibling. This means that theoretically, image quality should be exactly the same, especially if you use the same sort of lenses that would normally accompany the OM-D.

That said, the E-PL5 comes with the standard Pen 14-42mm kit lens, which is not as impressive as the variants found accompanying the OM-D straight out of the box.

The E-PL5 doesn't come with a pop-up flash, though you are provided with a small unit that sits in the hotshoe of the camera for extra light. Just underneath the hotshoe sits an accessory port for attaching a range of Olympus accessories, like electronic viewfinders and macro arm lights.

At the top of the camera is a mode dial that provides access to full PASM control. The E-PL5 also comes with the requisite Olympus art filters, totalling 12.

Some of the art filters available on the E-PL5 include grainy film, cross-process, dramatic tone and watercolour.
(Credit: CBSi)

Flash Air

Connectivity hasn't been left behind in the Pen range, as the E-PL5 is compatible with Toshiba's Flash Air cards. These SDHC cards come with 8GB of storage space, as well as a built-in wireless transmitter — much like an Eye-Fi card. Using a dedicated Android or iOS app called Olympus Image Share, users can view images straight from the card via Wi-Fi, and transfer them to their phone or tablet device, and can also send them out to social-media sites.

Within the camera menu, select "Connect to smartphone" to set up the connection. Then choose an SSID name as well as a password, save these values and start a private connection from the menu. The camera should then be discoverable from your mobile device, and you can start the app.

From here, the app allows you to view images on the card (they are streamed across very quickly for small previews), and also to transfer full-resolution photos to the device. The app lets you apply a range of the Olympus art filters to images stored on your smartphone, whether they have been taken on the camera or not.

At the time of writing, Olympus is offering a Flash Air card free for photographers who purchase an eligible Pen camera, normally valued at AU$129. If you miss out on the free promotion, or just don't want to spend that much money on a memory card, the E-PL5 is also compatible with the (slightly cheaper) Eye-Fi card.

Compared to

Sony NEX F3 Panasonic Lumix GF5 Canon EOS M Olympus E-PL5
16.1-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor (APS-C) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor (Four Thirds) 18-megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C) 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor (Four Thirds)
3-inch, 921,600-dot flip-up LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 1.04-million dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 460,000-dot flip-up, touchscreen LCD
25-area AF 23-area AF 31-area AF 35-area AF
Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080i) Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080i) Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p) Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080i)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 0.70.40.40.2
    Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5
  • 1.30.20.40.4
    Sony NEX-F3
  • 1.20.61.50.08
    Panasonic Lumix GF5

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 7
    Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5
  • 5.5
    Sony NEX-F3
  • 4.8
    Panasonic Lumix GF5

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Where to Buy

Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5

Part Number: CNETOlympus Pen Lite E-PL5

Typical Price: $699.00

See manufacturer website for availability.