Olympus PEN E-P5 review: The best Micro Four Thirds camera thus far

The screen fares pretty well in direct sunlight, and the tilting helps, plus it's bright and shows contrast well. Still, I prefer the tilting EVF.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Olympus PEN E-P5
0.8
0.2
0.2
0.3
0.2
Sony Alpha NEX-6
2
0.2
0.2
0.5
0.2
Olympus OM-D E-M5
1.1
0.6
0.5
0.5
0.3

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Olympus PEN E-P5
9.6

Design and features
With an even more solid, dense build and a more traditional control layout than its predecessor, the E-P5 feels extremely streamlined to shoot with. Unlike the E-P3, it has front and back dials, as well as increased customizability. I like most of the changes.

On top are a front control dial, an assignable Fn button, and a mode dial with the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes , plus Art Filters and the Photo Story feature introduced in the Olympus XZ-10 (it lets you select different aspect ratios of photos to shoot, which the camera automatically loads into a multiphoto template). On the back is another adjustment dial, plus four-way navigation/button controls for exposure compensation, focus area, drive mode, and flash options. Beneath the record button, a two-position lever changes the dial operations dependent upon shooting mode. For instance, in shutter-priority mode the lever toggles the dial functions between exposure compensation and shutter speed or ISO and white balance. You have some limited control over how the functions are assigned.

Although I initially thought I'd object to the fixed, shallow grip -- on the E-P3 you had the option to easily replace the shallow grip with a more pronounced one --the bigger annoyance turned out to be the navigation button control. It's just a little too small and the ring just a little too thin; enough that I repeatedly hit left when I was trying for down or down when I was trying for right. I also wish the flash tilted back for bounce control.

While the E-P5 has a touch screen, you don't really operate the camera with it. In advanced modes you use it for touch focus, touch shutter, or to initiate Wi-Fi, and in iAuto mode you use it to adjust the sliders.

Fujifilm X-E1 Olympus PEN E-P3 Olympus PEN E-P5 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Samsung NX20 Sony Alpha NEX-6
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS
n/a
12.3MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
20.3MP CMOS
n/a
16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
23.6mm x 15.6mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal- length multiplier 1.5x 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 200 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600 ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 6fps
n/a
3fps
unlimited (LN) JPEG/17 raw
4.5-5fps (lens-dependent, IS off)
70 JPEG/20 raw
(9fps with fixed AE/AF, no IS)
9fps
17 JPEG/11 raw
8fps
11 JPEG/8 raw
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder EVF
0.5-inch
2.36 million dots
100 percent coverage
n/a
Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1,440,000 dots
0.58x
Optional EVF
n/a-inch
2.36 million dots
100 percent coverage
1.48x/ 0.74x
EVF
n/a-inch
1.44 million dots
100 percent coverage
1.15x/ 0.58x
OLED EVF
n/a-inch
480,000 dots
100 percent coverage
1.04x/ 0.69x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100 percent coverage
1.09x/ 0.73x
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 49-area
contrast AF
35-area contrast AF 35-area contrast AF 35-area contrast AF 15-point contrast AF 99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30 - 1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 60 - 1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 30 minutes 60 - 1/8,000 sec.; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync
(FP to 1/4,000 sec)
60 - 1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (flash-dependent) 30 - 1/8,000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync 30 - 1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 256 zones 324 area 324 area 324 area 221 segment 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 18 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Yes Included add-on Yes Yes
Wireless flash No Yes Yes Yes No No
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical Optical
Video 1080/24p H.264 1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps 1080/30p @ 20Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps 1080/30p; 1,080 x 810/24p; 720/30p H.264 MPEG-4 AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/ 24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic input
LCD size 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen LCD
1.04 million dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch articulated AMOLED
921,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless None Optional via Bluetooth Wi-Fi None Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 330 shots 330 shots n/a 330 shots 270 shots
(with viewfinder)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.4 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.5 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 4.6 x 2.5 x 1.4 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 12.4 (est.) 13 15.1 15.1 14 (est) 12.3
Mfr. price $999.95 (body only) n/a $999.99 (body only) $949.99 (body only) n/a $749.99 (body only)
$1,399.95 (with 18-55mm lens) discontinued
$899.99 (with 14-42mm lens)
n/a $1,199.99 (with 12-50mm lens) $1,099.99 (with 18-55mm i-Function lens) $899.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens)
n/a $595.99 (est, with 17mm f2.8 lens) $1,449.99 (with 17mm f1.8 lens and VF-4 EVF) $1,099.99 (with 14-42mm lens) n/a n/a
Ship date November 2012 August 2011 July 2013 April 2012 May 2012 October 2012

Olympus takes an interesting approach to wireless connectivity, incorporating QR codes for quick Wi-Fi setup rather than NFC . When you bring up the connection on the camera it presents a QR code that you capture with the OI.Share app on your device, and the app automatically configures the connection. It's a clever, inexpensive solution to setup on devices without NFC, but it still has some rough edges. For instance, even after you've configured it, every time you initiate Wi-Fi on the camera it pops up that same QR code screen and leaves it there, at least on iOS. It really should tell you that you have to go into your Wi-Fi settings and select the camera's SSID. (Part of that is iOS' fault, though.) My iPad repeatedly asked for a camera password, which the folks at Olympus couldn't replicate. And the Android app running on the HTC One couldn't even get a lock on the QR code to scan it.

The app allows you to use your device as a basic remote control (focus, self-timer, and shutter), import photos from the camera, apply Art Filters or add stamps to any photo on the device, and geotag photos.

Other notable camera features include focus peaking, time-lapse, and an intervalometer. For a complete accounting of the E-P5's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
With a nice shooting design and solid build, extremely good photo quality in decent lighting, and some of the fastest performance we've seen in its class, the Olympus PEN E-P5 has a lot to recommend it. I think I still prefer the photo quality of the Sony Alpha NEX-6, which is cheaper and more compact with its built-in viewfinder, but the overall package of the E-P5 comes pretty close.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Mirrorless Digital Camera
  • Optical Sensor Type MOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (image sensor shift mechanism)
  • Optical Sensor Size 13.0 x 17.3mm