FIRST LOOK: Olympus PEN E-P5
Although it retains the traditional styling and build quality of its predecessor, the E-P5’s body feels more substantial and weighs 45 grams more. It’s marginally longer than the E-P3 and marginally thinner, but slightly taller. Key features of the E-P5 and its predecessor, the E-P3 are compared in the table below….
We received a silver and black body for our hands-on ‘First Look’, but it’s also offered in black. We’ve not been able to conduct our complete suite of tests on the camera we received as it is a pre-production model. However, we are able to publish some sample shots, at our normal (reduced) sizes and we’ve been assured it is close in build quality and performance to the production models that will be released this month. (Pricing details have still to be determined.)
Who’s it For?
Like its predecessor, the PEN E-P5 will suit photographers who want a fast and versatile compact system camera that can use the many lenses and accessories designed for the Micro Four Thirds system. Owners of the E-P3 would benefit from the higher-resolution sensor, faster AF system and better continuous shooting performance and the re-designed controls make this camera easier to use than its predecessor.
It’s a reasonable choice as a second body for an OM-D system, although it’s unlikely to be a significantly cheaper substitute for an E-M5 body. The design of the menu system is almost identical to the E-M5’s, making it easy to shift between cameras.
While it can match the E-M5’s burst speeds and has a higher monitor resolution and faster shutter speeds, it lacks features like a built-in EVF, which make the E-M5 attractive to DSLR users. There’s not much difference in their body weights (366 grams for the E-P5 vs 373 grams for the E-M5) and the E-P5 isn’t weatherproof.
Photographers who are seriously into Wi-Fi should definitely investigate this camera. The system is very well integrated into the camera’s controls and easy to set up and operate. The convenience of being able to control the main camera functions from a smart-phone or tablet will make the E-P5 attractive to sports and wildlife shooters. It also offers potential for photographers who enjoy street photography.
Build and Ergonomics
A tour around the camera body reveals the first noteworthy change: two control dials, which replace the E-P3’s rotating dial around the arrow pad and cylindrical sub-dial on the thumb rest. They’re in much better positions, with one inset into the top of the front panel and the other in a similar position on the rear panel.
A ‘modifier’ lever surrounding the movie button lets you switch between different functions for each dial. The default position 1 has the front dial controlling exposure compensation, while the rear dial sets the lens aperture. In position 2, the front dial toggles through the ISO settings while the rear dial adjusts the white balance settings.
The grip on the front panel is similar in size to the E-P3’s grip, although not removable. The pop-up flash and hot shoe haven’t changed and the twin stereo microphone holes in front of the hot-shoe remain, with minor cosmetic changes. The pop-up flash release and the Movie button are largely unchanged.
There have been some relatively minor adjustments to the controls on the top panel. Power on/off is now controlled by a lever, instead of a button and the mode dial gains a new Photo Story setting. It lets users capture between two and five frames and combine them in a montage.
The shutter button has been raised above the top panel and is slightly smaller than the E-P3’s. The Fn button to its right is now the only one of its type on the camera; the E-PL3’s rear panel Fn1 button has been removed as its role is taken over by the twin control dials and lever.
The biggest change to the rear panel, however, is the monitor, which is now adjustable. It can be tilted upwards to 80 degrees and down to 50 degrees. The screen resolution is higher at 1,037,000 dots (compared with 614,000 dots on the E-P3) but it still uses OLED technology and touch-sensitive controls. Olympus has added a fingerprint-resistant coating to the screen to make it easier to use in bright conditions.
Most of the remaining buttons are in the same places as the E-P3’s, although the Play and Menu buttons have swapped places and the Menu button is slightly higher. Without the sub-dial, the thumb rest is more comfortable, although moving the microphone onto its left side has us puzzled. But if you’re not be holding the camera when playing back movie clips it wouldn’t matter.
As in the E-P3, the tripod mount is offset from the lens axis so you can access the shared battery and memory card compartment with the camera attached to a tripod’s mounting plate. The BLN-1 battery is the same as the OM-D E-M5’s but no information was available on its capacity when we went to press.
The most interesting new feature in the E-P5 is the integration of Wi-Fi into the camera. When we received the pre-production unit, the system was only compatible with iOS but Android devices should be supported by the time the camera goes on sale.
Olympus has made it easy to configure the camera for Wi-Fi by providing a QR code icon on the relevant page of the set-up menu. All the user needs to do is install Olympus Image Share 2.0 (free download) on the tablet or smart-phone and then point the device’s camera at the icon and press Install to install the camera’s profile and set up the connection.
Functions available via Wi-Fi include remote control over frequently-used camera functions. Users can operate the camera remotely via the touch-screen on the tablet or smart-phone, provided the devices are within about 15 metres of each other and there is no interference to the Wi-Fi signal.
Wi-Fi can also be used to adjust focus and set the self-timer to any delay between two and 12 seconds. Images can be geotagged using GPS data from the interfaced smart device. Images can be edited using a suitable app. Users have access to all the camera’s Art Filters and can create photo montages with images from the camera using the Photo Story templates on the device’s screen. Uploading to image sharing websites is also supported.
Focus peaking finds its way into Olympus cameras in the PEN E-P5. It can be accessed in MF mode via the Fn button and users can choose to have in-focus areas highlighted in black or white.
Although its specifications have barely changed and the E-P5 supports the same five selectable focusing modes as the E-P3, the autofocusing system in the new camera has been improved. Benefiting from technologies developed for the E-M5, Olympus claims it is roughly 45% faster than the system in the E-P3. And you don’t need the latest lenses to benefit.
There’s a new Super Spot AF mode that focuses upon an area that’s 1/25 of the screen. It’s accessed by pressing the magnifier button on the rear panel. This enlarges the selected area by 5x, 7x, 10x or 14x (adjusted with the front or rear control dial). Pressing the magnifier button again restores the normal view.
The maximum shutter speed has also been halved from 1/4000 second in the E-P3 to 1/8000 second in the E-P5 and continuous shooting speeds have increased from three frames/second to nine fps when focus is set at the start of a burst or five fps with continuous AF. The buffer memory can store up to 17 ORF.RAW files at a time, up from 10 frames in the E-P3.
Interval and time-lapse recording functions have also been added to the multiple-exposure options and, like its predecessor, the E-P5 can capture 3D images. The 3D setting is in the Scene sub-menu as it was in the E-P3.
A new ‘Low’ ISO setting has also been added, offering users a setting equivalent to ISO 100, which is a stop below the minimum ISO of the E-P3.
The Watercolour Art Filter, which was introduced with the E-PL5, has been added to the portfolio of Art Filter effects in the E-P5. This makes a dozen effects available via the setting on the mode dial. They can be augmented by seven Art Effects, which can be selected within individual Art Filters. For example, the Monochrome effect consists of a sepia, blue, purple or green colour conversion, which can be applied with the Grainy Film I/II and Dramatic Tone II filters.
The Photo Story shooting mode was introduced with the Stylus Creator XZ-10 at the beginning of this year. Designed to appeal to scrapbookers and family historians, it provides a way to capture and combine a series of images to create a montage.
Four template patterns are available: the standard containing three images in varying sizes plus three ‘Fun Frames’ options: frame-in-frame, strips and film. Art Effects are available with most templates.
To create a Photo Story, you simply select the template you wish to use and compose the first shot. A tap on the touch-screen captures the shot and places it into the selected frame. The process is repeated until all frames are filled. The end result is saved as a single file.
Sensor and Image Processing
Both are effectively the same as in the OM-D E-M5 and full details can be found in that review. Movie settings are also the same as the E-M5’s and outlined in the same review. So are the playback functions.
Released in tandem with the E-P5 will be the new VF-4 add-on electronic viewfinder, which will be available as an option. Like its predecessor, the VF-2, it clips onto the camera via the accessory port and draws power from the camera’s battery. It’s equipped with lock and tilt mechanisms that allow it to be angled anywhere between horizontally and vertically.
With a resolution of 2.36 million dots and covering the full field of view of the sensor with 1.48x magnification, the new finder provides a more detailed, potentially sharper and larger view of the scene than the VF-2. It also claims to deliver more natural colour reproduction although, without a VF-2 available for comparison, we can’t vouch for those claims.
We can, however, say that the new finder is bright, sharp and easy to use, although it does bulk to the camera body. It can also make the camera more difficult to fit into a camera bag when the FV-4 is in position and it takes time to attach and detach the finder, which may cause you to miss shots.
The EVF is useful for shooting in backlit situations as well as in bright sunlight, when the monitor screen becomes difficult to ‘read’. It also provides a brighter view of the scene in very low light levels and allows camera settings to be superimposed on the scene, as they are with the monitor screen.
The display provided to us appeared to have fast refresh rates and was able to keep pace with subject movements when the camera was in tracking AF mode. We noticed slight smearing during rapid pans; but none when panning at normal panning speeds.
Olympus will also release black versions of three of its prime lenses: the 17mm f/1.8, 45mm f/1.8 and 75mm f/1.8. A suite of ‘premium’, hand-stitched leather accessories will also be available, including a neck strap, camera case and shoulder bag that can accommodate the camera plus several lenses and other items.
Although we couldn’t carry out our full suite of Imatest tests since the camera was a pre-production unit, we were able to take photographs and record videos during the six days we had with the camera. We were also able to carry out some basic timing tests – including testing whether operating the camera from an iPad affected overall response times.
Test shots indicated the new camera should perform well and, with the right lens. could match the image and video quality produced by the OM-D E-M5. Still pictures appeared sharp, with natural colour rendition and the slightly elevated saturation many snapshooters prefer.
Video clips contained plenty of detail and the camera’s focusing and exposure systems responded reasonably quickly (although not instantaneously) to changes in camera-to-subject distances and shifts in light intensity. Movie soundtracks were clear, although we noticed a slight bias in favour of high frequencies (bird song was more clearly recorded than the rumble of a passing train).
The sample camera displayed the usual difficulties in colour correction when shots were taken with the auto white balance under artificial lighting. Shots captured under incandescent lighting retained a noticeable orange cast, while those recorded in fluorescent lighting were slightly bluish-green.
The built-in flash tended to under-expose from ISO 100 to ISO 400 with a 42mm focal length, using our standard test target. From ISO 800 to ISO 6400, the exposure balance was correct but shots taken at ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 were over-exposed as the camera ran out of exposure adjustments.
Long exposures at night were usable at all ISO settings, with some noise becoming visible at ISO 3200 but minimal softening until ISO 25600. No apparent colour shifts were seen as ISO settings were changed.
Our timing tests were conducted with an 8GB SanDisk Ultra SDHC UHS-1 card, which claims a data transfer speed of up to 30 MB/second and is Class 10 rated. The camera powered-up in roughly 1.5 seconds but shut down almost instantly.
We measured an average capture lag of less than 0.1 seconds, which was eliminated by pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.7 seconds without flash and 3.5 seconds with flash.
It took 0.9 seconds on average to process each JPEG file, 1.2 seconds for each ORF.RAW file and 2.3 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair.
In the sequential high-speed shooting mode, the camera recorded 11 high-resolution JPEGs in one second. It took 3.3 seconds to process this burst. With the continuous low-speed mode, the review camera recorded 10 high-resolution JPEGs in 1.7 seconds. It took 2.7 seconds to process this burst.
Ten ORF.RAW files were recorded in one second in the sequential high-speed mode. Processing time for this burst was 2.2 seconds. Fourteen RAW+JPEG pairs could be recorded in 1.6 seconds before the buffer memory filled and capture rates slowed. It took 12.2 seconds to process this burst.
Controlling the camera from an iPad extended the average capture lag time to between 0.5 and 1.1 seconds, depending on how quickly we could trigger the shutter using the iPad’s touch screen. It took approximately 25 seconds to transfer an image to the Camera Roll storage in the iPad but it was possible to record additional frames while this was taking place.