Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera

Started 4 months ago | User reviews
Michael Jardine
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Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
4 months ago

I've never been infatuated with a camera - or any other piece of gear. That doesn't mean I'm not a gear hound - I am. And I like to think that my purchase decision starts with the practicalities of features + function. But with the Olympus Pen E-P5, I was smitten at first fondling. Lucky for me, turns out it's also a pro-level work horse. Because by the time I twist-locked the 17mm f/1.7 lens on and snapped the EVF to the top, I didn't care: I had to have this camera.

You Can't Buy Time

That's one of my favorite marketing maxims. I think it applies to design as well. The Olympus Pen has over 50 years of history as a minimalist, multi-lens camera. This latest incarnation calls on that lineage.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Cameras Are Like Cars

Cars are extremely functional but they are also an emotional purchase. When someone knocks on your door, you may not know how they arrived, but they will. It may have been in a Yellow Cab, a Zip car, or perhaps even an Uber town car. Or maybe it was in that Mini Cooper Clubman S, like mine. The one that handles so nimbly on mountain roads. The one that gets me from Seattle to California on one tank of gas. The one that squeezes into impossible parking places in the city. The one that makes me feel so good when I'm driving it - so good that I wave to other Mini drivers - complete strangers with whom and I share smiles of knowing contentment.

Technical comment: this photo was taken at ISO 2500 without noise reduction. The E-P5 and E-M1 have pretty much the same low light capabilities and can easily shoot at ISO 3200. For low light photography, I suggest shooting in RAW then, if necessary, use the excellent noise reduction of Adobe Lightroom - judiciously.

Happiness Is A Beautiful Camera

Likewise, when you look at a photograph, you probably won’t know what camera was used to capture that moment in time - but more than likely, it was a memorable experience for the photographer. And more than likely, that experience was affected by the camera that was used. While there is definitely a technical aspect to camera choice - megapixels, frames per second, weather-proofing, high ISO, HDR, blah blah - chances are, your real decision is being made at an emotionally intuitive level. How does the camera feel when you cradle it in your hand? Is there a tactile sensuality that makes you want to caress it in-between photos, that makes you never want to let it go? Does it ‘just feel right’ to you?’ Or is it a cold instrument that merely responds to your calculated bidding?

When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because, happiness is a warm gun…

- George Harrison

Moving away from emotional and back towards technical, it’s also important that your camera be easy to operate. Let me rephrase that: easy for you to operate.

Tell Me How Does It Feel?

Part of the purchase decision is based on how the camera feels in your hand, and how comfortable it is to use. And if that camera feels good in your hand - if you develop an emotional attachment to that camera - guess what? You’ll take better pictures, because the camera puts you in a better frame of mind, and because the camera is there with you, always. You won't miss any photo opportunity. Of course, it helps if that camera is in your coat pocket. Or sitting next to you in your Cooper Clubman S.

Mono-Plane Design

Most cameras are designed to have easy controls. But what I love about the Pen series is that they are designed flush with the surface - nothing sticks out, controls are discreet yet articulated. Nothing gets caught on your camera as you pull it out of your pocket. And it presents a nonintimidating facade to those whom you photograph. I've noticed complete strangers smile at me in my Mini. I get the same result when I go out with the Olympus Pen. Life is good.

The Pen is easy to hold with one hand - even without a strap - and has a surprising number of buttons and dials that allow for both customization and quick access for changing situations. Actually, thanks to a handy flip lever, the E-P5 has almost as many controls as my Nikon D800. Almost. And did I mention, it fits in my pocket?

Tactile Pleasure

Unlike other cameras with 'pro' features, there are no grips or grab bars on the Pen. Yet, it is easy to hold, even with a large lens attached. I took it out into the crowds of a parade with two relatively heavy glass lenses, the 12-40 Pro and the 75mm f/1.8, with no problems. Two articulated tabs, one on the front and one on the back, ensure that the camera will never slip from your hands. (Having said that, you'd be remiss not to use a camera strap; for mirror-less cameras, you can flip open the viewfinder and use the strap as a kind of upside-down tripod for added stability.)

Form and Function

So my infatuation with this camera was fairly instantaneous. After spending a day taking photos of the camera, I decided to take some photos with the camera. I'll upload those in another post.

Note: I don't work for Olympus or any other camera company. I do own a Mini Cooper.

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Michael
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 Michael Jardine's gear list:Michael Jardine's gear list
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Michael Jardine's score
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bad for good for
Kids / pets
excellent
Action / sports
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excellent
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excellent
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great
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great
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great
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Nikon D800 Olympus E-M1 Olympus PEN E-P5
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David Grant
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Michael Jardine, 4 months ago

Very well written and illustrated!  Also inspiring.  I think I have a whole new perspective on my cameras.

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Michael Jardine
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to David Grant, 4 months ago

David Grant wrote:

Very well written and illustrated! Also inspiring. I think I have a whole new perspective on my cameras.

Thanks.  I know there are plenty of technical articles about this camera - not the least of all, here at dpreview. I'm just trying to put a more humanistic view on things  

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PoohBill
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to David Grant, 4 months ago

Christmas list:

1) Olympus E-P5

2) Mini Cooper as case, for storage and carry (it's an accessory, Sweetie!)

Bill

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dv312
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Fully in agreement
In reply to Michael Jardine, 4 months ago

I share your feeling

The EP5 may not be the most advanced, the most popular, the most camera for your money but for me , it's the most cherished and most admired , due to its styling and functional design, not unlike the Pen F before it

I've owned many Olympus from from the film days till today and the E1 and EP5 stand out in my books: the E1 for best all around camera of its time, the EP5 for best styling

The only thing I'd wish in a EP7 would be a builtin EVF a la NEX on the RHS of the body and that'd be perfect

No I don't own a Cooper and I concur with your assessment of its styling; I drive a Prius instead, mainly for economy and dependability reasons

Here's my collection of Pens:

Cheers

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ulfie
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OK ... now ...
In reply to dv312, 4 months ago

Now that the gear honeymoon is over, show us some images you're taken with it.  That's what cameras and lenses are for.

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LMNCT
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Michael Jardine, 4 months ago

My goodness! A love affair between human and machines! I have had some cameras that I have been pleased with and cars which have performed very well (current Prius is a wonderful rolling bird blind) but never waxed poetic about them.  Most inspiring.  I must look at my metal objects with a new eye.

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Zensu11
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Michael Jardine, 4 months ago

Michael Jardine wrote:

When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because, happiness is a warm gun…

- George Harrison

I agree with your review 100%. I love my E-P5!

I'm sorry to say your quote was attributed to the wrong man. It was not George Harrison who was quoted but it was, a very tragic irony, John Lennon.

Bobby

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Michael Jardine
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Re: OK ... now ...
In reply to ulfie, 4 months ago

ulfie wrote:

Now that the gear honeymoon is over, show us some images you're taken with it. That's what cameras and lenses are for.

Ahh ulfie, you missed half the point of my article. Dv has just shown us a wonderful image, hopefully taken with an Olympus!

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Michael Jardine
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to LMNCT, 4 months ago

LMNCT wrote:

My goodness! A love affair between human and machines! I have had some cameras that I have been pleased with and cars which have performed very well (current Prius is a wonderful rolling bird blind) but never waxed poetic about them. Most inspiring. I must look at my metal objects with a new eye.

Hmm, two Prius owners - and Pen admirers - in one short thread.  I used to own a Prius before I got my Mini, but that is another story...

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veroman
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Michael Jardine, 4 months ago

Excellent post in every respect. You put into words and pictures my own experience with, and feelings about, the E-P5. Thanks so much for posting. Really well done.

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SteveG
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— Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie
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Michael Jardine
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Zensu11, 4 months ago

Zensu11 wrote:

Michael Jardine wrote:

When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because, happiness is a warm gun…

- George Harrison

I agree with your review 100%. I love my E-P5!

I'm sorry to say your quote was attributed to the wrong man. It was not George Harrison who was quoted but it was, a very tragic irony, John Lennon.

Bobby

Thanks, Bobby. I've corrected it in the post on my site.

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Michael Jardine
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to veroman, 4 months ago

veroman wrote:

Excellent post in every respect. You put into words and pictures my own experience with, and feelings about, the E-P5. Thanks so much for posting. Really well done.

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SteveG
'When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.'
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Allow me to return the compliment on your quote. By I would change it slightly:

'When love and skill work together, expect a better than average photograph.'

I've actually taken some photos with this camera, and will post another review in a couple of days. Funny how it's become my camera of choice, even though I have an E-M1.  It's like Buzz and Woody around here...

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agentlossing
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Michael Jardine, 4 months ago

Well-written and enjoyable review, and great product shots! I can't quite get on board with the Mini Cooper thing, as I'm more of an Eclipse/Supra kind of guy, but to each his own!

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veroman
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Michael Jardine, 4 months ago

Michael Jardine wrote:

veroman wrote:

Excellent post in every respect. You put into words and pictures my own experience with, and feelings about, the E-P5. Thanks so much for posting. Really well done.

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SteveG
'When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.'
— Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie
www.stephenmichaelgarey.com

Allow me to return the compliment on your quote. By I would change it slightly:

'When love and skill work together, expect a better than average photograph.'

I've actually taken some photos with this camera, and will post another review in a couple of days. Funny how it's become my camera of choice, even though I have an E-M1. It's like Buzz and Woody around here...

It's become my camera of choice as well. Here are some E-P5 pics I recently posted. Lens was the 14-42 II R, of all things.  http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/53961472

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SteveG
'When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.'
— Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie
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Michael M Fliegel
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to agentlossing, 4 months ago

I like old British iron (also known as LBC's).  I also feel much the same way about the EM1.  Olympus products seem to inspire their owners, as evidenced by the great work posted here and throughout this Forum.

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Michael Jardine
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to Michael M Fliegel, 4 months ago

Michael M Fliegel wrote:

I like old British iron (also known as LBC's). I also feel much the same way about the EM1. Olympus products seem to inspire their owners, as evidenced by the great work posted here and throughout this Forum.

EM1 replaced my D800 earlier this year.  Pen is now my travel camera.  As for cars, well, that's a different story.

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Michael Jardine
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to veroman, 4 months ago

veroman wrote:

It's become my camera of choice as well. Here are some E-P5 pics I recently posted. Lens was the 14-42 II R, of all things. http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/53961472

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SteveG
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Thanks for sharing!

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Michael
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Michael Jardine
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Re: Fully in agreement
In reply to dv312, 4 months ago

Excellent photo, dv

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Michael
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Michael Jardine
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Re: Olympus Pen E-P5, Portrait of a Camera
In reply to agentlossing, 4 months ago

agentlossing wrote:

Well-written and enjoyable review, and great product shots! I can't quite get on board with the Mini Cooper thing, as I'm more of an Eclipse/Supra kind of guy, but to each his own!

Stick with the Pen, you'll be happy

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Michael
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