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Olympus PEN E-PL5 and PEN E-PM2 Hands-on Preview

September 2012 | By Richard Butler
Buy on From $318.88

Preview based on a pre-production PEN E-PL5 f/w 1.0 and
pre-production PEN E-PM2 with f/w 0.9

Olympus was one of the instigators of the mirrorless uprising, having formulated the Micro Four Thirds standard with Panasonic. At first it looked like Olympus might be overshadowed by Panasonic's technical prowess but a combination of its class-leading JPEG processing and pretty heritage-inspired designs meant they were able to offer something interesting. With the first PEN Mini it was also able to offer the least-expensive mirrorless model on the market, but the camera that really made us sit up was the Olympus OM-D.

When we gave the OM-D EM-5 our Gold Award we said it was arguably the most capable and likeable mirrorless camera we'd then seen, and there's not been a real challenge for that crown (though the Fujifilm X-E1 might change that). Now, with the arrival of the fourth PEN Lite (the PL5) and the second PEN Mini (PM2), Olympus looks set to bring E-M5 image quality down to mass-market prices. And that's a big step forward - if these offer the E-M5's genuinely DSLR-standard image quality in a smaller, more compact-camera-like body.

Olympus PEN E-PL5 and E-PM2 common features

  • 16MP Four Thirds sensor
  • Touch-sensitive screen
  • 460k dot 3" LCD screen (16:9 aspect ratio)
  • In-body image stabilization
  • ISO 200-25,600
  • TruePic VI processor
  • Up to 8fps continuous shooting
  • 11 Art Filters
  • Revised in-camera Raw file processing with presets
  • AP2 accessory port for accessories such as an electronic viewfinder
  • Movie effects as seen on OM-D E-M5, plus Picture Style shift effect

As with the previous generation of PENs, both cameras are very similar, with the PEN Lite offering a flip-up screen, exposure mode dial and two more buttons on the back of the camera than the Mini. On top of this, the PL5 gains a removable front hand grip. The articulation of the rear screen has been improved, meaning it now flips all the way up for self-portraits or into a flat position for waist-level shooting, using its touch screen to focus or fire the shutter.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 key features

  • Touch-screen flips up by 170 degrees, with reversed image for self-portraits
  • Removable front grip (with other designs available)
  • Drive mode dial

There have been additions to the PEN Mini too. Whereas the PM1 always felt it had one button too few for anything more than point-and-shoot use, the PM2 adds another two, one of which is a user-customizable function button. It also gains a fixed hand grip on the front of the camera and a touch sensitive screen.

Finer focus point option

Both camera still feature the 35 autofocus points seen on their predecessors but, as well as being able to over-ride these by pressing on the screen, it's also possible to refine them down to finer points. Pressing the INFO button while you're in AF point selection mode allows you to cycle between the camera's different AF area sizes (all 35 points, a 9-point square, single point or single small point). This makes it easy to select where you wish to focus with great precision.

Lens IS priority

Another addition to both cameras, to help them work more happily with Panasonic's range of stabilized lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system is new 'Lens IS Priority' option in the menus (which is set to 'on' by default). It means the cameras will make use of the lens' stabilization system, rather than using their in-body systems when available.

In-camera Raw processing

Olympus was one of the first manufacturers to provide the option to re-process a Raw file, if you decided you wanted to apply different processing parameters or if you needed a JPEG of a Raw shot you'd just taken. This feature gave the ability to adjust the noise reduction, fine-tune the white balance or change the gradation settings to optimize your image using the rather good Olympus JPEG engine, without having to boot up your computer. It extended to providing the chance to apply different art filters, after you'd taken the shot or apply a different one if you didn't like the one you first chose.

The E-PL5 and E-PM2 become the first Olympus models to allow you to create and edit two presets, making it faster to make quick JPEG copies of your images. Now, when you hit 'OK' to confirm that you want to process the selected Raw file, you are presented with a dialogue that gives you the choice of applying the current settings, Custom 1, Custom 2 or to not bother. The two custom options can be edited just before you apply them, by pressing right on the four-way controller. This gives a range of options including the new options to push or pull exposure and boost or suppress the highlights or shadows. It's pretty powerful stuff for a camera at this (or any) level.

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

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DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2011 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Total comments: 152

looks cheap & ugly, both of em...


Looks cool I would say.

Ulfric M Douglas

They've made the e-pM2 bodywork look like the e-pL1, and that's my least favourite style. :(
No pop-up flash e-pL5. :(


I am happy with my trusty old E-PL1. Only lust for that autofous assist lamp on this cam. Boxy E-PL1 anyday for me.


the solid 16Mp sensor + best JPG engine + tiny body + 1/2 price... not bad!

And that "Lens Cap", perhaps it's good, too...


The EM-5 sensor has great IQ, but "best JPEG engine"? Not really. Too many artifacts and too much NR.

This camera is intriguing for the raw files not the JPEGs. For usable JPEGs have a look at the excellent X-Pro1.


Agreed wrt. Fuji's X JPG, if i could swallow their Leica-like pricing and idiosynchrasies. However, the Oly JPG engine is reputable across the less exotic cameras.


Wow Olympus out sourced the entire camera to Sony this time. Even the body looks like an NEX.


You can't be serious. These look nothing like the NEX line. Did I miss the part that says it was built by Sony?


Nex is waaaaay better looking.


LOL wut?


That's a stretch...


You should seriously go and see an optician. Quickly.


where is the flippin' E-P4/5 ?
this is not cutting it. cheap looking design, subpar lcd res.


One of the Oly guys said something about something revolutionary regarding one or the other upcoming Pen (finder?). Well, "maybe, maybe not."

Maybe the revolution is the relative low-res display, which due to some trickery, looks twice as good as it should.


I read some rumours about the E-Px being discontinued and the PEN range-topper being the E-PL5. E-Px users will want to upgrade to OM-D. How cunning...

Comment edited 33 seconds after posting

disgusting marketing ploys. the om-d is a different beast altogether. How are you going to separate that VF?

It's just a mystery to me how they could kill off the line that started it all, with properly built housings and plenty of dials.
It's a right crime that they put that ancient 12mp sensor in the otherwise superb e-p3.

Andy Spawn

E-PLX's features are good but the body looks cheap. It looks like a digital compact camera. On the other hand, there are too few dials.

How come Olympus discontinue E-PX? E-PX has very well built body, many dials. On the other hand, E-PX's look is very similar to film age PEN. OM-D's features are good but I don't SLR-like camera.

Olympus, if you don't continue E-PX, then many rangefinder lover will switch to Fujifilm X-E1, or X-Pro1.

1 upvote
Francis Sawyer


Fixed that for you.


How could Olympus discountinue the E-PX? It's all about sales. The OM-D is attracting the high end buyers and the E-PL5 is good enough for the rest. The E-PM is for somone who wants a better image than a point and shoot. Oly doesn't have a lot of money and they have to rationalize the product line up. The E-PX is a most likely casualty


The Mini has the new sensor, but the E-PL5 has the old sensor? What?


Surly that got to be a typo... from the news page: "Now the OM-D's 16MP sensor makes its way into both the latest PEN Lite (the E-PL5) and the PEN Mini (the E-PM2)"


Must be an error on DPR's part. E-PL5 sample images show 4608x3456 pixels with the original image size.


Why to hurry so much DPR!?
Lot of errors on spec. page, then how to trust the other infos? Eh...



Give them a break. There are way too many announcements today for them to keep up. If you can do a better job then show us.


@mpgxsvcd: That's why I sad: "Why so hurry?" DPR is (was?) about quality over speed. For me anyway.

1 upvote

Me sad two. ;-)

DPR should not have hurried and taken their time. Quality over speed, right?

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting

All I wish for is a thumbwheel. That would make a great camera for me. And a plus would be if the fn-buttom on the top could be customized to click you right to auto mode, I happen to like that feature on Panasonic. Guess I'll have to wait for GX2.

Total comments: 152