Image Quality

The E-P5 offers essentially identical image quality to the other 16MP models in the Olympus lineup, which is to say 'very good.' The company has, for a long time, done a good job of creating compelling JPEG images from its cameras, but the 16MP sensor that first appeared in the OM-D E-M5 means the underlying image data is that bit cleaner.

We've long been fans of Olympus' color response - it's not got anything to do with being accurate, it's a question of making the colors punchy and pleasing without looking too un-natural. The E-P5's white balance is consistently impressive (which is a lot of what makes image color look good) - it can sometimes tend a tiny bit towards the amber, giving a touch of warmth, but rarely gets the green/magenta balance wrong, which can often spoil a photo.

The Olympus JPEG engine is one of our favorites in terms of color response. That isn't to say it's the most accurate - accurate and attractive aren't necessarily the same thing - but it produces pleasantly punchy images.

Here's an extreme example, with a blue sky rendered the way that you tend to remember the sky being on your summer holidays, not necessarily the way it actually appeared.

The E-P5 has the same dynamic range-extending option that Olympus has offered for several years now - Shadow Adjustment Technology. This feature, accessed by changing the 'Gradation' setting to 'Auto' (obviously), reduces the exposure a fraction to avoid clipping extreme highlights, then uses an adaptive tone curve to incorporate more dynamic range into the final image without losing local contrast. In general its works pretty well, giving good, tonally-balanced images without them looking flat. On older 12MP cameras such as the E-P3 Auto Gradation could end up emphasizing noise, but the 16MP sensor has such a low noise floor (especially at base ISO) that there's very little penalty for turning it on.

Chromatic aberration

We wouldn't usually criticise an interchangeable lens camera for exhibiting chromatic aberration, since it's a properly of the lens. However, it's becoming increasingly common for cameras to be able to correct the problem, either by image analysis (Nikon) or lens profiles (Canon, Panasonic, and Olympus's latest flagship, the OM-D E-M1), and the Olympus 17mm F1.8 often bundled with the E-P5 benefits noticeably from post-shot correction.

Image shot with the m.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 ED 100% crop from lower left corner, showing lateral chromatic aberrations.

Image Shake - With Firmware 1.4 or later

Firmware version 1.4 for the E-P5 was released in May 2014. In addition to some improved Wi-Fi features, it also added a '0 Second Anti-Shock' feature. It's a menu option first added to the company's flagship E-M1, that leaves a tiny delay after the physical shutter opens, then uses an electronic first curtain to start the exposure.

Anti-shock is enabled from the E-P5's Custom Menu: Custom E (Exposure/Metering ISO/ISO), page 2, last item. You only need to do this once.

Once enabled, an entire new set of drive modes appears, each of which includes the specified anti-shock delay. However for some reason the electronic first curtain '0sec' mode won't work with burst shooting.

Once anti-shock is enabled, then it's accessed from the Drive menu ('Down' key). From the normal single-shot mode, a single press of the 'Left' button switches to single-shot + antishock. We haven't done any real-world shooting with this yet, but our test shots suggest it's very effective at reducing image shake at the 'danger' speeds. The blurring that's visible in the first image below is essentially eliminated by enabling 0 sec anti-shock.

Olympus PEN E-P5, M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm 1:2.8 Macro, 1/160sec F2.8 ISO 640
Without anti-shock 100% crop
With 0 sec anti-shock 100% crop

The mode adds a very subtle delay to the shutter response, but it's one measured in milliseconds, and therefore practically imperceptible to the user. We see no reason not to ensure '0 Sec Anti-Shock' is always applied - resolving the issue outlined in our original review.

Camera / image shake - Pre Firmware v1.4

The following text is from the original review of the E-P5 and refers to the camera's behavior when used without the '0 Sec Anti-Shock' mode that was added with firmware 1.4.

Sadly, the biggest problem we've had with the E-P5 is something that's supposed to be counteracted by one of its biggest strengths - its five-axis image stabilization system.

We've found that when examining our images closely, many are visibly shaken, showing a distinct double-image which is almost perfectly vertically displaced (when the camera is in landscape orientation). The issue is most prevalent at shutter speeds between 1/80th and 1/250th of a second, and most obviously visible when using short telephoto lenses (~100mm equivalent). It's also far more visible with the E-P5 than the E-M5 shot with the same settings. Unfortunately, the camera's Auto ISO system will generally use 1/equivalent focal length as its minimum shutter speed, greatly increasingly the likelihood that you'll use these shutter speeds with such lenses.

Image shot with 35mm equivalent lens and 1/80th of a second. IS On (Auto) 100% crop, showing vertical double image
Image shot with 60mm F2.8 Macro (120mm equivalent) at 1/160sec 100% crop, showing vertical double image. We've found that the E-P5 is far more prone to this than the E-M5.

It's a specific problem that you can often see in images from the E-P5, and which doesn't appear to anywhere near the same extent from other cameras, most notably the E-M5. It's definitely something that we think potential buyers should be aware of and take into account.

In our original review, we suggested that the root cause of this blurring might be simply that small, light cameras are naturally more susceptible to shake. However, the success of the '0 Sec Anti-Shock' mode suggests that instead it is mainly due to vibrations caused by the physical shutter closing then opening at the start of the exposure. We have removed our previous analysis of the problem, since it is an issue that can now be resolved by use of the latest firmware.