Key features / what's new
As mentioned before, the E-5 is an updating of the E-3 with 2010 technology; the camera itself has changed very little. The emphasis - as far as Olympus is concerned - is on image quality, with the E-5 designed to be the body Zuiko Digital lenses have 'always deserved'. The E-3 was a camera we - and many others - grew to really like, and the upgrading of the digital systems, addition of movie mode and introduction of Art Filters (and other PEN-derived features) should provide a few more years service out of the tank-like body.
It is worth noting here that the E-5's body is just as rugged as the E-3's. Both cameras are weatherproofed, and both feel like they could take some pretty serious abuse. This is something that Olympus got right at the inception of the E-series with the top-end E-1 and it is good to see that these qualities have not been compromised in the E-5.
The E-5's body shell is almost - but not quite - the same as the E-3's. At a casual glance the camera is identical to its predecessor but more careful observation reveals a few important differences. The E-5 sports a larger LCD screen, which has squeezed out the delete, info, menu and live view buttons from their old position along the base of the camera. These buttons are now positioned above the LCD and to the left (in the case of menu and info) and the delete and live view buttons can now be found on the right of the camera, between the LCD and multi-controller. The E-3's IS button has been removed entirely, and so has the 'SSWF' blue LED light which used to illuminate when the sensor's ultrasonic cleaning system was in operation.
Also changed - the focus point selection button now doubles as a conveniently placed video shooting control. and the E-5 dispenses with the card door latch of the E-3, in favour of a more conventional (and easier to manipulate) sliding palm door lock design. This door closes over a redesigned dual memory card compartment, which contains slots for both Compact Flash and SD media.
|12MP LiveMOS sensor and TruPic V+ engine. The E-5 features a higher-resolution sensor than the E-3, but anyone hoping for a leap in megapixels over the current generation of FT cameras is in for a disappointment. The E-5 is built around the same 12MP sensor as virtually every other camera in the Olympus range, though it's claimed to offer a significant increase in image quality (specifically detail / resolution) thanks to a lighter AA filter and a new TruPic V+ processor.|
|Movie mode. The E-5 sports a movie mode, offering 720P / 30fps HD capture saved as AVI M-JPEG files. Onboard sound capture is mono (the new mic also means the E-5 gains 'Picture with sound' option), but there's a stereo mic jack and, naturally, an HDMI out connector. It is also possible to shoot movie clips in the E-5's art modes (this clip was shot in the new Dramatic Tone mode, which outputs video at a slightly lower framerate than the full 30fps).
Note: more video samples are available on the video page of this review.
|Bigger, higher resolution screen.
The new 3.0" (4:3 aspect ratio) swing/tilt screen brings the E-5 into line with most of its peers and makes the excellent live view system even better. The screen can also be reversed onto the back of the camera for protection when in storage, or in particularly harsh environments.
|Art Filters. The E-5 gets a full complement of Art Filters - 10 in total (including a new 'Dramatic Tone' option. In a welcome change these filters can now be applied in any shooting mode (on other models Art Filters are 'auto only' modes). On a side note some Picture modes now offer rudimentary 3-level control over the 'strength' of the effect.
Art filters offered: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Gentle Sepia, Cross Process, Dramatic Tone
|Aspect Ratios. You can now shoot in a variety of (cropped) aspect ratios.||AEB. Exposure bracketing now offers up to 7 frames.|
|Level Gauge. The E-5 features a new Level Gauge which shows pitch and roll, to aid accurate composition. This is what it looks like on the rear screen, but it can also be activated in the viewfinder.||Improved menus. The user interface hasn't changed a lot, but there are some welcome improvements, including color-coded setup menus, which are slightly more user-friendly than the same menus in the E-3.|
|Neater live view. Changing settings in live view mode no longer completely covers the preview image with menu graphics, which now sit at the edges of the screen. A small, but welcome enhancement.||Trickle-up features. Several 'consumer' gadgets and gizmos have found their way from consumer models into the E-5, including i-Enhance, Face Detection, expanded JPEG editing and multi exposure.|