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Flash

The E-5's flash isn't the most powerful in the world but it is adequate for close-range portraits and for fill-in purposes outdoors or under mixed lighting. The shadows in this portrait are a little harsh, but overall, the balance between flash and ambient light is good. We'd prefer a slightly brighter exposure though - the background in this shot has been rendered significantly darker than it is in reality.

i-Enhance

We've seen iEnhance before, but the E-5 is the first top-end camera from Olympus to offer the feature. Essentially a selective color/contrast boost mode, iEnhance has three levels, - low, standard and high. As you can see from these examples, 'high' is pretty intense, but for scenes like this, 'standard' can give attractive results. The effect of iEnhance differs from shot to shot though, and we wouldn't recommend using it for portraits. It also has a nasty habit of accentuating noise in high ISO images.

Natural (iEnhance off). iEnhance Low.
iEnhance Standard. iEnhance High.

Dramatic Tone Filter

The E-5 gets the full complement of Art Filters, including the new 'Dramatic Tone', the effect of which varies widely depending on subject matter (see below) but in essence, combines fairly extreme local contrast adjustments with a grain effect. Sometimes it can add a lot to a scene, and other times not so much, but the the effects are usually interesting.

ISO 250
(converted in-camera from RAW)
ISO 250
(converted in-camera from RAW)
ISO 100
(converted in-camera from RAW)
ISO 200
(Converted in-camera from RAW)

ISO 6400

The E-3 was limited to ISO 3200, but the E-5's 12MP sensor can manage ISO 6400 (equivalent) - an entire extra stop which should, in theory, make the camera more useful for handheld photography in poor light.

JPEG 100%
RAW (adjusted to taste in ACR) 100%

It comes as no surprise that the E-5 is not at its best at ISO 6400, but the amount of luminance (and, in low-contrast areas, chroma) noise visible at this setting is disappointing, and we'd hesitate to recommend shooting at ISO 6400 in JPEG mode unless you absolutely need to. Better results can be coaxed out of RAW files (just) but it is clear that when high sensitivities are called for, the E-5 - just like the E-3 - cannot compete with the best of the current crop of APS-C cameras either in terms of noise or detail rendition.

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

At ISO 200 and 400 (and 100, if you can live with the reduced highlight dynamic range) the E-5's image quality is excellent. Detail capture is extremely high given the relatively modest pixel count of its sensor, and noise is all but absent. Just like the E-PL2, the E-5's light AA filter pays dividends and in terms of detail capture, files from the E-5, taken in favorable conditions, rival the output of some other, higher pixel-count cameras.

Where the E-5 falls down, like the E-PL2 and indeed the last-generation E-3, is in terms of noise, and dynamic range. Specifically, too much of the former, and not quite enough of the latter. At ISO settings above 400, noise levels become more pronounced than we had hoped, and although it is better than the E-3, the E-5's dynamic range is not as wide as we've come to expect from competitors with larger sensors. Although with gradation set to 'auto' you get a lot of highlight dynamic range back, this comes at the expense of increased shadow and midtone noise (i.e., at the expense of shadow dynamic range). Even at ISO 200, luminance noise can sometimes be seen in shadow areas, regardless of the gradation setting

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