Overall Performance

As you'd expect from a higher-end mirrorless camera, the E-P5 is a very responsive camera. It starts up impressively quickly - Olympus's claim of 0.5 sec startup doesn't look unrealistic. This is a welcome improvement over older models, which took longer to start up as they ran their dust removal systems.

The autofocus performance is consistent with that of the E-M5, which is to say impressive. The majority of Micro Four Thirds lenses use internal focus designs and stepper motors to allow fast and quiet contrast-detection AF, and the E-P5 makes full use of that. When used with Olympus' prime lenses, the E-P5 can focus almost instantly until the lighting gets too dark (and it'll tend to do a pretty good job after that if you ask it to focus on a high-constrat subject). Continuous focus and tracking are not up to the standard offered by similarly-priced DSLRs, so we wouldn't recommend the E-P5 for sports use or trying to photograph fast-moving children.

Shot-to-shot delays were just a 0.3 seconds, whether you're shooting SuperFine JPEGs, Raw images alone, or a combination of the two. Adding the flash into the mix increases the wait to about 2 seconds. There's a menu option to reduce the shutter lag from 'normal' to 'short,' but there's no explanation of why it doesn't default to 'short' and there's no obvious benefit when we tried timing the camera in both settings.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

The E-P5 offers a pair of continuous shooting modes - Sequential L and H - which stand for Low and High. The advertised speeds for both are 5 and 9 fps, with the IS system turned on (it's a bit faster with IS off). While very good, there are some competitors which can shoot a bit faster.

There are a couple of important differences between H and L modes, which aren't necessarily immediately obvious. In L mode, the camera maintains a live view feed and can refocus between frames, which means it's better for shooting moving subjects. In H mode focus is fixed once you start shooting, and rather than showing a live view feed between frames, the camera plays back your recently shot images. This helps you to maintain framing just as long as the subject isn't moving too much, but isn't so good for panning.

To put the E-P5 to the test, we used the fastest SDHC card available: a SanDisk Extreme Pro, which has write speeds of 95MB/sec. We attached the 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 lens to the E-P5, which is what Olympus used to derive their claimed frame rates.

Sequential H

JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate 9.5 fps 9.8 fps 9.9 fps
Number of frames 20 shots 18 shots 15 shots
Buffer full rate* ~5.0 fps ~3.0 fps ~2.0 fps
Write complete 7 secs 7 secs 13 secs
* Frame rate will 'hiccup' on occasion when buffer fills up

Sequential L

JPEG Large/Fine
Frame rate 5.0 fps 5.2 fps 5.2 fps
Number of frames To card capacity 30 shots 21 shots
Buffer full rate N/A 2.7 fps 1.8 fps
Write complete 1 sec 7 secs 7 secs

As you can see, the E-P5 met or exceeded its advertised burst rates, which is nothing to complain about. Olympus recommends turning off image stabilization to maximize continuous shoot performance, but we found that the difference between on and off is negligible.

While the camera is clearing its buffer, you can still take photos or enter the menu system, so there's rarely anything to interrupt your shooting.

Battery life

The E-P5 uses the same BLN-1 lithium-ion battery as the OM-D EM-5. This battery packs 9.3Wh of energy, which translates into a CIPA rating of 330 shots per charge (perhaps a touch low for an 'enthusiast' camera, but about standard amongst mirrorless models). The included BCN-1 external charger takes a leisurely 3 hours to bring the battery to full charge.