Olympus PEN E-P5 Review
At the time of the original review, the E-P5 was prone to shake in images shot around 1/160th seconds. With Firmware 1.4 (launched May 2014), a '0 Sec Anti-Shock' feature has been added that can effectively resolve this problem. We've left our original text in this conclusion but have highlighted, in green, any sections that have changed. See the IQ page for full details.
Conclusion - Pros
- Beautifully-styled and built, with lots of external controls
- Excellent JPEG output: warm, saturated colours without being excessive
- Classic twin-dial user interface
- Useful and easy to use Wi-Fi
- Reliable metering and white balance
- Extremely fast, accurate and near-silent autofocus with MSC lenses (including kit zooms)
- Very good, high resolution flip-out LCD
- Useful touchscreen functions (e.g. touch focus) work nicely in conjunction with external controls
- Hugely customizable and flexible controls
- Built-in image stabilisation works with all lenses (including adapted 'legacy' manual focus ones)
- Dual-axis electronic level
- Wide range of Art Filter effects encourages creative experimentation
- Superb, high-res optional electronic viewfinder
- Built-in flash offers wireless control of external units
Conclusion - Cons
- Unusually prone to blurred/shaken images at certain shutter speeds (around 1/160sec)
- Movie quality rather disappointing
- Camera configuration dauntingly complex
- Lenses with snap manual focus ring don't engage manual focus assist tools
- Multi-screen Live View interface is beginning to look very dated
- Pop-up flash prone to accidental release
- '2x2' dial control lever easily jogged to the wrong position
The E-P5 is, in most respects, the best PEN Olympus has ever produced. Yes it shares most of its internals with the considerably less expensive PEN Mini and PEN Lite, but the twin dial interface, faster maximum shutter speed, Wi-Fi capability and classic-looking body go a long way to justifying the price difference. It may be an evolutionary step forward for the PEN series, but this latest flagship model represents the biggest step forward we've yet seen - and not just because it gains the excellent 16MP sensor used across the rest of the range.
The E-P5 means the very good 16MP sensor first seen in the E-M5 finally makes its way into the original, full-sized PEN model, bringing excellent image quality with it. The Olympus JPEG engine still does its usual great job of converting what the sensor captures into attractive JPEGs. Its improved lower noise floor, compared to the 12MP cameras means the Auto Gradation feature can be used without undue impact on image quality - making it easier to get well-balanced JPEGs in high contrast situations, without having to resort to manually work up a Raw file.
The lack of chromatic aberration correction (a feature implemented in the majority of contemporary cameras and accounted for in the Micro Four Thirds specification), is disappointing. The 17mm F1.8 lens included in some E-P5 kits is a likeable lens - it's small, offers a handy focal length and aperture combination, is fast to focus and has the handy snap manual focus feature, even if it isn't as sharp as Olympus's other primes - but its output is greatly improved if CA is corrected.
*Pre Firmware 1.4 comments* However, while the E-P5 is capable of shooting really great images, it's not always able to do so. An apparent inability to correct the shake caused by pressing the shutter means that it's rather too easy to get images that are blurred to a deleterious degree. It's a problem that risks ruining images taken around 1/80 - 1/200th of a second, meaning you're likely to encounter it if you use short telephoto lenses and Auto ISO mode. It can be mitigated using the camera's 'anti-shock' setting, but this introduces a short delay between pressing the shutter button and making the exposure, so isn't ideal to use all the time.**
*Firmware 1.4 update* With the latest firmware, the E-P5 gains the option to apply a '0 sec' anti-shock mode. Engaging this mode very slightly reduces the shutter's responsiveness but with the benefit of essentially eliminating the shake problem we identified in our original review. It's not the perfect fix - you need to remember to engage it and keep it engaged - but it provides an effective work-around for what was our biggest concern about the camera.**
The other black mark against the E-P5 is its rather sub-par video quality. This won't matter to strict stills shooters, but the rather mushy, artefact-heavy footage the E-P5 creates reduce its usefulness, for anyone keep to dabble in moving pictures.
The E-P5 can be one of the nicest mirrorless cameras to handle, once set up. In addition to the twin dial interface and a selection of well-placed buttons, a touchscreen means that it's easy to engage with all the camera's settings - it seems amazing that it's taken so long for DSLR-style twin dial interfaces to reach the mirrorless camera market. The 2x2 dial interface, that re-purposes the control dials at the flick of a switch is an interesting attempt to put even more of the camera's controls at your fingertips but we rarely found ourselves using it (there's something about having a viewfinder that means it seems to make much more sense on the E-M1). We also found that the switch could be easily jogged to the wrong position.
Beyond this, our complaints about the E-P5's handling are pretty trivial - we sometimes found it rather easy to rotate the mode dial, rather than the rear control dial but this is probably something that would stop occurring if it was the only camera we were shooting with.
The snap manual focus ring on the 17mm lens is a nice feature - giving an almost mechanical focus feel to proceedings and adding to a sense of being in direct control of the camera's behavior. However, the snap manual focus mode's failure to engage MF assist features (focus peaking or magnified live view) feels more like a bug than a planned-out feature.
The phenomenal range of customization options means that tailoring the camera to your taste can take a bit of work, but the result is worth it - you can set the E-P5 to match your shooting style to a pretty fine degree.
The Final Word
In many respects, the E-P5 is a solid, really likeable enthusiast mirrorless camera. Its styling has, if anything, improved since the original E-P1, something that rarely occurs with designs that imitate classic styling. And, for the first time really, the E-P5 is a PEN model that offers a competitively complete camera - with the image quality, focus speed and user interface all coming together to offer a strong package. Of course its rather high pricing means it has to stand up to the E-M5 - one of our favorite mirrorless cameras so far - but if you want something a little smaller, the P5 does a good job of standing its ground.
And, while we weren't sure we'd find reasons to use it, the ability to easily transfer images to a smartphone (yours or someone else's) proved to be rather liberating. The ability to grab good quality images and post or email them immediately further suppresses any temptation to use a phone camera. The Olympus system isn't quite 'click to send' but it's one of the easier to configure and initiate systems we've so far encountered.
*Pre Firmware 1.4 comments* However, its inability to correct image shake at what should be usable shutter speeds means we don't feel able to unreservedly recommend the E-P5. We're hoping an improvement can be made to the camera's stabilization system but, as it stands, there's too much risk of your best shots being undermined - something that's unacceptable at this level. As such, we can't give the E-P5 as high an award as it would otherwise receive.**
*Firmware 1.4 update*With a useable work-around for our biggest area of concern, we have taken another look at the E-P5's award. The '0 Sec Anti-Shock' mode has to be seen as a workaround, rather than a fix, but it's one that allows the camera to be used to its full potential, which is a huge step forward. However, while the E-P5 probably would have recieved a Gold award, had it worked this way when we reviewed it, cameras such as the Fujifilm X-E2 and Sony a6000 have subsequently changed our expectations of this class. So, while we are still impressed with the its combination of capability, handling and image quality, as of May 2014, the E-P5 just misses out on our Gold award.**
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Olympus PEN E-P5
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The E-P5 is the most substantial reworking of the original PEN model, and it's the most impressive yet. It produces the same excellent image quality as the E-M5 and has a proper two-dial control system. This, combined with a better touch screen and arguably the prettiest PEN body, make it a more attractive and more complete camera than the series has seen before.
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