Olympus PEN E-P5 Review
The E-P5 gains a 'peaking' display mode - a manual focus aid that's gradually becoming standard across mirrorless cameras. Essentially it highlights high-contrast edges, thereby indicating which areas of the image are in sharp focus. It provides an alternative to magnified live view for precise manual focus, with the advantage that it allows you to view the entire image and monitor your composition at the same time. You can also combine peaking with magnified live view. Sadly, though, peaking doesn't work when the camera's mode dial is set to the movie position.
The E-P5 is far from the first camera to offer this feature, but one advantage it offers compared to most other models is its combination with an in-body image stabilization system that works with all lenses and is always active by default. This is likely to be especially valuable with telephoto lenses, which are notoriously difficult to focus manually using unstabilized magnified live view. The only other brand to offer this combination is Pentax, but you can use a much wider range of lenses on the E-P5.
|The combination of Focus Peaking display and 'always on' in-body image stabilization promises to make the E-P5 an excellent tool for working with old manual focus lenses.|
On the E-P5 there are three distinct settings that deal with peaking - all in separate sections of its enormous custom menu. You can choose the outline colour (black or white), and specify whether the camera should automatically show a peaking display when you manually focus a native Micro Four Thirds lens (i.e. one with electronic contacts, so the camera knows when the focus ring is being turned). You can also assign one of the customisable buttons - Fn, Magnify, or Record - to activate the peaking display, which you'll need to set up if you use manual focus lenses, either legacy lenses on adapters or Micro Four Thirds mount lenses without contacts from the likes of Voigtlander, Samyang or SLR Magic.
|This is the E-P5's focus peaking display, using black outlining of high contrast edges.
When peaking is active, the screen's refresh rate slows noticeably.
|Here's the white-outline version of the peaking display.
You can see by comparison with the screenshot above that the camera adapts the overall image brightness to heighten contrast against the peaking colour, lightening it when using black outlines, and darkening it with white. This makes the display particularly easy to use.
|You can combine focus peaking with magnified live view if you like, which should give the most accurate results.|
|There are three separate menu settings that deal with peaking. 'MF Assist' in Custom Menu A lets you choose whether you want to use peaking automatically with native Micro Four Thirds lenses.|
|The 'Button Function' option in Custom Menu B allows you to use one of the customisable buttons (Fn, Magnify or Record) to activate the peaking display. You'll need to set this if you want to use peaking with manual focus lenses.|
|Meanwhile the 'Peaking Settings' option on Custom Menu D lets you choose between black and white edge highlighting.|
|This display mode offers some intriguing possibilities for creative photography. Here we're using an old Olympus OM Zuiko 55mm F1.2 lens on a Kipon tilt adapter, and placing a region of sharp focus selectively down the centre of the image. Peaking provides an excellent tool for visualizing what exactly will end up in focus.|
There's an interesting glitch with the E-P5's handling of this feature, when using one of the Micro Four Thirds primes with a push-pull 'snap manual focus' ring (such as the 17mm F1.8 and 12mm F2.0) - pulling the focus ring back engages manual focus mode but oddly doesn't engage focus peaking. Indeed, even if the camera has been set to manual focus mode before pulling the focus ring, any MF Assist mode (peaking or magnified LV) is disengaged. The problem has been solved with the 12-40mm F2.8 zoom, where the ring engages full manual focus mode.
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