Olympus PEN E-P5 Review
The E-P5 is the first Olympus to include Wi-Fi, which in concert with the 'Olympus Image Share' (OI.Share) app allows transfer of images from the camera to a connected device, geotagging via your phone's GPS, and basic camera remote control. It's a pretty effective smartphone-targeted implementation, which means it avoids the complexity of Panasonic's labyrinthine, multi-function Wi-Fi implementation that we struggled to fully utilise with the GH3. Instead the E-P5's focus is exclusively on engaging with the smartphone you're likely to have in your pocket.
The primary function of the E-P5's Wi-Fi feature is to transfer images from the camera off to a smartphone - either your own or that of a friend - and it tries to make this as simple as possible. Olympus has provided two connection modes for the E-P5 that help to give a pretty clear insight into the way it expects the camera to be used. The first is the 'Private' mode designed for the camera's owner, the other is a one-time connection, to make it easy to share your images with other people's devices.
The One-Time Connection mode is the simpler of the two modes. It does not allow the smartphone user to control the camera, instead it only gives them access to images that the camera user has marked for sharing. It also generates an http: server so that your friends don't have to install the OI.Share app just to download some photos from you.
|Before you enter 'One-Time Connection' mode, you're offered the choice of whether you want to change the password.
(Oddly, while both the E-P5 samples we have in the US do this, the one we have in Europe doesn't, and skips straight to the connection screen instead, for no obvious reason.)
|You're then presented with a screen showing the ID and password of the network the camera is going to create.
Below this is the URL from which you can then view and download whichever images have been marked for sharing.
The QR code makes this process faster if you're running the OI.Share app.
Every time you enter One-Time Connection mode, you'll be asked whether you want to generate a new password. This is convenient, as it makes it easier for friends you've previously shared images with to re-connect to the camera. The friend can either manually connect to the camera's Wi-Fi and type in that password or use the 'Easy Setup' system (described below) if they have the OI.Share app.
Once connected to the camera's Wi-Fi, they can access an html page generated by the camera, from which they can browse and download any images that have been selected and added to the 'Share Order' by the owner.
|Here we can see a smartphone browsing the web page that the camera creates, to allow images to be viewed and downloaded.||Tapping on a thumbnail downloads the full-size version, which then can be saved to your phone's camera roll.|
Private Connection and OI.Share app
The Private connection provides the most options and assumes that you've downloaded the OI.Share app for iOS or Android. Engaging 'Private' mode prompts you to open the app on your phone, then displays a page with the Wi-Fi connection details and a QR code. Selecting 'Easy Setup' from the app allows you to import the connection details simply by pointing your phone's camera at the QR code.
|This screen then allows you to set up the connection to your phone either manually, or by reading the QR code from the OI.Share app.
The password is an 8-digit number. You can tell the camera to generate a new random password, but you can't set your own.
Depending on your phone's operating system, you may find you have to go through a couple of confirmation steps before the Wi-Fi details are accepted, but it's a lot easier than having to manually type in the connection details. Once this connection has been established then the app will be able to re-connect to the camera, next time you open it (unless your device is already connected to another Wi-Fi network - in which case you may need to manually change this connection across to the camera).
Private access to the camera using OI.Share provides more options - you can use the remote control feature in the app and you browse all the images on the camera, rather than just ones marked for sharing. In fact you can also share images were shot on other cameras, so long as they've been saved in the standard digital camera file structure.
|This is the opening screen for the Olympus Image Share (OI.Share) app. It's simply and clearly laid out, with four main options:
• Remote Control - operate the camera from your phone or tablet. The mode is limited to iAuto only, but you can specify your desired focus point and set a self timer.
• Import Photos - copy images from the camera to your device.
• Edit Photo - Apply an Art Filter, or add your signature to a picture by drawing it on the phone's screen.
• Add Geotag - when this is switched on the app records a location log using your phone's GPS. The app can then sync this data across to your images when the camera is connected over Wi-Fi.
You can also turn the camera's Wi-Fi off from your phone.
Rather annoyingly, though, gaining access to the full contents of the camera's memory card requires you to wipe any established 'share order' list of files for sharing. This means you'll need to make sure you've shared all the images you want to, before you try to browse the rest of your images, or you'll have to go back and re-select the images individually. There's also no way of selecting images for sharing from the app itself - this has to be done on the camera instead.
This frustration aside, the app is pretty handy - you can get it to downsize the images when it saves them onto your smart device. You can also edit images within the app, but this is limited to applying Art Filters or overlaying various images and pre-defined pieces of text. Edited images are limited to 2048x1536 pixels. The experience is very similar, regardless of the platform the app is run on.
Overall, though, it's a fairly simple and well thought-out system. It's not the most fully-featured Wi-Fi system but its ability to pull images off the camera or share them with other people can be immensely useful when you're out-and-about with the E-P5. Beyond sharing, the E-P5's Wi-Fi capabilities are less comprehensive.
Wi-Fi shooting (iAuto only)
The E-P5 allows tethered shooting from a smartphone over Wi-Fi, but the degree of control you get over the camera is very basic. You can specify the focus point, set a self-timer, and release the shutter, but that's all - the camera operates in iAuto mode only. The Wi-Fi range seems a little limited - about 5m or so - but both autofocus and shutter release are quick and responsive. By default the live view feed is rather low resolution, but you can switch to a higher quality version if you prefer.
|OI.Share's camera control window for the E-P5 is very simple. It has a self-timer that's configurable from 2 sec to 12 sec, and can mirror the live view display when you're shooting self portraits. You can specify the focus point just by touching the screen, and optionally release the shutter at the same time. Otherwise you use the big friendly release button.|
Overall this means that Remote Control shooting is probably best used for simple self portraits and group shots, rather than as a fully-featured remote release. This is a far cry from Panasonic's implementation on the DMC-GH3, which lets you change practically every camera setting from your phone, and doesn't lock down the camera's own controls either.
Geotagging via Wi-Fi sync
Another feature offered by the E-P5 in concert with the OI.Share app is geotagging of your images by syncing with your smartphone's GPS system. When it's turned on, the app records a GPS log of where you've been during the day, and can then append location data to your images based on the time they were shot when you connect to the camera over Wi-Fi. This is by no means unique to Olympus, but it's still nice to have.
|OI.Share can store multiple logs of your movements. Those which have been synced to the camera are indicated by a blue icon.||Once a log is synced with the camera over Wi-Fi, OI.Share can display a map showing where you've taken pictures. This one looks pretty accurate too.|
We've found Olympus's implementation to be pretty seamless, requiring minimal user interaction. Images which have been geotagged gain a little satellite icon in both the phone's and camera's playback display. The camera itself can't do anything with this information, but OI.Share can display a map showing where you've been, and where you've taken pictures along the way. Tapping on a location then displays the images taken there. There's nothing ground-breaking here, but it's all neatly-implemented.
There is, however, one very important point for iOS7 users - you have to explicitly give OI.Share permission to access Location Services while it's running in the background. This is enabled in the phone's settings menu (General - Background App Refresh). If you don't do this the app can't record a track, so Geotagging won't work. Android users simply have to give the app permission to use the GPS the first time it asks.
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