Operation and Menus
The general operation of the E-P5 is very much like its older sibling, the OM-D E-M5. They share the same relatively confusing menu structure that makes it impossible to find things, but gives you endless possibilities to customize your experience. You can change the programming controls for the two command dials, the function buttons, the magnify button, the record button, etc. Basically, you can get the camera to behave how you want it to behave. Unfortunately, it also requires that you navigate a horribly convoluted and confusing menu that takes months to truly understand where everything is. Luckily, since I’ve been shooting with the OM-D for over a year, I knew where everything was right off the bat, but new users won’t be so lucky. Give it time and you’ll get to know the system, but Olympus could really use some reorganizing here.
One of the first things to enable in that confusing mess of menus is the camera’s Super Control Panel. (Gears->D->Live Control->Mode->Super Control Panel On). This will then allow for quick access to major settings simply by pressing the OK button in the middle of the four-way controller on the back of the camera. This makes changing most settings fast and easy.
The tilt screen of the E-P5 works seamlessly and the touch response of the panel is excellent. You can set the touch screen to place focus points, or do touch shutter, so that touching anywhere on the screen focuses there and snaps the shot. You can also turn touch focus off altogether, which some may prefer.
Overall, once set up to your liking, the camera is very easy to control and most things are quickly available. I grew to quite like the lever switch to enable quick access to ISO settings…it’s a nice addition.
Performance and Autofocus
One thing that I almost immediately noticed upon using the E-P5 after using the OM-D for so long is that the E-P5 is a more responsive camera. This is saying something, as the OM-D E-M5 is no slouch in that department. However, in shooting, everything feels just a little bit faster. There is a quick shutter release mode that pre-cocks the shutter, allowing for extremely short shutter lag. The autofocus is just a tiny bit faster and everything just feels instant. You don’t wait on this camera. If you do your job, it will respond effortlessly.
While this speed increase is nice, the biggest thing for me with regards to autofocus performance on the E-P5 is the ability to set small focus points on the main grid. This feature made its appearance on some of last year’s Pen models, but this is the first time it’s been available in one of Olympus’ top tier Micro 4/3 cams. The increase in precision is much needed: finally catching up with Panasonic’s small points and allowing for much more precise selection of focus. Unfortunately, Olympus uses black broken squares as its AF points, and when the AF point size is set to small it is often difficult to see the black outline when placed over anything dark. It’s a minor inconvenience, but I prefer the white outline of Panasonic’s small focus points.
Like the OM-D, the E-P5 can do 9 frames per second continuous shooting (without autofocus tracking) but improves upon the OM-D by offering 5 frames per second shooting with autofocus tracking. Unfortunately, while single shot autofocus is exceptional, like all contrast-detect autofocus systems, continuous focus isn’t quite there when compared to phase detect systems.
In a first for the Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras, the E-P5 features a fastest shutter speed of 1/8000s. Combined with the abilty to choose ISO 100 as an expanded ISO, the E-P5 now allows for shooting in mid-day direct sunlight with the fastest lenses while still maintaining proper exposure.
Overall, the E-P5 is an extremely responsive and fast camera. It’s definitely one of those cameras you can use when you just need to get the shot, and it helps in capturing that decisive moment.
The E-P5 features a recessed pop-up flash on the left edge of the body. It flicks up quickly and surely, and the mechanism for the flash feels strong and durable. Unfortunately, the tradeoff for that strength is the inability to hold the flash backward in order to bounce the flash off a ceiling or wall (in portrait mode). This is a feature I use fairly regularly on the Panasonic GX1 and my Fuji cameras, but with the E-P5, it’s direct flash only.
However, the pop-up flash does work quite well. It does a fantastic job when coupled with the Olympus 60mm macro lens for macro shooting. It’s close enough to the lens to provide a ‘big’ light source that creates even illumination for macro subjects. See the sample photos of butterflies at the end of the review, all of which were taken using the pop-up flash for illumination. One thing I did note after shooting butterflies for a while using the flash is that after repeated flash photos, the right side of the camera where you grip it became quite warm, bordering on hot. Keep an eye on how quickly you shoot with flash.
The E-P5 has a flash sync speed of 1/320 second, which is quite good, and should allow for flash use in a wider range of situations than many other cameras, which are often limited to 1/160 or so.
18 thoughts on “Review: Olympus Pen E-P5”
great review as always jman. It seems the camera has a fair bit of issues; some can be corrected to a degree, others cant. Youre the first to say outright that the focus peaking doesnt work all that great, and I applaud it. It should be a full fledged feature and not an overlay. If sony, fuji and now even pana can do it, so can oly.
Needless to say, image quality is stunning.
Thanks. I have to say…overall, the ‘issues’ are pretty minor. I really enjoyed shooting with the camera. It’s one of those things where it gets almost everything right. There are a few things that make it not perfect, but overall it’s a great little camera. Last year I’d have said that it was worth every penny of the $999 asking price, and I think given the construction of the body, the image quality and the features, that in pure worth, it’s not an unreasonable price. The problem is there’s real competition, and the real competition is undercutting it in price while including an EVF….those other great features it has are going to get lost to the average consumer when they see that to get an EVF they have to shell out another $300. It’s a phenomenal EVF, but still.
If I didn’t have the OM-D already, I’d strongly consider picking up an E-P5 with the VF-4 and the 17/1.8 kit (where the price becomes less of an issue), but since the OM-D exists, it’s sort of hard to justify, even if the E-P5 improves on the OM-D in many areas.
I just purchased a VF-4 to use on my E-PL3, but I tested it on my OM-D as well. On the E-PL3 the picture is OK, but not as good as the built in finder on the OM-D. Mounted on the OM-D the view is much improved and beats the built in finder but not by a huge amount (clarity). Did you find the performance to be even better on the E-P5 or the same as on the OM-D?
Nicely done review, thank you. I rather like the fact that I have a convertible camera of sorts in the EP5. When I want a somewhat larger but better camera “especially outside in daylight” I put the EVF on. When I want “or need” to be a bit more nimble I just leave the EVF in the bag. This is my favorite camera short of the Canon 5D MkII which it compliments rather than replaces. I’ve had numerous other Micro 4/3s cameras “all Panasonic” and this baby blows them away by far for me.
I also have the shutter shock issue too with E-P5 and 45mm at around 1/100s, where there is some kind of double image occur.
The overall performance is indeed more responsive than E-M5, after using my friend’s E-M5 it just felt slightly slower especially on blackout
Another thing regarding video that a lot of review missed, is E-P5’s ability to zoom in/out (4X) anywhere on the screen during recording (in video mode), this is extremely helpful when you have prime lens on the camera, I think this is the only camera that have this capability.
Other camera you have to digtial zoom in first and can only zoom in the center, you can’t zoom out/in during recording.
Great camera, but I have tested two pcs and all of them had strong shutter shock issue. Hope Olympus will fix the problem.
I’m very glad Jordan mentions the shutter shock issue. I’ve been using Olympus PEN’s since 2010 and the thing that definitely annoys me the most is shutter shock. What’s especially tedious that every PEN behaves differently with every lens and I couldn’t figure out when enabling anti-shock improves or worsens the situation.
I recently bought an E-PM2 in addition to my E-PL3. To my astonishment, the E-PM2 behaves worse in several situations than the E-PL3. I hoped until now that I could get out of the shutter shock hell by upgrading to an E-M5 or E-P5 but Jordan and the following article, which tells about shutter shock on the E-M5, saved me a lot of money:
(I will upgrade some time but I’ll invest in a newly released body only if I know it fulfills all my current wishes.)
I read this article and I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions. Anti-Shock does not change the shutter sequence but adds a delay between pressing the trigger and the firing of the shutter. It is meant to counteract the user introducing blur by shaking the camera when pressing the button. There may indeed be shutter shock issues but if your camera needs to be locked on a tripod and images viewed at 200% to see then for practical purposes I think they can be ignored. The other option is to buy a mirrorless camera with an electronic shutter 🙂
According to Olympus, anti-shock does change the sequence. The suggest that it only relevant with really long lenses, though there is enough user experience to suggest otherwise:
“When you press the shutter button fully on a Micro Four Thirds camera, the shutter first closes and the immediately opens to take the picture. In most cases this does not affect the image. However, when using microscope or super telephoto lenses at large magnification ratios, the movement of the shutter closing can result in vibrations and may cause blur in the image. With [ANTI-SHOCK], a time lag is introduced between the shutter closing and it opening, greatly reducing the vibrations when the picture is taken.”
Good take on the camera overall, but I have to say for me, when I went to the store to give it a trial run, the point you made about “While my grip always felt sure on the E-P5, I didn’t find it particularly comfortable to handle” was the deal breaker for me. I wanted to like the E-P5 (and buy it), but it really just isn’t a comfortable camera to hold. Compare the grip on say a Panny G5, where your fingers kind of just naturally wrap around the grip, whereas with the E-P5 I find myself struggling to put my fingers in a comfortable position. I understand the form factor from a looks and design point of view, but I can’t learn to live with a camera that’s not comfortable to hold for extended periods.
Jordan, would you compare the VF-4 viewfinder in use on the E-P5 (for size, magnification, clarity, etc.) versus the in body viewfinder on the E-M10 II ? Thanks, John~
It’s definitely bigger. I can’t recall off hand if it’s as detailed…it’s been quite a while since I used the VF-4, but if I’m remembering correctly it’s a superior finder in most ways. It also is quite a large attachment.
Hi Jordan, just found your website with these very useful reviews!
As to the shutter shock issue with the E-P5: What about switching IBIS off at critical shutter speeds?
Since Olympus has meanwhile addressed the said issue with a firmware: Do you think the problem is fixed now?
I really like your kind of reviewing photo gear!