- Ruggedly built body with a very high-end, solid feel and great tactile response on the buttons
- Excellent dynamic range and color response
- Good noise control at higher ISOs
- Excellent in-body stabilization allows for better handholding with all lenses
- Autofocus is fast, accurate and precise
- Camera is extremely responsive with very short shutter lag, quick file writing and a large buffer
- 9 frames per second continuous shooting for capturing action
- Massively customizable interface and good button placement
- Clear, sharp and vibrant tilting rear LCD with outstanding touch response
- 1/8000s shutter speed and expanded ISO 100 allow for shooting in bright light with large aperture lenses
- Optional VF-4 viewfinder is best-in-class, providing an enormous view and high resolution without lag
- Wi-Fi provides a quick way to transfer images, tag them with location or provide limited remote controlled shooting
- No built-in viewfinder is disappointing in 2013 at this price point
- Olympus menu system is still overly complex and confusing
- In-body IS can suffer from ‘shutter shock’ at moderate shutter speeds
- Four way controller is a little mushy and imprecise
- Continuous autofocus still not good for subjects moving towards or away from you
- Expensive in comparison to competition
- Pop-up flash button too easy to accidentally press
- Focus peaking is poorly implemented
- Wi-Fi Remote control is limited to iAuto mode
Overall, the Olympus Pen E-P5 is a solidly built camera that is quick, responsive and fun to shoot. It has excellent image quality and the 5-axis IS is wonderful. The overriding thought I had while shooting with the E-P5 was that is was a slightly smaller OM-D E-M5, with a bunch of little improvements: more precise autofocus, shorter shutter lag, quicker response and a few really nice features like Wi-Fi and a built-in pop-up flash.
There are some quirks in operation with the four-way controller standing out as a poorly constructed control in an otherwise exquisitely crafted machine. Focus peaking isn’t implemented well, causing too much lag, and the lack of control in the wi-fi remote shooting is a little disappointing. On the whole, however, the E-P5 gets a lot more right than it gets wrong.
One thing I do need to discuss is price. The lack of a built-in viewfinder at this price point of $999 (as of August 2013) is a bit of a head-scratcher. When the first Pen came out, there wasn’t any competition to worry about, and it took a while before built-in viewfinders in mirrorless cameras were integrated into small rangefinder styled bodies. But in 2013, we have the Sony NEX-7 and NEX-6, the Fuji X-E1, and the upcoming Panasonic GX7. These are all small bodies that have built-in high resolution corner EVFs. Of these, only the NEX 7 is notably more expensive than the E-P5. The E-P5 released at $999. The VF-4 adds an extra $279 to the package if you want it. The NEX 7 is $1099, the GX7 is going to debut at $999, the Fuji X-E1 is $799 and the NEX 6 is a mind-blowing $648 until the end of August. At $999, the E-P5 just has a hard road to travel to compete against these other cameras. In many ways, the cost is worth it…it’s got an exceptionally high-end build quality with great in-body IS and a ton of other great features, many that are exclusive to the E-P5 in this form factor. But the glaring thing that consumers will look for is the built-in EVF. In relation to the competition there, it’s just priced a bit too high.
But, price be darned, it’s a good camera. And if you do choose to shell out the cash, I highly recommend picking up the VF-4 to go along with it, as it’s a truly outstanding photographic experience when used with that great EVF. This was a fun combination to shoot, and with the EVF fitted, I preferred using the E-P5 to using my OM-D. Olympus has made a fantastic camera in a small package, and the E-P5 is a worthy addition to the Pen lineup.
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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!