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A few days ago, I was invited by Olympus Malaysia to have a private hands-on preview session with their latest product, the much anticipated Olympus PEN E-P5. The units were not ready for review purposes, hence reviews shall come much later, but for now, I was fortunate enough to be selected to have a quick touch and try session with that new E-P5! In this blog entry I shall share my initial thoughts and first impressions on the Olympus PEN E-P5.
The E-P5 comes in three color schemes, BLACK, WHITE and SILVER I have seen them all in real life and my preference leans toward the SILVER
Here is the summary of what is in the new E-P5.
Premium PEN with quality build and design
Mini OM-D: same 16MP Image Sensor and 5-Axis IBIS (further optimized for panning shots)
New shutter mechanism, high shutter speed 1/8000sec
Low ISO Setting (Equivalent ISO100)
2x2 Dial Controls
Built in Wi-Fi functions
Focus Peaking (FINALLY!!!)
For full specification list, please visit Olympus’ Official Page for the E-P5 (click here).
1) PREMIUM PEN
When I first saw the camera body, the first thing that caught my attention was the phrase “OLYMPUS PEN” being the brand on the camera, instead of just the word “OLYMPUS” like all other cameras. This was an unusual, but understandable move which was taken to further strengthen the PEN branding, which was one of the strong successes of Olympus since the film era.
As I held up the camera, there was a significant weight on the camera body itself, and that meant the camera was not designed to be cheap. Looking at the camera close-up, it was almost impossible not to fall in love with the overall design. The E-P5 is SEXY! The level of attention to detail was incredible, and somehow this E-P5 really did stand out from all the previous PEN cameras, and it did seem to be a class above E-P3. There was no part on the E-P5 that felt cheap or plastic-ky. Every inch of the camera screams quality, hence the Premium branding.
The E-P5 felt really comfortable in my hands, and there was the substantial rubberized hand grip and thumb rest. Handling with ordinary micro 4/3 lenses should not be a problem, and the not-so-lightweight is actually an advantage when dealing with larger and heavier lenses, such as the the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens. On the whole the ergonomics and handling of the camera were very good. Of course, this will have to be further verified by real life shooting circumstances, which shall come at the later stage.
Black E-P5 with M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens
2) Key Improvements over E-P3
So is this E-P5 a warmed over iteration with minor tweaks and upgrades, or a huge level-up from the predecessor E-P3? Lets cut to the chase, I say it is the later.
New Shutter Mechanism that goes 1/8000sec, and low ISO (100 equivalent)
The E-P5 has now a new shutter mechanism that allows the shutter speed to go to 1/8000sec, which was indeed an important improvement over the 1/4000sec limit imposed on all other micro 4/3 cameras up to date. Adding the lowest ISO100 setting (previously was ISO200 on E-P3 and OM-D), you gain a huge margin of two stops exposure to work with, thus opening up huge flexibility. The main advantage I can think of is using the bright lenses under harsh bright sun-lit conditions, where using F1.8 will result in overexposure, requiring previous micro 4/3 cameras to stop down the aperture, resulting in loss of shallow depth of field. Having 1/8000sec shutter and lowest ISO100, you gain plenty headroom to work with to prevent over-exposure.
2x2 Dial Controls
The flimsy thumb roller dial surrounding the arrow-pad has been dropped in favor of the standard dual dial controls at the top right corner of the camera, much like more advanced professional level DSLRs placement of dials, as well as the OM-D. The dual dials on default controls aperture and shutter speed directly on Manual shooting mode, which was a convenient setup to have. Further to the dual dials, the functionality is further enhanced with the inclusion of quick switch (located next to the rear control dial) which enabled the dual dials to control two other image parameters when the switch was utilized. You may customized the dual dials to control ISO and White Balance settings directly. This added much needed convenience to the whole shooting workflow without accessing buttons! Definitely a huge plus, when it comes to thinking ahead of what photographers would want in terms of shooting experience.
E-P5 is the mini-OM-D: Same Image Sensor and 5-Axis Image Stabilization
I think the most important aspect about the E-P5 is that it shares the same amazing image sensor with the OM-D E-M5, and also the E-PL5, which have been proven to be class-leading, and even can go head to head with the best APS-C image sensor. You get very good high ISO shooting, improved dynamic range and amazing fine details/sharpness in comparison to E-P3. I have tested both Olympus OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-PL5 extensively, and you can head over to my reviews and expect the same level of image output. Maybe Olympus did tweak the image output further for the E-P5, but that we can only find out when the review units of the camera are made available for testing purposes.
Another key aspect that made the headlines for the OM-D was the revolutionary 5-Axis Image Stabilization built in-body, and amazingly, the engineers managed to squeeze it into the new E-P5 without causing a “hump” design which was much criticized on the previous OM-D. Now the good news did not stop there just yet, the already admirable 5-Axis IS has been further improved and optimized for panning shooting. The camera will automatically recognize the panning action as the camera was being moved and the appropriate compensation (by disabling the axis that could cause jaggedness on otherwise smooth panning) will be applied!! I have not tested this function of course, but it would be magic if this is proven effective. No more disabling and enabling the IS, and fiddling into the menu system for that!
Now you get same level of image quality, and the amazing 5-Axis image stabilization on E-P5, it was difficult not to see this as the mni OM-D. Obviously the OM-D E-M5 offered more features such as weather-sealing, magnesium alloy body and built in electronic viewfinder, and those are the reasons why they have a separate camera category altogether for the OM-D!
Look at how thin the LCD Tilt-Screen is!!
New super thin, greatly IMPROVED LCD Tilt-Screen
The E-P5 has also included a tilt-screen, much like the one used in OM-D but it is much thinner, and snaps in place nicely. By first impression on the camera, the screen did not look like an extension that could be tilted out at all, it was so thin that it appeared to be just like any other back LCD monitor on any camera.
Now, the amazing thing I wanted to highlight is the LCD screen. I have previously complained about ALL the LCD screens on any micro 4/3 cameras, having poor resolution, and color balance, which was not accurate enough to make any useful judgment on white balance. I am very glad to find that Olympus finally addressed this issue and placed in a much improved LCD screen with 1037k dot resolution, which was 3:2 in aspect ratio, meaning a larger part of the screen was of better use in comparison to previous 16:9 aspect ratio. I was pleased with what I saw on the LCD screen when it comes to color rendition, it was definitely more neutral and closer to what the eyes can see.
On a separate note, the LCD screen on E-P5 was designed hand in hand with the newly released Electronic Viewfinder VF-4, which was a MUST HAVE upgrade over the VF-2 or VF-3. I have had the VF-4 mounted on E-P5, and as I switched between the EVF and the LCD monitor, I find almost no difference in color tones, which was amazing. The main problems with Olympus OM-D E-M5’s electronic viewfinder, together with Sony’s NEX and DSLT system is the variance of color balance between the EVF and the LCD monitors. Now this problem was solved, what you see on the latest electronic viewfinder, the VF-4 is precisely the same as what you see on the E-P5’s LCD screen. I have verified this with my own eyes, and even if there is any noticeable difference (you must have superman’s eyes) it is safely negligible.
I shall talk about the VF-4 in the later part of this preview, now lets focus on the E-P5 itself first!
3) Built in Wi-fi function in camera
In the age of social media, where everything is instant and on the go, I foresee that all future cameras will have built in Wi-Fi function. E-P5 is the first from Olympus to have the built-in Wi-Fi, and Olympus has done considerable amount of research and development in this department to ensure that the Wi-Fi was not just a marketing ploy, but was actually something that is useful, and more importantly, EASY to use.
To connect the camera to another device (IOS or Android devices, eg Ipad or Android Phone), you need to use the installed app Olympus Image Share and utilize a QR code scanning, which was a quick, and smart way to ensure seamless and efficient connectivity, without the fuss of keying in long, complicated passwords which can get frustrating. Eliminating the annoying password step was indeed a welcome! Having been connected, the phone or tablet device can begin to download the images from the E-P5, and instead of downloading everything via Wi-Fi, you can select which image to share with the external devices, which was another bonus. On the other hand, the Olympus Image Share will also allow you to easily share the images to Facebook or any other social media of choice from your mobile or tablet devices.
Additionally, the Wi-Fi function also allowed for a few more extra, but useful features. Firstly, you can add geo-tagging onto your photographs view Olympus Image Share, since the app is installed onto your mobile device and if your mobile device does have GPS, the geo-tagging can be made possible. Secondly, you can control your camera remotely with your mobile device as well using the Wi-Fi, such as releasing the capturing the image using your mobile device with full live view (with no lag!!) and touch to capture features! I have tried this function first hand, and I must say WOW!! I have seen how horrendously laggy and buggy this similar feature is on Canon DSLRs as well as Samsung’s cameras, but on this Olympus E-P5, the responsiveness of the Wi-Fi remote control function just blew everything I have seen before out of water.
Black E-P5 and VF-4
4) That NEW Electronic Viewfinder, VF-4
As I have mentioned earlier, I have tested the VF-4 on the Olympus E-P5, and was very pleased with it. The specifications of the VF-4 are as follows: 2.36 Million Dot resolution, 100% field of coverage, and 1.48x magnifications. It features almost twice the resolution of previous VF-2, and even more magnification, hence the viewfinder VF-4 is very sharp, and not to mention, very BIG! I was told that the VF-4 even larger than most viewfinders out there, surely larger than ALL Full Frame DSLR Optical viewfinders, and the only one camera that beats the VF-4 slightly, was the Canon 1DX. The size of the viewfinder alone was very worth the upgrade, and I am hoping future OM-D cameras from Olympus will incorporate similar electronic viewfinders!
More importantly, the color balance has been tweaked to reflect the exact same balance as seen on the E-P5’s back LCD monitor. I cannot say the same about all other PEN cameras, obviously they all used different (and varying) LCD and OLED monitors. I am glad to see Olympus finally tackling the color accuracy and balance issues with their newer LCD monitor, together with the viewfinders.
5) Some other smaller things, but worth mentioning
New dedicated Power Switch instead of Button
I personally like how the power button has been discarded, and there was a power switch used. The switching mechanism, though mechanical, it felt more reassuring, than a pushable button. It also prevented from accidental clicking of the power button as you store the camera into the bag.
After countless requests, there is now focus peaking in E-P5, and I foresee, all future Olympus micro 4/3 cameras. This added the usability of manual focusing, especially when using older lenses on the Olympus micro 4/3 body. I have friends who gave up the micro 4/3 system and ran over to Sony NEX just for the focus peaking feature. I am very happy to see Olympus finally have included the focus peaking function.
Shutter Sound is very silent
I have not used the OM-D or the E-PL5 for a while now, but I’d say due to the new shutter mechanism, the shutter sound of E-P5 is very silent, almost as silent as the OM-D E-M5. It sounded very rounded, and “thudding” rather than the loud and clumsy “clanking” of the older PEN cameras such as E-P3 and E-PL3.
Intervalometer built into the E-P5!
Good news for the time lapse shooter, there is now a built in intervalometer for the E-P5!! I have not done time lapse shooting before, so I shall not comment too much but I am sure many photographers will find this useful, being implemented natively into the camera.
This PREMIUM PEN, Olympus E-P5 is a class on its own. It is designed to look charmingly sexy, and feel “expensive” in your hands. At the same time it also incorporated some of the best features from the OM-D E-M5, and further improved in terms of shooting capabilities and flexibilities (improved 5-Axis IS, high shutter speed 1/8000sec, 2x2 dual dials). Adding in much useful feature such as the responsive and user-friendly Wi-Fi function and focus peaking, it is not difficult to see that Olympus is doing their very best!
I just cannot wait to get my hands on a review unit and start shooting away with the new Olympus PEN E-P5!
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Olympus PEN E-P5 body BLACK, WHITE and SILVER
Olympus Electronic Viewfinder VF-4
Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 BLACK
Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 BLACK
Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 BLACK
You may also read my FULL user experience review blog entries of the Olympus 17mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8 in the Gear Review Page here (click).