Olympus PEN E-P5 Australian Review: Mirrorless Perfection

How is it that every PEN camera that Olympus makes gets better and better? It's unfathomable. Meet the new favourite: the Olympus PEN E-P5.

What Is It?

The latest PEN camera from Olympus. A 16-megapixel Micro Four-Thirds shooter with a five-axis image stabilisation system, precise and fast auto-focus and retro 1970's looks.

What's Good?

So many things, the best of which being how well Olympus is building on its past success.

The OM-D was a breakthrough for Olympus, and ever since then the innovations and achievements unlocked by that beautiful retro camera have trickled down into the PEN range.

In last year's mid-range PEN cameras, we saw the same image system that caught our eye in the OM-D, and now in the top-of-the-line E-P5, these innovations have been expanded upon and keep getting better and better for the end user.

In unison with a beautiful focus system and a super-intelligent processor, we have some incredible new glass from Olympus. We tested a few lenses in the new range, but fell in love with the 17mm f/1.8 M.ZUIKO Digital lens. Teamed with the incredible focus-peeking system, this retro-styled collared lens

Focus peeking is smooth and practical for everyday use thanks to the new processor. If you've never used it, it's essentially a visual representation of contrast-detection auto-focus that shows you where your image is focussed on the Live View screen

As far as the physical features of the unit go, you've got your standard-issue jog wheel of functions on the top of the unit, but only one control wheel on the top-right of the unit. Turns out that you don't need another: you can just jump into different functions by flicking a function switch underneath the control wheel. By default, the control wheel lets you adjust the exposure of the image, while a flick of the switch sees you controlling the white balance modes. You can change what flicking the switch does in the settings for maximum customisability and ease of use.

There's a beautiful 1.05 million-dot tiltable touch screen on the back of the E-P5, which really does your images justice as you're shooting. It's the highest resolution screen Olympus has put into a camera to date. Touch shutter functions and snappy auto-focus capabilities are back too, which means you can snap just by pressing on the subject you want. It's not for everyone, but fun for the happy snaps.

The PEN E-P5 also has Wi-Fi capabilities so you can offload those beautiful images to your Android or iOS smartphone/tablet, and you can even use it to snap a shot remotely. Nifty.

What's Bad?

It's tough to find issues with the E-P5, but there are a couple.

First is how Olympus is treating the Electronic Viewfinder these days. I think EVFs should always have a place on high-end mirrorless cameras like the E-P5. I don't mind the camera having a little more headroom to accomodate a gorgeous EVF, and I don't think I'm too far wrong suggesting that it wouldn't offend people out of buying cameras that featured one.

You can have an EVF on the E-P5. Quite a good one in fact named the VF-4: redeveloped from the ground up to be sharper and clearer than ever, but it's an external attachment that clips into the hot shoe. That means it's taking up a place where a better flash could go for something the camera should have anyway.

The VF-4's biggest flaw is the fact that the eye cup just isn't deep enough to make it a decent shooting experience when looking down it: you always feel like you're poking yourself in the eye with the EVF screen, and from our probing and pulling, replacing the eye cup with something deeper just isn't possible.

The only other concern we have with the PEN E-P5 is the battery life. That processor and beautifully bright new screen do nothing for the power economy. Make sure you carry a second battery pack on you if you plan on doing even an afternoon of casual shooting.

This Is Weird

The Wi-Fi functionality knows to hook onto your camera after scanning a QR code. We're seriously still using QR codes, guys? Come on.

Image Samples

Click to enlarge…





Should You Buy It?

We've nitpicked with the problems on this camera, but if we didn't there would be barely anything wrong with it. If you're in the market for a great mirrorless/Micro Four Thirds camera and have $1000 to spend, you'll do yourself a disservice by going past the Olympus PEN E-P5. If you really want to do this camera properly, spend the extra $500 and get yourself the 17mm f/1.8 lens kit option. A good camera is nothing without great glass. Sure it's expensive, but nothing good ever came cheap.

What an amazing camera. We love it, and think you will too.

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