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Friday, 16 August 2013


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Thank you for another chapter in a very practical, in-hand evaluation of the E-P5, Gordon.

I think you've largely nailed the prime reason why the E-P5 is reportedly disappointing Olympus; it's no longer price/feature competitive. Its closest brand competitor is probably the E-M5 which offers what seems to be the same sensor and identical performance (per DxO Mark) in a better package of nearly equal size/weight.

And, indeed, the Fujifilm X-E1 has the same gestalt as the Pens, is nearly identical in size to the Pens, has a larger sensor, integrated EVF, good system of lenses, plenty of market momentum, and excellent in-hand feel.

Olympus Pen E-P3 and Fujifilm X-E1

Of course what counts most is how much you enjoy using a particular camera, regardless of its currency or competitive standing. But it's hard to escape the conclusion that Oly's Pen series has outlived its practicality. I cannot imagine that you wold not have been running up the streets with your hair on fire if you were evaluating, for example, the Fujifilm X-E1. In fact, you might have headed straight for the border with the camera, leaving ol' Mike in the lurch.

Depending on purpose and ergonomics, the E-P5s 'siblings', the E-PL5 and E-PM2 may be more compelling.

In return for losing the built-in flash and Wi-Fi and trading 5 axis IBIS for conventional, 2 axis, the E-PL5 gives the same sensor system in a much smaller body.

The E-PM2 drops the tilt screen and Mode dial to get even smaller and lighter. Importantly, it adds dedicated delete and Fn keys, curing the most glaring deficiency of its PM predecessor.

Both bodies retain the battery from the older Pens. Battery life is also far better than the E-M5 and, I suspect, the E-P5, where the lovely 5 axis IBIS significantly shortens battery life. Carry spares!!

Before dismissing the E-PM2, consider the needs of a pocket, purse, bag, casual or street shooting camera. Without a Mode dial, it can't change mode accidentally as pushed/pulled in and out of clothing or bags. I've had E-PLx cameras change mode on me, but never an E-PMx body.

With the touch screen disabled and four way controller semi-disabled*, nothing changes unexpectedly as it is handled. As an almost exclusively aperture preferred shooter, I can leave it in A mode, auto ISO, with my choice of ISO range, and switch AF/MF and 10x view with the two programmable buttons.

Everything I need, and nothing to get mis-set. That makes it a perfect casual or street camera. With fast, pancake lens (Panny 20/1.7 for me) and/or Panny 14-42Z** lens, this may be the most capable pocket camera available, for size/weight, image quality and flexibility.

When I'm in the field, I've taken to carrying two cameras around my neck, E-M5 with 75-300 and E-PM2 with 12-50. Surprisingly light; certainly better than the old days of one camera for B&W and one for color. I'm never caught missing a shot for a lens change. The focal length gap is seldom an issue, as I can usually 'sneaker zoom' - or shoot at 50 and crop a bit. I can't see any difference in the images from the two bodies.

The 75-300 is not just for looong tele. It's excellent for smaller things that are hard to get close to, as it focuses relatively close at the long end. With extension tubes, one can even do macro from a few feet away. Magic in the woods.

The only occasional lens changes are for the 9-18 or auto extension tube, carried in a waist pack with batteries, cards, etc.


* For all but aperture/EV adjustment, which requires at least two clicks to change so almost never happens unintentionally.

** I don't much like the Oly collapsing 14-42. In use, it's either small, and unusable until manually opened up, or un-collapsed and almost as big as the better, more flexible, 12-50.

for comparison, could you include the un-corrected version of the photograph with the caption: "Here's an example of how the E-P5 performs in indoor tungsten lighting."

Splendid review!

I'll be stickin' with my Oly OM-D E-M5.

My E-PL1 & 17/2.8 is good enough. My E-PL1 & 17/2.8 is good enough. My E-PL1 & 17/2.8 is good enough. My E-PL1 & 17/2.8 is good enough. My E-PL1 & 17/2.8 is good enough...

Ah, who am I kidding? If I had the money, I'd actually get one of those bodies in a heartbeat. I have a VF3, I have lenses, so it would be a far easier leap for me up to that level. This is a classic case of "the best is the enemy of good enough" What I have really is quite good; I got this while camping this week: https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-X4ZO8f9dz6w/Ug6xl2v4gdI/AAAAAAAAFOc/nN8xDA8sVMI/s512/_8131766.JPG but reading this review, I can't help but wonder how I'd have handle it with the improvements I see in Mr. Lewis' illustrations. But would it make $1000 difference in my photos? Doubtful.

Now, 2 digital generations from now when the price of a used E-P5 or E-M5 comes down to half that price? Now that will be a very dangerous time for my wallet.

In my opinion the Panasonic gx7 blows this away (sucker for viewfinder). I'm between the gx7 and the Ricoh GR. I have to decide whether pocketability is more important than viewfinder and interchangeable lenses.

Such a nice camera to be so crippled by a missing a key component--a built in EVF. Come on Olympus, are you the only one that didn't get the memo? Wake up and look ahead, the competition is pulling away.


[Hi Jack, I really don't think that's quite fair--the OM-D is a very similar camera that does have a built-in viewfinder. They're giving people a choice. Don't you think? --Mike]

Thanks for posting this review. It was worth the wait.

Fair? How about comparing a lens for a 4/3 format with 35mm?

I own, and have been shooting with, both the E-P5 and the OM-D (EM-5), along with the usual prime and zoom lenses, for the past several weeks. I own and use other brands as well, and am not an Olympus fan-boy.

For reasons that remain difficult to articulate, I'm more likely to pick up and use the E-P5, not the OM-D, in a small bag that includes a few smaller primes like the 17/1.8, Sigma 30mm DN, and 45/1.8 The E-P5 is very refined at this point, operates and feels more like premium product than prior Pens, and, at least for me, seems more spontaneous in use than the E-M5.

My late teen, a charter member of the stinky diaper approach to photography, briefly used my E-P5 and returned to announce that "I want one". This from someone who typically disdains anything more serious than a Canon S90.

The E-P5's real competition, I think, will be the new Panasonic GX7, which does seem quite similar, interesting, competent and priced nearly identically to the E-P5/VF4 /17 f1.8 Olympus kit. Apparently, Panasonic didn't get the memo, either.

I initially thought that the lack of a built-in EVF would be a deal-breaker for me in terms of purchasing the E-P5, but I was wrong about that. Without the EVF mounted, the E-P5 definitely feels smaller than the E-M5 and in fact it is, about .75 inches less tall. As a result, the E-P5 stows more easily in a very small bag. Comparing front-to-back size, the GX7's EVF adds enough depth to make the GX7 body feel bulkier in some ways.

I can see why Olympus made the design trade-off to continue using an external viewfinder. When the EVF is not mounted, the camera's reasonably compact. When it is mounted, the .74 view is very nice to work with. I'm not sure that it would be possible to pack such a large viewfinder into the E-P5 body without significantly increasing it's size. Now that the the VF-4 locks in place, it's useful to be able to use it when needed in bright light or with long lenses, or leave the EVF in the bag. FWIW, Leica take the same design approach with anything below their M series RF cameras.

Based upon early reviews, I was quite ready to dislike the 17/1.8 but it cost only about $170 more when purchased as part of the kit and turns out to be a really nice default lens to mount on the E-P5. Corner to corner image quality is very good to excellent by f/4 to f/5.6.

It's certainly true that the NEX-6 and the X-E1 are very nice cameras. But, in the end, a range of quality optics is the crux for any camera system with aspirations, and M43 remains far ahead of the other systems in that regard.

In some instances, it seems that one needs to go to Zeiss to get really excellent optics and the extra cost of one high-end Zeiss lens more than makes up for the few hundred dollars extra that the top-tier E-P5 or GX7 cost relative to Sony's and Fujifilm's mid-range mirrorless cameras.

I work with an APS-C Nikon DSLR. When I have the vertical grip and a big lens on it, it's a very serious and heavy camera with enough battery life to last for many days. With the grip removed and a small prime lens on it, it feels very different—not quite a compact camera but very much more manageable for casual use.

It seems from the review that the E-P5 is a step or two further down this road. It's not big to start with, delivers excellent results and, without its viewfinder, it's a compact. It's currently too expensive for me but I'm very drawn to the idea of a very high quality, detachable viewfinder with decent magnification. It's a very attractive package. Thanks for the review—I'll be keeping an eye on prices over the next year.

"Hi Jack, I really don't think that's quite fair--the OM-D is a very similar camera that does have a built-in viewfinder. They're giving people a choice. Don't you think? --Mike"

Sorry Mike, but that doesn't fly with me. I just can't accept the OM-D as an alternative choice if I want a built-in viewfinder on a "rangefinder-shaped" body.

Maybe it is just my problem, but I have no interest in the the "SLR-shaped" OM-D. That is the very thing that the E-Px series is pointedly trying not to be.

If the E-P6 doesn't have a built-in, I'll finally sell my m43 lenses. Maybe.


Please let all the "micro4/3 is doomed" brigade be right. That way I'll be able to afford precious tools like this one, real soon now. :)

Coming back to the reality those folks just can't accept: Oly has another winner in their hands. And no:
the US market is NOT the same as the world market - thank the Gods for that!
And the NEX doesn't have IBIS and neither do any of Oly's competitors and that is a fundamental flaw!

Pity about the price: I really think they need to drop it below the XE1.

But I'd only consider a XE1 once ALL 3rd party RAW processors can handle it without problems.

Until then I'm staying with m43 and quite frankly the naysayers can go fly a kite.

Per Ken Tanaka's comparing the Oly and the Fuji: Not only does the Fuji have a larger sensor, it has superior image quality. At least, their sensor-identical/image quality counterparts do (the OM-D and the X-Pro1). I own and have shot extensively with both, and as impressive as the Oly's image quality is, and it is indeed impressive, the Fujis are better.

I was experiencing similar white balance 'issues' with indoor shots (tungsten/incandescent). In the WB/Color menu options there's a 'WB Auto Keep Warm Color' that seemed to be the source of my color balance issue. When I turned that off it made ALL the difference! WB is now spot on.

I've just picked up an ep-5 this week, and love it so far. IQ is great, as is size, weight and build. 45mm is a super lens, tiltable screen and wifi both work really well, autofocus is fast, and the in-camera IS works. I got the EVF but I've been using the screen mostly as it's so good. But it's there when I need it. Coming from a D700, I know I will be taking a lot more photos with this. Could have waited for Fuji to add the tilt screen and wifi to the rest of the x range, but I can only buy what's available now. Not going to wait for months hoping.

@Joe- "In some instances, it seems that one needs to go to Zeiss to get really excellent optics and the extra cost of one high-end Zeiss lens more than makes up for the few hundred dollars extra that the top-tier E-P5 or GX7 cost relative to Sony's and Fujifilm's mid-range mirrorless cameras."

You do not have to go to Zeiss for quality glass for Fuji. Virtually all the Fuji X system lenses are great, with the XF18 being just ok.

What surprises me most when reading these camera blog comments, are all of those that criticize the lack of a viewfinder... am I missing something here? I actually like using the screen to compose shots... I often shoot from the waist, down close to the ground and from other unusual angles that are impossible using a viewfinder.

I do not have focus issues, and I am quickly becoming a fan of the touch to focus option as well.

Can someone tell me why they think the viewfinder is so critical?

I will even go so far as to say that using a viewfinder contributes to "more of the same" photos... by shooting mostly from an eye level POV (looking thru the EVF)the resulting images tend to be mostly predictable and boring... again IMHO.

I am a longtime Canon shooter, and recently shot for the first time with an m43 kit... and I was simply stunned by the quality of the images...

I liked the small inconspicuous body even more, which allowed me to get closer to people without making them feel self conscious or nervous.

new to the forum and not sure about your rules... but if you are curious to see how I work without a viewfinder... here is a link to some recent images.



>>Can someone tell me why they think the viewfinder is so critical?

I wouldn't go so far as to call an eye-level viewfinder "critical", but I can tell you that as a middle-aged photographer it can be difficult to use a rear LCD without reading glasses or bifocals. Eyelevel viewfinders are corrected for a more distant eyepoint and therefore don't require your eyes to be able to focus on close-up objects.

It can also be difficult to see a rear LCD in bright light, especially when the sun is shining over your shoulder. The E-P5 was better than average in this respect but still not as easy to see in all conditions as an eyelevel viewfinder. Suffice it to say that those who prefer at least the option of an eyelevel viewfinder have good reasons.

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