PEN E-P5 Hands On Review

I finally got my mitts on a new PEN E-P5 and decided that even after only 24 hrs with it I need to talk to the world about this incredible camera!!

Using a Minolta ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 on the E-P5 eith Focus Peaking!

Using a Minolta ROKKOR-X 50mm f/1.4 on the E-P5 eith Focus Peaking!

Form

The design queues of the Olympus PEN E-P5 are in step with its predecessors in that they are reminiscent of the Olympus PEN line of film cameras from a time that is a bit before MY time. So you can say that yes, this camera is of a “retro” design, but only if you are old enough to know that it is retro ;) As far as ergonomics are concerned the E-P5 has a small grip on the front side of the camera as well as a small pad for your thumb to rest on. I have I would say smallish hands and the camera fits me like a glove.  Below are a couple of shots I took that show the new control wheel layout.  Having that front control wheel is really something these PEN cameras needed!

PEN E-P5 Dual Control Wheels

PEN E-P5 Dual Control Wheels

Function

The multitude of customization option for the buttons and wheels makes this camera feel like a Swiss Army knife. I am used to the customizability ( yes I made that word up) of the Olympus system so this is nothing new to me, but for someone buying into the PEN or Olympus system for the first time this may feel overwhelming. For you I wish to say, “don’t sweat it! Take your time and make the camera YOURS! Bend it to your will and way of shooting!” I mean, that IS why Olympus has made the cameras so easy to customize. The dual control wheels can be used to control several functions, and on my camera (when in aperture priority mode) it is set up as follows. The rear wheel is set to adjust exposure compensation and the front wheel controls aperture. Simple right? Now this is where Olympus make customizing fun! On the back of the camera there is a toggle lever that wraps around the dedicated video record button(see image below). When this toggle is flipped my control wheels now take on a second set of functions! My rear wheel is now used for white balance, and the front controls ISO. Cool huh? I can change those all around, but for ME this is what fits my way of shooting. For you it may be something completely different. And even better? I can make these customization unique for each shooting mode! One for aperture priority, one for shutter speed, one for manual, etc..

Flip the switch and make it yours!

Flip the switch and make it yours!

Sample photos shot with the E-P5

Inspector_

SunWatchers

Daydreams

Hello Koa

See more samples My PEN E-P5 Gallery.

Finally

I really don’t want to make you read any more than you have to so I will finish by saying that even though I am an Olympus Visionary, and am given gear to shoot with I can say in  all honesty that this is the best mirrorless Olympus camera I have used to date. Especially when coupled with the new VF-4 electronic viewfinder! I won’t start talking about that here because if I did I wouldn’t shut up! I love it that much!

Thank you for stopping by, and as always feel free to comment and ask questions below. I enjoy getting to interact with the readers here!
Take care.

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About Jamie MacDonald

Jamie MacDonald is a nature and stock photographer living in Michigan’s lower peninsula. A husband and father of two boys who describes his love of photography as one that is, rooted in the desire to move people to see the world around them in new ways.

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9 Responses to PEN E-P5 Hands On Review

  1. delphititan August 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Nice overview Jamie. I purchased an E-P5 kit and it is truly wonderful in my hands. The wide range of customization options allow me to simply rotate my mode dial to different positions and have an instant specialized starting point for the more common types of lighting situations. I turn the mode dial to “A” and I know that my ISO is set at 200, my white balance is at auto, my exposure mode is aperture priority, my IBIS is on, my face detection is on and set for “near eye” priority, and so on. If I rotate my mode dial to “P”, I am instantly doing captures in monochrome with other customized options preset as well.

    I had a lot of fun at the Washington state coast over the last few days. Here are some samples of my weekend getaway all captures with the Olympus E-P5.

    Dan’s Westport, Washington weekend

    Dan in Portland, Oregon

    • Jamie MacDonald August 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Dan,

      First off…Thanks for stopping in! The E-P5 is so loaded with customization options that it is fun to hear how others are using them, so thanks for sharing how you have yours set up. And thanks too for sharing a link to some of your work with it! It is cool to see someone who gives the Dramatic Tone filter a spin every once in a while. :) The tulips photo has incredible color and tonality. Is that an SOOC jpg?

      Thanks again for stopping in and reading!

      Jamie

      • delphititan August 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        Hi Jamie,
        The tulip picture is straight out of the camera. I believe the EXIF info should be intact on Flickr. I’m not usually a big fan of some of the Art filters, but it is fun to play around and see the results. Some of the people who have seen images from that set have liked the overall effect.

        I tried to use some embedded link HTML code to post the comment but it isn’t working from what I can see. If you can edit the message on your end to allow the link to work that would be great. I used an “href” tag but perhaps I should have just typed the basic address info instead.
        Dan

  2. Bob James August 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    Hi Jamie, nice review! I’ve linked to it on my new OLYMPUS E-P5 FANS page on Facebook. If you could post a (more prominent) link to the page, it would be appreciated.

    Come join us at http://Facebook.com/EP5Fans

  3. Andreas Fougner Ezelius August 7, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    Hello there Jamie!

    I have shot extensivily with the E-P5 for the last month or so and I have noticed some really annoying things. I will list them here in case you could bring them to Olympus since you are a Oly Visionary :)

    First of all the focus peaking. I know this is Olys first iteration, but here it goes:

    - Focus peaking and art filters are very laggy. The refresh rate makes them pretty much useless to me :(

    - It does not work when half pressing shutter. So for me using longer lenses I can’t stabilize my viewfinder at the same time as I am focus peaking.

    - There should be more options on color and sensitivity of the focus peaking.

    - Weird thing is the stabilized view works together with focus peaking only if you use it with magnify view.

    Here are some other thoughts:

    - The front scroll wheel doesn’t keep up as good as the rear one when scrolling fast. It does’nt register every click and this makes me nervous as a photographer. I cannot trust the front wheel.

    - The front grip is too small. Why couldn’t it atleast run all the way to the bottom? My ring finger and pinky is crying as I write this.

    - The button to release the flash is super sensitive which means I pop the thing every single time I reach to tilt the screen.

    - The mode dial sits very close to the scroll wheels. Many times I accidently change modes ferociously only to wonder what the “#¤% just happened.

    - I want to be able to switch off both the lcd and viewfinder and use the eye sensor to turn on viewfinder when I put my eye to it. This would save some battery. I believe it worked in the E-M5. Why not here?

    - For some reason the E-P5 keeps stabilizing the view about a second after releasing the shutter. E-M5 didn’t do this.

    - Some buttons have limited ability for customization. For example, why can’t we change the individual settings for the 1-2 switch? Now there are preset combinations only.

    Hope this reaches somebody at Olympus, since it is frustrating to see these small things ruin such a, otherwise, awesome product!

    • Jamie MacDonald August 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      Andreas,

      First I’d like to say thank you for stopping in and commenting, and I would also like to thank you for being so thorough in your observations! I WILL be passing this on, quoted verbatim, to my contact at Olympus in the technical department. I would also like to speak to a few of the things you have listed as well.

      - Focus peaking and art filters are very laggy. The refresh rate makes them pretty much useless to me :(
      I am very sorry to hear that the Art Filters are useless to you due to the refresh rate. I obviously am not an engineer so cannot speak to the cause or potential fix for this issue. I do know that the processor is in charge of displaying the art filter and would assume it is a bottleneck there. For me personally the lag doesn’t pose an issue since I am not shooting fast moving subjects. On the few occasions I have I can assure you the lag on the screen does NOT have any impact on the finished image, i.e. the images are sharp and clear.
      - It does not work when half pressing shutter. So for me using longer lenses I can’t stabilize my viewfinder at the same time as I am focus peaking.
      I never realized that! I will have to give it a look. My technique is different and doesn’t require the peaking function to be active during half shutter press. Once the image is in focus via peaking I generally just take the photo. But then I haven’t used it on a telephoto lens yet either. Again, this will be passed on to the engineers. 

      - There should be more options on color and sensitivity of the focus peaking.
      OK, I suppose there may be cases where a different color would come in handy!
      - Weird thing is the stabilized view works together with focus peaking only if you use it with magnify view.
      This is something I will double check on my own unit to verify it isn’t an anomaly.
      - The front scroll wheel doesn’t keep up as good as the rear one when scrolling fast. It does’nt register every click and this makes me nervous as a photographer. I cannot trust the front wheel.
      WOW! You are VERY observant! I haven’t noticed this on my camera. It may be that I don’t zip through setting s as fast as you do though. I shoot a lot of landscape and the wildlife I shoot is rarely in a state of fast motion. Thus I am not shuttling through settings quite so fast. I will test tonight!
      - The front grip is too small. Why couldn’t it at least run all the way to the bottom? My ring finger and pinky is crying as I write this.
      - The mode dial sits very close to the scroll wheels. Many times I accidently change modes ferociously only to wonder what the “#¤% just happened.
      I can’t say too much on this subject as ergonomics of the camera can not satisfy all hand sizes. It would be cool if there were a “one size fits all” answer but alas we must choose a size and make it that way. I suppose that having average sized hands has paid off for me! Truly sorry I have no answer for those two. 
      - The button to release the flash is super sensitive which means I pop the thing every single time I reach to tilt the screen.
      Odd, mine is not that sensitive.
      - I want to be able to switch off both the lcd and viewfinder and use the eye sensor to turn on viewfinder when I put my eye to it. This would save some battery. I believe it worked in the E-M5. Why not here?
      Mine works this way. Are you using the VF-4?
      - For some reason the E-P5 keeps stabilizing the view about a second after releasing the shutter. E-M5 didn’t do this.
      Mine does NOT do this.
      - Some buttons have limited ability for customization. For example, why can’t we change the individual settings for the 1-2 switch? Now there are preset combinations only.
      I agree!!! I would LOVE even more customization! There is never enough of that!

      I have a question though Andreas. You said you’ve been using the E-P5 for over a month now, and this makes me wonder if you are using a pre-production model? Some of the things you have mentioned are not an issue on my model whatsoever and I half wonder since you’ve had the camera so long if it is a pre-production model w/ non-released firmware. Can you tell me where you got your E-P5? I have to look back at some release dates but it sounds like you got yours VERY VERY early and that sounds like something we should look into as a possible solution. Can you post your firmware rev. level to us here?

      Again, thank you a LOT for all this info and I hope that in the mean time you find a way to not let these items ruin your experience. I will be sure to reply here if I get any viable information back from Olympus on your issues.

      Take care.

  4. Andreas Fougner Ezelius August 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Great to see such a quick answer Jamie!

    Having a low framerate with art filters and focus peaking does not affect the picture quality for me either. But it does something that I am very sensitive to.
    It makes the whole experience of using the camera worse. Shooting static subjects works good off course (except for the annoyance of focus peaking dissappearing as soon as I touch the shutter). Focus peaking is a great great tool for long telephotos. But as it is right now I can’t use it. Imagine looking in the viewfinder with 300mm and a very low framerate. I loose my subjects instantly.

    The ergonomy of the camera is offcourse a case of personal preference. I just got to get used to the way the camera is designed. No worries there really.

    I am using the VF-4 yes and going through the menus I cannot find any options for the eye sensor. I have to hold down the button on the VF-4 to turn off the eye sensor. This way I can switch lcd/viewfinder with the button, but then the eye sensor doesn’t work so either my lcd or viewfinder is constantly on until they dim or go to sleep according to my settings.
    On my E-M5 I could have the eye sensor turned on AND at the same time switch manually via the button for the viewfinder. On my E-P5 the button the viewfinder doesn’t even work if I have the eye sensor activated.

    Regarding the IBIS dragging a second or so. I use the half press shutter IBIS ON. So half pressing the shutter turns on IBIS and when I let go of the button without taking a picture the IBIS is still stabilizing my view for about a second. It’s not a big deal but it does give that feeling of unresponsiveness (if that is a word).

    I bought my camera from a store in Sweden called Scandinavianphoto. I guess I was one of the early buyers although my camera say body firmware 1.0.

  5. Nelson August 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    E-P5 have shutter delay option, default is “normal”, but you can set to “short” to make black screen time even shorter

  6. Carl August 24, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    I enjoyed your video review Jamie. 5-axis IBIS and that VF-4 will shortly be up against the GX7.

    Neither have PDAF but for those of us considering an E-P5 or GX7. My question, assuming you get to use a GX7,… is the GX7′s EVF good enough? Integrated/flippable – great for those who are “left-eyed”! :)

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