According to Olympus, their newly announced mirrorless E-P5 is an homage to the PEN F which was one of the milestones for the company 50 years ago. Back then the PEN F happened to be one of the smallest portable film cameras with interchangeable lenses and quite affordable compared to bulkier SLR systems at the time.
The E-P5 wants to follow in the footsteps of its great ancestor offering the latest digital camera technology in a retro-design lightweight all-metal body. Indeed, Olympus takes pride in proclaiming the “best-ever image quality achieved by a PEN“.
These are some of the basic specs:
- seamless full-metal body design with no visible screws
- 16MP CMOS sensor (same as E-M5)
- 2 x 2 Dial Control system with 2 metal dials and a switch for full manual control
- new mechanical shutter allowing speeds up to 1/8000th second
- up to 9 frames per second burst mode
- focus peaking
- 5-axis image stabilization
- fast auto focus with Super Spot AF and Touch Shutter AF
- high resolution touch LCD (approx. 1 million dot resolution)
- built-in flash
- WiFi with smartphone interactivity
- priced at € 999 / $ 1.399 body only and available from June 2013
- bundle with optional viewfinder VF-4 and 17mm f1.8 lens possible
The listed specs show this camera has a lot going for it. When comparing the OM-D E-M5 to this newly announced E-P5 you can`t help but notice the PEN is the technologically more advanced camera. It incorporates WiFi, focus peaking and a higher resolution touch screen. The mechanical shutter with speeds up to 1/8000 will be a good enough reason for many to choose the latest PEN as their go-to camera or as a backup to rival even the latest DSLRs. High speed can be of great benefit when wider apertures need to be used in bright lighting conditions or if motion freeze is of importance (e.g. when shooting sports).
The OM-D has something up its sleeve though: It has the built-in EVF most serious photographers demand. And it has to be considered that the PEN will be a lot less pocketable with the separate viewfinder on top. But for most users the 3“ tilt-angle screen with its 1 million dot resolution will probably be all that is needed to check for composition. Personally I do not fancy cameras without built-in EVF or OVF – but many people just do not care or even see the external viewfinder as an advantage e.g. because it can easily be upgraded to newer versions when they appear on the market.
The OM-D also has weather sealing and might eventually come a little cheaper than the E-P5 when bought with the additional VF-4. If you want the best of both worlds you will have to hang around for the OM-D successor or the rumored OM-D pro, one of which might appear late 2013 or early next year. That is, if you are into Micro Four Thirds at all and don`t need bigger sensors for even better resolution.
But resolution and pixel peeping is not what Micro Four Thirds is all about. It is more about size and speed and this is where the new EP-5 excels. Apart from the above mentioned shutter speeds this PEN also features incredibly fast contrast detect auto focus. Choosing a very small AF point will enable very high precision focussing with minimal shutter lag. This is very useful when doing macro photography.
Users of Apple or Android smart phones will be able to operate the camera remotely. It will even be possible to embed GPS information using the Olympus Image Share 2.0 software.
When it comes to lenses for mirrorless systems, there is nothing like Micro Four Thirds. Favorite focal lengths can be picked from a wide pool of more than 40 lenses not only made by Olympus but also produced by Panasonic (who jointly developed Micro Four Thirds with Olympus). Aside from that there are numerous third party lenses available from Tamron, Sigma, Voigtlander and other manufacturers.
Manual focus can be a lot more precise with the added Focus Peaking finally also made available in this Olympus camera. Manual control of the camera should be a breeze in general. Olympus uses dual function thumbwheels on the rear and front of the camera. This „2×2 dial control“ also comprises a switch that enables choosing 2 different settings alternately. If you get to know your way around you can easily switch between iso and white balance or aperture and exposure time setting for example.
Shooters that prefer not to do too much in post processing will enjoy the numerous digital art filters or scene modes such as Cross Process and High Key. Not to forget video: H.264 stereo recording with a resolution up to 1920 x 1080 (30p) is possible and should be adequate for most non-professional filming needs.
All in all this little cam could be just the ticket for fans of Micro Four Thirds. The stylish metal body design without visible screws (except for on the base of the camera) will appeal to photography enthusiasts that are not easily attracted to more modern looking designs (e.g. Sony NEX) and prefer full manual control and tech features that can usually only be found on much larger DSLRs.