on 22 December 2013
I bought this camera as a twin kit (14-42mm lens and 40-150mm lens)to replace my 5d and 24-105L lens after a malfunction on holiday. Basically when the canon malfunctioned I re-thought the sense of carrying 2kg of camera when away from home. I looked into various compact interchangeable systems and due size/price and availablity of lenses, coupled with in-built body stabilisation I went with this Olympus m4/3 system.
I was very surprised at how good the image quality is from this camera and the 2 kit lenses. Images are very sharp and the colour and contrast also very pleasing. I believe olympus have always been strong with their digital cameras here. The camera performs very well at the higher ISO levels. I have taken shots in dim conditions at ISO 3200 and with a little work in lightroom they have been very accepatable and for me could easily print to A4 size. If you really pixel peep, yes there is noise but for me at least it is on par with my previously owned Canon 7d, so its at aps-c levels.As a note the jpeg engine in this camera works very well. You can at times improve your images in raw, but it is not as often required on this camera as other brands I have used.
The autofocus in good light is exceptional (single shot autofocus). It focusses almost instantly. Continuous autofocus is quite good but this will never be hailed as a sports or birding camera. It can do well but it wont track very well. In lower light it is slightly less confident, but no more so than any dslr i have used (again single shot autofocus).
It can shoot up to 8fps (though metering and focus will only work at approx 3 fps).
The kit lenses are very good considering their price point, but they are not fast lenses. The 14-42 is f3.5-5.6 and the 40-150mm is f4-5.6. They both give image quality above what i expected but due there small aperture will not be great in low light situations. Also they feel flimsy though very light. I would not be throwing them around without care.
One thing to watch out for is the smaller sensor and apparent depth of field. Due the smaller than dslr sensor it is a little harder to seperate an image from its background unless you have a very fast lens. Even the 45mm f1.8 will act like a 45mm f3.5 on a fullframe camera. The upside is that it is easier to get a larger dof to keep larger areas in focus. There are fast lenses available to get a small dof but portrait photographers especially should keep this in mind.
I would prefer to have an in-built evf, but I knew this before buying the camera, and it is not a fault of the camera, just an accessory that really can't be on a camera this good, at this price point. A seperate one can be added and I will eventually get one, both for compostion and keeping the camera stadier than one would at arms length.
One great thing and also a major fault is how much controls can be accessed from the touch screen. A super control panel is available, but by default is switched off(bad idea). I have seen magazine reviews of this camera that say it has a very poor touchscreen interface. This is just untrue, but it takes a bit of figuring out to actually activate it. If you buy this google it and activate it, making this camera. it is also said that you cannot change normal settings like aperture (in aperture control mode) without going into the menu. Also untrue, the rotating wheel can be avtivated and you can even activate exposure compensation by pressing the top or bottom of this wheel.I have seen a youtube video where the reviewer said he suspects many will buy this camera and never know how good it is and i believe that as the instructions and default settings are poor. It even has an extra warm whilte balance set as default so if you are wondering why your first few images are "orangey" in colour, this could be the reason.
To wrap up, this is an amazing camera for the price (as of late 2013). The default settings need adjusting, the instructions are poor, but if you can give this a bit of time to get over you wont go far wrong
on 18 July 2014
Many of the reviews of this camera are from the point of view of people who have gone from big hulking D-SLRs to the relatively compact mirrorless M3 cameras.
I thought I would write a review from the point of view of someone who has upgraded from a very good and convenient P&S (Olympus XZ-1) to an E-PL5. I really like the XZ-1; it takes nice sharp pictures in good light, has convenient 28-105mm focal length, has a great macro facilty, nice bright 3" screen and a capacity to shoot in RAW. But despite the f1.8 lens, it produced poor quality results in low light. In fact, my previous Canon IXUS P&S produced better results on Auto mode for indoor shots compared to the XZ-1.
So I wondered about upgrading to a higher quality compact P&S.
I started reading about the Sony RX100 cameras with much larger sensors, but these were very expensive. I held off but then I read a blog from an E-PL5 owner. I discovered the wealth of internet information on mirror less cameras. Then I realised that Amazon were selling the E-PL5 with kit 14-42mm lens (with a free 17mm f2.8 lens) for less than £350. This was less than the cost of the mk1 RX100. I was hooked.
I have used the camera for about 3 months now. Has the upgrade been worth it? Should I have bought a Sony RX100 Mk1 for the same money? The short answers are yes and no. The long winded answer is below.
1. Image quality.
Yes there is no doubt you can get better image quality from this camera than the XZ-1. For snapshots taken with Auto settings in good light, you won't be able to see much difference between the E-PL5 and a good P&S on the computer screen. But there are two key areas that mark out the E-PL5 from a P&S. The first is low light quality. The bigger 16MP sensor (same as OMD-EM5, EP-5 cameras) is more sensitive and allows photos in low light that would not be possible with the XZ-1. The ISO can be pushed up to 3200 and still produces usable images with a bit of post-processing. In practice, I have noticed that focussing is easier with the E-PL5 in low light, and the resulting pictures are sharper and less grainy when compared to XZ-1 pictures taken at the same ISO setting.
The second is that the extra detail and sharpness allows more flexibility in cropping; I found that for shots of flowers, I could crop quite severely and still get great results. The availability of fast prime lenses, allows even better quality results, although this does come at a cost.
I can't say that the kit zoom (14-42mm) supplied with the E-PL5 provides pictures any better than the XZ-1 lens. In fact, you have to unlock it before use, so not very good for "grab" shots. I also got the Olympus 17mm f2.8 pancake lens free as part of a promotion. It gets a bad press, but I have no complaints given the price. Frankly I can't see much improvement over the kit zoom lens at the same focal length. Where I did see a difference was when I bought 45mm f1.8 lens (Yes £220 spent to "save" money. Although it is difficult to gauge sharpness by just staring at a computer screen, there was no doubt that the pictures with the 45mm had more "snap" to them (colour and contrast). The f1.8 aperture allows some beautiful out of focus effects.
Metering appeared to be more accurate in tricky lighting situations than the XZ-1. This was particularly noticeable in landscape shots with lots of sky.
2. Size and Weight.
The advertisements for this camera, predominantly featuring young women, suggest that it is a lightweight and portable camera. This is true when compared to a big D-SLR, but this is still not a pocketable camera (unless you have massive pockets). It is heavier and feels more solid in the hand compared to the XZ-1. The latter weights 284g, while the E-PL5 weighs 464g with the kit zoom, and still weighs 424g in it's "lightweight" guise with the 17mm f2.8 pancake.
What this means in practice, is that at the minimum a "man bag" or heaven forbid, a "camera bag" is needed to carry it (I don't like having cameras hanging round my neck). There are lots of cool dudes on the internet who suggest that you can slap on a panasonic pancake 20mm f1.7 lens onto the compact body, and get the digital equivalent of a classic rangefinder camera. But if you were going down the pub, the Sony RX100 would be smaller and have a zoom lens to boot. There are now pancake zooms for the E-PL5 (panasonic 12-32mm, Panasonic 14-42mm or Olympus 14-45mm) but even so you would still be better served by a decent P&S if portability was your main priority.
The Olympus or Panasonic pro zooms (fixed aperture f2.8), while undoubtedly higher quality, look a bit odd on the small E-PL5 body. Given the size and weight of something like the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens, one can't help wondering if Sony have got it right by incorporating camera electronics directly into the lens?
3. Pros- Where does it score over the XZ-1
Autofocus is fast, much faster than the XZ-1 in good or bad light.
Interchangeable lenses- both a pro and a con (see below). Allows flexibility and high image quality for particular situations.
In body image stabilisation (IBIS). I don't have a telephoto lens, so I have not really been able to measure how effective this is.
Touchscreen focussing and shutter release- very useful for selective focussing and for "candids". Or handing the camera to a novice- "just touch the face on the screen"
Selectable focus areas, with the ability to select tiny AF squares for very precise focussing. You can also move the focus point around. Very useful for shots where the main subject is not central.
More advanced options for face and eye detection (both eyes, left eye, right eye etc).
Live view- allows adjustments to be made via the LCD screen in realtime. e.g. background blur can be adjusted using an on-screen slider. In practice I prefer not to rely on the touchscreen and use the old fashioned methods of adjusting shutter speed and aperture.
Jpegs can edited to a limited extent in camera, handy if you are not near a computer/laptop/tablet.
More art modes and special effects than the XZ-1, if you like that sort of thing. One of the art filters (Keyline art mode) allows for a faux focus peaking. Unlike the XZ-1 you can set the front ring of the camera lens to focus in either a fully manual mode or a combination mode (use AF, then fine tune with manual focus).
You can use Wi-Fi via flash air card (extra cost) which is handy for transfer to iDevices, but this is at the cost of battery life. You can't control the camera via Wi-fi unlike the more recent EM-10.
A plethora of options to customise the camera, although it is a bit like using Microsoft Word, how much tinkering do you want to do when you just want to write (or take pictures).
Handling takes a bit of getting used to, coming from a P&S. The camera feels denser and heavier in the hand. I can see that a large heavy lens will force you to use your left hand to take up the weight. Some people on the forums see this as an advantage when using a slim body like the E-PL5.
This camera is a part of a system, so will cost you more money than you think. The initial £350 cost, is really a hook into a more expensive world. For example some of the prime lenses that have highly rated on the forums are expensive- £350 for a 17mm f1.8 lens. The 45mm f1.8 lens was a relative bargain at £220, but the highly rated 12-40mm f2.8 zoom will be close to £800. But even buying second hand is not so easy. Used prime lenses for micro four thirds cameras go very quickly on Ebay, and at prices fairly close to the new price.
Interchangeable lenses allow better image quality, but they can be a disadvantage. Even with a bit more experience now, changing lenses on the hoof is a faff. I have recently visited two local flower/garden shows, which were crowded but quite gentile events. Even so, digging lenses out of the man-bag, messing around with lens caps etc, without the aid of a nice clean flat surface, was a right pain. For events with more unruly spectators or if you were on a tour party, it would be very difficult to change a lens. I can now see the logic of folks who argue that you are better off buying a decent f2.8 pro zoom than a series of f1.8 primes. I can also see why professional photographers have at least two bodies with different lenses on them.
Although the camera has a 3" screen, using it at 4:3 ratio, effectively reduces the screen size down to 2.5", with black borders on either side. A handy tip here is to set the camera to take jpg plus raws, and set the screen for 16:9 to use the whole screen. The jpgs will be cut off but the raw file will have the full 4:3 image. I must admit I prefer the screen on the XZ-1.
No built in flash, but little clip on flash is supplied. It is easy to put in your pocket but probably also easy to lose!
As mentioned above, the camera has almost infinite capacity to be customised. But this is difficult, the Olympus menu system is not intuitive or user friendly. The manual (which you have to print yourself or look at on a computer) is not that helpful either. Fortunately many clever people on the internet have done the hard work and you can short cut many menus by enabling the Super Control Panel (SCP).
5. The future
I sold my film Canon SLR several years ago and I was amazed at how much paraphernalia (lenses, filters, cases) I had accumulated. After getting the E-PL5 I feel I am now going down the same path. I already bought a filter, discrete bag (does not look like a camera bag), lenses, wrist strap and spare battery. Admittedly the E-PL5 and lenses takes up a lot less room than a D-SLR, but an XZ-1 with 28-105mm zoom takes up even less room. Of course, I would have spent less money and have a pocketable camera if I went for the RX100. But so far I have enjoyed my experience with the E-PL5 and feel I still have a lot to learn. It will definitely cost me more money in the end. Am I happy with my new toys? Yes. Have my photos improved? Time will tell.
ps I am keeping my XZ-1, it's still a great camera to throw into a bag for events where you don't need or want a camera body with interchangeable lenses.
on 5 July 2013
Having seen some of my son in law's pictures, I'd become aware of the limitations of a supercompact fixed wide angle zoom lens point and shoot camera(apologies to my Lumix ZR 1 which has been a faithful and highly portable companion all over the world since purchase in Hong Kong 4 years ago) and wanted something with DSLR capability but portable. I read the magazine and online digital camera reviews and became very confused over DSLR, Bridge or compact system (whatever that was) reviews and so asked my son in law for his advice. He asked me what my budget was as he reckoned micro four thirds (a DSLR without the mirror - simples!) was what I wanted and it was down to Lumix G, Sony NEX or Olympus. He favoured Olympus as with the image stabilisation in the body and with a lens mount adapter you can go with virtually any lens you can find either new or on e Bay. He had just bought an old EOS zoom lens for his (over £1000 when new) on e bay for £10!
He had an E-PL1 and so biased a bit towards Olympus and recommended the OM-D if I had over £1500 to spare to set up with body and lenses etc - I didn't. But running a very close second to the OMD was the E-PL5 which I got for under £500 through Amazon, got the standard 14 - 42 kit lens included and also qualified for a free pancake lens (17 mm, f 2.8) from Olympus worth over £300. I've also got the 40 - 150 zoom through Amazon at an amazing price, and then screen protectors and case and still well under my £750 budget. Jury still out on whether to spend a further £150 on an electronic viewfinder.....
The picture quality is amazing, the range of composition options from iAuto, to Manual focus to fully manual is amazing, the touch tilt screen very effective and user friendly and the quality of image is perfect - although this is the first time I've taken RAW images and processed them which is altogether another challenge! Macro shots and depth of field images are giving me exactly the improved photos I wanted. I feel also semi professional already!
The improvement in ease of use and optics from the 70's when I first used a film SLR, is like men landing on the moon was to my dad.
Fantastic camera to own. It's really portable, particularly with just the pancake street lens although the kit lens, flash and street lens also fit nicely in a LowePro 100 case (with belt loop and shoulder strap options)
Am I a happy bunny and would I recommend it - without hesitation...
on 2 June 2014
After hiking up hills and mountains with a DSLR and accompanying kit, I decided I wanted something lighter and more compact.
The Micro 4/3 fitted the bill nicely. I was very surprised how small the kit was when it arrived, and thought there was no way it would have the same quality as my DSLR, how wrong I was! The image quality is on par with it, easily. The big plus point for me though is the size and weight, I am able to get rid of my hefty lenses, tripod, monopod, filters, bags etc.!
The camera came with the kit lens, 14-42mm that is adequate at best, but I have now added a 75-300mm that has made it into a really useful wildlife camera, more than good enough for me.
I already had lenses from my Olympus and Canon film/digital cameras and bought adapters to try them with the E-PL5 and I must admit the results are outstanding for very little outlay!
Some may struggle with the menu to start with, but it will become clearer with use, If I can master it, anyone can.
To sum up, It's a great little (and I mean little) camera, well made, well thought out, lightweight, good price, takes very sharp images and well worth the swap from my DSLR.
Now added the VF-3 viewfinder, It transforms this great little camera into an even better, easier to use tool for taking extremely usable images. Also I purchased a 14mm Panasonic Lumix Pancake Lens and it make the camera very pocketable, and not much bigger than a point and shoot! Great bit of kit made even better by these add-ons.
on 13 September 2013
Having lugged my larger DSLR camera around up several of the Lakeland mountains in searing heat for a week during the summer, I decided I had to get something smaller but that would, hopefully, produce the same quality of photographs. The Pen E-PL5 fills the bill perfectly! It gives great results and adds very little to the load I need to carry on long walk and climbs. Well worth the money!
on 13 May 2014
Bit of personal context:
Owner of a panasonic TZ5 (equivalent 28-280mm zoom lens) and now amazed at what pictures it can take, but still the PEN PL5 is somewhere of a higher standard.
Very sturdy feeling, so far (2 weeks) no sign of flimsy except on the lenses which have give on the barrel.
Some minor scraping of the paint is possible on the black version.
Overall, screen, mounting system, buttons and everything feels solid and high quality.
Quite easy to hold with one hand, feels like a slightly bulkier point and shoot, and very easy to pocket when no lens is mounted.
Small body is very nice looking and compact. Pocketable in a women's purse of man's pouch or whatever have you.
Kit lens is light and compact, and quite versatile, i carry it around in my pouch routinely and is very handy.
As others mentioned, it is a pocketable DSLR, has a million settings. The UI is very confusing, but plenty of resources online explain how to make the most of it. I have to mention the lifesaving Ralfs Foto Bude videos. Most of the interface is shared with the bigger cousing OM D EM 10 or 5, so here is a video that can help avoid some pitfalls [...]
The PEN is very fast to turn on, save pictures and move to the next. Burst speed at 8fps is very cool, sounds and captures great. Only autofocus is below my expectations, frequently focusing behind the subjects, and being sometimes hard to pick the correct subject, athough the touch screen makes it very manageable overall. Speed on said autofocus is dslr-like in many cases, and slows down in low light a little. Can be unreliable on moving subjects, so it takes time to get used to, and learn to use the different autofocus settings. *it has continuous autofocus, but also a tracking autofocus which is very nice and locks easily on high contrast details and proves rather reliable.
Video depends very much on the lens for autofocus and zoom changes, but overall is rather disappointing. Most troubling is the sound it records from the autofocus motors on the lenses I have (14/42 and 40/150), and worse is artifacts of compression on moving subjects. Don't expect great moving subjects video or sound capture. Another disturbing factor is the algorithm to focus which oscillates between too far and too close quickly to find the correct distance, which causes blur when refocusing. Otherwise, very respectable image quality. Framerate is capped at 30fps. Be warned, this camera won't give professional grade video on moving subjects but will be very acceptable for everyday use.
With kit lenses, the quality ranges from well-above point and shoot to impressive. However, they are not very fast in low light, and might disappoint seeing that I bought this camera for high ISO quality and expected better low light performance out of the box. Nothing that can't be fixed with better settings, steadier hold and better lenses. *total amateur disclaimer, barely off the boat
Detail on the images is very nice, especially on high contrast subjects. Text sharpness especially is amazing, for example, but also the colors are very nicely reproduced, if sometimes a bit popping in the default automatic enhancement mode.
Images are also rather small which makes it possible to take tons of them in a short time and bursts, and have a blast!\
The sensor in the body is overall amazing, and only limited by which lens you put on top of it *and the buggers can be pricy, for sure, but I suppose you get what you pay for.
Feels like i have finally found a proper camera that has its quirks but which pocketability makes is manageable in day to day use, which a DSLR certainly wouldn't.
Overall love it, and wouldn't trade it except for much pricier options which still would be less compact (OM D series).
Coming from a travelzoom thing that was extremely pocketable, I have to say that unless you're excited about playing with settings, there is no way this type of camera will be nearly as versatile as a travel zoom. My TZ focused much closer than PEN\s kit lens and ranged much longer wihtout any bulk or change. But the price to pay is speed of focus, operation and quality. In low light especially, which makes PEN PL5 a much better partner for me, in different applications. (loitering, museums, nature shots in close or telezoom, and planning on social snaps with a faster, higher aperture lens). But for vacation shots, nothing will beat the portability, versatility, convenience and features of a modern TZ.
Hope this helps!
on 20 March 2016
This was my first Micro Four Thirds camera, and even though I always bring one of my Sigma Merrill cameras with me, for landscape photography, I very often still take this one with me as well.
The main reason is the very ergonomic feel it has, when the Olympus MCG-2 hand grip is mounted, instead of the more slim grip, it comes with from the start.
I did think of upgrading to the E-PL7 at one time, but the hand grip will not be working with that model.
The E-PL6 should be able to use it, though, so if there is a good offer on that model later on, I may grab it, even though we are now in the year 2016. Photography is not all about pixels, but also about getting a high number of keepers.
This whole hype about having AA filter or not, becomes less important, when you learn how to use the sub pixel sharpening tools, that many editing tools provide. Screen shots of resolution charts on the review sites is not showing you everything. Try downloading the RAW files, and see how much you can edit them, before they get brittle and fake looking. Even some very old cameras are now suddenly very good, because the editing software is so clever, nowadays!
on 2 April 2014
Love this camera.
Was looking for an upgrade from my point and shoot compact.
After reading many, many reviews. I liked the sound of this camera. I have been delighted to find that it is just a very modern version of my old (pre digital) Olympus OM-10.
I found that in no time at all I was enjoying using my new camera. The photo quality is superb. Much has been said about the menu being complicated. I found that by using the Automatic setting, the results were very good and it gave me time to dip in and out of the manual settings at my leisure.
The camera is so versatile it will give me much pleasure experimenting and stretching my own ability. Just what I was looking for.
on 1 September 2013
An upgrade from a Panasonic G3 - simple to use and image quality matches what I've read in reviews. Bang for your buck, probably the best IQ in a mid-range M4/3 camera. Easy to carry around and a dream to use with the Panasonic 20mm F1.7.
on 21 December 2012
The last 'serious' camera I had owned was Canon EOS Kiss (not digital). I thought I'd buy Canon EOS M when I considered buying a mirrorless. But for digital mirrorless, Canon didn't come as my first choice after a reserach.
I checked almost every review on digital mirrorless camera and my choices were narrowed down to Olympus and Panasonic.
The very reason for my choosing Olympus over Panasonic, is design. Since this model is the micro fourthirds I could buy a Panasonic lens in the same range although Olympus has a long history for making lenses therefore good with lenses.
Now, I'm totally satisfied.
The lens it came with is basic but it's produced some decent photos. Since the, I've bought the Olympus macro converter. It's good enough for me to have the macro lens feel!