Product snapshot: Olympus PEN E-P5 camera

Olympus offers up another great Micro Four Thirds-based PEN camera, adding performance enhancements and some new features

The Olympus PEN E-P5 Micro Four Thirds camera follows on from the successful PEN models before it, such as the E-PL5, by supplying new features, slight body modifications and, best of all, some performance enhancements. It's a 16-megapixel camera with built-in image stabilisation, Full HD video recording capability, and a 3in screen with 1.04 million pixels. It's a camera that can be used in virtually any situation as long as you pair it with the right Micro Four Thirds lens, and there is a stack of those to choose from (13 from Olympus and 58 including other brands).

The PEN E-P5 is a very well thought out camera as far as user-friendliness and features are concerned. The body has more metal in it, making it feel more solid, there is more of a raised handgrip, which makes the camera feel a lot more comfortable while shooting, and there are additional controls that should make the shooting experience a pleasure, if not more convenient. It's a camera that we think has appeal for users who want to start shooting with something better than a compact camera, but who don't want to get a large digital SLR, and we think serious photographers will love it, too.

The new camera has an added control dial on the front.
The new camera has an added control dial on the front.

In particular, enthusiasts (and pretty much anyone, really) should appreciate the addition of a second control dial on the body of the PEN E-P5, which allows you to change shutter and aperture values without having to make an additional button press. Furthermore, Olympus has included a physical switch on the rear of the camera, which can change the function of those dials on-the-fly. Olympus calls this feature its 2x2 Control, and it's a very handy addition that we absolutely loved when we briefly got out hands on this camera. With a flip of the switch, you can use the same dials for aperture and shutter to change ISO speed or white balance, all without ever taking your eye off the screen or electronic viewfinder (EVF). It's a feature that can also be customised.

You can see the 2x2 switch just to the right of the screen. It surrounds the dedicated video recording button.
You can see the 2x2 switch just to the right of the screen. It surrounds the dedicated video recording button.

Some focusing improvements have also been introduced to the PEN E-P5. The Peaking focus feature can be an assist during manual focus operations where you might not be able to clearly see which part of the scene is in focus. The scene through the EVF or the LCD screen will show you exactly which plane is in focus by using shimmering highlights. It's a feature that requires powerful processing by the camera, but it's a feature that can easily be switched on and off via the Fn button at the top of the camera. You can use it whenever you aren't feeling comfortable that a manual focus operation is focusing on the plane that you're after.

For framing and displaying photos, Olympus has gone back to a regular LCD panel on this camera, rather than using the OLED panel that was found in previous models, such as the PEN E-P3. The company says it's primarily to do with sharpness taking a priority over colour richness, with the new screen packing 1.04 million pixels. The screen remains touch enabled, so you can still tap to focus and tap to take photos. It also has a hinge so that it can be tilted up and down for creative, angled shots.

As has been the Olympus custom over the years, the LiveView feature of the PEN E-P5 is excellent. It's truly a what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience, meaning any changes you make to exposure settings are instantly shown on the LCD screen or through the EVF as soon as you make them. Not only is this useful for on-the-fly adjustments, it makes the camera a ton of fun to use because you know exactly what your image will look like before you press the shutter button to capture it — it minimises the chances of missing a shot due to poor settings.

What also helps to capture action is a burst speed of 9 frames per second, which is perfect for sporting events or hard-to-capture subjects (such as raindrops bouncing off a windowsill or a dog catching a ball in mid-air, for example), as well as a super-fast shutter. Olympus has upped the speed of the shutter on the PEN E-P5, allowing you to shoot at a high-end-camera-like 1/8000th of a second. This is double the speed of the PEN E-PL5 and it's perfect if you tend to shoot in very bright environments. At the same time, it gives you a little more creative control in those situations, too, allowing you to use wider apertures than before. It's worth noting that the PEN now supports ISO100.

Read more: Samsung NX500 compact system camera: first impressions

VF-4 is an optional accessory that's a must when shooting outdoors in sunny conditions.
VF-4 is an optional accessory that's a must when shooting outdoors in sunny conditions.

The electronic viewfinder that's available for PEN cameras also gets an upgrade to coincide with the release of the PEN E-P5, and it's sensational. It's the VF-4 model and it offers a 100 per cent view of what the lens sees. The PEN E-P5 doesn't actually ship with the VF-4, and Olympus couldn't say if a bundle with the VF-4 would be available, but for shooting in bright conditions where it can be difficult to see the picture on the LCD screen, we think it's a must-have accessory. The VF-4 is also backwards compatible with other PEN cameras (firmware updates might be required) and older EVFs can also be used with the PEN E-P5.

Another thing to note about the PEN E-P5 is that it's now gone down the wireless path. It ships with built-in Wi-Fi that allows it to connect to an Android or iPhone smartphone, and if you download the Olympus app from the app store, you'll be able to use LiveView remotely to frame and capture photos by touching the screen on your phone. To connect your phone to the camera, all you have to do is bring up the wireless feature in the camera, which displays a QR code on the LCD screen. Scan that QR code with your phone to get the Wi-Fi details and connect to the camera. The app also allows GPS data to be sent to the camera so that your shots can be tagged with location information.

Pricing for the Olympus PEN E-P5 and kit information will be made available closer to when the camera goes on sale in Australia in July.

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Elias Plastiras

Elias Plastiras

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