Olympus E-P5 review: New PEN flagship mirrorless camera not only bests its predecessor, but takes on the OM-D E-M5


posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 4:13 PM EDT

Don't let the PEN moniker fool you. The Olympus E-P5 not only outshines its PEN predecessor, the E-P3, but also in a few ways outpaces its older, acclaimed cousin, the OM-D E-M5. Though the E-P5 and E-M5 boast a lot of the same advanced photographic capabilities -- thanks to their shared 16-megapixel Four Thirds Live MOS imager -- the new mirrorless model has some new tricks up its sleeve.

For one, the PEN E-P5's build and design is decidedly different, and in fact we prefer its more streamlined shape, its robust mostly-metal construction and the feel of its numerous physical controls. Speaking of controls, the camera includes a two-dial (2x2) system plus a toggle lever and other buttons that combined give you increased direct access to some of the camera's most important settings. We loved that you can change shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance and more without having to dive into menus, as well as that all of these controls are super customizable to suit your personal shooting preferences and styles.

We were also thrilled with the E-P5's significant performance improvements, including a 1/8000s top mechanical shutter speed -- one of the fastest, if not the fastest, we've ever seen on a mirrorless model. The camera's continuous burst shooting fired off almost 10 frames per second -- a huge step up over the E-P3 -- and we never hit the buffer limit in our real-world testing. The increased ISO range, now at 100 to 25,600, also proved valuable, providing more shooting flexibility especially in low light. The E-P5 delivers much better images than its predecessor at high ISOs, as well as many other mirrorless models.

By no means is the E-P5 a perfect camera (we're still waiting for one of those!). For some, the lack of a built-in viewfinder makes the E-P5 a no-go, but its accessory VF-4 EVF is a very good one, and available in a kit with the M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens or for separate purchase. And while movie quality has improved with the help of sensor-shift I.S. and other tweaks, we were disappointed that Olympus didn't include additional frame rates, offering only 30 fps at 1080p and 720p. Additionally, we found the E-P5's built-in flash to be weaker than advertised, and its battery life below average.

While the PEN E-P5 clearly is a step up from the E-P3, how does it compare to the OM-D E-M5? We pitted the camera side-by-side the E-M5 to see how its image quality stacks up -- and we made some very interesting observations. Read our in-depth Olympus E-P5 review to find out about this and much more, including the IR lab's performance test results and the quality of the 17mm f/1.8 kit lens.