Olympus PEN E-P5 is what happens when you put a modern engine in an elegant classic body

olympus-unveils-pen-ep5-1Check out our review of the Olympus PEN E-P5 digital camera.

You can give Olympus credit for helping to start the retro craze that’s taken over camera design lately. The current PEN and OM-D Micro Four Thirds mirrorless models draw inspiration from the company’s film cameras of the 1960s and 1970s with metal bodies and textured grips. For the new PEN E-P5, Olympus dug through its design archives even deeper by creating a beautiful, classic-looking camera that resembles the Olympus PEN F of the 1960s, down to the logo etched on the front. A fitting tribute, since the new camera launch coincides with the PEN F’s 50th anniversary. But as Olympus points out, looks can be deceiving, since it designed the E-P5 to be one of the most powerful compact system cameras (CSC) available today, not just a good-looking one.

When Olympus was designing a successor to the E-P3, they wanted the E-P5 to marry the premium design of a CSC with the high performance of an SLR, plus wireless connectivity. (If you are wondering why they skipped over the E-P4 designation, it’s because the number “4” is considered bad luck in Japanese culture.) This flagship PEN model borrows many of the features from its top-of-the-line Micro Four Thirds OM-D cousin, the E-M5: a 16-megapixel TruePic VI Live MOS sensor, five-axis image stabilization, and FAST autofocusing system.

But the E-P5 isn’t just a technical duplicate of the E-M5. It’s the first CSC to use a mechanical shutter to attain a speed of 1/8000th of a second, placing it alongside DSLRs like Nikon’s D4, D800, and D7100. With that speed you can capture fast-moving objects or create tremendous background blurring when using a fast aperture lens. The E-P5 has a fast start-up time (0.5 seconds with the Quick Start-Up function on, 1 second if off), and the new short-release time lag AF mode reduces shutter lag to 0.044 seconds. Burst mode is at up to 9 frames per second, while Olympus has enhanced the built-in flash with a 1/320th of a second synch speed – ideal for daytime backlit shots. The E-P5 can shoot video at up to 1920 x 1080 at 30p (MOV format).

A feature of the autofocusing system is Super Spot AF, which lets you focus in on a tiny part of a subject more precisely through a magnification system. Olympus says this is more precise than phase-difference AF systems. Overall, the autofocusing system is 20 percent faster than the E-P3, calling it one of the world’s fastest. There’s also a new focus peaking feature that improves manual focusing. The five-axis image stabilization can compensate camera shaking for both stills and videos. While it’s the same system found in the E-M5, Olympus has made it smaller to fit inside the smaller PEN body. You can use the LCD to check stabilization by pressing the shutter button halfway. An IS-AUTO mode automatically compensates camera movement when panning.

The design of the E-P5 is certainly eye-catching, much like the latest Fujifilm X-series cameras. It has the look of a high-end handcrafted product. The E-P5 has an all-metal body construction with a metal processing finish that Olympus says gives it a more luxurious feel. Construction is seamless, as there are no visible screws. Even dials and buttons are made of metal, and are laid out in way that’s easily accessible.

The new Olympus VF-4 electronic viewfinder.
The new Olympus VF-4 electronic viewfinder.

The body may look retro but there are plenty of modern-day buttons and dials to be found. The 2×2 Dial Control system, consisting of a dial on the front and one on the back, is designed to give advanced photographers a way to quickly adjust settings. You can use the front dial to adjust aperture and the back for exposure time, or use the front dial to set ISO (200 to 25,600) and the back for white balance; to pick one or the other, simply flip a lever on the back. You can also customize it and the F button by assigning other functions. On the back is a bright 3-inch capacitive-touch LCD that’s rated 1.04 million dots, and can be tilted (80 degrees upward, 50 degrees downward). Most CSCs don’t include a built-in viewfinder, but if you prefer to use one, Olympus has a new optional electronic viewfinder (EVF) – the VF-4 – that slots onto the camera’s hot shoe. The EVF has a 1.48x magnification and 2.35 million-dot LCD, but beware, the new model is not backward compatible. Olympus says the Live View image has a shorten display latency when compared to the E-P3 – 50 percent on the LCD and 30 percent on the EVF.

In addition to the hardware, the E-P5 also has various kitschy features sure to please the modern, social photographer. For example, the multi-photo functionality allows users to snap several pictures and frame them in one Mondrian-style collage. Another feature, Photo Story, can also generate 10-second time lapse movies; all the user has to do is set how long they want the E-P5 to sit out and capture the photos and the camera will automatically calculate how many pictures in an interval. Photo Stories can range between a time lapse of one second to 24 hours, capturing up to 99 photos per story. Last but not least, a slew of photo filters are, of course, almost necessary in this retro photography age.

Olympus acknowledges it’s late to the Wi-Fi game, but it’s finally introducing wireless connectivity, starting with the E-P5. Having studied existing Wi-Fi implementations, Olympus is focusing on easy setup, enhanced search function, and remote operation as key UI improvements. To quickly pair the camera to a smartphone, users can scan a QR code that appears on the camera’s LCD with their phone. Using the Olympus Image Share 2.0 app for iOS or Android, you can use the phone as a viewfinder and operate the camera remotely, including setting a timer. The camera uses a smartphone’s GPS sensor to geotag images, and you can push content from camera to phone. The ability to live share the camera screen allow for flexibility and social usage, and in our test trial with the E-P5 and an iPad during a press preview, as long as your Internet connection’s good, any photo snapped between the device or the Olympus will be capture with minimal lag.

In addition to the E-P5, Olympus also introduced black versions of three M.Zuiko Digital lenses: 17mm f/1.8, 45mm f/1.8, 75mm f/1.8.

The E-P5 will be available this month, in black, silver, or white body colors. The camera body will be priced at $1,000. You can get the black or silver bundled with a black M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 lens and VF-4 EVF for $1,450.

(Natt Garun contributed to this story.)


Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.

From 11K to just OK: The biggest photo gear announcements at CES 2019

From 11K cameras to 1 TB media cards, CES 2019 brought a peek at new gear for photographers and videographers. But what photography gear grabbed our attention the most? Here are the biggest photo gear announcements from CES 2019.

What to look for and what to avoid when buying a camera

Looking to buy a new camera? Our comprehensive camera guide for 2016 has answers to any camera or photography questions you might ask, whether in regards to pricing, image quality, or weatherproofing.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…