Olympus Pen E-P5 Sample Images

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first impression I get from using the Olympus Pen E-P5 is that it feels like it belongs in my hands.  This is a departure from previous run-ins with mirrorless cameras, like Fuji’s X Series.

I took the camera out for a walk around midtown and tested a couple of lenses.

 

Working with the Pen E-P5

User interface

First off, the user interface is a toss up.  On one hand you get the great outer design that seems to fit your grip, but as you use the camera more and more, you realize that headache you’ve been feeling came from trying to navigate the menus.

One neat feature is the ability of the user to customize the camera to his or her own shooting style.  When I couldn’t find where the heck Olympus had placed the mechanism to switch to manual focusing, I simply reassigned a button to do just that.

The screen’s nice, with a good resolution, a nice angle of tilt, and the touch-point autofocus makes it great if you’re tired of using the directional pad.  It also comes in handy when the cameras AF detect goes crazy and bounces all over the place between shots.  The af points can be made smaller, increasing efficiency when you need to focus on tiny areas.

The two dials and switch work well together.  When pushed in on direction, the switch allows you control over shutter and aperture.  When moved in the opposite direction, it allows you control over white balance and ISO.  One universal problem with this setup is that the photographer can easily forget in which direction he or she has thrown the switch, and thus running the risk of missing crucial shots when bumbling through the controls trying to adjust the Pen E-P5.

In regards to the flash, it needs to go.  It’s small, weak, and takes up some great real estate that would be better spent on some kind of viewfinder.  At high ISO, you get the grain you would expect, but even then it still works in those situations where there just isn’t enough light.

Pen E-P5 sample image iso

This image shows the Pen E-P5′s impressive ISO range, with images taken at 3200 (top) and 25600 (bottom).

Quirky Features

Video was misleadingly smooth on-camera.  Here the anti-vibration features really get noticed; handheld camera work seems as smooth as professional panning.  Only later, at a larger size, can you see how grainy this stuff looks.  The Micro Four Thirds system impresses me when it comes to stills, but it was not meant to capture video.

Filters!  This camera, like the other mirrorless systems I’ve played around with,  is jammed with them.  To give Olympus credit, the grainy black and white is a slam dunk.  And while I’m sure there are people out there who want to use cross processing and toy camera filters all day every day, I imagine most of us are going to get tired of it pretty quick.  It does seem pretty odd that you can choose between shooting in monochrome or the grainy black and white art filter.  In fact, it’s very easy for someone to get lost in the long list of filters and picture modes, and when you add the complicated menu to this equation, it only makes things worse.

olympus Pen E-P5 sample image grainy bw filter

Okay, so the grainy black and white filter is pretty freakin’ cool.  

olympus Pen E-P5 sample image pinhole effect

The pinhole filter offers some vignetting on the edges.

The ability to connect with a smartphone may be a big selling point to this camera for some new Olympus shooters.  It seems pretty straightforward as far as setup goes, maybe taking about fifteen or twenty minutes.  And using the camera as a remote has its perks.  The downside is, older phones (like my iPhone 4s) just show a pixilated, clunky image when viewed through the app.  I guess it will work great if you do all of your editing in camera, but to old hands it’s going to seem a bit superfluous.

So all in all, how good is it?  The Pen E-P5 is a nice camera.  It feels comfortable, handles okay when photographing, and it’s got a great output in terms of image quality and shooting efficiency.

BUT.

With the extra fluff shoved into this camera, from burdensome menus to three times the in-camera effects a normal photographer should need, it’s not going to appeal to everyone.

The lenses:

The Olympus M. Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 vs the Olympus M. Zuiko 17mm f/2.8

I didn’t think there would be that great of a difference between these two lenses, but there really is.  The f/1.8 wins hands down – from overall sharper images to the snap-focusing ring, this lens blew the f/2.8 out of the water.  Using it is a joy, especially with the hard focus stops, eliminating the need for cheats like focus peaking.  Even given the fact the f/2.8 is tinier and more compact (something I generally like in a lens), performance-wise it just can’t hold up.

olympus Pen E-P5 sample image sharpness

The 17mm f1/1.8 delivers an image so sharp, you can cut yourself on it.

The Olympus M. Zuiko 75mm f/1.8

This lens is a joy to use.  I don’t go in for much telephoto shooting because I’ve always been burdened with the low apertures.  I took this baby to a memorial garden and spent some time photographing birds and flowers and signs, and hot damn, am I impressed.  Even in the shade, with wind blowing all about and the cold causing me to shiver, the low aperture, coupled with the Pen E-P5′s vibration reduction, allowed me to take some crisp, clean, and bright shots.  I’m still not over the shock.

olympus Pen E-P5 telephoto sample image

One downside to the 75mm f/1.8 is just using it with a Micro Four Thirds sensor.  Imagine the results if you couple blow it up without losing resolution…

olympus Pen E-P5 sample image bokeh flowers

Shot at ISO 200 f/1.8 – LOOK AT THAT BOKEH!!!

The Bottom Line

Coupled with the 17mm f/1.8 or the 75mm f/1.8, you will have a ball shooting with the Pen E-P5.  Hell, you can even produce some amazing results with it.  It handles and operates better than the mirrorless cameras I’ve seen from Fuji, and I doubt the EOS M can match the technology.   It’s also got the ability (with the use of an adapter) to fit any lens made for the Four Thirds System, as well as some other brands to boot, making it great choice for those who have already invested in interchangeable lenses.

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