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Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review

The Olympus PEN E-P5 is the flagship PEN model with 5-axis IS, Wi-Fi and a number of advanced features but how does it perform? Find out in our full review.

| Olympus PEN E-P5 in Mirrorless Cameras

Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review: Olympus Pen Ep5 Black White Bg (2) (Custom)

The Olympus PEN E-P5 updates the Olympus PEN E-P3 which is two years old, and the camera now features all of the best technology from the Olympus OM-D E-M5 such as 5-axis IS, 9fps continuous shooting, 16.1 megapixel sensor, as well as several other improvements that would make it appealing even to people who already own an E-M5, including Low ISO100, 1/8000s shutter speed, high resolution 3inch screen, built in Wi-Fi, a pop-up flash, and other improvements.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Features

Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review: Olympus Pen Ep5 Black White Bg (3) (Custom)

Features of the EP-5 mirror that of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, but without the weather sealing or built in electronic viewfinder. With the same 16.1 megapixel sensor and Venus engine as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, the E-P5 also features extended ISO, from ISO100 to ISO25600, 5-axis image stabilisation and 9fps continuous shooting, with built in Wi-Fi for image sharing and remote shooting. On the back is a 3inch high resolution 1037k dot touch screen that tilts up and down. The E-P5 also features a built in pop-up flash. 

The E-P5 is also the first mirrorless camera to feature a 1/8000s mechanical shutter speed, with other cameras using an electronic shutter to reach this speed.

Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review: Olympus Pen Ep5 Black White Bg (8) (Custom)

Key Features

  • 16.1 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor
  • 5-axis image stabilisation (up to 5EV compensation)
  • 2-axis electronic level
  • 3inch 1037k tilting touch screen
  • ISO100 - ISO25600
  • 1/8000s mechanical shutter
  • 9fps continuous shooting, 5fps with C-AF
  • Full HD video with 30fps, with IS, Stereo mic
  • Built in pop-up flash, guide: 10 (ISO200)
  • Wireless flash control, 4 channels
  • Wi-Fi built in, GPS data from smartphone
  • 400 shot battery life
  • 122.3 x 68.9 x 37.2mm
  • 378g (body only)
  • Available in black, two tone silver and black, and white

Olympus PEN E-P5 Handling

Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review: Olympus Pen Ep5 Black Top (Custom)

The E-P5, like the E-P3 before it, has a premium build quality, with a solid metal construction, and a weighty feel to the body. The front grip can’t be changed, unlike the Olympus PEN E-P3 (and E-PL5), which is a shame, as we quite liked the idea of being able to change to a large grip if required, or simply take the grip off altogether for a slightly slimmer profile. However it gives a good grip for your fingers
and on the rear is a large rubber thumb grip to provide a sturdy hold on the camera.

A new feature is the introduction of front and rear command wheels, to allow the quick setting of aperture and shutter speeds, or exposure compensation when in P/A/S and other modes. There is a lever on the back that lets you switch between this mode of operation, or alternatively using the front and rear dials to set ISO/WB directly (this can be customised). In the middle of this switch is the video record button, and on the back of the camera you can find the usual Olympus controls. The top function button can be customised, and when used in conjunction with the rear zoom dial can be used for one touch HDR / AE bracketing. Other buttons on the camera can be customised including the magnify, video, left and down buttons.

Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review: Olympus Pen Ep5 Black White Bg (6) (Custom)

The Olympus menus aren’t the most intuitive to navigate, and this is one area where we (and no doubt many others) wish Olympus would improve. The Super Control Panel helps change settings quickly, and can be easier to browse and use than using the overlay or menu system, however you need to activate it before you can use it, and even this can be difficult at times. An overview of the menus as well as a quick demo of focus peaking can be seen in the video below:

The rear features a 3inch tilting 1037k dot resolution touch screen that is able to tilt as much as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, it has a thinner profile than the OM-D, and looks great. The manual pop-up flash is activated using the flash button on the back, and you simply press the flash back into the camera to close. The camera also features improved magnified view for manual focus, as well as a focus peaking feature.

Wi-Fi connectivity - Using the Olympus Image Share app for iOS and Android, lets you remotely control the camera, transfer photos, edit photos, as well as Geotag images with GPS information from your smartphone. You can also use a QR code on the LCD to quickly setup the connection to the smartphone. The remote control section lets you set the self-timer, or use the smartphone to set the focus point or take a photo using the touchscreen. Additional options would be nice, as it seems a little limited at the moment.

VF-4 Electronic Viewfinder - Introduced with the E-P5 is a new electronic viewfinder with an EPSON LCD with 2.36million dots, combined with Olympus optical elements (designed to give good performance even in the corners) and give a large 0.74x view - which is larger than the full frame optical viewfinder in the Nikon D800, and just slightly smaller than the 0.76x view in the Canon EOS 1D-X. The viewfinder does not show any banding or colour aberrations when panning, and appears to be very good quality when in use. It can also be tilted straight up. The VF-4 has built in eye-detection sensors to automatically switch it on, and the rear screen off when raised to the eye, however the eye-detection feature does not work when the VF is used on older cameras, and instead you will need to use the manual switch to switch to the EVF. The new VF-4 when used with the E-P5 has quicker eye-sensor switch-over time of 0.4 seconds to switch from the rear screen to the EVF, and a fast response time of 0.032sec.

Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review: Olympus Pen Ep5 Black White Bg (7) (Custom)

Battery lifeBattery life is rated at 400 shots, and it uses the same battery as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, although Olympus say that the camera is able to show the effects of the 5-axis image stabilisation on screen thanks to battery and energy efficiency improvements. The EP-5 battery and memory compartment is underneath the camera.

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Olympus PEN E-P5
Shutter Response <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.175
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.9 / 1.1 with VF-4 attached
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.4
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.2
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
9fps (24 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 1fps
Continuous Shooting - RAW 9fps (16 shots)

Focus speeds are excellent, even with the standard 14-42mm II kit lens, with a very good switch on time. Continuous shooting is very good shooting at 9fps with an impressive 24 shots before slowdown when shooting JPEG images.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Face detection works really well, and the camera can be set to give priority to focusing on faces, on the nearest eye, the right eye or the left eye depending on what your preference is. A focus assist lamp helps to focus in low light. The camera delivers bright colourful photos with excellent JPEG results straight from the camera.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Lens test images

Lens Performance - Dynamic range is good and the lens is quite resistant to flare. Exposure is good with bright saturated colours. The 14-42mm kit lens is capable of taking a decent macro photo at the telephoto end of the lens and performs well for a kit lens producing sharp photos into the corners whether using the lens at the wide-angle end or the telephoto end. Some purple fringing and chromatic aberration is visible on edges where there is a high level of contrast, although it's not excessive.

Olympus PEN E-P5 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The ISO range is expanded with a new Low ISO100 option - ISO100 shows extremely low noise, although with slightly less dynamic range, and some over-exposure / highlight clipping. Noise is low at ISO200, with good levels of detail, and the same can be said about ISO400. Low noise, and good detail continues, until ISO1600 where there is a slight drop in levels of detail, although noise is low at this setting, and at ISO3200. At ISO6400 noise increases, although results are still quite impressive. At ISO12800 and above, noise becomes more noticeable as it reduces levels of detail and colour is lost.

The camera has a number of noise reduction options: Off, On, Auto, with the noise filter options of: Off, Low, Standard, High. Low gives a nice grain with improved levels of detail and is our recommended setting. Standard (Default) does a very good job of removing most of the noise if you're not a fan of noise, while High was a little too strong in our view.

Olympus PEN E-P5 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten and fluorescent lighting, often producing better results than using the respective presets. The camera has an option to "Keep warm colour" when using auto white balance, which can be useful for capturing the mood of a scene - examples can be seen above.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Outdoor images

Olympus PEN E-P5 Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a large amount of art filters, with each having a number of options and additional effects that can be applied such as a vignette frame. A new feature is the story mode - there is the choice of 1:1, or 4:3 aspect with 4 different styles of story boards, as well as frame options, and layout options. There are also three different styles of "Fun Frames", as shown above. There is an excellent range of black and white filter options, although unfortunately there are no automatic HDR or panoramic creation modes. The camera also saves all the original raw files.

Video - There are P/A/S/M video modes, as well as Art Filters, Wind Noise Reduction (Off, Low, Standard, High), Recording volume (Low, Standard, High), as well as silent (audio off). ISO can be set from 200 to 3200. The 5-axis IS works superbly to keep video steady.

Value For Money

The Olympus PEN E-P5 is available for around £850 body only, which makes it reasonable value for money, although you could also be tempted by the weather sealed Olympus OM-D E-M5. Alternatives to consider include the following:

Samsung NX300, with Wi-Fi, 1/6000s shutter speed, £599 with lens.
Sony NEX-6, with Wi-Fi, EVF, £595 with lens.
Fujifilm X-E1, with EVF, £599 body only.
Olympus OM-D E-M5, with EVF, £780 body only.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Olympus PEN E-P5 Verdict

The Olympus PEN E-P5 sits at the top of the Olympus PEN range and is the desirable premium mirrorless camera, while lacking weather sealing of the OM-D, the additional features and high IQ from the OM-D should make the E-P5 top of the list for a mirrorless camera. The VF-4 EVF (electronic viewfinder) with a high resolution, large view, and rapid refresh is an excellent bit of kit and well worth adding to the E-P5, making it a real pleasure to shoot with. The Olympus PEN E-P5 has a number of impressive features that would put it at the top of the list of desirable cameras for advanced photographers as well, including mechanical shutter speeds up to 1/8000th of a second, focus peaking, ISO100, plus an excellent 3 inch tilting touch screen with ultra-fast focus speeds and improved battery life.

With Olympus delivering excellent noise performance (which started with the E-M5, and then the EPM2, and EPL5); Panasonic producing cameras and lenses, and with others due to join the Micro Four Thirds (M43) system, it’s never been a better time to buy a M43 camera. The only problem with reviewing the Olympus PEN E-P5 is the potential to run out of superlatives when describing how amazing this camera is. Although we, along with many others, do think the Olympus menu system is due a refresh, and to get the best out of this camera we'd recommend investing in one of the excellent Olympus or Panasonic prime lenses available. The price of the Olympus PEN E-P5 puts it at a very similar price to the E-M5, however, for those that want a more compact body, and the latest features, the E-P5 is the one to go for.
  Olympus PEN E-P5 CSC Review:
  The Olympus PEN E-P5 delivers excellent image quality and features never before seen on an Olympus camera.


Olympus PEN E-P5 Pros

Excellent image quality
Excellent colour reproduction
2 year warranty
High shutter speed
Excellent 5-axis IS
Dual axis electronic level
Focus peaking
Wi-Fi connectivity
IS works with enlarged manual focus view
Built in flash
Gorgeous tilting screen
Stunning VF-4 viewfinder

Olympus PEN E-P5 Cons

Lacks built in HDR / Panoramic creation
Menu systems could do with a redesign


Olympus PEN E-P5 Specifications

Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeLive MOS Sensor
Sensor SizeMicro / Four Thirds
Sensor Size (width)17.3mm
Sensor Size (height)13mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution1037k dots
Touch ScreenYes
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Touch AF
  • Spot
  • Multi
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest60sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Shade
  • Flash
  • Underwater
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting9fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)400shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsBody, Li-ion battery BLN-1, Li-ion battery charger BCN-1, USB/Video Multi cable, Shoulder strap, OLYMPUS Viewer 2/ib CD-ROM, Instruction manual, Warranty card

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Photographs taken using the Olympus PEN E-P5

Golf CourseDream CarWintermorningColdRiver In My HometownFrozenFirst Snow - 2First SnowNature DetailsForest SceneForest 2022Drops In The SunlightAutumn MoodOctober-Morning"Bride With Wedding Dress"

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kodachrome Avatar
kodachrome 11 789
17 Jul 2013 5:00PM
Excellent review and IQ seems to have increased dramatically since Olympus have been using Sony sensors. There is no doubting this camera is a great camera, but!
Its expensive for a camera without EVF, and to add an after market EVF would take this camera very near to a grand. Not every one can relate to a 'Pen' camera and its a pity Olympus have to look backwards for future designs. They really should follow Panasonic's example in design and leave the retro stuff as a second line for the classic fans.
Paul Morgan Avatar
Paul Morgan 22 19.9k 6 England
17 Jul 2013 6:10PM
Why should Olympus follow Panasonic.

We don`t all want M4/3 camera`s that look and feel like small DSLR`s Smile

No EVF, is that a problem, you are given a choice between four, one optical and three electronic.
CBumpkin Avatar
CBumpkin 15 32 United Kingdom
24 Jul 2013 1:35PM
Having used an E-PL5 for some months, am still amazed at the quality and dynamic range in RAW. This has the same sensor and adding two wheels will make superior handling to the PL5, but it does need the viewfinder for oudoors contre-jour.
Goggz Avatar
Goggz 16 2.3k 72 Wales
24 Jul 2013 9:37PM
Well, battery life will be rubbish then, and I'll bet they haven't changed the focussing system so it will track moving targets accurately. The OMD is very hit & miss there... my only real gripe (apart from the awful menu layout and "logic").
jarrodbkk Avatar
25 Jul 2013 5:20AM
There is a panorama mode, isn't it?
joshwa Avatar
joshwa Plus
13 927 1 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2013 8:53AM

Quote:There is a panorama mode, isn't it?

Hi, there is a panorama scene mode that assists with taking the photos, which can then be stitched together on a computer, however most other cameras now feature automatic panoramic creation in camera.
jarrodbkk Avatar
29 Jul 2013 8:17AM

Quote:There is a panorama mode, isn't it?

Hi, there is a panorama scene mode that assists with taking the photos, which can then be stitched together on a computer, however most other cameras now feature automatic panoramic creation in camera.

Thank you very much for your answer @joshwa
Tcoat2 Avatar
Tcoat2 11 Australia
16 Aug 2014 8:49AM
As was common on many Olympus models since the E-30, but missing on more recent cameras like the E-M5, the E-P5 offers an ISO 100 equivalent setting with reduced highlight range. This is because the ISO Low and ISO 200 settings are derived from the same sensor amplification setting - ISO 200 images are exposed to less light, protecting highlights, compared to ISO 100. The two settings have different tone curves applied so that both give the same image brightness, despite the difference in exposure.

The upshot of this is that the ISO Low shots include less highlight detail but with 'cleaner' shadows, while the ISO 200 shots strike the opposite balance.

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