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Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review

The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 is the latest compact Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus, sitting above the PEN Mini E-PM2, it features the 16 megapixel sensor from the top of the range Olympus OM-D E-M5.

| Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 in Mirrorless Cameras


Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (8)

The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 is the latest compact Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus, sitting above the PEN Mini E-PM2, it features the 16 megapixel sensor from the top of the range Olympus OM-D E-M5 released earlier this year, as well as a tilting 3 inch touch screen.



Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Features

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (9)

The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 features the same 16 megapixel sensor from the Olympus OM-D E-M5, a 3 inch tilting touch screen, 12 Art filters, and 6 Art effects, Full HD video with stereo sound as well as 8fps continuous shooting. The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 includes a lot of features from the Olympus OM-D E-M5, including Live Bulb / Live Time, as well as some new features including a built in HDR mode.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (2)





Key Features



  • 16.1 megapixel Live MOS sensor
  • Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount
  • Double-axis in-body image stabilisation for blur-free movies and stills with any lens
  • 3inch touch screen 460k dots, tilting screen
  • Mode dial
  • Front grip - removable
  • HDR Bracketing
  • Full HD video with stereo sound
  • 12 creative Art Filters in HD Movie and still modes
  • Art Fade in HD Movie mode for blending from one Art Filter into another
  • ISO200 - 25600
  • 8fps high-speed sequential shooting
  • SDXC card and Eye-Fi compatible
  • Available in black, silver, or white

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Handling

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (5)

Handling - Compared to the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3, the E-PL5 adds a removeable grip from the E-P3, as well as a touch screen which tilts even further allowing self portraits. The front and rear grips allow a solid hold of the camera. The body is made out of metal, and the battery cover is solid with plastic over metal and features a locking mechanism. There is no built in flash, instead the camera comes with a compact pop-up flash, it is provided with a small case. The tilting screen feels solid even when tilted to extremes, although the 16:9 aspect means that a lot of the screen is wasted when taking and viewing 4:3 photos (the default aspect ratio), and when the pop-up flash is attached, this does get in the way of self-portraits. There is a video position on the mode dial, so the record button isn't entirely necessary.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (11)

Menus – There is an easy way to access all of the features by pressing the middle OK button, this brings up an overlay of controls. The custom menus give you extensive control over settings and options and can seem daunting at first glance, but they can be switched off if you don't want these settings messed with. The custom menus are colour coded, and there is built in help that can be switch on and off. You can also customise the Fn, Video, Right, and Down buttons.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (6)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 360 shots according to Olympus / CIPA test results, we were able to take over 450 shots before the battery went flat.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (1)

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-PL5 Sony RX100
Shutter Response <0.05 0.0
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.175 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.6 2.2
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.45 0.9
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.0 2.1
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
8fps (17 shots) 7fps (speed priority mode, 15 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 1.6s 1.6s
Continuous Shooting - RAW 8fps (16 shots) 4fps (13 shots)

Focus, shutter response, shot to shot, and continuous shooting are all excellent, with the only noticeable slowdown seen when using the flash. Switch on time is also excellent.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Olympus Pen Lite E Pl5 (3)





Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 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 Lite E-PL5 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.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 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 right into the corners whether using the lens at the wide-angle end or the telephoto end. Some purple fringing is visible on edges where there is a high level of contrast, although it's not excessive.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is very low at ISO200, ISO400 and ISO800. Noise increases at ISO1600, with a slight loss of detail. ISO3200 images still show a good amount of detail, and the camera still gives usable images at ISO6400. At ISO12800 and ISO25600 there's a noticeable drop in image quality however images should still be suitable for use on the web. The camera gives almost identical performance as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, as would be expected from the same sensor.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten or fluorescent lighting, with the camera giving the option to keep warm colour switched on. The tungsten preset gives a very slight green cast under tungsten lighting, however the fluorescent preset struggled with our fluorescent lighting, giving a magenta cast. For the majority of situations, including mixed lighting the AWB setting produced good results.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a vast array of Art Filters on the Olympus camera, 12 in total, with each one having additional options, such as Pop Colour Bright, or Pop Colour Dark. On top of the Art Filters, you can also apply upto 5 other effects (examples are shown above). The "Grainy Film" black and white effect has another set of B&W Filters, as well as B&W Tone options.

Panorama mode - The E-PL5 doesn't feature an automatic panoramic mode, instead features a panoramic assist mode to help you line up seperate photos, so that you can stitch them together on the computer later. The camera has a HDR bracketing mode, however the cameras doesn't automatically merge these together, instead you must do this later on the computer.

A demo of how live-time works can be seen in our E-PM2 review - this is an excellent feature that is currently unique to the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2, Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and takes a lot of guesswork out of long exposures.

Video - The camera has a number of video options, including image stabilisation, colour mode, single-AF, continuous-AF, manual focus, single AF + MF, as well as continuous AF. P/A/S/M modes are available, as well as the option to record MOV or MJPEG. Wind noise reduction is available, as well as three recording volume settings: Low, Standard, High. Another video can be found on our YouTube channel, as well as a video shot in low light using the digital tele-converter.








Value For Money

The Olympus PEN Mini E-PL5 is available for £599, (compared to the E-PM2 available for £499), with kit lens, and 8GB Toshiba FlashAir Wi-Fi card, which makes it quite good value for money, and we feel that the extra £100 is fairly reasonable as the E-PL5 gives you the additional grip, tilting screen, and quicker access to controls.




Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Panasonic GX1 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Nikon 1 J2 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Samsung NX210 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review: Sony NEX-6
Panasonic Lumix GX1 Nikon 1 J2 Samsung NX210 Sony NEX-6
£429 £386 £599 £819

As well as the cameras shown above, other mirrorless cameras in this price range include the following (price shown with kit lens): Sony NEX-5R (Wi-Fi), £499, Canon EOS-M, £649, Nikon 1 V2, £799, Fujifilm X-E1, £799 (body only).

You'll may also want 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 Lite E-PL5 Verdict

The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 features an updated tilting 3inch touch screen, with better handling than the previous Lite E-PL3. The camera doesn't feature a panoramic mode, but does include a built in HDR bracketing mode, although unfortunately this doesn't auto-stitch the photos. The Live Time feature inherited from the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is an excellent feature.

The camera's image quality is vastly improved over the previous PEN cameras, inheriting the 16 megapixel sensor from the Olympus OM-D E-M5, and image quality is excellent with the 14-42mm MK II lens delivering sharp photos and excellent Olympus colour. Noise performance is the best it's ever been from a Micro Four Thirds camera, with usable ISO up to and including ISO6400.

With the current offer on the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5, where you can get a free FlashAir Wi-Fi card, the camera is very good value for money. The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 is the more serious brother to the E-PM2, and with the ever increasing number of lenses available for Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 should be high on your list if you're looking for a mirrorless camera.





  Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Review:
  The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 is an excellent update to the E-PL3 and one of the best mirrorless cameras available.



Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Pros

16 megapixel sensor from E-M5
Excellent image quality
Screen tilts forwards
ISO noise performance
2 year warranty
HDR Bracketing
Live Bulb/Live Time feature
Kit lens performs well
In-body Image Stabilisation
Art Filters massively upgraded
8fps continuous shooting



Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 Cons

Lacks panoramic mode
HDR doesn't auto merge, software provided doesn't merge
Advanced menus can seem daunting initially






Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 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 resolution460,000 dots
Touch ScreenYes
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • AF Tracking
  • Touch AF
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest60sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
  • ESP Light Metering
ISO sensitivity200 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting8fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeBLS-5 Li-ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)360shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsFlash, flash case, strap, basic manual (multi language), full manual on cd/dvd, camera, battery, battery charger, AV cable, USB cable, Warranty Card

View Full Product Details





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Photographs taken using the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5

Welsh PoppiesLuciano --Speciality in ties (Ponte Vechio) FlorenceSummer grass in GermanyLight and Shadow.Blackpool Tower FireworksevrlastingDramatic rollerslooking up - roots (III)looking up - roots (II)CrocusNew LanarkCrocusRobinDeterminationMy Garden in October

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DonTom 10 Qatar
5 Dec 2012 11:40AM
Thank you for the review. At last, someone has noticed the video tele-converter! I checked the video, but would welcome you comments on how the feature works in practice., ie is it straightforward to use etc.

Cheers, Tom
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
5 Dec 2012 12:43PM
Hi DonTom,

It's quite easy to use, you simply switch it on in the first Shooting menu. It magnifies it 2x and you can also use it for digital zoom in photos.

DonTom 10 Qatar
5 Dec 2012 1:32PM
Thanks Josh. I understand from the blurb that it goes up to 4x for video and is lossless? Can you zoom in easily while filming, or does it interrupt the process? Hoping I can get away with one pancake prime for skiing trips.....Wink

Cheers, Tom
CBumpkin 15 32 United Kingdom
9 Feb 2013 11:54PM
Fed up with lugging a heavyweight DSLR around, wanted a small, go-everywhere camera and the E-PL5 fits the bill. Good colour, if a tad heavy in the shadows [RAW] and good crisp images from the kit lens, with little corner fall-off. Good exposure histogram info and playback warnings for highlights and shadow error. My only minor gripe is that fiddly navigation wheel that must be worked hard in manual mode.
Just Jas Plus
21 26.4k 1 England
5 Jun 2014 12:07PM
On the E-P1 I find that the circular ring around the OK button is easy move accidentally. The E-PL1 appears to have a similar ring around the OK button. Did the Reviewer come across this problem during testing?

Also, is the camera significantly faster at focusing? - particularly at low light levels, where the E-P1 falls down somewhat.
Just Jas Plus
21 26.4k 1 England
8 Jun 2014 11:36PM
I mean E-PL5 of course.

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