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.
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
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.
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
Front grip - removable
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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