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Olympus E-5 DSLR Digital Camera Review

olympus20110419a.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Michael Gazzola


It’s been 3 ½ years since Olympus launched the E-3 and showed the world it could mix it with the big boys in the professional playground. At the time, the E-3 was great leap forward for Olympus, earning a Gold medal in our review for their mantle back at HQ. Today, we review E-3’s successor in the E-5 and critique just how far the camera has come and what you can expect for a lazy $2,199 (rrp body only) …already $300 cheaper to begin with!

Let me begin by saying there are many things to like about this camera, but I could help wonder initially where Olympus actually sat with the statement; “for both the professional photographer and the creative enthusiast.” As a professional and practicing commercial photographer I’m sure I’d be hard pressed to find another professional looking to buy a camera targeted at a “creative enthusiast”… so is it just marketing spin to widen their market and tap into a ‘disposable income’ enthusiast group? or flat out just a camera to wow genuine pro players and simply blow the socks off enthusiast? …let’s see.

olympus20110419c.jpgAppearance & Functionality

Out of the box and straight into handling the camera is only 10g lighter than its predecessor at a straight 800g, and has a remarkable resemblance to the E-3… largely due to its identical dimensions in length, width and height! It still feels very solid and is well weighted and balanced as a professional camera should be. The dials and buttons (there are around 25) scattered strategically around the 270 degree flip out 3-inch LCD panel, viewfinder and grip are almost all within easy reach and handily placed for quick reference. Once you’ve had the E-5 in your hands for a few hours the buttons and your finger tips seem to just find each other as you’d expect. So you could say, in a way, that Olympus has not really tampered much with the E-3’s successful case structure and layout, but through a little R&D have made some notable changes internally.

The first, is a change to the dual card slot, with Olympus ditching the XD slot for the more widely accepted SD card slot, still accompanied by the CF card slot. This move simply ticks another box for potential buyers and is a tough, but right decision made by Olympus.

olympus20110419b.jpgLCD / Viewfinder

Fitted with a 920,000 pixel, 3-inch dual axis variable angle hypercrystal LCD panel the photographer is in for a treat. Images are bright and punchy as the LCD monitor comes with the option of a manual or auto brightness control to assist the photographer with optimum viewing no matter where they are. However, if you’re a little old school a few quick steps through the menu and you can switch to manual mode and keep the screen at a consistent brightness / contrast level of your choice.

Zooming in and viewing data for individual images is also easy. But, possibly in the Olympus E-7 (guessing the name of course!)  the introduction of a single mini joystick to move more quickly around a zoomed in, played back image would most definitely be a plus, as opposed to the left right up and down buttons.

Image Quality / Lens Quality

As with any review this is the section where realistically, it all counts and can literally affect sales figures for any given manufacturer. With information being easily accessed and read on the web on a global scale within minutes, criticisms and praises quickly convert to headlines which is why now, more than ever manufacturers must get their upgrades right and never rush a new release.

Olympus have had 3 ½ years since the E-3 to create something newsworthy. We can safely say they’ve done the right thing by their existing E-3 users and continued their march upward. Furthermore, they’ve created a device that will quite simply demand the attention of users of the two biggest brands in Canon and Nikon, as they’ve pitted themselves beautifully alongside them to simply let the user make their own assumption on quality.

Our tests showed very clean images at the lower ISO settings 100-800, and surprisingly great images at 1600 and even at 3200 ISO, although at 3200 signs of grain were apparent. There is a 6400 ISO, but like many manufacturers before it's a setting for last resort. This much improved imagery at 800-1600 ISO can mainly be attributed to Olympus’ new ‘Fine-Detail Processing technology’ and "TruePic V+" image processor’, which Olympus claims “exceeds many contemporary APS-C sensor based SLR cameras in the professional class”.

Focussing with the Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm SWD lens (RRP $1499), which was also used in our E-3 review was once again a breeze. The lens focuses very fast in bright light and does a good job in low light, and most importantly with a high focus strike rate across the board.

 

Using an almost identical High Speed Live MOS Sensor to the E-3, providing the photographer again with a 100% field of view bright viewfinder, Olympus this time around delivers images with a 12.3 million pixel capture. As successfully executed in the E-3 the SuperSonic Wave Filter technology has also been migrated across to the Olympus E-5.

In what appears a bold statement, Olympus have stayed firm with the use of the Four Thirds system (introduced 8 years ago) and would seem that by placing the sensor in their hero product would more than suggest Four Thirds is not going anywhere for a good while yet.

 

 

 

Photo Filters

The Olympus E-5 offers a set of creative filters that can be applied while shooting, found in the menu as Picture Mode. There are 17 in total, with many that seem to be inspired by the good old fashioned film days. Outside of the Sepia, Enhance, Vivid and Portrait options are the more left of centre Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Pop Art and my favourite the Cross Process. With the slowly dying art of cross processing E6 film in C41 processing I 100% welcome this filter into a professional body. Yes, we can do a number of these ‘creatives’ in Photoshop, but to be able to see the result instantly is a fantastic feature.

Video

As our core is to test the photographic side of digital cameras, the developments of video being added to almost every new camera simply can’t be ignored. The movie function is an easy one to access and operate. Simply turn on the LCD screen, hit the record button and you’re capturing in HD 1280(H) x 720(V) Aspect 16:9, or an optional SD: 640(H) x 480(V) Aspect 4:3(VGA) with a limitation of 7 minutes per capture session for HD and 14 minutes for SD. Using the same lens provided is fantastic for photographic purposes, but zooming with the Zuiko Digital 12-60mm SWD lens seems to be more favoured to photography as video lenses tend to glide more when zooming, where photographic lenses generally have tighter zoom rings. And beware, as you’ll be capturing in HD every free hand flaw is captured too – so I recommend using a tripod where possible! Below is a sample we shot on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy around the corner from our studio.

 

 

 

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Conclusion

 

Although the E-5 offers great competition in a tight and mostly ‘owned’ professional sector, it presents enthusiasts with an easy step up by incorporating many recognisable compact camera features such as ‘Picture Mode’, which allows the photographer to choose a style of shooting much in the same way ‘Scene Mode’ works at the compact level, but also gives professionals an excellent alternative where image and lens qualities are a major priority.


At the end of the day Olympus are a well branded, trusted name in photography. They’ve done the hard yards and produced a great line of lenses over many years that have proven to be winners. So adding a minimum 150,000 shooting cycle for professional-class reliability and, from a single battery charge 870 shots (double this with the optional battery grip), the Olympus E-5 from me gets a thumbs up.



Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image Quality 4 stars
Lens Quality 4.5 stars
View finder / LCD screen 5 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $2199
   
Effective Pixels 12.3 Million mega pixels
Image Sizes 3 Sizes
Compaitble Lens
ZUIKO Digital, FourThirds System lens
Lens Mount
FourThirds mount
Dust Filter
Supersonic Wave Filter (dust reduction system for image sensor)
Resolution Settings 768 x 1024 to 3042 x 4032
Shooting Modes i-ENHANCE, Vivid, Natural, Portrait, Muted, Monotone, Custom (default setting: Natural), Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Gentle Sepia, Cross Process, Dramatic Tone In custom mode, basic 5 modes and adjustment is available.
Focus Tracking Interlocked with Continuous AF mode
AF Lock
Locked at first position of Shutter button in Single AF mode / AEL button (customizable)
Sensor Size
17.3mm x 13.0mm
Field Of View 100%
Remote Control
Operation time: 2 sec., 0 sec., bulb control available (with optional RM-1 remote control)
Sequential Shooting
Approx. 5 frames/sec. in sequential shooting H, 1 to 4 fps selectable in sequential shooting L.
Focus Modes
Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) /  S-AF + MF / C-AF + MF * C-AF mode is not available with the contrast detection system
Shutter Speeds P(Ps), S, A, M mode: 60 - 1/8000 sec.
Bulb: up to 30 min. (selectable longest time in the menu. Default: 8 min. 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps selectable.
ISO AUTO: ISO 200 - 6400 (customizable, Default 200-1600) / Manual ISO 100 - 6400, 1/3 or 1 EV steps
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3 inch HyperCrystal  LCD (transmissive TFT color LCD), Approx. 920,000 dots, 100%
Viewfinder Eye-level TTL Optical
Flash Retractable flash, GN=18 @ISO200, (GN=13 @ISO 100.m)
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Hybrid detection system with High speed Live MOS sensor and dedicated external sensor. 7 settings (3000K - 7500K)
Lamp (3000K), Fluorescent (4000K), Daylight (5300K), Flash (5500K), Cloudy (6000K), Shade (7500K), Underwater. 4 custom setting can be registered.
Self Timer 12 sec., 2 sec.
Movie Options Yes, HD limited to 7 min., SD limited to 14 min.
Video Out NTSC or PAL selectable. Mini HDMI type-C (1080i/720p/576p/480p)
Storage Type CF/SD Dual-Slot, CompactFlash Type I (UDMA), SD Memory Card(SDHC/SDXC compatible) Class 6 or higher is recommended for Movie shooting
Image / Audio Formats RAW (12-bit), JPEG, RAW+JPEG
Movie Format AVI Motion JPEG (30fps)
Connectivity USB 2.0 High Speed for storage and camera control
Power Source AC-1 ac adapter compatible
Battery Options BLM-5 Li-ion battery (BLM-1 usable). HLD-4 battery grip compatible.
Dimensions 142.5 mm (W) x 116.5 mm (H) x 74.5 mm (D)
Weight 800g (body only)

 

 

 

 

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About Olympus

 

In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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