Olympus E-PL5 a Mini OMD? PEN Lite Review

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Malaysian Photographer Ming Thein got his hands on a new Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 and wrote up a great review on the new camera.

Here are some highlights below:

The OLympus OM-D E-M5 clearly demonstrated that the image quality potential of Micro Four Thirds could be taken quite a bit further without entailing any compromises. After enjoying a period of exclusivity to that body, the same sensor and imaging processor has now made its way into Olympus’ lower end offerings – the E-PL5 Pen Lite and E-PM2 Pen Mini, both recently announced at Photokina. I was given the opportunity to try out a final production E-PL5 recently by Olympus Malaysia.

Aside from the 15MP sensor of the OM-D, the E-PL5 also gains a few additional art filters, and compatibility with Olympus’ new OI.Share SD card and app for smartphones and tablets (currently, Apple iOS and Android are supported). There are also interchangeable grips – similar to the E-P3. There are also some minor cosmetic changes that give the camera a slightly blockier, more textured appearance.

In use, the camera is snappy and responsive for all normal operations; AF speed remains excellent, if perhaps fractionally faster than the last generation. The menu system is redesigned and now looks very similar to the OM-D, complete with most of the custom functions and extensive customizability that is unusual for a camera in this class, which has become one of Olympus’ hallmarks. It also gains 8fps shooting, though without AF, of course. I use it as a single-shot camera, or at most in bursts of two or three shots to gain some added stability.

On the subject of stability, the in-body sensor-shift stabilization system is improved over the last generation; I actually turned it off on my Pen Mini because it tended to give odd double images under some conditions. I left it on on the E-PL5, but it’s worth noting that it still isn’t as effective as the 5-axis gyro system in the OM-D.

Battery life is excellent; I estimate around 500-600 shots with moderate LCD use and power-off between shots. It uses the same battery as the E-PL3 and E-PM1, too, which is nice if you’ve got a few spares already lying around.

Throughout the review period, I kept asking myself who this camera was aimed at; the DSLR user/ enthusiast/ amateur looking for a second, more compact body, or the compact upgrader? I personally think it fits the latter better, much like the original Pen Mini. Although it’s compatible with the various accessories that connect to the accessory port under the hotshoe (including an EVF) – the lack of a built-in viewfinder means that if youre going to keep the camera compact, you’re restricted to arms-length style shooting. The huge number of art filters – also useable in movie mode at the expense of reduced frame rate – and in-camera processing options offers a relatively simple (if slightly lacking in control) method for the amateur user to achieve their desired look without resorting to Photoshop. I personally don’t use any of these, but I do know plenty of friends and family who might. What I did really enjoy was using it with the new 15/8 body cap lens as a hyperfocal snapshot camera; in this configuration it’s lag-free, and lets you focus solely on timing and composition. It’s also just about pocketable.

Ultimately, success at this end of the market will depend heavily on the camera’s price point. The rich feature set and overall refinement in operation make me curious to see what will succeed the E-P3; now if only they’d make one with a built-in EVF like the NEX-6… (Read Ming’s Full Review)

Our Take:
The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 looks like it’s going to be a great little camera. It’s predecessor, the Olympus PEN E-P3 is one of our favorite cameras of the last couple years, and this new camera represents a definite upgrade in technology. If your looking to upgrade from a point and shoot and get into a quality interchangeable lens system, or if you’ve been lusting after an OM-D E-M5 but it’s just a little out of your price range, then E-PL5 or it’s little brother, the new PEN Mini E-PM2, could be a good fit for you.

Check out the E-PL5 and E-PM2 below (in Black, Silver and White):
E-PL5

E-PM2

(Read the Full Review)

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