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Olympus today announced the PEN E-P5 micro four-thirds body. First off, it’s impossible not to notice the significant effort that has gone into giving this body a retro feel. Olympus has obviously tried to recall the appearance of the 1963 PEN F half-frame camera. To my eyes, they have done a great job with the styling for the E-P5. The look and feel of this camera is very well-done.
In an all metal body, Olympus brings many of the same technologies in its popular OM-D E-M5 to the PEN line. A 16-Megapixel TruePic VI Live MOS sensor, super-spot AF, and 5-Axis Image Stabilization, shot-to-shot and startup times, a 100-25,600 ISO range and a 1.04m dot 3" LCD touchscreen display round out the basic noteworthy specs. Of more interest to professional photographers may be the fact that the E-P5 is the first mirrorless system to have a 1/8000 top shutter speed. This should be a valuable addition for photographers who want to use their Olympus f/1.8 primes wide open in the daytime. The E-P5 also sports an impressive 1/320 flash sync speed. 9fps shooting (5.0 fps with continuous AF) will appeal to those shooting sports or action and focus peaking will excite those who use manual lenses on their four-thirds bodies. A feature that I think many photographers will enjoy experimenting with is the new interval shooting option that sets the time interval (1 second to 24 hours), and number of shots created during that time (1 to 99). Time Lapse Movie then converts the series of pictures taken using interval shooting into a movie inside the camera. Clouds, plants growing, food decomposing, and the like are all classic examples of time-lapse subjects that can be captured with the E-P5.
One of the drawbacks to the PEN line has been a lack of manual controls. Menus and scrolling were used where many photographers would have rather seen dials and dedicated buttons. The E-P5 attempts to chart a new path for the PEN line by adding two true control dials on the top plate. Olympus then created a unique way to expand the usefulness of the two dials by adding a two-position switch that changes what functions the dials control. For example, setting 1 could be exposure parameters and setting 2 could be ISO and white balance (these are the default settings). It sounds a little odd, but in practice, it is a very quick way to switch function assignments.
The Olympus E-P5 is wifi enabled and Olympus has done some pretty unique things with this feature. For one thing, setup is as easy as scanning a QR code on the LCD with your smartphone. Once paired, you can use the Olympus Image Share 2.0 app to synchronize your screens between your smartphone and the E-P5’s screens. This allows you to see the camera’s LCD on your phone and control it by touching the smartphone display as if it were the camera’s touchscreen. This opens up a world of remote shooting possibilities, from self-portraits and remote mounting for sports images to wildlife images taken from afar.
Overall, I was impressed with the hands-on time I spent with a pre production E-P5. The recent PEN cameras have shown great image quality, but have suffered from clumsy controls and non-descript styling and build quality. The E-P5 changes that completely. Itâs a very pretty camera, feels great in the hand, and the handling speed has improved considerably. The quick startup time, dual control dials, and 2×2 switch all add up to a camera that makes you feel like you can get some serious shooting done, while coming in a smaller package than the OM-D. As anyone who has read my previous comments on the camera knows, I am a big fan of the OM-D. But there are times when something a little smaller might fit the bill for the day’s adventures. The proof is in the pudding and I await a production unit to be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the E-P5 is that camera.