Olympus E-PL5 review

Successor to the E-PL3 we reviewed this time last year, the E-PL5 has skipped a number to become the fourth generation interchangeable lens Micro Four Thirds system compact from Olympus (the same technology the Panasonic G5 uses). Also known as the ‘Pen Lite’, this model sits in between the cheaper E-PM2, or ‘Pen Mini’, and the range topping OM-D E-M5 costing a grand, while featuring technology trickled down from that flagship retro-styled camera. Indeed Olympus says that the ‘guts’ of the camera are the same, with the only major internal difference being a dual axis stabilisation system on the E-PL5 to avoid the blurring effects of hand wobble, rather than a five axis one on the OM-D. It’s identically priced to the Panasonic G5, but the styling here’s more compact.

Whilst outwardly the E-PL5 differs in omitting a built-in viewfinder and not looking quite as gorgeously ‘classic’ as the OM-D, it does come with a compositional screen at the back that can be tilted down and angled upwards to face the subject if you do want to squeeze into a group shot or set up a self portrait. You realise how useful this is when the next camera you try doesn’t have one. Resolution has been boosted over its E-PL3 predecessor too, up from 12 to 16 megapixels, and there’s the ability to capture eight frames per second for action shots. Plus for the first time in the range the E-PL5 comes bundled with an 8GB Toshiba FlashAir Wi-Fi card, as the body doesn’t have built-in wireless. Our review sample also included a 14-42mm manually operated zoom, providing a 28-84mm equivalent focal range. Light sensitivity has been cranked up compared to the E-PL3, up to ISO25600 from 12800 previously, thus bringing it into line with rivals.

This ‘Pen’ looks great from the front and top down, and feels surprisingly solid even without lens attached. There’s no built-in flash however – just a small slide-on accessory flash included in the box – and we feel the hard controls at the back let it down somewhat. These are too small, plastic-y looking and generally more akin to what you’d find on a £100 pocket snapshot. Luckily then the LCD is also an intuitive touch screen, as alternative optical viewfinder or EVF are omitted due to space. 

OUR VERDICT

We enjoyed the ability to fire the shutter with a satisfying clunk by tapping where your subject appears on screen. Plus with Art Filter effects that are fun and effective, and warm, bold colours delivered almost on default, apart from a few niggles this is a great step up option for anyone wanting DSLR-style shots without the bulk.

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