The Olympus E-PL5, successor to the E-PL3, was introduced at Photokina 2012 in Cologne, Germany.
It is smaller than Olympus’ flagship camera– the OM-D E-M5– but offers identical image quality, low noise, wider dynamic range and fine details. It is sold in India either as a single lens kit (with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 IIR MSC lens) or two-lens kit that includes the 40-150mm lens. The body is available in silver, black or white colours.
Design and Build Quality
The all-black E-PL5 body is tiny and the outer shell is mostly made-up of metal. The build quality is excellent. The body does not incorporate a built-in flash but a small dedicated flash gun (FL-LM1) is bundled with the camera. The tripod socket is made of metal.
The Olympus E-PL5 is a 16-megapixel mirrorless, Interchangeable Lens Compact Camera (ILCC) powered by a TurePIC VI image processor. This is the same image processor that is found in the top-of-the-line Olympus E-M5. The imaging sensor is Live MOS and the format is Micro Four Thirds
(13 x 17.3mm).
The body is sleek in design. Image stabilisation is built into the body, hence every lens becomes an image stabilised lens. If you attach a lens that has image stabilisation, you can opt between using either the in-built stabilisation or the lens stabilisation. On the right hand side of the top plate, we find the On/Off button (flushed with the top- plate to avoid accidental operations), the Shutter Release button and the Shooting Mode Dial that offers iAuto, Program (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Movie, Scene and Art Filter modes. Exposures can be bracketed for 2, 3, or 5 frames in 0.3, 0.7 or 1 EV or for 7 frames in 0.3 and 0.7 EV. The accessory shoe (hot-shoe) is covered by a terminal cover that can be removed to attach the dedicated FL-LM1 flash gun supplied with the camera. A tiny speaker is seen on the left side of the top-plate while a microphone is found on either side of the accessory shoe (one each for the left and right channel).
The front plate of the camera body offers a detachable hand grip, which in combination with a small thumb-rest at the back aids in holding the camera securely (though we wouldn’t recommend a one- handed operation as shown in some ads!). At the lower right of the back plate, besides the Information Display button and the Menu button, is the Control Dial, within which is the 4-directional arrow pad: top controls the Exposure Compensation, bottom controls the Firing Mode, left controls the AF target, while the right controls the various Flash Modes. The major portion of the camera back is taken up by the 3-inch Vari-angle Touch Screen. The screen can be tilted to various angles to facilitate low-angle/high-angle photography, but cannot be swivelled sideways.
Shutter speeds on the E-PL5 range from 60 seconds to 1/4000 sec, plus Bulb and Time.
When using Bulb, you press the shutter release button to start the exposure but the moment you release pressure over the button, the exposure ends. When using Time, you press the shutter release button to start the exposure and again press it to end the exposure. The user manual does not mention the available ‘time-frame’ for Time exposures but this could possibly be a boon for those wanting to photograph star trails, for example.
ISO sensitivity on the E-PL5 range from 200-25,600 in 1/3 or 1EV step. The ISO sensitivity can be bracketed for 3 frames in 0.3, 0.7 or 1 EV step. White Balance can be set to Auto or any of the seven Presets. Custom and One-touch WB is also available. WB too can be bracketed for 3 frames in 2, 4, or 6 steps. Five exposure meterings are available on the E-PL5 namely Digital ESP metering, Centre-weighted Average, Spot, ‘Spot metering – Highlight’, and ‘Spot metering-Shadows’. When ‘Spot metering – Highlight’ is used, the camera automatically increases the exposure to ensure that the highlights remain bright. When ‘Spot metering- Shadow’ is used, the E-PL5 automatically lowers the exposure to ensure that the dark subjects appear dark.
As with some Olympus cameras, the E-PL5 too has Art Filters that offer a certain amount of creative freedom to the user. They are: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line, Watercolour, and Art Bracketing. In addition, a variety of Scene Modes are on offer like Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Landscape+Portrait, Sport, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Children, High Key, Low Key, DIS (Digital Image Stabilizer) Mode, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama, Fireworks, Beach and Snow, Fisheye effect*, Wide-angle*, Macro* and 3D Photo** (* for use with optional converter lenses; **can be used only with 3D lens).
The iAUTO mode has an additional feature, called Live Guide. Using this feature, you can change the colour and saturation, colour of an image, brightness, blur the background, express motions and see some shooting tips.
The E-PL5 uses Contrast-Detect autofocus rather than Phase-Difference AF as used in D-SLRs. The AF can track moving objects during continuous shooting (Olympus calls it sequential shooting) at 3.5 frames per second. The camera lets you choose which of the 35 AF targets will be used for autofocus. You can select between All Targets, Single Target – Standard-size, Single Target – Small-size, and Group Target. Pictures can be shot using Single-frame, Sequential H (approx. 8fps), Sequential L (approx. 3.5fps), 12-second self-timer, 2-second self-timer, and Custom self- timer. You can also zoom onto a portion of the frame when adjusting the focus. This allows you to position the focus target more precisely. Autofocussing and shutter release can be done via the touch-screen monitor. Three icons are available for this purpose: Touch this icon to autofocus; Touch this icon to autofocus and release the shutter automatically; Touch this icon to disable touch-screen operations.
As mentioned in the beginning, the E-PL5 does not have a built-in flash but a small dedicated flash gun (FL-LM1) is bundled with the camera. Flash output can be bracketed for 3 frames in 0.3, 0.7 or 1 EV step. Optional dedicated flash from Olympus (FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-300R and FL-600R) can be used. Also, using a macro flash controller (FC-1), you can use a ring flash (SRF-11) or a twin-flash set (STF-22). The supplied flash unit and other flash units offering a remote control mode (and designated for use with this camera) can be used for wireless flash photography.
The E-PL5 can be used to create High Definition movies at 1920 x 1080, 30p (29.97fps). Using a commercially available FlashAir card, you can view images directly on a Smartphone or PC that has Wi-Fi connectivity or transfer images between the camera and a Smartphone or PC that has Wi-Fi connectivity.
Images can be recorded in Raw, JPEG Large/Fine, JPEG Large/Normal, JPEG Medium/Normal, JPEG Small/Normal, Raw+JPEG Large/Fine and Raw+ JPEG Large/Normal. The camera uses SD/ SDHC/SDXC memory card for storage and weighs approximately 325 g with the battery and card.
The E-PL5 is perfect for people with small hands, but could be a bit uncomfortable to hold for those having large-sized hands. It is a feature-filled model and as such, getting familiar with all its features is important if you wish to use the camera to its full potential. The Panorama mode offered by the E-PL5 is actually a panorama-assist mode which allows you to shoot many overlapping pictures and later join them in a computer.
Our tests were conducted with the 14-42mm lens. Once the power was put ‘on’, the camera was ready to fire away almost instantly. The Olympus E-PL5 acquitted itself very well in terms of image sharpness and digital noise. Sharpness was very good throughout the focal range. Corner sharpness, with the lens wide open, was a bit less but completely acceptable. The three meterings – Digital ESP, Centre-weighted average, and Spot – worked well most of the times, though some highlight burnout was noticed in strong light conditions. Some flare could be seen when shooting into strong light but we did not notice any chromatic aberration (which is a good thing).
Noise control was very good. At 25% screen size, only the highest ISO setting of 25,600 showed fine
traces of noise but otherwise was perfectly usable. At 50% screen size noise control was very good, up to ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 wasn’t too bad either; ISO 12,800 did show noise but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it if need be. At 100% screen size, though noise was visible even at the lowest ISO sensitivity, I would use it up to ISO 1600; in dire consequences, up to ISO 3200.
Auto White Balance was slightly off under our testing conditions, but could be easily corrected in post processing. The Preset White Balance was okay under Sunlight and Shade. In Incandescent and Fluorescent lights, most cameras have a tough time producing accurate colours, and the E-PL5 was no exception. But then, this is not always a camera problem; the problem often is a mix of light bulbs of different wattages and fluorescent lights of varying Kelvin temperatures.
Some darkening of corners at the widest focal length was noticeable with the lens wide open, and this continued throughout the aperture range (though this is not likely to pose a serious problem in real-life situations). Slight barrel distortion was seen at 14mm setting.
Value for Money
The Olympus E-PL5 is available at an MRP of Rs.44,990 as a one-lens kit (with M. Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 IIR MSC lens), and Rs.54,990 for a two-lens kit (M. Zuiko Digital 14-42mm + the M. Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4-5.6R ). At this price, the E-PL5 constitutes fair value for money.
+ Excellent image quality
+ Touch-screen AF and Shutter release
– HDR shots have to be merged in Photoshop
– User interface can be confusing to new comers
|Design and Build Quality||16/20|
|Auto White Balance||3.5/5|
|Value for Money||8/10|
The Olympus E-PL5 is compact, lightweight and affordable. Image quality as well as build quality passes our tests. Best Buy!