Image Performance, Conclusion
The sample photographs were shot with the Olympus Pen E-P5. The photos have not been post-processed, are saved in AdobeRGB, and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for full-resolution images.
The OM-D E-M5 produced exceptional images, and the E-P5 - with the same 16MP sensor and TruePic VI processor inside - does the same. Images are lush with color, which has always been Olympus’ strong suite.
Like with the E-M5, we’d be confident shooting with the E-P5 up to ISO 3200 and 6400 if need be. The E-P5’s JPEG images remain relatively clean with minimal image noise up to ISO 1600, at ISO 3200 you get more noticeable fine detail loss and at ISO 6400 fine detail becomes muddier but the appearance of noise is well-controlled with minimal grain. Olympus’ JPEGs are a little higher contrast and employ more sharpening, but it’s not overdone.
While this is still an impressive feat, Olympus no longer has the monopoly on great low-light, high-ISO performance, with Panasonic’s Lumix GH3 and GX7 having closed the gap since the E-M5.
The E-P5 does seem to struggle with white balance in artificial light as it tends to balance too warm even with priority for warm colors turned off.
Auto-focus is spot-on and a new Super Spot AF feature lets you select an area even smaller than the standard AF point for focusing on minute objects. Focus peaking makes it easy to see where your focus is set while focusing manually, and makes the E-P5 an ideal camera to use with the bright MFT lenses from Voigtländer.
As we mentioned at the beginning, the Olympus Pen E-P5 represents such a significant upgrade to the E-P3 that it’s better thought of a reboot rather than an update. Many features are stronger; the twin control dials make handling smoother than the single vertical dial on the E-P3. Built-in Wi-Fi is always welcome, even if the app itself needs work. The image quality is impeccable, the 5-axis image stabilization is best of class, and last but not least, the camera itself is gorgeous.
But while the hardware has gotten massively improved, the user interface (UI) has stagnated. Little hassles mar an otherwise pristine experience, like the inability to quickly get out of Touch to AF mode. And why limit the use of the touch-screen by not enabling it to navigate through the menu?
In the end, the Pen E-P5 presents something of a paradox, it’s an excellent camera no doubt, but you can’t help but wonder how much better it can be with better software - especially when you can pick up a Panasonic Lumix GX7 and see how much more usable its UI is (to be fair, other camera companies besides Olympus struggle with their UI, we’re looking at you Fujifilm, Nikon 1 and Sony NEX).