Well, file this under the list of delightful things we didn't see coming. Olympus has announced a brand-new Pen Lite E-PL5, with the same 16MP and TruePic VI image processing engine used by the flagship OM-D E-M5. Here's why this is amazing; the E-M5's retail price (body alone) is S$1488. The E-PL3 (the model that the E-PL5 succeeds) was priced at S$998 with a 14-42mm kit lens.
The official prices for the E-PL5 have not yet been announced though, and Olympus Singapore has told us that they expect the E-PL5's price to be higher than the E-PL3. The E-PL5 will also not feature the E-M5's advanced features, like 5-axis stabilization and weather-sealed body. But it offers substantial upgrades over the E-PL3, the least of which is the potential to take images with the same quality as the E-M5.
The E-PL5 introduces a touchscreen to the Pen Lite series, with the Touch AF Shutter feature found on the Olympus Pen E-P3 - just touch the target on the screen and the camera will focus then snap a picture. The E-PL5's touchscreen is capacitive and should be quite responsive to touch.
While the E-PL3 already had a swivel monitor, the E-PL5 takes it up a notch. You can flip the LCD all the way up, and see yourself while you take a self-portrait.
The E-PL5 also introduces the ability to send images wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet with the help of a Toshiba Flash Air SD card. Once the camera is paired with Olympus' Ol.Share app (on iOS or Android), thumbnails of photos on the SD card are automatically pushed to the app. You can choose to download specific full-resolution images through Wi-Fi and apply Olympus' Art Filters using the app. The images can then be easily shared to Facebook, Twitter or through email.
Olympus shared that the same ability to share images wirelessly to the Ol.Share app is possible with other Wi-Fi cards like the Flucard, but says that pairing will not be as easy. The ability to share images is also not just due to the Wi-Fi SD card, you can't just slot a Flash Air card into any Olympus camera and have it work with Ol.Share, the camera must have this new feature in order to work.
If you've ever kept a camera body with its lens off and body cap on, you'll know the hassle of fumbling to re-attach the lens when you see a great shot you just have to take. A new Olympus accessory (sold separately), the BCL-1580 is both a body cap and a lens. It's a thin 9mm only, but it contains three glass elements in three groups with a single focal length of 30mm (in 35mm equivalent) and a fixed f/8 aperture. A lever lets you focus manually and it can shoot as close as 30cm. When you want it to serve as a body cap, just close the lens cover.
We're not sure if the BCL-1580 will ever be a better option than just storing your camera with a lens on, but it's a great idea and a much better replacement for your typical body cap if you have the extra coin for it.
The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 will ab available in silver, black and white from October 2012 onwards. There will be two kits, with the prices to be announced:
Conspicuously absent from this round of announcements is a new Pen E-P5 (if we skip the number four like with the E-PL5). The E-P3 launched in June of 2011 together with the E-PL3 and E-PM1. The E-P3 succeeded the E-P2 after the latter had a year and a half run, so the timing would be just about right for a new E-P camera.
Olympus declined to comment on the next E-P camera, but with the announcement of the E-PL5 we can expect the E-P5 to have at least the same 16MP sensor and TruePic VI image engine found on the E-M5, but with beefier specs than the E-PL5. The surprise with the E-PL5 is how good it is; kudos to Olympus for making their flagship sensor available on entry-level models as well. But it also raises hopes for what the E-P5 will bring.