Updated 10/5/13: Added in the E-P5's local retail price.
Olympus has announced a rather exciting update to the PEN series. The PEN E-P5 is the successor to the previous PEN flagship E-P3, which is nearly two years old, and brings the best of the OM-D flagship E-M5 to the PEN series, plus a little more.
The E-P5 comes with the same 16MP Live MOS sensor and TruePic VI image processing engine as the E-M5, as well as that camera's advanced 5-axis image stabilization, which Olympus says has been further improved from the original's. A newly added IS-Auto mode automatically detects the camera's movements and corrects the direction of stabilization for best results. You can even preview the effects of stabilization on your shot by half-pressing the shutter release.
The PEN E-P5 is fast; auto-focus speeds are faster than the E-M5's, it comes with a new short release time lag mode of only 0.044 seconds (with image stabilization off and an increase in battery consumption), and an extremely fast shutter speed of 1/8000 sec. The high shutter speed will come in useful when shooting with wide aperture lenses in bright light, negating the need for an additional ND filter. Burst speeds have increased from 3 frames per second on the E-P3 to 5 fps on the E-P5 (with Tracking AF) and 9 fps (with AF locked on the first frame and IS turned off).
Two new AF features make precise focusing easier; Super Spot AF lets you select an area even smaller than the standard AF point and set a pinpoint in the center for focusing on small subjects. Small AF Target reduces the size of the Spot AF target. Focus Peaking has been added to manual focus, which will help photographers using manual focus lenses like the bright Voigtländers.
The E-P5 takes after the E-M5 by having two control dials, or what Olympus calls 2x2 Dial Control because of the Fn (Function) switch on the back; flipping that switch changes between two sets of assigned controls for the twin dials, so you effectively have two physical dials with four control options. By default, exposure compensation is assigned to the front dial and aperture/shutter speed is assigned to the rear dial. By switching the Fn lever, the twin dials change to ISO and white balance control.
It's an innovative feature which makes the E-P5 friendlier for pro-users, but having twin dials does mean that the rear scroll wheel has been removed.
The PEN E-P5 comes with an advantage the OM-D E-M5 does not have: Built-in Wi-Fi. With the E-P5, you can transfer images directly to a mobile device with Wi-Fi using Olympus' Ol.Share (Olympus Image Share) app for Android and iOS. You can also use your mobile device as a remote shutter with live view. Olympus has come up with a rather ingenious way to connect your device and camera, when asked to pair with a mobile device the E-P5 will display a QR code on its LCD screen. You only need to point your device's camera at the QR code for the two to connect.
The mobile app will also come with all of the E-P5's Art Filters, including the brand new Photo Story mode, which grabs the frames you've taken and composite them into a single frame.
Other noteworthy new features include automated interval shooting and time lapse movie creation, an advanced Live Bulb mode where you can watch your image being made as the shutter is open and the image is being shot, and a higher resolution 1.04 million-dot tilting touch-sensitive LCD. Like the E-P3's screen, the E-P5's promises to be fingerprint-resistant, but it's no longer OLED. Flash sync speed has been increased, from 1/180th to 1/320th of a second.
In many ways, the PEN E-P5 is a condensed OM-D E-M5, with many of that camera's best features, like its 5-axis image stabilization and excellent 16MP sensor, plus more of its own, like a higher maximum shutter speed, focus peaking and built-in Wi-Fi. The only thing the E-P5 doesn't seem to have is the E-M5's weather-sealed body, and battery life is rated for slightly less at 330 shots per charge compared to the E-M5's 360 shots. It's a bold move by Olympus, which also boldly introduced the entry-level PEN E-PL5 with the flagship E-M5's sensor inside.
In a surprising move, the E-P5 will not ship with the standard and uninspiring 14-42mm kit lens, but will have two retail options; body only, or with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens with new VF-4 electronic viewfinder (see below).
The Olympus PEN E-P5 will be available in June, the body only will retail for S$1,388 while the E-P5 with 17mm f/1.8 lens and VF-4 EVF (see below) will retail for S$1,988. That makes it more affordable than the OM-D E-M5, which retails at S$1,488 for the body alone and S$1,888 with the 12-50mm kit lens.
Olympus has also announced a new electronic viewfinder, the VF-4, which has a finder magnification of 1.48 (0.74 equivalent for 35mm cameras). The VF-4 has been specifically designed to provide sharpness and natural color reproduction from corner to corner. An eye sensor helps switches automatically from the rear LCD to the viewfinder and Olympus says the screen has a lag time of approximately 0.032 seconds only.
The VF-4 will work with all Olympus PEN models as well as with the Stylus XZ-2 compact camera.