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Olympus E-5 review

Dennis Hissink
Photokina report
Wednesday 15th, September 2010
Posted by: Dennis Hissink

Review Photokina 2010 - At the time of the official introduction of the Olympus E-1, the first Four Thirds DSLR camera, on sunny Mallorca, the first step was made to set up the Four Thirds System. I was present, in 2003, and got to know the first generation Four Thirds DSLR camera. In the years thereafter, a lot of models were added, but there were few high-end Four Thirds DSLR cameras. Four years later came the Olympus E-3, which was an improvement on many fronts, and a nice evolution. Three years later, I ‘finally’ have my hands on the Olympus E-5, the newest Olympus Four Thirds DSLR camera. Do we still have to wait for a new DSLR evolution?

Olympus E-5

Olympus E-5 review
In the meantime, much has happened. Olympus has developed the Micro Four Thirds system together with Panasonic, and brought out a series of system cameras onto the market. In that sense it is kind of surprising that the Olympus E-5 still has been developed further. Diverse manufacturers are successful with their system cameras and they will undoubtedly take over some part of the DSLR market. However, the current group of system cameras, including the Micro Four Thirds, is aimed at a different target group than the Olympus E-5. The Olympus E-5 is the successor to the E-3, and is clearly designed for the demanding, semi-professional and professional photographer. That is a market sector in which there has been big competition from camera giants such as Canon and Nikon for years. In that respect, Olympus will need a heavy hitter in order to claim a market share. Yet Olympus seems to have a lot of faith in the E-5, and this experienced photo giant seems to stand comfortably behind this new DSLR camera.

Olympus E-5 camera body
Our first experience with the Olympus E-5 is a very familiar one. The body of the Olympus E-5 seems to have changed very little at first glance. The front of the camera has remained the same. As you would expect from a DSLR camera in this segment, the dimensions are quite large and the Olympus E-5 also weighs quite a bit. Although it is very comfortable to handle, which is partially due to the perfect hand grip. The Olympus E-5, despite its professional finishing and appearance, is actually more semi-pro, as the built-in flash reveals. Although there are more and more professionals that will appreciate this built-in flash, most Pro DSLR cameras are designed without this handy tool. The Olympus E5’ flash is flipped up with a mechanical switch on the side of the flash. The built-in flash pops up pretty high and also supports Olympus’ innovative wireless flash system.

Olympus E-5

Olympus E-5 Display features
The back of the Olympus E-5 has changed the most. The foldable and rotating display has remained, but the dimensions have clearly increased, to 3 inches. The resolution has visibly increased to 920.000 dots. The VGA display is clearly an added value and matches the competitors, who have also equipped their cameras with such high-resolution displays. The Live View application is more and more extensive with this display, which is placed in different settings. In practice, it works very pleasantly and it clearly gives the photographer more freedom in making a composition from a difficult angle.

Olympus E-5 memory support
Due to the fact that the 3-inch display takes up more space, the buttons found on the back of the Olympus E-5 have been moved. The row of buttons under the display of the E-3 has disappeared and some of them have been placed above the LCD display on the Olympus E-5. The switch to open the memory card compartment has also disappeared. The compartment is still found in the hand grip, but the lid is now just slid open. It is a bit of a cheap, yet effective change. The double card slot has remained, but the xD Picture Card has been cleared out. That was to be expected, as xD was never able to conquer any market share. The Olympus E-5 now supports CompactFlash and SDHC format cards.

Olympus E-5

Olympus E-5 semi-professional camera
The often small, subtle changes in control and ergonomics are typical for DSLR cameras of a professional character. Compared to the E-3, its predecessor from three years ago, there has been a subtle evolution, which is an important factor for E-3 photographers. I expect that, for example, underwater photographers will be able to continue using their expensive underwater housing they have for the E-3. Additionally, they will hardly have to adapt and will generally be able to accommodate to the small changes that have been implemented with the Olympus E-5. Don’t expect any revolutionary features or innovative image solutions. The Olympus E-5 is actually a DSLR camera for a (semi-)professional target group that has been improved in many areas.

12,3 megapixel Olympus E-5
Olympus has spoken up about the topic of resolution and was of the opinion that 12 Megapixels is an optimal amount. That is a good statement and easy to defend. Only, it becomes somewhat more difficult when the competition has almost unanimously increased their image resolution to 14, 16 and 20+ Megapixels. The weak link seems to be the Four Thirds image sensor. It has a bit of trouble keeping up with high ISO values and high amounts of pixels. The question is if this is necessary, as experience and results with the Olympus E-3 are absolutely fantastic and professional. Olympus has designed a new TruePic V+ processor for the E-5, which makes use of advanced algorithms. It is this combination that ensures that a resolution of 12.3 Megapixels is used optimally with the most amount of detail as possible.

Olympus E-5

Olympus E-5 video in HD
The HD video function is new. At first there were negative reactions to it from the photography world, but in practice it appears to have led to impressive creations. A new group of users from the video world immediately saw the potential of filming with a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses. In a short time it led to the production of commercials for TV shows. Many DSLR video samples can be watched on YouTube. The Olympus E-5 supports 720p HD video and that makes the camera live up to the minimum expectations of the videographer. Sound is recorded in mono, but it is possible to connect a stereo microphone. The Olympus E-5, however, will not be a serious candidate to compete with the world of the professional DSLR video recordings.

Olympus E-5 review conclusion
The Olympus E-5 is an incredibly solid, dependable DSLR camera. It is a camera with which you can work in any circumstance, it is a loyal workhorse, if you will. The finishing is of high quality and the Olympus E-5 emanates reliability in all its facets. Whether this is enough to attract a new group of photographers is doubtful. Owners of an Olympus Four Thirds system DSLR camera (E-1, E-3 en E-30) will jump at the chance to switch cameras. But if you are attracted to trendy functions, professional Full HD video functionality, high resolutions and the highest ISO values, you will most likely be attracted to the competitors. Although we cannot judge the DSLR camera yet on its image quality due to the pre-production status of this Olympus E-5 sample, we expect that the Olympus E-5 camera will at least meet all professional expectations in terms of image quality.

Olympus E-5

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