Olympus celebrates PEN F 50th anniversary with 60s-inspired flagship PEN E-P5
By Simon Crisp
May 11, 2013
Olympus has decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its classic PEN F camera by launching its latest digital successor, the PEN E-P5. But, while the new Micro Four Thirds shooter bears more than a passing resemblance to the original PEN F, its retro good looks house modern features including a 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor, 5-axis image stabilization and built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.
Coming almost two years after the E-P3, the Olympus PEN E-P5 is a welcome and needed update to the range and is itself a real sign of how fast things are changing in the mirrorless camera market. In fact, not only has the camera improved considerably on the previous PEN, it can now arguably even give the much-lauded Olympus OM-D E-M5 a run for its money.
This is because the E-P5 has gained features including the same 4/3 inch (17.3 x 13 mm) 16-Megapixel Live MOS sensor which impressed so much in the OM-D E-M5. It's also inherited the impressive 5-axis image stabilization and boasts an ISO range of 200-1600 (expandable to 25,600). The camera is also capable of sequential shooting at nine frames per second (fps), though this is reduced if you want all-singing-and-dancing AF and image stabilization at full resolution.
Olympus' FAST AF auto-focus is said to be up there with the speediest contrast detection systems, while Super Spot AF means the mirrorless camera is capable of focusing on more specific parts of an image than most DSLRs. Focus peaking has also been added to assist with manual focus. It's worth noting the camera has a mechanical shutter capable of operating at a blisteringly quick 1/8000th of a second. This is a first for compact system cameras, and handy if shooting at fast wide open apertures in bright sunlight.
Bringing the PEN into 2013, there's also the addition of built-in Wi-Fi capabilities which are becoming a must-have feature as far as most mirrorless camera makers are concerned. While the E-P5 lacks the tap-connection near field communication (NFC) seen in recent Panasonic and Samsung offerings, the camera can connect to Apple or Android smartphones to share images or enable remote shooting. In remote operation, the screen of your smartphone shows that of the camera and can be operated as such, allowing access to things like autofocus and shutter release.
Enthusiasts will be pleased to see the new digital camera features plenty of physical controls for access to manual settings. Yes, the PASM (Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Manual) dial also gives access to Auto, Art and Movie modes (Full HD recording at 30 fps), but the real treat for image-tinkerers is the 2x2 dial control system. This consists of two dials, and a switch on the back – in one configuration the front dial operates aperture and the rear one exposure time, but after flicking the switch they give access to ISO value and white balance.
Measuring 122.3 x 68.9 x 37.2ｍｍ (4.8 x 2.72 x 1.46 inches) and weighing 420 g (14.8 oz), the design of the E-P5 certainly does the job of paying homage to the original PEN F. This is especially the case in the silver finish (black and white versions will also be available), and the retro-minded out there will undoubtedly see it as an improvement over the uninspiring looks of the E-P3.
The camera also includes a built-in flash and a three-inch tiltable LCD on the rear with 1,037k dots. If you're not a fan of composing images on screen, there's the optional VF-4 electronic viewfinder with a 2,360k dot display, which automatically switches mode when it detects your eye
The E-P5 will sell for US$1,000 body-only when it goes on sale in June. It will also be bundled with a M.Zuiko Digital 17 mm f1.8 lens (giving a 35 mm-format equivalent focal length of 34 mm) and the VF-4 for $1,450.