Built around the same 16.1-million-pixel sensor as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, the diminutive Pen E-PL5 should offer excellent image quality. Richard Sibley tests this latest system camera. Read the Olympus Pen E-PL5 review...
One compromise of early compact system cameras was the speed of their contrast-detection autofocus. Since then, processing power and sensor readout speeds have increased and improved the speed of this type of AF, and it is no coincidence that Olympus calls its latest AF system ‘FAST AF’.
I found the 35-point autofocus system to be fairly snappy, and much better than that on first-generation CSCs. However, it doesn’t react quite as quickly as a phase-detection system. It is still fast enough, however, for most types of situations for which an enthusiast photographer will use the E-PL5.
Although not really designed for fast-moving subjects, the AF tracking feature works very well, locking onto a target and keeping it in focus. This will be useful for some wildlife photographers, for whom the 2x crop factor of the small micro four thirds lenses is particularly appealing. Similarly, it is useful for quick focus and recomposing techniques when shooting documentary images.
For really precise focusing there is a manual option. As is now standard, a twist of the lens barrel prompts the rear screen to show a magnified view of the area being focused, with more than 800 different precise areas available.
The main new focusing feature of the E-PL5 is the fact that the touchscreen can be used to select the AF point. While I am not a fan of touchscreens for selecting onscreen menu items, it is very useful to be able to simply touch a subject on screen and have the camera focus on it.
The E-PL5 can also be set to focus and take an image, although this doesn’t feel entirely natural and is likely to introduce camera shake due to having to slightly press the camera at the time an image is taken. As both hands aren’t supporting the camera, using the touchscreen to take an image simply doesn’t offer the stability of shooting with the camera in both hands.