Olympus E-5 review

December 18, 2010

Overall Rating:


Olympus E-5

  • Features:
  • AWB Colour:
  • LCD viewfinder:
  • Dynamic Range:
  • Build/Handling:
  • Autofocus:
  • Noise/resolution:
  • Metering:



Price as Reviewed:


We review the Olympus E-5 DSLR, from build and handling to the viewfinder, and give our final verdict on this enthusiast's play toy.


While it may seem strange, the 12.3-million-pixel sensor in the E-5 has come from the entry-level E-PL1 compact system camera. Despite the different lens mount, the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds models share the same 17.3x13mm, 4:3 sensor.

This sensor gives a 2x focal-length magnification on lenses and an output size of 4032×3024 pixels, which allows a 10x13in print at 300ppi to be reproduced or an A2 print at a respectable 172ppi without interpolation. Images can be saved as either 12-bit ORF raw, JPEG or raw and JPEG simultaneously.

The camera uses the new TruePic V+, which is an improved version of the processor featured in the E-PL1 and E-P2 CSC models. This gives an ISO range of 100-6400, which puts the E-5 level with the newer CSC models, but about a stop behind its direct competition. The sensor is fitted with a Supersonic Wave Filter for dust reduction and sensor-shift image stabilisation to provide up to 5EV of compensation.

Metering is in the form of the 49-zone multi-pattern sensing system seen in the E-620 and gives the choice of evaluative (or ESP), spot, centreweighted, or the popular highlight and shadow metering modes. There is also an exposure compensation range of ±5EV, exposure bracketing of up to seven frames and ISO bracketing of three frames.

The autofocus system uses 11 cross-type AF points and makes the bold claim of being the world’s fastest (as of 10 September). Olympus makes this claim based on the biaxial nature of the sensors, meaning that each is effectively two cross-type sensors on top of each other, slightly staggered at each AF point.

The system is also found in the E-3 and other manufacturers have used similar methods, such as Canon’s zigzag array. The E-5 also allows fine-tuning of the AF system for individual lenses and a total of 20 corrections can be stored in the camera. In Live View, the E-5 uses contrast-detectiion AF with a similar choice of 11 AF points with the addition of face detection.

White balance is catered for with a hybrid auto mode that reads from a dedicated external sensor and the main sensor. There is a range of presets, including sunny, shadow, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, underwater and flash. WB adjustment is available in auto and preset modes. Values are also selectable in Kelvin or via a custom reading.

As with the E-3, shooting modes are accessed by a button and dial combination rather than a dedicated shooting-mode dial, and offer the standard array of program, aperture, shutter, manual and bulb settings.

There are no scene modes or full auto modes – this is a professional camera – but there are art filters. These have previously featured on both DSLR and CSC models, and are a simple way to produce creative effects, ranging from pop art to grainy film.

The E-5 features the nine previously seen filters plus a new dramatic tone that simulates an HDR-type image. Where previously these art filters have been treated as scene modes, on the E-5 they are more like picture styles in that they can be applied in any shooting mode rather than just an auto setting, and can even be applied to video. Half the filters also provide fine-tuning of the contrast, sharpness, saturation and gradation.

Although the grainy film (black & white) isn’t one of these, there is a monotone setting in addition that allows for fine-tuning, including filter and tone control. Post-capture, the E-5 provides in-camera editing, such as simple resizing and rotation, but also raw conversion and a series of JPEG adjustments such as shadow adjustment, redeye, black & white, saturation and e-portrait.

The viewfinder offers a full 100% field of view and a 1.15x magnification to give a nice large view for composition. There’s a decent-sized rubber eyepiece, a dioptre adjustment to fine-tune the focus and a shutter to avoid incidental light entering the camera during long exposures.

The rear LCD screen is a new 3in, 921,000-dot display, making it not only larger than the previous screen on the E-3 but also four times the resolution. The LCD is mounted on a vari-angle bracket that allows it to be rotated 180° horizontally and 270° vertically for reviewing and composing via Live View from almost any angle. Within the screen display options there is even a digital level for both pitch and roll alignment.

There are dual memory-card slots for storage, and while the CompactFlash remains from the E-3, an SD slot has now replaced the xD-Picture Card. This new slot is compatible with SDHC and SHXC cards to ensure high-speed transfer rates.

In continuous shooting the E-5 is capable of a 5fps burst rate for nine raw+JPEG shots, 22 raw shots or, in Fine JPEG mode, it will continue shooting until it fills the card (as tested with a 600x UDMA Lexar card). Individual write times are around 0.5secs for a JPEG, 1sec for raw and 1.5secs for raw+JPEG. This is thanks to the fast processor and relatively low pixel count.

  • Dioptre Adjustment: -3.0 to +1 dioptre
  • Video: 720p HD, 30fps, AVI
  • White Balance: Auto, 7 presets with fine-tuning, 4 custom settings, temp
  • External mic: Yes
  • Built-in Flash: Yes (GN 13m @ ISO 100)
  • Shutter Type: Computerised focal-plane shutter
  • Memory Card: Dual-slot CF and SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Viewfinder Type: Pentaprism finder
  • Output Size: 4032x3024
  • Field of View: 100%
  • LCD: 3in, 921,000-dot LCD
  • Sensor: 12.3-million-effective-pixel Live MOS
  • White Balance Bracket: 3 frames
  • AF Points: 11-point system (all cross-type and fully biaxial)
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/250sec or 1/8000sec (high speed)
  • Focal Length Mag: 2x
  • Exposure Modes: Program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual
  • File Format: JPEG, ORF (raw), AVI
  • Power: Rechargeable BLM-5 Li-Ion, DC input
  • Weight: 800g (body only)
  • Drive Mode: 5fps
  • Shutter Speeds: 60-1/8000sec in 1/3, 1/2EV or 1EV steps
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Dimensions: 142.5x116.5x74.5mm
  • Metering System: TTL open aperture 49-segment
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0, mini HDMI, video out, remote, PC-sync
  • Compression: 4-stage JPEG
  • Exposure Comp: ±5EV
  • Lens Mount: Four Thirds
  • ISO: 100-6400
  • Focusing Modes: Single, continuous, manual
  • DoF Preview: Yes

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