Olympus E-5: A New Beginning?



Olympus E-5

Olympus E-5

The launch of the Olympus E-5, the company’s flagship four thirds system DSLR, has come a little too late for comfort. Shridhar Kunte digs deeper.

During last few years, Olympus diverted all of their resources to the development of the PEN series of mirrorless cameras, which saw success worldwide, with good reason. We at Better Photography thought that this was the end of the road for the E series of DSLRs, especially because there were no new DSLRs launched since the E-620 in February 2009 and no new Zuiko lenses since November 2008.
During our last visit to photokina in 2010, we were pleasantly surprised to see the prototype of E-5, which succeeds the previous flagship, the E-3, after three years.

The Olympus E-5 is built around a 12- megapixels LiveMOS sensor and is aimed at serious enthusiasts and professional users. The Four-Thirds sensor used in this camera gives an aspect ratio of 4:3, with a crop factor of 2X. This means that a 50mm (35mm equivalent lens) mounted on this camera will eventually gives a focal length of 100mm.
For the image processing it employees TruePic V+ processing engine. The images can be captured in RAW and a very wide choice of JPEG compressions. Like most other DSLR cameras, RAW and JPEG files can be recorded at the
same time.
The images can be recorded on CF or SD cards, as the camera has two different card slots. However, there is no option available in the camera menu to record RAW images on the CF card and JPEG images on SD card, or vice-versa.
The maximum ISO setting available on E-5 is 6400… one stop higher over its predecessor E-3, but at least a stop lower than comparable cameras launched recently. The all-glass viewfinder has a magnification of 1.15x. Images can be played back on the tilt-swivel 921,000 dots Hyper Crystal LCD.
An array of focusing options is used in conjunction with 11 focusing point (less than half the number of points than other recently launched, comparable DSLRs) and exposure is taken care of with a 49 zone multi-pattern
sensing system.
There are in camera editing options that allow resizing and some limited image adjustments. Ten Art Filters are provided to enable some creative effects in-camera. These include Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Pop Art, Gentle Sepia and Cross process.
E-5 can record movies in 1280 x 720 pixels format with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a maximum duration for recording is around 14 minutes, representing 2GB of information. Stereo sound recording is possible with an external microphone.

In the field, I have used the camera with too different lenses—the Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and the Zuiko Digital 50mm f/2.0 Macro. Both the lenses balance well over this body and feel comfortable to carry for extended time periods. This is certainly not a small or a light camera. The feel of the body gives you a clear indication of the overall build quality of the E-5, which is oriented towards a prouser. The grip is well-sculpted, moderately sized and ensures a firm hold. The body is made up of magnesium alloy and is weather sealed. This makes the E-5 one of the most rugged camera in Olympus product line-up, easily comparable to the best DSLRs available today.
With two command dials and plenty of dedicated control buttons, changing settings on the E-5 is quick and easy once you spend little time with the camera. To the left of the built-in flash, there are three multi-purpose buttons. The descriptive markings of these on the flash/finder hump makes it difficult to see without taking your eyes off the viewfinder. But once you get used to it, the E-5 handles well.
The optical viewfinder has a coverage of 100%. The view is clear, but viewing the top portion of the frame necessitates placing the camera squarely onto the eye. Luckily, the viewfinder eye-cup protrudes significantly from the back of
the camera.

Like its predecessors, the E-5 starts up almost instantly, barring the slight delay caused by the Supersonic Wave Filter as it “shakes” off the dust from the image sensor. Shot-to-shot speed is quick enough for the discerning professional.
I was very pleased with the image quality produced by the E-5. Most of the images that I shot were snappy, with excellent exposure accuracy and fine details. The AF speed was fast and accurate in moderately lit scenes. Focus speed falls drastically in low light. If you are using the built-in flash in low light, it fires low intensity bursts to assist focusing. This distracts the subject more than standard AF assist lamps.
In the Natural Picture Mode, the colours are not oversaturated and yet has good contrast. JPEGs straight from the camera are sharp and vibrant, although not overprocessed. But in bright, high-contrast lighting conditions, there was a tendency for blown-out highlights. This was taken care by the i-Enhance function.
You have two continuous shooting modes to choose from; continuous L (3.5 fps) and H(about 5fps). While shooting in RAW format using continuous mode, the camera slows down a bit after 22 frames. All of this was with a Lexar (UDMA 6, 90MB/s) 8GB CF card.
The video captured at 720P was smooth and clean even in the very dimly lit hall where I was shooting. The built-in microphone does above average job. For serious videography, I advise you to use a high quality external microphone.

On its own, the E-5 is an exceptionally rugged digital SLR camera that is a joy to use and produces remarkably crisp images with great colours that justifies its pixel count of 12 million pixels.
If I were reviewing this camera two years ago, I would have given it a much higher rating. At the moment, it is a couple of steps behind the competition, especially considering that the Canon EOS 7D or the Nikon D7000 offers higher pixel counts and higher ISO with better noise performance. It is priced at Rs. 84,995/-, which is high in comparison to the other DSLRs available.
However, if you already have a host of compatible lenses and accessories, the E-5 will be an excellent upgrade.

Final Ratings
Tilt-swivel screen, quick, max. ISO of 6400

Good image quality, poor noise over ISO 800

Build Quality
Rogged, weather-proofed, metal body.

Excellent feel, intuitive control layouts,well-balanced feel

Warranty & Support
One-year warranty, moderate network

Value For Money: 2.5/5 stars


Tags: Micro Four Thirds, Shridhar Kunte, DSLR Review, July 2011, Olympus E-5, Art Filters, TruePic V, Hyper Crystal LCD