Olympus E-5 User Review
By Craig Litten – His website HERE
I’ve had a love affair with Olympus cameras for as long as I can remember. Don’t ask me why tough because I cannot tell you really. It may go back to the days when Olympus was heavily advertising the OM-10 on TV with super model Cheryl Tiegs.
Hey, I was young and influential. It was the camera, really! I just thought it was so cool the way it looked and sounded. I was 14. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a photographer. For some time after this I begged my parents for the Olympus OM-10 specifically. It is the only camera I knew of really. I knew little of Nikon and almost nothing of other brands. My parents would not buy me the OM-10 though; which was probably wise now that I look back. They would say to me, “How are you going to pay for the film and developing?” I agree that an SLR camera is a pretty expensive investment for a young teenager who’s interests change daily. Instead, they bought me a Kodak Ektralite 10, 110 camera. For those of you who do not know, it was a very basic point-and-shoot 110-film camera that fit into your shirt pocket. The 110-sized negative was very small; think the size of a cheap digital point-and-shoot sensor. I shot a lot of film with it though, and it was then that I discovered that I had a natural eye for composition. My interest has never changed; it has always been photography.
By the time I got out of college auto focus cameras were starting to show up. I bought a slightly used Minolta 9000 (professional) with a 50mm f/1.7 Minolta AF lens during my fist semester of photo school. Somehow I lost touch with the OM cameras, and nobody I knew recommended or talked about them. Not too much after that Canon launched the EOS 650, which changed everything (kind of like the 5D many years later), and made the Olympus OM cameras basically obsolete. Nikon followed closely behind with the Nikon 8008, which was also auto focus. It was a new generation for SLRs. So my love for Olympus cameras was buried, but still alive.
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Fast forward to 2005 during the time I was working as a staff photojournalist for my third newspaper. I was using Canon digital gear (since 2000) at the time, with all the wonderful L-Series glass, etc. A few years prior to this Olympus launched the E-1 and advertised it as the only camera built for digital from the ground up. It caught my attention, but I was never able to try one. One day I was at Colonial Photo in Orlando, Fla. (the biggest camera store in Florida) and the Olympus rep was in the store that day. Since I had a good relationship with the store, he let me take an E-1, a 14-54mm lens and a 50-200mm lens home for two weeks to try out. I fell in love with that camera, but ultimately didn’t buy one. I think at the time the real deal killer was the auto focus. A few years went by again and Olympus launched the E-3. Again it got my attention, but I was deeply into the Canon system by then so I just let it go by. A few more years passed and Olympus launched the E-5. Again it got my attention but by specs alone, it wasn’t all that impressive. As time went by I kept reading, mostly here on Steve Huff’s site, about the incredible Olympus jpegs and Olympus signature color, etc. I also read about how great the Zuiko Digital lenses were. Most think that it is advertising jargon I suspect, but as I recently found out, it is not! There is more to the Olympus E-5 and the E-System than pure specs alone (which unfortunately for Olympus, many people tend to pre-judge and immediately dismiss).
I finally got to test an Olympus E-5 with the wonderful Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4 SWD (for those of you who don’t know, the Four Thirds sensor—just like the Micro Four Thirds Sensor–is a 2x crop factor. So you must double the focal length to get the full frame equivalent, which makes this lens a 24-120mm), the Zuiko Digital ED 50-200 f/2.8-3.5 SWD, 100-400mm equivalent and the Olympus FL-50R Speedlight.
Just what is the Olympus E-5? This Camera’s Old isn’t it?
The Olympus E-5 is the latest Olympus professional DSLR (2010), and is part of the Four Thirds system (not to be confused with Micro Four Thirds or m43). The sensors are basically the same size, but the lens mount is different. Conceived by Olympus the system was to be designed-for-digital instead of just adapting a digital SLR body to existing lenses like the other camera companies. According to Olympus, it’s a better way to go for sharper digital images, better lens design, smaller camera bodies and lenses, etc.
An OOC JPEG with the fantastic Olympus 50-200
What’s the Big, Fat, Harry Deal Anyway?
First, for me anyway, one word, well two really—O.K., four:
1. Weather Sealed and Tough!
With the kind of photography I do, and living in the rainy state, I mean sunshine state (Florida), I constantly worry about getting my cameras wet. Many cameras are tough, but not many are water resistant. I remember shooting along the shoreline a few years back with my (then) new Canon 5D, and a tiny lick of a wave hit the camera and shut it completely down. It did recover, but I constantly worried. This was one of the big attractions to Olympus for me.
2. Cheap(er) Price, but Not Cheap(er) Quality!
There are plenty of used and refurbished Olympus products around if you just look. With the set-up mentioned above (E-5 body, two lenses, flash and a battery grip), I saved OVER $2,000 off the retail price. That’s a pretty good chunk of change don’t ya think?
3. Lenses, lenses, lenses!
If you are one who loves prime lenses, then the Digital Zuiko family of lenses may not be for you. Primes are wonderful in many ways, but as a working photojournalist, it’s almost impossible to use only primes. I was able to find and read about nine (9) different Digital Zuiko lenses with ratings of 5 stars. That is simply amazing. And after shooting with the E-5 for a about a month now, I see why. They, combined with the amazing E-5 sensor, are RAZOR SHARP like I’ve never seen. Again, I’ve had access to every Canon L-Series lens from the 14mm f/2.8 to the 600mm f/4 and everything in between. Those lenses are great, but I was never blown away. The Zuiko lenses blow me away! Besides that, where else can you buy a (equivalent) 28-70mm f/2.0 and 70-200mm f/2.0 zoom? Nowhere!
4. Incredible Anti-Dust Filter!
No dust bunnies on your sensor, what more can I say. Canon and Nikon’s are pretty good now too, but don’t forget who invented it, Olympus.
5.Supurb Wireless Flash System!
This one surprised me because I didn’t know anything about Olympus’ flash system. I first read about it on Robin Wong’s blog. He was one of the first in the world to really test and write about the Olympus OM-D EM-5 (that name just makes me chuckle). During his review he did a lot of wireless, off-camera flash in bright sunlight. I was impressed and intrigued. When I began testing the E-5 with the Olympus FL-50R (the flagship model flash), off-camera and in bright Florida light, it worked flawlessly. One of the very reasons I left Canon and switched to Nikon was the very unpredictable and frustrating Canon flash system. I would put the Olympus flash system on par with Nikon, but with a more intuitive user interface (it’s less complex). I was able to set the flash and camera within 5 minutes and take perfectly exposed, off-camera flash shots. I even included a Nikon SB-700 as a second, slave flash unit and it worked perfectly. One thing I really liked was the fact that the pop-up, on-camera flash fired the FL-50R, but did NOT flash itself, and it did it automatically. The flash settings were done through the camera on the back LCD screen too. It was a cakewalk and I loved every second of it. I’m not a fan of using flash, so the easier and more mindless, the better.
6. Buttery, Smooth-As-Silk Shutter!
Well if that title doesn’t set your imagination to flight, nothing will. The shutter is quiet, smooth and simply wonderful. As much as I loved my original Canon 5D, the shutter sent chills up my spine and made people look at me. The Canon 5D MKII wasn’t much better. The shutter sound and feel is important to me with the work I sometimes do. I remember back in 2005 when I was testing out the Olympus E-1 I had the privilege to shoot the London Symphony Orchestra live for several nights in a row. The E-1 shutter was so quiet that I didn’t need a sound blimp (a cover used to dampen the sound of a camera shutter). Making noise while photographing an LSO performance is, in some small countries, considered a crime. Not really but they would throw you out in a heartbeat.
7. Best Auto White Balance of Any Digital Camera I’ve ever used!
I’m very impressed with the clean output and neutral color of the Auto White Balance. I’ve tried specific setting under specific color temperatures of light, but the AWB does such a great job I feel that I can just leave it set there for 95% of what I shoot.
8. Amazing Olympus Color!
Again, this is something I’ve read about but never really experienced first hand. It’s true; Olympus sprinkles magic dust on their sensors to produce amazing out-of-camera (OOC henceforth) color.
9. Razor Sharp OOC JPEGS!
I’m NOT picking on Canon here, but since I shot Canon digital for 11 years starting with the $15,000 Canon D2000, I’m very familiar with their digital cameras. I remember shooting for the book project America 24/7 during one full week period in 2003. The Canon 10D was just released, and because I needed higher quality camera for this project (the 10D was 6 MP), I bought one. The day I got it I went out to shot a bunch of quick test shots. When I got them on my computer I remember being disappointed at how soft the files looked. Back then nobody really shot RAW, especially not photojournalists. They sharpened up nicely though in Photoshop. I do realize that was ancient history in digital camera years, but all cameras render OOC jpegs differently. The Olympus E-5, at least with the two high-end lenses I’m using, renders razor sharp OOC jpegs.
10. Did I mention Lenses?
The two lenses I have, the 12-60mm and 50-200mm, are insanely sharp. I think the 12-60mm has the slight edge but I’m no lens tester or science lab guru, I’m a working photographer. Simply put, I’m blown away by the output of both lenses and would put them against ANY other Japanese lenses, even the Zeiss (made in Japan). As for Leica lenses, I won’t go there because I’ve never really used them (some back in the film days, but not recently), and that is Steve’s expertise. Again I think Olympus sprinkles magic dust on their Zuiko lenses (kidding).
Daily Testing – Things I Like about the E-5
While testing the E-5 pretty extensively over the last several weeks, I’ve discovered many things I like. But like I mentioned in my Nikon V1 review on Steve’s site a while back, there is no such thing as a perfect camera. So, like with all cameras we have to take the good with the bad, or the positive features with the negative. Then we can determine if a particular camera is the one for us or not.
1. Info Button and Rear LCD Quick Menu
Some may disagree, but I like the menu system. One wonderful, helpful thing is the ‘INFO’ button and the rear LCD screen. It’s kind of like the Fuji X-Pro1 ‘Q’ button. Nearly everything I need while shooting is right there. In fact, I almost exclusively use the rear LCD for all my settings and changes because it’s simple and easier to see.
2. Dual Card Slots
The E-5, like many other cameras now, has dual card slots. It takes one CF and one SD. I’d prefer two CF cards, but that’s just my preference.
3. ISO 100 as Default Low ISO
Again, many cameras today do this, but not all. I’d prefer ISO 50 but ISO 100 is a must for a “professional” camera, especially with the bright sun in Florida. I hate ISO 200 as the low option, and I know many of you share my feelings on this.
4. Incredible Customization for Picture Styles and White Balance
The E-5 is very customizable from the buttons and knobs, to the Picture Styles and White Balance. By “Picture Styles” (a Canon term I believe) I mean the picture mode such as Natural (color), Vivid, Muted, Portrait, B&W, etc.
5. Excellent, Bright Optical Viewfinder.
If anyone reading this has used the cheaper, or older Olympus Four Thirds cameras, they may know that some of the viewfinders were like looking through a tunnel. Not the E-5. It’s big, bright and clear as well as 100% viewing. It may not be a Nikon D3 viewfinder, but it is very pleasing to view and usable even for manual focusing.
6. Cool Digital-Only Features
Because the Olympus E-System was built from the ground up for digital, the lenses have some unique features. One custom feature for instance is the ability to have the lens reset (back to infinity) when you turn off the camera. This may not sound like a really big deal to you, but anything that helps save a split second of time and get the shot as opposed to not getting the shot, is a worthy feature. Setting the lens back to infinity means that the next time I turn the camera on, I already know where my lens is set, on infinity.
B&W feet and ocean – showing how well the black and white shots look from the E-5
7. Very Good In (camera) Body Image Stabilization.
In body image stabilization is, in my opinion, an advantage over lens only image stabilization. Why? Because Image Stabilization works with EVERY SINGLE LENS you put on your E-5. Not only Zuiko lenses, but also third party lenses as well. I waited for several years, as did everyone else, for Canon to update its wildly popular 24-70 f/2.8 L lens. They have finally done so, but to the disappointment of many, still without Image Stabilization. Not so with the Olympus E-5 because the body, not the lens, does the work.
8. Excellent Build Quality with Full Metal Chassis
Many other cameras are also built very well, especially in this same class of DSLR (i.e. Nikon D300s, Canon 7D), but how many of them advertise that you can actually stand on it with all of your weight? With the robust build and full weather sealing (and for cold climate photographers, built to work in below zero temperatures) this is one camera you won’t have to worry about. You can find several videos on YouTube of people testing out their E-5s in crazy ways including one where four E-5’s bodies are placed under a large piece of Plexiglas and two people are standing on it.
9. Super Fast and Accurate Auto Focus (in Single Focus AF-S Mode)
This is with the SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive) lenses. I cannot speak of the non-SWD lenses. And this is for Single Auto Focus Mode only, NOT Servo Focus. Servo Focus is one of the negative points about this camera, and one that Olympus must fix in next update of E-5. I’ll get to that later. Single Shot Auto focus is also very good in very low light. It will focus in near darkness without a problem.
10. Excellent High Resolution Flip-Out Rear LCD Screen
I didn’t used to like this feature, and was glad that Nikon and Canon didn’t have it on their pro models. I’ve changed my mind. Yes, it is possible that this makes the camera more susceptible to breakage, but it also can help you get a shot you normally wouldn’t be able to get. Without it, shooting a high angle is a guessing game and a risk especially with fleeting moments. Without it shooting a low angle requires you to get down on the ground. Well sometimes the ground is muddy and I’m wearing nice dress slacks. You get the picture?
11. Voice Tag on Individual Photos
This one came as a very pleasant surprise actually. It’s a feature that I’ve longed for while owning my Canon 5D/5D MKII, etc., and one that I used to have on my EOS 1D and EOS 1D MKIIn. Nikon’s top pro models, D2/D3/D4, etc. have voice tags too. It’s a wonderful feature and is kind of like using your iPhone camera for a note pad. You simply press the button and speak into the camera. When you go to edit your shoot, the voice tag (what you spoke) is affixed to that single photo. It comes in handy especially for covering sporting events.
12. Totally Weather Sealed
It’s been raining every day here on the west coast of Florida for the past several weeks. Do I look worried? Nope!
13. The Ergonomics
I shoot with the HLD-4 battery grip (which holds two batteries) and it fits my (medium sized) hands like a glove. It’s weighty, well balanced and everything falls into place, as it should.
14. Quality Feel
I think that Olympus has good quality control. Nothing about the E-5 feels cheap but instead feels very well engineered, very well put together and tight. The rubber grip is tight, the dials are smooth and the buttons and knobs feel like quality even though they are plastic.
15. It’s Very Responsive
I find the E-5 very responsive. Even though the camera is now two years old, it doesn’t feel dated in any way to me personally. It’s quick to do what I ask it to when I ask it to. This is a feature that’s important to me especially with the type of work that I do. When you have to get the shot, you cannot be waiting on your camera. Even though I think the original Canon EOS 5D has one of the best sensors of any camera ever, it was a slow dog compared to the EOS 5D MK II and ultimately this forced me to sell it. It just couldn’t keep up with the demands I was putting on it. The E-5 doesn’t have that problem (NOTE: I’m not comparing the E-5 with the EOS 5D in any way–just making a point).
Again, the lenses I’m talking about are the two mentioned above.
Football Action – Again, this camera’s continuous auto focus system is not geared for this type of fast action. But it can capture it if you know what you’re doing and shoot enough. It was a real challenge to get this shot even in bright noon, Florida sunlight.
1. Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4 SWD (24-120mm equiv.)
I really love this lens! I’m used to using the 24-70mm focal length, so I love having the extra reach. I almost never shoot wider than 24mm either. Compared to a 24-70mm f/2.8, this lens is much smaller and lighter. It’s the perfect sized everyday or walk around (as they say) lens. It has a great range and focuses incredibly close (I believe 2:1 macro). I do prefer a constant aperture zoom lens though, but it is still bright (f/2.8) at the wider end and the aperture closes down very evenly as you zoom out. It’s also completely weather sealed. But the best thing is that it’s razor sharp! Razor sharp like I’ve never seen before. I don’t know if it’s just the lens, or a combination of the lens, the E-5 sensor and the magic of the Four Thirds system light gathering angle (stuff I don’t understand), or maybe the Zuiko magic dust. I’m not into pixel peaking either, but almost immediately while using the E-5 and these two lenses, I noticed that the images are sharper than what I’m used to seeing. I’ve been using only digital cameras for 12 years now, and when I look back at old images I’m sometimes surprised just how unsharp many of them look straight out of the camera. I just thought that’s the way they all looked until now. If you were considering the E-5, the 12-60mm would be the first lens I recommend buying. Both the mechanical focus ring (not focus by wire) and zoom are smooth and well dampened, and the lens is well built. It’s also made in Japan.
2. Zuiko Digital ED 50-200 f/2.8-3.5 SWD (100-400mm equiv.)
It’s amazing just how fast this lens is starting at f/2.8 and ending at f/3.5 at the long end. The other system’s offerings for this range end at f/5.6 at the long end, a full stop and a half darker. You would have to spend thousands and thousands more to get this speed in the Nikon range, and you’ll need a monopod to use it. This is another advantage of the Four Thirds system. Even though this lens is no real competition to the $6,750 dollar Nikon 200-400mm as far as continuous servo auto focus speed, I’m willing to bet that it’s nearly as sharp. This is just my opinion not a scientific test. Remember I’ve regularly used all of the Nikon and Canon super telephotos (up to the 600mm f/4) over the years. This is not a slam against either Nikon or Canon (both wonderful systems) but a vote for the underdog. This is a lens that wont break the bank (that most can afford), has an extended range of 100-400mm, is completely weather sealed, is well made in Japan and one that you can easily carry around. It’s also fast so you can shoot at lower ISO settings too. It’s very well balanced, well made, has smooth mechanical focus ring (not focus by wire) and is tack sharp even wide open. The zoom is not as smooth as I’d like, and I believe it’s because of the weather sealing. It feels as though maybe a rubber gasket keeps it from being silky smooth like a Nikon zoom, but it also blows a lot of air when zooming in and out. As for smoothness, neither lens compares to say the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, which is like melted butter for both focus and zoom. The lens hood on the 50-200mm has a cool little feature for those who use polarizes. It has a tiny door that lifts up so that you can access and turn your polarizer filter.
Full size JPEG worked lightly in Lightroom 4 – NO sharpening applied
B&W of boy’s face – This was an accidental shot while testing the off-camera flash actually, but it is so incredibly sharp that I wanted to use it as a full sized ‘sharpness’ sample. NOT sharpened but it is converted from RAW.
I’m sure many of you are dying to know about the sensor. First off, I’ve read that the sensor was already two years old when the camera was released in 2010. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’ve also read that this is the same sensor that is in some of the Pen cameras. This may be true but I don’t really know, nor do I care. What my eyes are seeing is all I need to know, and I like what I see very much. This sensor on the E-5 produces wonderful, rich, signature Olympus colors. The OOC jpegs are amazingly sharp and robust to work in Lightroom or Photoshop. I owned an Olympus E-PL2 for several months and felt ultimately some of the images from it looked digital or plastically. I don’t think that of the E-5. Whether it’s the same sensor or not, the processing of the image is different. Again, Olympus puts their magic dust on the E-5 sensor. The images look incredible up to ISO 800 and very good up to ISO 1600 and even ISO 3200. Don’t expect silky smooth high ISO shots as with a full frame Canon sensor because you won’t get that. You will see grain, but it’s very nicely rendered (in my opinion up to ISO 1600). The images look super sharp and clean even up to ISO 3200 but if you have say a deep blue night sky (such as the sky at dusk), or a solid dark background, you may get some banding at ISO 3200. The latest trend is to talk about high ISO performance. For me high ISO is pretty important and a necessity, but for most people it is not. If you’re regularly shooting action in low light, high ISO performance is key, but if you’re not, there is not too much you cannot do at ISO 1600. I do not recommend ISO 6400 on the E-5. It’s usable for gritty journalism images, but not if you want to frame photos to hang on your wall or sell in a gallery. The replacement of the E-5 will have (most likely) at least an OM-D E-M5 sensor in it or newer, and I’ve heard wonderful things about that sensor even at ISO 6400.
Daily Testing – Things that Could Improve on the E-5
1. The Continuous (servo) Auto Focus
Olympus really needs to get this figured out if they hope to compete. Now that they have the wonderful sensor technology in the E-M5, this is (again in my opinion) the one and only thing lagging behind the competition in the Four Thirds E-System. The single shot auto focus is as good as any, and better than many, but the follow focus or continuous auto focus is not. It is very fast, but it won’t ‘lock in.’ The best way I can describe the continuous auto focus is that it’s “squirrelly.” It zips around really fast (at least with the SWD lenses) but won’t lock in and actually stay with the action. The result, as much as I hate to say it, is an accuracy of about 60%. I’m not going to say it’s the world’s worst continuous auto focus, but it could be. How can Olympus not figure this out is beyond me? Auto focus continuously gets better and better, but it’s been around for several decades. I very much hope that Olympus comes out with a successor to the E-5, but it must, must, must have competitive continuous auto focus.
2. Faster Frame Rate (frames per second continuous shooting).
For a camera in this category (pro or semi-pro) the frame rate at 5 fps is surely lagging. It should be at least 7 fps if not 8. To be truly competitive in sports photography, you need at least 8 fps.
3. Larger RAW buffer.
The jpeg buffer on the E-5 is unlimited I believe, but the RAW is not. At this level, I think it should be at least 60 at the fastest frame rate the camera can shoot. The Nikon 1 is a perfect example of this. If Nikon can do it in a tiny, mirrorless camera, Olympus should be able to in its flagship model.
4. Buttons and Dials
Some of the buttons, although well placed for the most part, could be slightly larger (they are all pretty tiny) and slightly more spaced out. This is especially true on the top left side of the camera. Also, I think Olympus should do away with the multi selector with four arrows and replace it with a wheel similar to the one on the new Canon EOS 5D MKIII.
Although the camera feels really good in my hand, and I like the design very much, when compared to the original Olympus E-1 it could stand some improvement. Some places on the camera are a bit blocky. The E-1 was like a sculpted work of art perfectly fitting the human hand in comparison. Also, the rear of the HLD-4 battery grip is somewhat blocky. This is the most minor of my complaints about the camera, but one that I feel should be addressed.
6. Double Tap Delete
I simply love the way Nikon does their delete button. When you’re playing back a photo and want to delete it, you simply double tap the delete button and it’s gone. It’s fast and efficient. With the E-5 it’s still very fast and easy, but there is an extra step.
7. Two Compact Flash Cards
I’d prefer to have two of the same memory cards in the camera. I feel that compact flash is superior and would prefer to have two instead of one CF and one SD. It’s faster, easier and doesn’t require you buying and carrying two different types of memory cards and two different types of card readers. Again, efficiently is the name of the game when making a living at photography.
8. On/Off Switch Relocated
Although I’ve never accidentally turned off the E-5 (like I did a zillion times on my original Canon 5D) by having it rub against me while carrying it, it could happen. I’d prefer that the camera turn on like the Nikons and Sony cameras on the top around the shutter button. It prevents accidentally turning off of the camera and it’s much faster and more intuitive turning it on.
Band Photo of Hands – Shows that even with the small sensor of the Four Thirds, it still is capable of shallow depth of field, plus the sharpness of the 50-200mm lens.
I’ve said a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really said anything. Using any given camera is largely personal preference. The Olympus E-5 is very enjoyable to use, in fact, it’s a pleasure to use. Don’t be fooled by specs on paper alone, or from lab results by those who are taking measurements but not really using the camera in the real world (this goes for any camera). The E-5 is a camera I want to take with me when I leave the house. This is a first for me with any professional tool I’ve owned or used while on staff at different newspapers. I’ve always shot when not working, but rarely with the large, bulky pro gear that I used for my job. It just isn’t any fun for me. The E-5 is different. Since I’ve been testing it, I’ve wanted to shoot with it every single day. I’ve even wanted to go out and play (shoot) in the rain. Don’t discount Olympus because the specs don’t measure up to the big boys. There is a lot more to this camera system than specs alone. As Robin Wong said, “The Camera Has a Soul.”
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nice review. I have an E-3 (as of 2016) and cannot care less about the 4/3 having been ditched by Olympus. Ok I lied, I do care but let’s move on. Anyway.
I was wondering – in case you sill have it and don’t use it much – would you be interested in selling it? I am asking as I’d be interested in buying it.
Well, I just happened to see this review of the E-5 today (3/21/16) – more than three years after I bought one. I also still have my E-520 which I use when I go hiking and don’t want to carry the extra weight of the E-5. I, too, am an Olympus fan, since 1975, when I got my OM-1-MD. About 12 or 13 years later I also got an OM-2s Program. They, and their various lenses, all excellent stuff, decorate my office now. The reason I write this is to tell you that this is the best review of the E-5 I have ever read. It reinforces my decision to stick with Oly, even though so many people seem to think Olympus is some second-rate camera maker. And though no more such cameras (DSLR) are likely to come from Olympus ever again, I am really happy that I bought this one. I also have the gorgeous 12-60 SWD lens, and based on your review, am also considering the 50-200, although I have the 70-300 which is OK but surely not in the same league as the 50-200. The 50mm macro is another real gem, and the 9-18 mm is not too shabby, although I don’t use them as much anymore since I got the 12-60. What a combo the E-5 and 12-60 make! I am not a pro, so this camera should last me for many more years. I have one question though. You mentioned that the camera has a voice tagging feature. I am not aware of such a feature – maybe some other readers have asked you this, but I have not read all the comments, so don’t know if this question came up before. If this camera does indeed have this, I sure would like to know how to find it. By the way, I have looked at your website as well and simply love your B&W work!
By now it’s absolutely certain there will not be an E7 or anything like that from Olympus. I own the E-5 and I’ve also went through several PEN models, then the E-M5 and now the E-M1. While I appreciate the E-M1 as the better camera for most purposes, I find the E-5 still valuable when I need a more rugged body and the extra auto-focus performance from the Four Thirds lenses that work OK with the adapter on the E-M1. Also, battery life on the E-5 is just so much better than the E-M1. If Olympus updated the E-5 with just the new sensor and image processor of the E-M1, I would buy that updated body.
Thanks Konrad. As you know, this was written prior to the OMD EM1’s release. At first I was disappointed that Olympus didn’t update the E-5 to an E-7, but now that the EM1 is here, and all the amazing new pro lenses have been announced (and some released), not to mention the sweet, yet tiny primes, I see why they didn’t. Great call and I’m glad you’re happy with your Olympus gear. I shot with Canon digital for about 11 years, and although their tele lenses are superb, I was surprised at how much compromise, to put it gently, was engineered into their L-series wide zooms and some of their wide primes. I especially see this first hand now having spent the last several months editing a long-term project shot with Canon lenses. The Zuiko glass really surprised me. Cheers!
Your Olympus write up has reassured me to change from Canon to Olympus. This decision was made after I have bought a second hand E-Pl1 3 month ago and found that the quality of a camera and kit lens that set me back $AU 150.- was running rings around the usual Canon stuff. Just prior to the E-PL1 I have bought a EOS 7D with a 24-105 L lens. This is for sale again now after no real use and probably only about 200-300 shots. I will still keep my EOS 100D with the EF-S 15-85 and the SIGMA 150-500 for fast paced AF needs but other than that it is Olympus. Now that the successor to the E-5, the OMD EM1, has arrived (mine already) I look forward to some real fun with the 12-60 & the 50-200 zoom lenses as I managed to pick them up dor a really, really good price. I have done my own style of lens tests and it is amzing that a lens that is 10 or more years old is putting Canon gear to shame. The value for money for Olympus gear at the moment is second to none. Incidentally the most memorably shots which I have done where from 2007 and were done with an Olympus SP500UZ. Should have stuck with that brand back then.
Now that about 2 years have past your user report is still as relevant as ever.
I get two E5 had 1 E3 and 2 E1, 1 E20 and 1 E10 so I deeply experienced 4/3 world. I mainly used for wedding photography but also for still life, portrait and moda. My conclusions are: The E5 is obviously the best E camera of all times, but E1 as mentioned give the best feeling to me above all when a battery grip is fitted. E10 and E20 also gave great feelings and were perfectly balanced with the battery grip. The E5 shots louder, but is a world war machine, it makes everything exeptionally well (except for high iso photography as many times mentioned). I still don’t need a new camera. I used 14-54 and 55-220 mk1, and now 12-60, 55-200 mk2 and 7-14, got FL36 (2) and FL50 and now FL50r, I also used a lot and still do the FP-1 with FS-SHV1 battery pack and grip, and it’s absolutely amzing to shot with. You can make an entire wedding flashing each of your 3/400 photos and you will have a bit of charge still remaining. Image quality is far beyond needed for 99% jobs. I always focus my attention on what I really need not on what makers whant me to focus on. So I was so disappointed when Olympus decided not to produce the E7. I should have been fully satisfied with a E5 body with the EM1 sensor, everything else is already perfect.
Hi there, Love your review and I love my E5. However I saw your picture the one taken at ISO 3200 and it looks great, any time ive shot at high ISO I find the noise really bad. Do you have any tips to defeat the noise at high ISO when it comes to taking pictures with the E5?
Most of the shots from this article are from jpeg, not RAW. I had the noise reduction, for jpeg, set to moderate or low–just enough to help with noise, but not to soften the image. If you prevent underexposing, the noise is always much better, so I’d advise keeping an eye on the historgram. Hope this helps.
Well-written Craig :-).
I have shot with Nikon gear professionally for the first 5-odd years of my career, and Canon for the subsequent 15-odd years, to-date. So naturally I too have progressed from film to digital: noise that looks like grain floats my boat, despite the fact that 5DIII high ISO “butter” does so equally.
In common with others here, my heart loves the E-concept, even though my head is sometimes confounded by the specs etc, and I have invested in the system for personal use – all second-hand. Initially I was seduced by the curves of the E1, and its robustness compared to higher-specced plastic jobs.
At present I have the E3, the 2 zooms you speak of and a Sigma 30mm 1.4 (FL-36 with cord too) … and I’m aiming for an E5, hence why I’m here!
I grant that the E3 has weaknesses, some of them shared by the E5 (head stuff!), but boy does it have “soul” – you are so right on that score, and thanks to your sensible, working pro’s review, I’m looking forward to some E5 loveliness 😉
Thanks Andy, I hope you enjoy. The Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4 (four thirds version) is an amazing lens, but a little hard to find. The focus is not as good as the Olympus lenses, but that is minor for the amazing quality. I hear the m43 version is pretty special too. Enjoy!
Thanks for that tip Craig – now I have the E5, the Sigma no longer cuts the mustard :_[
Big big big delusion, no e6 nor e7. Just a micro toy tough a great camera (omd-m1).
And you have used it correct? …That is what I thought.
Great review, I’m on the fence about buying the E-5. I want it, but I want to make sure Olympus doesn’t come out with the E-6 too soon after. Does anybody have an idea of when they’re releasing another version on their E system?
New Four-Thirds replacement is rumored for the fall of 2013. It’s possibly going to be some type of 43rds/m43 hybrid.
Votre site est super et me réconforte sur oly dont je voulais me séparer de cette marque après 25 ans de service (argentique et numérique ensuite);
Après le e300, e510,et maintenant 1 e30, je suis tenté par le e5, La vidéo ne m’intèresse pas mais je reste limité avec les “performances” du e30 surtout en imprimant (30×40) .Vu le coût des objectifs (12/60 wwd–50/200wwd–7/14) et doubleur je risque de perdre pas mal d’argent…Je ne suis qu’un photographe amateur et adhère à un club photo où tous, pour la plupart possèdent Nikon ou Canon et je reconnais les “limites” de mon appareil dans ses caractèristiques.l . J’hésitais; car les critiques de certains “spécialistes” sont violentes sur ce produit et attendais la sortie du e7 ??? qui devient un objet de mirage…..
Je prends ma décision: j’opte dès lundi avec tous mes remerciements sur votre-compte-rendu
Keeping this thread going can’t be a bad thing for Oly!
I empathised with you on the power of childhood imagery. As a child I was sold on landrovers on safari in Africa – now I work as a wildlife photographer and drive a landrover!!
The first camera I lusted after as a kid was an Olympus FTL, which is a little-known M42 threaded 35mm SLR, beautifully made, now rarely seen. But I stacked groceries in the local supermarket until I could afford a Praktica!
Later I was impressed by the Olympus OM system, but was heavily committed to Nikon, and (sometimes regrettably) still am. I was sold on the 4/3rds system in concept, believing in what Oly were trying to do, and have always followed its fate with interest. Just a couple of minor points to add:
a) The magic dust in the E-5 is probably the anti-aliasing filter, which Olympus says is quite weak, making for the especially sharp images. Kodak did this first, but not successfully. Now Nikon are following Oly with the D800E and D7100.
It works, but there can be varying degrees of penalty with moire patterns and what we ex-Kodak users call “Christmas tree lights” – colour artifacts. The E-5, from my non-user observations, does occasionally exhibit these artifacts, but not to an important degree.
b) There is a confounding factor in the lack of take up of the 4/3rds system by pros. Again, echos of Kodak. I have to be careful here, and don’t want to end on a negative note, but lets just say that service and support are as important to a pro photographer as image quality or handling.
Canon and Nikon, for all their faults, support their photographers. I had a couple of bad Nikons at the dawn of digital, when everyone was a beta tester. The hoops that Nikon Australia went through to get working cameras to me in remote parts of the country would warm your heart. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Olympus Australia.
c) Yes, I did use Olympus for a while, in parallel with my Nikon kit. I just wanted too, because I believed in the concept. But I made a mistake that you have avoided – I went entry-level, with an E-520 and twin-lens kit (14-42, 40-150). This was when Oly was on a bit of a crest with sales to the mass market.
But this gear did not have the soul you speak of with the E-5 and top-class glass. The 14-42 was better than a Nikon kit lens, in my opinion, but the 40-150 was ordinary, shadows were noisy, and jpegs were soft, even with adapted pro-grade Nikkors. Sadly, the camera body was a Friday afternoon job, with inaccurate AF and body collimation (so MF was out, too!).
This also happened to many other buyers. When sent back, Olympus denied a problem, stated the cameras were within spec, charged quite a lot in spurious service fees, and returned the cameras in the same condition.
Eventually the true story surfaced on the internet – there was a design fault and even Olympus could not fix the cameras. Camera shops became wary, too, and here at least, one could not find Oly SLRs on camera shop shelves for some time after that.
This is all history now, but it happened to enough people to put a dampener on the public embracing the 4/3rds system. Pity, because, as you note, the high end gear is wonderful, as is the new sensor in the micro 4/3rds system. One day I’d like to try again.
Thanks for helping to keep the flame alive – it’s not only the camera that has soul – it’s in your photography and your photographic writing, too. Which encourages people to keep commenting! Just wanted to explain that there were other things at play in why 4/3rds became the underdog.
Wow! Thanks for the very well written comments Wayne! And also the compliments and encouragement. It’s much appreciated.
Hi Craig and all,
Good to see that the comments keep coming on the Olympus E gear. I continue to be very pleased with the E-30 I added to my E-3 kit but keep a lookout for an E-5. Great joy, I found and added an OM Zuiko 100mm f/2. It works very very nice on both Es, even with the 1,4 extender. Looks more like a small bonito than a little tuna though 😉
I just happened to visit this site and enjoyed your comments on the E-5. I love my Olympus cameras having purchased starting with the 2040 uz,5006wz,e-510-,e30,E5,and just recently the OMDe5. I am just an amatuer and enjoy the photos for my own pleasure. I also own many of of the lens including 12/60, 50 /200, 11/22/ 14 /54 , 50 macro.,9-18 ,70 to 300 and the kit lenses for the 510. I travel a lot and keep a camera in my car ,usually the e-30 with the 14 to 54 on it for quick snapshots. You are right on the e5 with 12/60 on it the colors are incredible and I look forward to the spring and summer season here in Wisconsin. Its nice to hear the praise given to the Olympus 4/3rds cameras and lenses. AS far as high ISO shots when I remember my film days 400 ISO was the magic number. I set all my cameras in aperture 200- 400 ISO and if needed I will use a tripod at longer shutter speeds. For the outdoor landscape images I like to take they come out great,couldn’t ask for more. Will see how the OMD does , bought it just for the compact size and if the photo quaility is what they say better yet. Its nice to hear a different side to the real photo taking side of camera reviews rather than the base line numbers , I do look at those but the real world is a little more pleasing..
I Like your photos with the E5. Can you recommend the settings you use for the noise filter and related ISO range.
Thanks Bob, I appreciate you taking the time to read the review!
For me, the E-5 looks fantastic up to ISO 800, so I shoot there without a thought. Even ISO 1000-1250 looks great. When shooting for newspapers, I shoot only jpeg, when shooting for myself, or magazine work or other clients, I shoot RAW. I’ve found that even up to ISO 1600, the jpegs, with the Noise Reduction set to STANDARD, it looks great. I find that the Olympus jpeg engine looks better than even what I can do when shooting RAW and running it through Noise Ninja. I have shot the E-5 many times on ISO 3200 also, and for newspaper work, it is perfectly acceptable. Again, better than the old film days or even the early digital days. We’ve gotten spoiled, so the E-5 gets a bad rap. I even like my Nikon V1 at ISO 800–the grain is beautiful. People have gotten so afraid of grain, and the camera and sensor makers have sold us all on smooth-pretty photos. Well, life is not smooth and pretty. If you’re a landscape shooter or a commercial photographer, you are going to use the lowest ISO available anyway. The only people who need ISO 6400 to look good are sports photographers, journalists and wedding photographers. Everyone else, it’s all good enough, really!
Craig just curious when do you need 6400 for Wedding photography. In my experience of shooting in low light churches with no flash have had no problem with my E-5 plus 2.0 lenses– 50mm, 14-35 and 35-100 and great results even up to 2500 Iso…Keep up the great posts John
I think 3200 is fast enough with f2 lenses. The wedding itself isn’t a problem, but the reception is usually very dark, and people are dancing and moving fast. I usually only go to 6400 during night sports under very poorly lit stadiums. But not often. Thanks!
Thank you Bob, enjoy your wonderful springtime new birth 😉 by living in Florida I miss that a lot.
I started reading the comments form GH and other pixel counters, and totally despaired. I’m not a professional photographer, but as a landscape architect working in various parts of New Zealand, have taken thousands of shots under a wide variety of conditions – including some spectacular landscapes. I laboured for 3 years with a Canon 1DS III, but was never happy with its AWB, exposure (4 trips back to Canon labs) or jpg IQ. I also hated lugging such a behemoth across rivers and cross country. It wasn’t any better on trips to the Greek Islands, Spain and Egypt. By comparison, the E5 has been a ‘breath of fresh air’: lighter to carry, no dust spots (a real pain with the 5D), much more compact, fantastic colour rendition and super sharp. The 12-60 and 50-200 are simply amazing ‘budget’ lenses. OK, higher ISO images are not the best, but in every other respect my experience has been same as yours: fantastic! I suspect those who moan most about Olympus have simply never used the E System and/or have become so mired in ‘the technology’ that they have forgotten about photography. Thanks for bringing some rationality and common sense to the 4/3rds and E System ‘debate.
Hi Stephen, thanks for your comments and encouragement. I’ve used more camera systems than most. Both complete Canon and Nikon systems (I much prefer Nikon over Canon–sorryCanon fans), but I feel the Olympus is the best of all for my needs. Other than super high ISO or great continuous AF, the E-5 is king. The files and sharpness of the lenses are simply amazing–still! With the newer sensor technology (OM-D), and upgraded continuous focus technology, what is left. Most people on the Net forums have either never shot film, or forgot what it was like. Even the E-5 at ISO 800 is far better than film ever was. I know because I shot boat loads of it with the best gear during my early newspaper days. And let us not forget those days of shooting slide film. If you went over ISO 100, grain, grain, grain. And forget anything over ISO 400. Most people don’t know this. My first newspaper in the early 1990s we shot chrome (slide film) in one camera and B&W in the other. You HAD to carry two bodies for that very purpose. And when the editors decided to run your color photo in B&W, you had to take the slide, dupe it (copy it) with another camera loaded with Tri-X black and white film, hand process it, and then print it in the paper. So there alone you are losing a generation of quality. The Internet is so full of “uninformed” people who truly don’t understand what they have. I’m NOT brand loyal. I never thought I’d use an Olympus camera either, until I really tried one. I was shocked and very, very surprised. I sold my Canon 5D and 5D MkII to get Nikon gear because of the poor auto focus and incredibly bad flash system. I really liked the Nikon gear, but Nikon refused to update the D300 and the D700 (D800 is not a replacement for the D700), so I sold them. I refused to pay full price for old (D300/D700) technology no matter how good. Personally I have not regrets. My E-5 will make me $5,000 in about a week for a single 4-hour shoot. Not bad, and I’m not complaining. It’s made me lots of money, and never once, never ever did a client ask me “what type of camera gear are you using?”
Craig– thanks again for such an outstanding positive understanding of the heavy criticized E-5. I have never shoot anything but the Olympus product from the E-10 than the wonderful E-1 and now my E-5. I shoot for pleasure but it is wonderful to know that there are photographers out there that can profit with the E-5. And if you think about it the E-5 renditions are always sharp, great white balance and the colors are amazing no matter what Olympus lens you use. Thanks Again
Excellent Doca, thanks! I love the Olympus m43 too, I just do not understand why they refuse to make black lenses for their primes. The silver are beautiful to behold, but for a journalist and street photographer, they are like neon signs. We’ll see what happens this year.
Yeah, I am not sure either. I think they just want to be different — to impart some sort of “elitist” look for their top prime lens, similar to Canon’s white professional lens. Although I do like my 75 1.8 in silver ( I am not a journalist or street photographer so it does not effect me as much ), I am in agreement with you. They did make a black “limited edition” 12mm prime and raised the price by two hundred dollars for some fancy hood and cap. Olympus should really re analyze their marketing approach, esp. with the practice of making their customers have to buy hoods that should be included with the lens — very overprice, too. I have not shot with the E-5 and was wondering what is your opinion of the colors that come out of that camera in comparison to the OMD EM5. Is it even better?
Hello again Doca,
I cannot compare the two because I’ve never shot with the E-M5. But the colors out of the E-5, as well as the files, continue to amaze me. I love the camera. My new favorite Len is the Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm. It’s simply stunning in output.
Thanks for your candor. Let’s see what Olympus comes up with next. Looking forward to your future reviews.
Thanks Doca. I’ll have one coming up on the Leica M-E for non-Leica shooters on my website. I won’t steer you away from Steve, but perhaps he’ll allow me to post it too. That’s totally up to him 😉
I look forward to reading more of your great “articles”.
I read from multiple sources, including yours and Steve’s so it’s a win win for me! 🙂 Another blog that I follow is Ming Thein’s – a wealth of knowledge, extremely well written, very informative, and his pictures are fantastic to boot.
Thank you! Ming’s blog is terrific.
First of all, thank you for the great review. I recently switched over to m4/3, having bought the OMD EM5. I previously owned both Nikon and Canon SLR systems. The main reason for the switch — superior results to my eyes. There IS something magical about the Olympus system. Straight out of the camera, the best JPEG engine and colors. The two lens that I own right now are the 60 2.8 Macro and 150 1.8 M4/3 lens. I was flabbergasted the first time I shot with these two lens — bar none, the two sharpest lens I have ever shot with, definitively sharper even than the legendary 135 f2 L from Canon ( shot with Canon Mark II ). They are incredibly sharp wide open at their respective max aperture!! First lens that’s able accomplish that in my experience. Not only are they sharp, color rendition, micro and macro contrast, transparency, details are really unmatched. Bokeh, especially on the 75 1.8 is very smooth and beautiful. The sensor on the OMD is also very good. Noise is EXCELLENT all the way through 1600. At 3200 it’s still very good, only when it gets to 6400 does the noise factor starts to creep in where it could be “bothersome”, although it is still acceptable unless one is very picky. I do not favor any particular system since I have shot with all three, each have its own strengths and weaknesses. Olympus is way ahead of the game, at least speaking for MYSELF ONLY, in the results one gets from these amazing lenses ( It’s way worse in C-AF but that’s an entirely different subject 🙂 ) Simply put, my pictures and are just better with the Olympus. I have not had the chance to try the E-5 but I have heard the latest news is that Olympus will come up with a hybrid model OMD EM5 / E5 camera in 2013 and not an 4/3 E7. This camera supposedly will be FULLY compatible with all lenses from both the 4/3 and micro 4/3 system. I eagerly await this so I can add some SHG lens to my collection, esp the 35-100 f2 and 7-14 F4. I would be floored if they are even better than the 75 1.8 and 60 2.8 in terms of sharpness and overall picture quality. Bottom line, technical specs are one thing, real world results are another. I think it’s advisable that one should try different systems and see which one they are most comfortable with — which one connects with them the best. Let the results speak for themselves and make what is the right choice for you, whether it’s Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Leica etc.. For me, it happens to be Olympus.
Craig, your review mirrors my satisfaction with the E5 with one exception and one note.
I most often use my E-5 in low light, mainly at churches and about 75% of the time without flash. I’m comfortable leaving my shutter speed at 1/30 or sometimes slower, lens wide open (2.8-3.5) and ISO set to Auto, with no upper limit. I have yet to fail to get good results, even as high as 6400. At the higher ISOs, a moderate dose of overexposure gives me finished photos (from RAW) that countless people have bought from me without complaint. Unlike us gearheads, the people who buy my work are more impressed by the content of the photo than the negligible reduction in quality. (I say negligible because there are at least a few things that can be done in Lightroom to lessen the negative effects of the sensor the E-5 got stuck with)
The above was the exception. The note is the fact that due to the excellent quality of the HG and SHG zooms, the actual need for primes is, while not eliminated, substantially reduced.
I have shot 4 Baptisms– The first totally with the rented 35-100 with my own E5. The Second with a rented 14-35 and my E5. The third with my own 50 mm marco and E5. The fourth– guess what– I bought both the 14-35 and the 35-100 and added the 7-14 and shot the baptism with all my lenses. I got the Leica 1.4 D for xmas and can’t wait for another event. The Churches I shot in are usually in lower light and alot of movement esp the baptism. Most all shots are at 2.0 and 1600 to 2000 iso with no flash. The tiny 50mm macro is such a wonderful lens, the 35-100 is like having the 50mm from 70 to 200 with beautiful bokeh, the 14-35 is the lens that stays on my camera most of the time with great results, the 7-14 seems to suck the the light even at 4.0. My E5 baptism images are outstanding and very much valued and there are definitely no doubting thomas’ because of picture quality. — I know reading all the forums everybody is wishing for some kind of hybrid to replace the so called (out dated) E5 but if you have never shot anything else the E5 with those outstanding Olympus lenses are in my opinion still the best thing around.
Agreed! Thanks very much. I just wanted potential buyers, who may love primes, that the choice was much more limited than with other systems.
Craig, superb review, enjoyable to read and accurate observations. There is something very special about Olympus images and the output the E-5 creates. I have the Olympus because of the quality of the lenses and will keep using it for as long as I can – pre-order the E-7 when it becomes available. To help Olympus remain viable the best we can do is share our honest experiences with Oly lenses and cameras. I have used German Rangefinders, Leica, Ricoh, Canon, and Olympus – I know which images speak to me. I
Re. 3. Lenses, lenses, lenses!
Sorry I cannot agree re. prime lenses – The Digital Zuiko family has two supreme prime lenses and one of them is the best of all Digital Zuiko lenses, if not the best lens ever built for its focal length and speed. This lens has already been described above as a lens Leica would be proud of – I agree I have two Leica lenses and I prefer this lens – the Super High Grade 150mm f2 (also called the little Tuna). The other prime lens is the Zuiko Digital 50mm f2 Macro. Now if you do not mind using an OM adapter my 2nd favourite lens is the OM Zuiko 90mm f2 Auto Macro – of which I have two because I could not bear losing one and only have one, plus it is rare and a good investment. The 90mm f2 macro is a jaw dropping good lens. So here is my list of favourite lenses that I use with the E-5
1. SHG 150mm f2 (300mm f2) – favourite lens ever, IQ out of this world – absolute treasure
2. OM King Zuiko 90mm f2 auto macro (180mm f2 macro)
3. SHG 14-35mm f2 – great portrait and landscape lens (a bit long)
4. SHG 7-14mm f4
5. HG 50mm f2 macro
6. HG 50-200mm f2.8
another nice prime lens (admittedly non-Zuiko that I have is the 25mm Leica D Summilux f1.4)
If I could only have one lens it would be no 1, two lenses no 1 & 2 and the top four lenses would make me happy. Now I do not have the 35-100mm f2 or the very expensive longer lenses but their reputation speaks for itself.
Thanks again for a great review and images.
Thanks. I know of both of these lenses and appreciate you comments. I eventually will buy both with the 50mm f/2 being first, and the 14-35mm f/2 second. I also have (my third lens for the E-5) the 25mm Leica D Summilux f1.4 and LOVE it. It’s built incredibly well and is super sharp wide open at f/1.4 (something I never liked about my other system 50mm lenses that were soft at f/1.4). I do realize that these ‘primes’ are available, but was just making a point in the article for those who love only primes, and that Olympus doesn’t have the ‘selection’ of some other companies (I never mentioned quality though 😉
I love that the 150mm f2 is called the “Little Tuna” which is totally fitting.
Thanks for your comments and for visiting this article and Steven’s awesome site!
my misinterpretation you are correct the number of primes is limited. I think it is important that the images speak to the photographer or viewer as we rarely run around holding a technical spec sheet in our hands. Who cares about lab results or being able to take photos in nearly complete darkness, I prefer light. I hope these image links work.
In any case thanks again for a great review. Mike
Great review – it’s about time we heard all the good things about Olympus E-s. I belong to a group with various high-end brands and I know (quietly confident) that I have exactly what I want in my E-3, E-620 and lenses.
One thing I would like to see is ALL the good bits in one camera ie, backlit buttons (E-620), video, voice tags and even in the professional camera’s – Art filters/effects. The pro’s don;t have to use them – but I bet they would – but never admit it!!
Really enjoyed the review!
Thanks very much. I shot an assignment for the New York Times today with my E-5 and a few lenses. I’m still amazed at how sharp, right out of the camera with NO sharpening, these Zuiko lenses are on the E-5. I also shot off camera flash in bright Florida sunlight today at noon and it worked perfectly. Something that I never, ever, ever-in-a-million-years got with Canon and struggled with on Nikon unless I used my Pocket Wizards. Olympus has lots of magic technology, but like many, many other good things in life (Apple comes to mind for decades), Olympus Four Thirds is in the shadows of the giants. Glad I found it because I couldn’t be happier.
Been using E-410, E-3 and now E-5… it seldom fail me… I’m glad the system blown you away…
like many of the commenters has recommended, test out the SHG lenses… I have the privilledge to try almost all of it.. except the 14-35mm.. the 150mm, 90-250mm and 300mm is a class of its own, next to it is the 35-100mm, the flagship 14-35mm and 7-14mm..
I’m happy to own the 35-100mm and next week the 14-35mm.. and I hope you can do a review on those SHG glasses…
Thanks for the review!!! I’m sure it will inspire more people that Olympus E-Systems is great too!!
I can’t wait to try the SHG lenses. I’m so impressed with the HG lenses. Thanks!
Besides eBay, http://www.cameta.com/ (Cameta Camera in NY) has great refurbished Olympus products and they are a 100% reliable and legit camera store. Refurb is as good as new and they ALL come from Olympus USA and are thoroughly checked out and in top condition.
Thanks a lot for your replies and advice. I will return to your site and mail you. At my last visit I took great pleasure in exploring life on the pier… I am based on the other shore of the Atlantic, in France.
I agree on Cameta, it’s where I bought my first Olympus cameras, E-330 and E-510, which got me hooked. Since then, stricter EU customs controls, plus low Euro, have made purchasing there a less attractive option, but still. I bought my E-3 as a refurb in Germany, saving at the time about 40% compared to new. No issues since 3 1/2 years, besides the known: the strangely not always totally level viewfinder and the infamous screen back. Just to say, I don’t need it new. I was from time to time on the lookout for a 2nd hand E-5, but didn’t find a reasonably priced one so far.
Craig, thanks a lot.
Strong photos and your writing is timely balm for a 4/3 user in a quandary: keep the SWDs and sit tight; or sell all and then some and go elsewhere (D600?).
I use the same two Zuiko zooms and love them dearly. It’s just incredible what they can do and how small and light they are in comparison. But when I need to get that picture in a dark meeting room at ISO 1600 or better higher, the E-3’s sensor let’s me down (never the body…). And at times (outdoors now), the files seem “thin”, lacking depth and tonal transitions I’ve seen elsewhere (D300). How did you find the dynamic range and colour depth of the E-5, beyond base ISO?
The E-5’s seemed to me steeply priced for little better than the E-3, and appeared already outdated. Your review might make me reconsider this. (I hate obsolescence and even more when I fall prey to it.)
Going m4/3 and loosing the SWDs’ S-AF speed on the OM-D seems like trading one flaw for another. And then, looking at a screen inside a finder is just not for me. Talk about keeping in touch with your subject…
If only Oly could send some serious sign of life for 4/3, just like you did!
Alexander– you need to rent an E5 and one of the 2.0 lenses eg 50mm macro, 14-35 or 35-100 lenses and you will be pleasantly surprised how your pics will look up to 1600. Again if you shoot beyond 1600 I would say use a flash even though up to 3200 you can get reasonable pics by using noise reduction software. The proof is in the pudding and the human eye is really unable to tell the difference between a pic shoot at 1600 with a nikon d800 vs a e5 but somehow E5 picture has more punch even with its small sensor. Again– Olympus, Craig or myself can talk to you all day but you have to actually use the system to find out for yourself.
Thanks, John. Renting an E-5 might be a good option. I hadn’t thought about this and will check it out.
F/2 is very tempting as well, but beyond the 50, here we talk big bucks. (The OM 50f/1.4 can work great, thanks to the very nice finder of the E-3, but AF suits better in many situations.) Using flash, the FL-50R is what I do now when possible (and desirable) – but for example blinding a speaker (even if bouncing) at a conference is rarely appreciated… and more often it’s the light that’s there which I want to capture.
Noisewise, Lightroom 3 already improved the end result from the E-3’s raws a lot (e.g. in comparison to my older version of Capture One), but the banding at ISO 1600 can just be awful and detail tends to become a fainting concept.
For wildlife, maintaining the lower-ISO beauty higher than ISO 500 could be handy, although the relatively bright 50-200 and stabilizer work really well here, even with the 1,4x extender.
Well, I might search for an E-5 for rent to find out if there is some real IQ improvement in my use. I know I would miss the E-3, it sits too well in my hands and holds such great glass.
Alexander thanks for replying—-I have never used the 50-200 but as any Olympus lens it is a brilliant lens but does have its limitation when lights start to go down with the 2.8-3.5 aperture. I have never used your wonderful E3 but again may have limitations at higher ISOs. As you know you are going to have to move to a faster lens and more advanced camera to achieve what you what. So the decision for you is change to Nikon, Canon etc(with their pricey 2.8 lenses) or buy an E5 and move up to Olympus 2.0 lenses. Of course you could go to micro 4/3 being the cheapest but having the most limitations or even wait for a new (who knows ) E7??
Again in my own opinion the E5 in combination with the 2.0 lenses can match any camera system out there even in low light with NO banding what so ever at higher ISOs. The E5 is very easy to use and as comfortable to use as my old E1.
I know money is always the final determinate however please go rent an E5 and at least the 50mm 2.0 macro for a weekend and you will see what I’m babeling about. Cheers
Thanks again, John.
For now, I opted to complement the E-3 with an E-30 (great value 2nd hand! – did not want to resist), will try bright MF lenses and perhaps the D.Zuiko 50/2. I will see if the E-30’s more recent sensor fares a little better at ISO 1600, may be closer to E-5. One body with a zoom and one with a bright prime, the second zoom in bag, could work at events.
For similar reach and IQ, the bulk, weight and price of a Full-Frame kit is ridiculous.
Go to my website and email me. I will email you back a few full size files that will amaze you. I find the E-5 incredible up to ISO 800 and very good up to ISO 1600. And for gritty journalism even good at ISO 3200. I’ve never owned an E-3 but researched it and it “seems’ the E-5 is a stop or two stops better with a very similar camera. Plus, if you look on eBay and other places, you can probably pic up a nearly new E-5 for about $1000. I got two different ones for that. All together, I saved $3,000 from retail prices on my total E-System of two E-5 bodies, three lenses, two battery grips and one FL-50R flash. Not bad for such a great system.
Craig– Thank you so much for your very complimentary review of my E5. I’ve never shoot anything but Olympus with my first E1 and now E5. However, It seems I’m always looking over my shoulder because of all the propaganda about how much better Canon, Nikon and etc are then 4/3 cameras. Your article gave me that great pep talk that all Olympus users needed. I do mostly portrait photography with pocket wizards, sekonic light meter, speed lights and moon lights. I use 14-35 and 35-100 lenses and the E5 works brilliantly. I also have done weddings and baptisms. I recently did a baptism in a Orthodox Church where the priest told me that very few can take decent pictures in his very dimly lit church because he absolutely forbid flash. I used both my 2.0 lenses at 1600 iso and even the priest was very impressed. The pictures were sharp, brilliant colors, somehow magical and the bokeh was very creamy. Craig– Thank You again for giving me the confidence to continue taking wonderful pics with this incredible camera.
Thanks very much for your comments. Don’t read what others are saying when your own eyes are proof of the wonderful quality of this camera and the Zuiko lenses. If Olympus even announces an E-7 I too will buy both of the lenses you own. I’ve owned just about everything, but none of them produced the sharp out of camera files that the E-5 does. The files are stunning up to ISO 800 and great at ISO 1600.
Been there, done that. What remains of my Olympus time is that the lenses were awesome. But that’s about it. The sensor was never up to it. Now I use an E-M5 for lightweight walkaround. First time they make the sensor right but unfortunately now the lenses are cheapish in comparison. Hopefully for the FT fellowship they end up in selling an E-7 some time. Good lenses and good sensor = good times. Bit late unfortunately.
Thank You Craig!
Thanks for reading!
Thank you for your thorough review. I enjoyed reading it a lot, although I switched from four thirds to micro four thirds and sold my wonderfull zuiko pro zooms 14-54, 11-22 and 50-200, which do not find a match in other systems in terms of quality at a (high) consumer price level. While I enjyoy using the fantastic primes in the micro system, which were lacking in four thirds, I sure miss these zooms. As you pointed out, the glass makes all the difference. And as long as there is no real equivalent to the 14-54 and 50-200 in micro four thirds I will mentally not fully migrate to micro four thirds.
But what was even more important to me was the ability to have olympus (and some panasonic) lenses coupled with a good low light performance. The OMD E-M5 is such a huge leap forward. Much more so than the improvement from E-3 to E-5 in four thirds. For me, the now achieved low light performance is exactly the point, where the discussion about the four thids sensor size compared to aps-c or 35 mm is becoming more and more obscure.
Sure a smaller sensor size does not make the system directly comparable to others. And here the struggle to develop suitable technology to bend the laws of physics and to meet the demands of users might be fought with different priorities. But can all this be reduced to the two arguments we hear so often from four thirds haters (also here among the commentators): the high iso performance is bad and the depth of field is too broad? Not anymore!
It is quite revealing to use the comparison feature on dpreview (If you really are into comparing stuff like per pixel sharpness and noise etc.). Where is the often claimed two stop advantage of full frame versus four thirds? Help me see it, when looking at e.g. the 5DMkIII and the OMD…
In order to be able to judge, wether the depth of field of four thirds or micro four thirds lenses is “not shallow enough” one would have to use those lenses. I am afraid there is no sensible way to compare the usability other than using it. Just my simple observation: for portraits for example, f1.8 on my 75 mm m.Zuiko is just about too shallow. Same thing with the 45 mm focal length. One eye is sharp, while the other can become very blurred, when the persons head is tilted. It just would not make sense to ask for an even smaller depth of field. On the contrary! Users of four thirds sensors should be so glad to get away with so little light (if you are using flash guns for example) to achieve a usable depth of field. But again – diffent sensor sizes have different benefits and shortcomings.
When looking at four thirds as an entire system I definitely share the wish for an E-7 with E-M5 sensor. But four thirds haters are no four thirds buyers – no matter what – because they own so much gear from other companies and are so angry about other systems that just don’t want to give up and just be inferior as supposed to – damn it. I would bet though, that Olympus’ and Panasonics commitment to micro four thirds is a clear indication of the abandoning of the wonderful four thirds line.
Thank you Timm!
Your point about high ISO performance and control of DOF being the last barriers to fall for using m43 equipment in serious photography is so very true.
I have been following various OM-D E-M5 threads on Steve’s site and at DPR very closely over the last year or so, and think access to this type of thoughtful commentary and practical use reviews by excellent photographers (pro and enthusiast) is the best thing to happen to photography in a long time.
Until I saw these types of posts, I was still convinced that I wanted to hold on to my film. I wasn’t willing to give up the a top of the line SLR with great lenses because I didn’t have the money for high-end digital gear to get equivalent performance.
I now have a bunch of Nikon equipment that is about to be sold off, and am a happy OM-D E-M5 owner producing some very tight DOF pictures when needed.
Just to prove the point, here is a link to two shots from this weekend: one of a butterfly with wingtips just edging out of focus, and another with selective focus within a very small bunch of wild flowers on a wide mountain slope. I need to point out that these were not even taken with a macro lens!
Thanks for sharing your information on this camera.
Very insightful, cogent article. I started out with an OM-1n in the late 70s and have had too many Olys to count since then (2n, 4T, c-2100, c-8080, E-1, E-510). The deal breaker for me and why I grabbed a Nikon D300 instead of an E-3 or E-5, was as you rightly point out the miserable Olympus Continuous AutoFocus. I still hold out hope and so recently bought an OMD EM5, alas no improvement in the C-AF area whatsoever. So I pray (but realistically am dubious given the EM-5’s lack of AF evolution) that Oly can get this AF thing together – because they OWN IQ and Color – and deliver an E7 that can stand toe-to-toe with N&C.
Great review of the E-M5.
But…referring to your intro…how soon we forget! The old 110 film format size is nearly identical to the size of the m4/3 sensor.
Of course the crappy plastic lenses on those 110 cameras made for some abysmal image quality. 😀
“..Of course the crappy plastic lenses on those 110 cameras made for some abysmal image quality..”
Not if you used a Rollei 110, Yashica or Minolta 110, or the mini-SLR Pentax 110..
E-5 is a worst camera than Canikon(and also Pentax and Sony)Aps-c models but, i think, in photography the technical specs doesn’t tell the whole story.
I have an old Lumix L1, my friend have a magnificent 5D Mark II but…i’m happier when i use my elderly 4/3 Panasonic.
Cameras aren’t science, everything is about feeling.
Worse!? Snap out of it, you haven’t touch an Olympus E-x/E-xx yet for sure! Sturdy, flawless, impressive processor, AMAZING COLORS WITHOUT PP; my previous Nikon D80, Pentax K20, and Sony A700 (great handling, but very fragile and colorless) were mere toys compare to the E-5!!!
Worse in some aspect, like high-iso or Af-c, and even in the price tag(higher than K-5, for example).
Probably, i have used wrong words:i’m an Olympus user(E-m5, E-pl1)and i love images i can get.
Probably, in the future, i will buy an E-3 or a E-5.
I said “worst” because, on the paper, they are worst in some techinical feature, but on IQ there’s simply nothing to say(as this review shows), and some people(like me) love this aspect several times more than Iso 12.800 or perfect Af-C.
The sense of my previous message is:everyone wants different things from a camera, and Olympus works wonderfully for some people.
Be patient, but my english is awful, so probably i have used wrong words in my previous message.:)
Very enlightening article. I also wanted an Olympus when I took up photography again two-and-a-half years ago having thoroughly enjoyed my mju/stylus and my bridge zoom back in film days. Had to get something smaller instead. Earlier this year I joined the NEX bandwagon at the C3 end. It’s a superbly intelligent camera and I’m very satisfied with jpegs, both colour and black and white after a bit of sharpening. What swayed me was DPR resolution comparisons where NEX seems to trump everything else in the price range, not least m43. But it doesn’t f e e l like a camera! My hunch from reading “the Four Thirds Story” is that there is a radical difference between m43 and FT to do with lens diameter in relation to sensor. The original FT thinking was to do with getting the right balance between sensor size and lens size in relation to the angle at which light hits the sensor, and I suspect that is why your images are so sharp, Craig. M43 reduces the lens size and basically reproduces APS-C optics and mechanics in a smaller form factor (now overtaken by NEX and others), thereby losing the specific gain of FT. I’m going to look at that E-5 again. After all, what was a good camera in terms of picture quality doesn’t stop being a good camera just because it’s a few years old (as I know from my Leica V-lux 1 from 2006!!
Thanks again to Steve for this photographically on the ball site. I keep learning and enjoying.
John, I don’t own one but from all that I’ve read, and I’m sure many will agree, that if you are going to look towards an E-5, I’d recommend the E-M5. The reason being that you seem to want the very small form factor with excellent image quality. With the recent release of the mZuiko prime lenses, I don’t think you will be missing anything.
Lovely shots, Craig, interesting read about a camera I know nothing about, and wise comment!
I have just (today) decided to sell off most of my Pentax gear, as I wanted a full-frame, and they just don’t want to make them! In ten years time maybe, but will I still be around then?!
Like Olympus’s the marketing division is an enigma, and so is quality control – their lovely 50-135 had a faulty focusing motor, and they knew about it and didn’t offer any free repairs/exchanges, or anything. And hundreds, if not thousands of K-5 cameras had stains on their sensors. After mine froze up I got a late version, for free, thanks Pentax, but time passed, and no new interesting cameras on the horizon, just a weird K-01, a downgraded K-5 (K-30) and eventually an upgraded K-5, the K-5 II (a very minimal upgrade indeed).
So I’ll switch brand and get a D600, a simpler FF than your E-5, but also lighter!
When Sony now owns a major share of Olympus only good things can come out of it: Olympus knows lenses, but nothing about electronics, sensors, and marketing, it seems.
Sony knows next nothing about lenses – their best for the NEX range is designed by Zeiss, the next best is a Sigma! But Sony certainly knows a lot about electronics and marketing!
The wife have a OM-D, and it is amazingly fast focusing, as fast as my V1, with the right lenses, of course! Can’t find anything that is bad with the OM-D, except that it eats batteries, and no spares are available anywhere (Olympus sleeping, as usual, or haven’t paid their bills – the latter more likely).
So lets hope the camera guys at Sony designs the camera body, and the Olympus guys designs the lenses, and let Sony be in charge of production.
The NEX-5N with the Zeiss 1.8/24 is a lovely combination, and there are plenty of spare batteries available! If it just had the OM-D’s shake reduction it would be perfect! The Sigma 19 is as sharp as most Leica lenses, and the Sigma 30 is about as good, the two together costing less than half of what the Zeiss cost!
You are spot on! The E-M5 needs a larger battery like the Nikon V1 in my opinion. The sensor in the NEX 5N is truly amazing. The NEX 6 looks like the new go-to camera in that line. Glad to hear about the Sigma lenses, it’s pretty astonishing really. Thanks!
Craig, excellent article with a wide range of shots on display showing the flexibility of both you and the camera. The commentary was also good, I found it well balanced and it has got me to take my E30 and lenses including the 12-60 out of the “for ebay box” I think the ep2 might be the sacrifice. I have a EM5 to feed as well and a diet of new Voitlanders has cost a lot. So something must go.
Its a pity that some of the commentators have been offensive. They are probably the ones that said live view and swivel screens did not belong on real DSLRs and they now show, once again, they still live in a little world of their own. Again a great article.
I like several aspects of the review and I think it brings the positive aspects of the E-5 and lenses to light. Olympus lenses are really good, and it’s true Olympus has a great JPEG engine with some nice detail on the E-5.
But I also think the review does gloss over some issues with that sensor that yes, is like 2 years old by the time the camera came about. And you sure seem to gloss over several image quality issues- like hardly not much range in the shadows, easy banding with any kind of post processing as early as ISO 1600 and banding does happen with this camera quite often actually.
As for “Soul” to me that reads “I am a bit of a fanboy” (same goes for Robin). Neither the E-3 nor the E-5 had quite a “baked soul” if we are going to put one. That interface designed by committee. Compare to the E-1. The E-1 was designed right. On the E-5 you can’t tell what mode the camera is on unless you turn it on. Buttons that have dual modalities. Buttons without tactile feedback to know which (on the left) including the all important mode button and doing that round robing modal change which you can over shoot and skip a mode you wanted.
I will still agree the E-5 is a nice camera overall, but that sensor really hurts. Just puting in it the EM5 sensor would make all the difference. As for 4/3rds alive or not- the issue is that you can do your work with your E-5, but that simply put Olympus was not making money and losing marketshare.
The idea of going head to head vs Canikon, having to make those very expensive, heavy, big zooms with F2.0- as someone else pointed out- not a real accomplishment vs the competition which doesn’t need an F2.0 lens, was imho the bane of the system. They should have done small high quality zooms, slower and a set of fast primes.
Look at the EM-5 and micro four thirds now- it’s exactly the direction they went and I think they got it right.
I am still happy you enjoy and use the E-5 to cover your needs and wants. The JPEG engine is pretty nice and full of detail with a good color signature.
I agree, if Olympus comes out with an E-6/7 and it has the sensor of the EM-5 or perhaps a newer, better Sony sensor, and is built more like the E-1 with a real mode dial (which is missing from top Nikon and Canon camera btw) we would have a winner. Also with good C-AF. As for ‘fanboy,” I think only fanboys use that term don’t they. We’re all gear-heads and fanboys or we would be here on this sight now would we? Go look into the mirror and admit it to yourself 😉
I have a few problems with this article. First, you talk about the E-5 being cheaper than the old price of the E-5, which is a nonsensical comparison to make. Great, a used Ferrari is “only” $80,000 compared to the new price of $280,000, but it’s still $80,000. Compare it to the price of a comparable sized camera, like the D600 or 5D Mk II. Compare those cameras with 24-120mm f/4 lens, the price is very competitive, but the performance is not. Either of those cameras would mop the floor with the E-5.
Second, you keep talking about f-number as if it’s an absolute. Let’s ask ourselves, why shoot with a larger aperture? Two reasons: to decrease depth of field, and to be able to increase shutter speed and ISO. However, the full-frame cameras have enough stops better high ISO performance that even if you have a lens that is two stops smaller aperture than the E-5’s lens, you get comparable depth of field, AND the full frame camera compares much better at two stops higher ISO (i.e. a full frame camera at ISO 1600 looks better than the E-5 at ISO 400). There’s a reason the 4/3 is dead, and that is because both financially and technically, the system made no sense.
Come on man, live a little and quit following the crowd, LOL! It’s making me money, is your camera making you money?
Kind of a bit of a silly response perhaps? You did not address a single of his valid points (and not saying I agree with everything he said).
I feel no need to defend Olympus. I like the camera and it works for me. It’s not only making me money, but makes me happy. If you want to compare specs you can easily rent each camera and do it yourself. I’m a real photographer who has been making a living with photography for over 20 years. Does that hold any credibility? Or would you rather argue specs all day? I’m not writing this to prove anything but my honest feelings on the usability of the E-5. I think the most silly comments are by those who are offended if their particular brand of choice isn’t praised as top choice by all. Their own insecurities in who they are as photographers comes though. I used Canon for 11 years, did you both somehow skip over that? I used Nikon for two. I was not happy with either for different, personal reasons. If you are they buy them. Who cares? I don’t!
So, when you visit a web site, you can tell what the images were shot with. You can tell what lens settings were used, even what brand.
If you had 3 A4 size pictures in front of you all different, one from a Nikon, one from a canon and one from and E5 could you tell which was which? If you had 3 A3 size pictures and were not given any reference as to cameras, could you say what took them?
As i no longer carry dslrs, i have been an EP1 groupie.
When OMD was announced i was like wooooo.
But when i tested it out i felt it was a technological marvel, like a Sony nex7, yet didn’t have the spirit of EP1.
Well today i tested OMD with Zuiko 75/1.8 … boy oh boy i take it aaaaall back 🙂
If E7 is a hybrid then Zuiko 75/1.8 is a sweet lens to add to the 12-60.
Olympus first made the Pen F and the OM1. It seem like a company that is on the cutting edge with ideas. I hear Sony will take them over. If so they more then likely did it for acess to fine line of lens, not just CZ. It looks as if you do very good work. Good luck.
Great post, I am glad you focused on the HG line, which is the true value in this system. The SHG is for the uncompromising professional (which is fine).
I look forward to the new pro body, and hope it comes as a pleasant surprise. The 5axis IBIS adds one more unique feature to an already superb featureset.
Thanks, and I agree. The 12-60mm lens is simply amazing and relatively small. I love it.
Hey Craig, what a lovely and very interesting article, thanks for this. I have been as guilty as anyone in the past of comparing cameras and lens, sharpness, resolution and all of these things but more and more I am moving towards the conclusion that is how comfortable you feel with any camera and lens combo that will deliver the better photographic work for you. I am an unashamed camera addict and love messing around with different cameras and lenses, it gives me a lot of pleasure, but I keep returning to unassuming cameras like the GF1 with 20 and now GX1 and I know that I can shoot more personally satisfying photographs for myself with these simply because I enjoy using them and am very familiar with how they work best. These cameras will never stand technical comparison against the big guns but that is completely missing the point, they produce more consistent photographic results for me.
i wouldn’t be too focused on your suggested improvements list, you have clearly developed a working affinity for the camera and lenses and, you say, these images look very crisp.
Enjoy your camera and thanks again for this more unusual but very welcome post.
Thanks Colin. You are so correct in saying that a camera that you feel most comfortable with is the one that will produce the best work for you. I loved the Contax G2. Contax did everything right with that one (at least for me). And I love the E-System, it simply give me pleasure and a camera that I’ll grab to shoot with on my day off. That speaks volumes to me personally. I’ve owned systems simply because as a pro, your supposed to have brand X or Y. A quick visit to Flickr will show anyone the amazing photos people are shooting with Four Thirds cameras. Thanks so much for your spot-on comments.
PS: I love your work Colin! I still have, and shoot with regularly with, my Nikon V1. I love that camera and am tempted to buy a second since they are currently marked down to almost nothing. Another camera that you have to really use to appreciate.
Very well said…
The best camera and lens combo is the one that we can really make the best of it..
when you get to know the workflow very well..
I can t agree more with you, also Craig..
BTW for both of you
Great works …
I could not get what this system was all about when I first started looking into smaller systems as alternatives. Man did I underestimated it!
I still think m43 is the one that suits me best, but I am really impressed with this review. Great camera (and obviously, your skills are awesome too).
Thank you. Yes m43 is hitting full stride. Can’t wait to see what Olympus will do with the Pen E-P5!
Nice praise for the Olympus 4/3 system but a lot of the points you mentioned are absolete or technically not 100% correct.
For example: “Conceived by Olympus the system was to be designed-for-digital instead of just adapting a digital SLR body to existing lenses like the other camera companies.”
All the lenses that came out in the past 8-10 years from NIKON or CANON ARE made for a digital system already.
According size, prize of the lenses and so on – the Zuiko lenses are neither small nor are the cheap…Olympus – and did buy into the system as the E1 was launched – could never hold their promise to be smaller, lighter cheaper as the competitors on the market. One of the reasons they startet the m4/3 system…
And if you are in need of almost noise-free, high quality pictures without using flash, just ambient light – there is no other way then to go for Nikon or Canon and full-frame – Olympus can’t cover that segment.
I agree. If you want to take photos in ambient light or more the typical press style or just in the city then the E-system is not the right choice. But if you like to travel, being out in the wild, in love with adventures etc the E- System should be on top of your list.
I never mentioned size nor lenses only. Nor claimed to be any kind or an expert. I simply mentioned the fact, whether Olympus held to it or not. I also didn’t mention noise-free images. I like grain in a photo, it makes the image look “real.” If you want to really see “noise” then borrow a 1st gen camera like the DCS 520. The so-called “noise” in newer cameras at reasonable ISOs is very pleasant. If I wanted a Canon, I wouldn’t have SOLD mine.
thanks for the great read, im a big fan of the e5. ive never used one but my father has an e420 with many lenses and i must say, each lens appears to be better then the next.
Great review and snaps Craig 😉 Any chance would you know what type of guitar that was in the last pic?
No I don’t, sorry. It’s old though; from the 1950s. It belongs to a friend and it’s for sale. I think cheap too!
I love the way some people see broad trends in the photography industry as a personal insult…
Maybe, just maybe, the widest well travelled road isn’t always the best road to travel upon?
Personally.. I know some pro in my town who is avidly giving great results (either for client or for personal use).. using this gem..
really appreciate all the times , enjoyment, photos, all the great moments with E5 that you share with us
Thank you William and thanks for reading!
Totally agree on your outlook on photographic equipment, in particular the quality of colours rendered and the look of photos OOC. Most camera review websites put very little emphasis on this although to me it is the most important factor when choosing a camera (they are really “gadget” review websites as they all talk at length about the camera size, number of buttons, menu options, technical specs with some test shots for the pixel-peepers).
I bought an Olympus OM-D after seeing the OOC jpegs it produced. I’ve now decided not to update my Canon DSLR as I know I’ll never be happy with the images – unless I spend a lot of time in post processing, time I don’t have.
One thing I found with the E-5, which may be true with the EM-5 also, is that I don’t have to sharpen the jpegs coming out of the camera. This saves me one extra step in post, which is nice. I also don’t have to tweak color very often–especially color correction. Images are many times usable right out of the camera, which has never happened with any system I’ve used in the past. This saves a ton of time on tight deadlines. It is amazing really that Olympus can produce this, yet it’s hardly known. We seem to turn a blind eye and dismiss 43rds. I used Canon for years and also Nikon. Both are wonderful for what they do, but I had to spend a lot of time in post. I just hope now that I’ve discovered Olympus, that they will continue to produce the E-System.
i went to a nursery 2 weeks back and took some 200 flower shots…and one amazing thing i heard from the owner of the nursery was that the blue colour on my E-5 was the best he had seen. It represents the original flower colour…he has scores of photographers who go to his nursery to take photos every weekend…and guess what cameras most of them use.
One of the most amazing reviews I have ever read on this bog
I really can’t thank you enough Craig
and I thank you too Steve for putting it up for us to read
Well I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I sure appreciate you saying so. And of course appreciate Steve for allowing me to write it.
Enjoyed your review Craig. I’ve owned the E5 for a couple of years and recently purchased an EM5. I use my four-thirds lenses on the micro four-thirds body too, with an adapter of course. As many have noted, they don’t focus as quickly on the smaller bodies as the m zuiko lenses; however, setting the camera on spot focus and using a focus then compose technique improves the situation considerably. The 12-60 is a great lens and works well on the EM5 too. Also of note, the 12-60 has a mechanically coupled focus ring, which also solves the problem of slow focus in the EM5. You don’t have to worry about the camera hunting if you’re doing the focusing yourself! Both cameras have their strengths. The E5 has great performance; the EM5 is light and great for travel.
Thanx Criag, you made me want to buy E-5
currently owner of E-M5 with few lenses and loving it
Buy one and show Olympus that they still have a serious following for the E-System. Truly, Olympus’ problem is not their 43rds or m43, but the utter lack of promoting the product. I remember not too long ago that the Four Thirds cameras were everywhere. Now, I cannot find a single one in the state of Florida. I even called Olympus USA and they couldn’t help me. I just read lots of reviews and bought the E-5 on faith (Robin Wong was a major influence. He has a wonderful blog and he’s very humble). I couldn’t even hold it in my hands first. That is utter craziness to me. I’d gladly represent Olympus in the Southeast, they sure need it. If a local camera store carried the Four Thirds system, I doubt they’d sell well because the salesmen wouldn’t really appreciate or understand what they were selling. It’s a pretty sad state. I don’t know how the rest of the US fares on this, or the rest of the world for that matter.
Great shot’s, man, for once on this blog. Sorry if this is deemed ‘negative’, but true. Almost on par with messr Buchanan. And no mention of ‘M9’ in sight.
Great review Craig.
I agree with everything you wrote, especially the C-AF issue. But the biggest problem for Olympus was that they never instituted a Professional program with cameras and lenses available worldwide for rent and service. On top of that their Marketing sucks! That Rep, instead of giving you a camera for 2 weeks should have given you the camera! Maybe then you and other working Pros would have caught on sooner and helped promote the system back when it was a viable product. Oly never sponsored enough pro- photogs and never got into the pro market. It’s a shame because they truly built a great system and those Zuikos are second to none. But without a competitive body today they are lost. Pentax showed that it was possible to build a robust weather sealed APS-C even smaller than the E-5 and now the Nikon D600 and Sony RX1 are putting FF into very manageable sized bodies too. Maybe they will hold on with the m43 product line but I’ve finally given up hope for a next gen E-X.
Don’t give up, it will come! It may be a hybrid OM-D/E (hopefully about the size of the E-1). How can Olympus possibly create some of the best lenses ever made and not support them. They cannot. They are gun-ho on m43, which is great, and I love them, but they need the DSLR system too.
What is your opinion between the olympus O-5 and omd em-5?
Both excellent but different animals. I plan on eventually getting an OM-D or the next Pen (if it has a built-in viewfinder) but really want black lenses only (the silver are pretty, but too high profile). I have a magazine assignment this coming weekend and will be traveling around the state of Florida. The OM-D would be perfect for this assignment because it is small and has a low profile (discrete). Besides black lenses (and not paying extra for them) one thing I wish Olympus would do with their OM-D and top level Pen is put a larger battery in them like Nikon did with the V1. This would make them even better for real assignments or long shoots. The sensor in the OM-D is better, and newer, than the one in the E-5. But I do love the look of the E-5’s sensor combined with the Zuiko lenses. They produce beautiful files. You really have to shoot with the E-5 to fully appreciate it.
thanks for this in depth review.
I’m also an E-5 owner, had the camera when it first came out. Before that, I used an E-520.
I share almost all of your observations, except the one for prime lenses. There are a few prime lenses not only worth owning, but mandatory for an E-5 owner.
Most importantly, the legendary Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2 is a must have. I am no macro shooter but use the 50mm on the streets and its light weight and small size make it the perfect walk around lens. The lens is sharp as a lens goes and at f/2 you have enough speed to work in dimly lit environments.
Not in production anymore, but also worth considering, is the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4. This is one amazing lens for photographers who lust for the special something in a lens to render a scene with a character.
Other than that you’re spot on. If you can only buy two lenses with the E-5, then the 12-60mm and the 50-200mm are the lenses to get.
In terms of the E-5’s usability, I especially love the programmable program modes and how you can circle through them. I wish the E-M5 had this feature.
Even though I own the E-M5 and some of the best Micro Four Thirds lenses, I still take the E-5 out for shooting. What most people may not have recognised, is that most of the better cameras being sold during the last two years have reached a quality where you don’t actually need to upgrade to a newer body every couple of years. The E-5 is a camera that will satisfy many photographers for ages.
Ah yes, I have my eye on the 50mm f/2.0. But like you, I’m really not a macro shooter either. I just bought, after the article was already written, the Panasonic-Leica Summilux D 25mm f/1.4. I got a great deal on it at Sammy’s Camera. It was brand new but an open box so I saved nearly $300 off of retail. The very first photo, the one of the little girl in the title, was shot with the Pana-Leica lens just yesterday. And boy is it sharp! Thanks! If you’re smart and shop around, you can get all the 4/3 goodies at really good prices. I saved over $3,000 off of my entire set-up, two E-5s, three lenses, two battery grips and an FL-50R. Either used or refurbished. B&H, Amazon, which you can link here on Steve’s site, and eBay all have used stuff Thanks!
The Zuiko 50mm is actually sharper than the Panasonic 25mm at f/2 and also it is sealed and focusses faster and is a lot smaller. For portraits it’s probably the only suitable non-zoom lens in Four Thirds.
For a city trip (no landscape shooting, a lot of walking around etc.) with the premise of only packing two lenses, I’d probably take the Zuiko 12-60mm and the Zuiko 50mm. For a longer trip with landscape shooting and a tripod, I’d take the 12-60mm and the 50-200mm.
Probably the first thing you want to do is to check if you have front or back focus issues with your Panasonic Leica 25mm. When I got that lens, I still used my E-520 and it turned out that the E-520 could not focus precisely at f/1.4. I tried the other E-520 we owned at the time and the issue was with both bodies. It turned out the lens was fine but both bodies needed a fix. Olympus did this on warranty. I never had problems with the lens on the E-5. I just notice that it’s a lot slower to focus than the Zuiko lenses.
I also own the Olympus 50mm 2.0 macro. Great lens sharp and excellent for macro work and portrait photography. But you have not lived if you don’t own the 14-35 and 35-100 lenses—its like having the 50mm macro from 28 to 200mm. These 3 lenses are a must if your doing alot of low light photography. I own the 12-60mm lens– also a brilliant lens but does fall short in low light. What is so neat about any of these lenses they all interchange so seamlessly with my E5 to produce images that can be truly amazing.
Great post. I currently shoot with Canon (7D) and Nikon (D80) at work and love them. However, I bought into the E-System for personal use. I’ve owned the E-520, 30, 3 and 5. Have had a great time with all of the cameras. I’m hoping that one more body comes out with the new and improved sensor (Perhaps with even more improvements to allow lower ISO for strobist work). Either way, still happy with the E-5.
The only other E series i got apart from my E1 was E330.
E1 was my autumn winter camera. Here england muchlly gray autumns i used to chuck E1 in the bag never once treating it preciously. With the lens to the left ergonomically just felt right.
It may been only 5mp on a 4/3 but i tell you the E1 was king of the hill for noiseless gray skies
and autumns in england has plenty of gray skies.
couldnt resist .. gray english autumn skies & my E1
Very nice, thanks. I’d love to get an E-1 one of these days. It’s still a great camera. If I lived in England, I think my whole style would change. It’s so bright here in Florida year round.
Hi Craig it is quite a desolate felling being out alone under english seaside autumn gray. I feel it is a passage in ones life. I lived 40minutes from the sea many years. The photos do take on a look of minimalism solitude.
That all looks very familiar, that’s why I live in Sydney.
Jim you made me laugh 🙂
“If you are one who loves prime lenses, then the Digital Zuiko family of lenses may not be for you.” Why not? Don’t forget not everyone is a photojournalist. Also, a real great photojournalist can still find a way to use prime lens effectively no matter what or whatever they have in their hands. This writing is long and boring just as the pictures are insipid. In addition, there are some cocky sense in the writing. “I discovered that I had a natural eye for composition”? The fact is, if a person really has it, his or her pictures will definitely speak for themselves. Giving a compliment to oneself is not what anyone should be doing, especially when the pictures or the finished products didn’t display it like that.
I wish you had just passed by. Your comments do nothing for this great site.
I agree with Zakk… you really shouldn’t have bothered. His statement “If you are one who loves prime lenses, then the Digital Zuiko family of lenses may not be for you.” refers to the fact that there aren’t a lot of prime offerings in the Zuiko family. 8mm, 25mm, 50mm, 150mm, and 300mm. Then there are a few sigma lenses at similar focal lengths. You really should know what you’re talking about before you go bashing someone’s work with senseless babble.
IMO Olympus should give the FT -M system a “second change”. Why?
The mFT system with the PEN´s and the OMD 5 helped the company to survive. Remember the Leica story when they stood too long with analog viewfinder cams. Then the desaster with M8 at the beginning of their digital times.
But Leica always had and will have outstanding, unmatched lenses. So with the release of the M9 all changed for the better od Leica. Now got to wait for Leica of your dreams.
Olympus, whith a little better strategy of marketing, could do as well.
When I remember Fotokina 2010 there were two booth PEN and DSLR. What a difference!
Total unfriendly sales staff at the DSLR booth (for the M-5) and then total opposite at the PEN side where the sales peoples really pushed it all forward. Got a PL-1 with EVF2 for a couple of hours for testing at the show and they gave me the SD for free! Well done!
The Olympus FT lenses in line they got are “outstanding” (Taking about the Pro-Line).
With the progress of the sensor makers on monthly bases I bet there would a great M5-n with new sensor , mayby IS5, and double jpg engine, in the future.
My 2 Cents.
For the love of Zeuss, lets all put an end to the 43 nonsense once and for all, even Olympus stopped believing in it. 43, what’s the advantage over dslrs? Smaller cameras? NOPE. Smaller lenses? NOPE.Better quality sensors? NOPE. Cheaper than dslrs? NOPE. Larger lens line up? NOPE. More DOF? Maybe, but nikon 1 and others have more. Anyone who has bought 43 simply gave Olympus a license to make more junk only to be abandoned. Worse than aps-c dlsr’s in every way yet people still buy them, it boggles the mind. You cant even compare the best 43 IQ with the best aps-c IQ, let alone FF. I geuss there’s always the guy who would rather swim across the pond instead of using the bridge, there’s always a contrarian.
OK let it out, don’t keep it bottled up. Even any tirade that makes you look very silly is better out.
It’s a matter of personal preference. Blame it on Cheryl Tiegs 😉 Did you read the whole review? You are correct on some things. But it is true, the light does hit the sensor differently. I’ve NEVER (consistently) seen sharper images, better color, cleaner white balance or a better flash system than the E-System. I shot Canon digital for 11 years, and Nikon for two yeas, all with L-Series lenses or Nikon’s top pro lenses. What can I say? There is something about the Olympus E-System that specs alone cannot measure. In this day of internet forums and camera blogs, we all put way to much emphasis on camera specs. What about Leica. It’s the year 2012 and auto focus cameras have been around for decades, yet the M system is still only manual focus. Sensor size, as of 2012 is now a NON-FACTOR. The big DSLR makers don’t want you to believe that though. They are doing the big push for full frame now making people think that if they don’t have a full frame camera, their pictures are going to be garbage. Why? So they can continue to sell more cameras. The D3s is the best digital camera ever made in my opinion. What do we need a D4? As as for support, where is the support for APS-C with Nikon and Canon? If you really want to read more on that from an expert, go to Tom Hogan’s site. Professionals are switching. Switching to Sony, Pentax, Olympus m43. Switching to whatever system gets the job done. I happen to like the Olympus Four Thirds.
Super nice article with examples of natural colored and B&W photos. I love the natural color Olympus cameras produce.
I like the idea of carrying a smaller camera for outdoor work, though only for one reason; To take pictures of people, people who view photographers with large cameras, tend to behave less naturally around them, smaller cameras are less obtrusive.
I’m curious about your comment: “Full size JPEG worked lightly in Lightroom 4 – NO sharpening applied” So… what light work did you perform in Lightroom4?
You are so correct on the issue of services each camera brand manufacture provides or lack of… gone are the days of excellent customer services, recall when manufactures authorized their CSR(s) to provide their loyal customers free repair shipping or after a repair job done – free camera cleaning or they threw in an inexpensive brand name accessory to cheer you up. Something every business facet lacks today, cheering up their customers with positive feedback… We stand behind our products and will take care of any legitimate issue or product defects our consumer experience.
On all of these samples, I did very little post processing. I do more during my normal workflow though. But since I’ve owned the E-5, I rarely have to do any sharpening. It is amazing really. I guess the light work would include levels, which would be user error, maybe a few color sliders, to bring down the blue sky, etc. Not much really. thanks for your comments!
I love Olympus too and I have an OM2 and E-P1, I Ordered the OMD, When I got it I found out the screen speed which in live view is very slow to coup with the color balance! and takes time to see the right color on screen and it was always greeny! compare to E-p1 which it has a real what you see is what you get! screen. the picture you get is always perfect but screen color made me confuse so I send it back. Did you pay attention to that problem!?
Man, I hate turning into the “equivalence” police in this blog, but, Craig, although the 100-400mm lens is f3.5 on the long end, compared to f5.6 to a Canon version, you don’t gain an advantage in “real world usage,” like Steve likes to emphasize. If you put that f5.6 lens on something like the 5Dii, which is around 1.5 to 2.0 stops cleaner than the E5 at all equivalent ISOs, you can just raise the ISO of the 5Dii and end up with results as good or better than with the E5 at f3.5 at a lower ISO.
This isn’t to disparage 4/3 sensors. I use all types of sensor sizes. You just have to take into account that larger sensors are cleaner at higher ISOs, so the smaller sensor needs faster lenses to compete (assuming similar sensor technology.)
Yep, 4/3 users aren’t stuiped … But why should we stop down? Just for the sake of equivalence or other what? The 300mm F2.8 is meant to use wide open…. That’s 600mm in a 35mm world at a 2.8 for light(shutter speed) not DoF. Now ad a 1.4 or 2.0 converter fully usable wide open… Pretty impressive, esp. together with the InBody 5Step IS. No need for ISO 800 95% of the time. ISO 400 should be more than enough. And you can handheld the kit under daylight conditions.
Ps: yeah I know there is a d800 which excellent and you can crop like hell, but I like to frame accurately most of the time….
Unfortunately, your comment illustrates that you don’t understand what I’m talking about. Using ISO 200 on the E5 isn’t any better than using ISO 800 on most current FF cameras. In other words, there is no light collecting advantage to using f2.8 on 4/3 compared to using f5.6 on FF, because the larger sensor collects more light. Using an f2.8 lens on FF gives you a two stop advantage noise advantage over using an f2.8 lens on the E5.
Well I know that… As I said 4/3 user are not stuiped and should not treated like that. But you probably have to try the system to figured out that there is something beyond equivalence…
It collects the same light for the image circle of a 4/3 lens, be it a m43 sensor or a 135 sensor.
F stops are ratios. A large sensor at f2.8 collects more photons than a smaller sensor at f2.8.
I feel like we’ve had this discussion before. A larger sensor collects more photons, but the luminous flux and luminous density are the same throughout. It’s like a movie screen: crop out a section of the projected image, and it remains the same brightness.
Noise performance is attendant on two factors: pixel size and pitch, and the more nebulous “technology level.” Pixel size and pitch can be, but is not necessarily related to sensor size. Tech level is just that. There’s a reason that the OM-D looks more-or-less just as good as the NEX-7: it’s more-or-less the same sensor with more-or-less the same pixel size, density and “tech level”, but with a different cut off the wafer.
So you’re not wrong in saying that larger sensors tend to have better noise performance, but to equate it to a simple linear “equivalency” conversion is misguided, at best.
But enough silly tech-talk 🙂
Thank you Craig, for the article and photos.
The light value of a 2.8 lens in any format, is 2.8 at its intended image circle. Bigger image circles bigger lenses. But the light per measurable unit is the same on the sensor within the image circle.
That may be true, but let’s not compare the apples to oranges. Since the sensor technology in the E-5, as far as high ISO, is not in the same ball park with the 5D MkII (which I used to own). If Olympus comes out with a new E-System camera, then the sensor in it will finally be able to take advantage of the fast and wonderful lenses they make. Then comparing is more reasonable. But here’s the thing that stats just cannot compete with: My own eyes. I’ve been fully digital for 12 years now, since 2000, and have shot nearly every system except Leica (Canon for nearly 11 of those 12), and what I’m seeing out of this old, tired, E-5 (tongue-in-cheek) is amazing and like I’ve never seen out of any digital camera I’ve shot even with $8000 lenses. So, people can argue about it all day, and post all the lab tests they want, but my eyes will always win. Plus I’ve probably shot more with my one-month-old E-5 than many camera owners (any brand) have in two years. As much as many hate to recognize, Olympus has something special with the 4/3rds system. I just hope they keep it up. Thanks for you comment, it’s appreciated.
Even if Olympus uses the OM-D’s Sony sensor in the next E-5, it’ll still give up 1.5-2 stops to the current FF cameras that use the same sensor technology, like the D600 and D800.
Look, I’m glad you’re happy with the E5. It is a good camera. I just grow weary of 4/3s shooters thinking that shooting an f2 constant zoom on 4/3s is any better than shooting an f4 constant zoom on FF. The results, both in terms of DOF and image quality, will be similar.
You have MISSED the whole point of the entire article. Sorry!
I’m simply pointing out a factual error, since this is a camera user report.
What won’t be similar is the price tag. The 12-60 is a steal when compared to high end glass from other brands.
It is comparable to a 24-120 f4-f8 full frame lens, which wouldn’t be that expensive.
Comparative to a 24-120 f4-f8.
I’m very sorry but it is not. It is comparable to a 24-120, f2.8-f4.
A 2.8 lens is a 2.8 lens. referring in this instance to light entry.
Anonytrackball, you can’t just blindly compare apertures among different systems. Ask yourself, what is the reason for using f/2.8 instead of f/5.6, for example? The answer is to decrease depth of field, and to keep ISO low, to preserve image quality. However, a full frame lens with a 24-120mm f/5.6 lens would have the same depth of field as an E-5 with 12-60mm lens, but the full frame camera at 2 stops higher ISO (3200 instead of 800, for example) would still have identical or better noise and sensor performance. So no, f/2.8 is not always f/2.8, you have to take the whole system into account.
aglios, read what I said, the last 6 words. As for DOF where is it to be published and what size, talking about DOF is a useless point unless it is known and aimed for. For web publishing it is for the most part irrelevant.
So what is the point for light entry? I would argue that it’s to get good image quality, and to maintain a fast enough shutter speed. A 4/3 lens HAS to be fast, because the sensor performance lags so far behind comparable other DSLRs. So, you NEED to have an f/2.0 lens instead of an f/4 lens, because otherwise your image quality goes into the trash due to high ISO, or your shutter speeds drop past the limits of handholdability.
Are you saying that at the same shutter speed the exposure would be the same for both in the sample given? and the images would have the same light?
I’m saying that, at a given shutter and aperture, larger sensors collect more light than smaller sensors. So, shooting at f2.8 on 4/3 sensor is similar in both DOF and noise to shooting f5.6 on FF.
You need to go back and read your notes.
You have misunderstood them. Also while you are at it check how the exposure scale works. (2.8 to 5.6!)
Then explain what settings I should use if I use a third party light meter.
It’s people like you that make me hate photography as a hobby
and it’s people like Craig that help me like it more
Nothing wrong with a little bit of food for thought.
Equivalence is one of the most useful concepts to master when talking camera gear. Only people who are exclusively interested in full frame never conduct a cross-format comparison. Also, the basic rules of equivalence are so straightforward, that it’s simply astonishing that people like GH still see a need get them across from time to time. Telling him off for this would be the world upside down, wouldn’t it?
Well, First of all 4/3 User are Award of that math Formel and therefore are not stuiped.
But equal means equal. This starts at the lens and as a Leica user you know shit in shit out. So, compare the 13-35mm F2 against the latest 24-70 2.8 Canon L lens – off course wide open in regards to distortion, CA, fringing and sharpness from corner to corner. The result would be to stop the Canon lens down to F4 latest, better F5.6… So.. much for equivalence.
Therefore please try the Olympus 4/3 System before applying math.
Pray, what was the correct part of his equivalence, as explained.
Hi, I am the one who switch from Canon 5D MK2 to Olympus E5 with SHG lenses. I am once think that FF camera is the best IQ but I was totally wrong when I tried Olympus E1. Then I collect all used SHG lenses (7-14mm F4, 14-35mm F2, 35-100mm F2 and 150mm F2) for using with E5. My total system cost is much lower than Canon Nikon pro-grade camera and lenses.
Jeez, Highwave, I was just pointing out something that, for some reason, is still misunderstood by many multi-format users. I have no fullframe agenda. In fact, I don’t even shoot 35mm at the moment.
Now that formats vary quite a bit, with numerous sensor sizes out there, I think it’s useful to be able to correctly identify equivalence, because many of us use several formats, these days.
It’s just that all these equivalency wars are getting really tiring. Add to that the endless bogus claims thrown in when such debates start that make me wonder if the people making the claims ever made it passed high school.
It doesn’t stop at equivalency either. DxO also made these sensor wars too. So your camera is trash because it scored 12.3EV instead of 12.6 on DxO. It never ends.
While these technical aspects are very nice to know and gauge your equipment to what you need, things just got ridiculous now and it’s all a war of data sheets. Who cares about photography.
It’s really refreshing to see people like Craig Litten grab what is claimed to be an ancient puny sensor on a not so well known format and go out there and stun us with what he can do with it. That’s what I want to see instead of these endless mostly bogus debates.
But you are not correctly identifying equivalents. You are misleading people with incorrect statements.
Using your “facts” all the makers of light meters are wrong. Read this, no where does it say to make adjustments on the meter for lens or sensor size, only ISO. http://www.ephotozine.com/article/guide-to-using-a-hand-held-light-meter-4748
You misunderstand the purpose and scope of what GH has to say. This is what makes you believe that your light meter example is a valid counterargument.
With all respect of course, and meant as constructively as possible.
Alexander, GH is talking about issues that are governed by factors he has not brought to the table. Making statements the way he does is the equivalent of saying ‘it gets more miles to the tank full’. Where if he had said to the gallon there would have been meaningful but still require additional information to make it useful. It may be true in some respects but has no basis as he is confusing some equivalents with others.
Personally I can’t say GH has been inspecific, confusing, or confused.
Perhaps he is for someone who doesn’t know where he’s coming from or doesn’t understand the point he is trying to make. All I can say is that I can follow him perfectly, and I also see the beauty of the approach he tries to put forward. I can also tell you that what GH has to say is completely in line with what’s written in your light metering article, so no problems there either.
Maybe we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Alexander. The article says nothing to support GH and this comments are, with respect to light, totally erroneous. There is no support or alignment there at all.
Ok, thanks. Got the message.
Craig is right! The E-5 has a soul, as another Robin had already pointed out. In fact, its images are so crisp and colorful even surpassing IMO those of the almighty E-M5. Only Olympus knows the secret of such delicious pudding: oldish sensor + amazing processor + superior lenses + detailed fine-tuning = colors of life. The E-5 is a charming scary Wizard indeed…
I’ve been a big fan of the Olympus E system for a number of years.
I’ve seriously considered going with a E-5 as a wedding system. The lenses are exceptional and the files actually require a lot less work in post than my Nikon images. And, yes, the colors are amazing! The main issue I run into is the high ISO quality… I’m not heavily reliant on flash and it can get exceptionally dark. I regularly find myself at ISO 3200 with an f/1.4 prime during receptions. I love my OM-D and feel it’s very capable at high ISOs, but then I lose access to those wonderful classic 4/3rds lenses (The 12-60 is painfully slow to focus through the adapter).
Hopefully we’ll see an eventual E-7 with the OM-D sensor, but rumors are just rumors. Can’t take a photo with them.
That said, reading your review has me lusting after the E-5 even more. Gee, thanks a lot.
haha, sorry. But for good reason. It’s a wonderful system. I hope the E-6 or E-7 is an OM-D 1 Pro Hybrid and built like the E-5 about the size of the E-1. Anyway, check out this blog entry by Robin Wong. He shot a wedding with an Olympus Pen E-PL5. I’m like you, I don’t like to use flash, so the f/2 lenses are a must.
Another consideration is using constant light during the reception. Hire an assistant for $125 for just the reception (a few hours) and have him hold follow you around with a light. This light, called the Ice Light (which looks like a lightsabar from Star Wars), was invented by a brilliant Wedding Photographer Jerry Ghionis: http://fjwestcott.com/product/ice-light/the-ice-light
Thanks for your comment.
I like your style Craig!
Very enjoyable review Craig and some great photos, thank you. I have to agree on the lack of marketing you mentioned, as my first reaction was ‘E-5, wait, is that not 5 years old stuff?’ – as of course I remembered the E-3 instead – the E-5 went completely under my radar.
In general – I am really looking towards EM-5, but I am really curios what the E-7 (should it come one day) will bring. Olympus really seem to be on the right track with their 4/3 and m4/3 cameras.
You were “..young and influential..”? ..Well now you’re old and influential! ..The OM-10 was the poor man’s OM-2 ..but Olympus lenses had been phenomenal from 1972 and the original OM-1 ..incredibly small and light – and almost all with the same 49mm filter diameter! – and contrasty ..which always gave the appearance of super sharpness.
Olympus started with a clean slate for digital SLRs: they knew that light hitting the sensor at oblique angles didn’t matter with film, and its random grain orientation, but oblique light just wouldn’t register properly on a digital sensor ..so they redesigned their lenses from scratch to produce light perpendicular to the sensor (flat onto it) rather than make do with lenses which worked for film.
Making the sensor smaller (‘Four Thirds’ instead of full 35mm frame) made it easier to match those perpendicular lenses to the sensor, and allowed those lenses to be smaller and lighter, and yet with full auto-focus inside, and – as you say – no need for stabilisation to add to the bulk and weight of the lenses.
But 4/3 never got traction with professionals ..though many opted for Canon and Nikon APS-sized cameras! Now that the OM-D E-M5 (what a mouthful!) has shown what 4/3-m4/3 (same size sensors) can deliver, a hesitant few professionals are, I think, re-assessing what 4/3-m4/3 can do.
Olympus OM SLRs used to be called “ladies cameras” by the pros; they couldn’t believe that such great quality came from such tiny, lightweight camera bodies. Maybe a “professional” OM-D may ultimately appear.
You’re showing your age, LOL! Thanks for your wonderful insight!
i feel the same about my E-5 (now combine with the E-m5 and 12mm)
i shoot almost all of my architectural shots with the 12-60mm!
Excellent review Craig. I’ve been looking for one on the E-5 that wasn’t pure lab techno rubish and you hit the spot. Thanks for a great writeup.
Thanks very much!
Great to see your review!
I’ve been a E-System User since the legendary E1 – the best designed DSLR body ever with the smoothest shutter of all (the E5 is very loud compared).
I had the E5 and quite a few HG/SHG until April this year, but sold everything as my M9P made it a Dust-Ccollector. However, I have now the OM-D for AF, LiveView and Video etc. Still have my E1 as its neverever for sale. Anyway, back to your review.
One think where Olympus is really unbeatable is durability and weather sealing. Canikon are not even close! It unbelievable in this regard.
Another feature where I think the E5 has an advantage over Canikon is user interface. I know most reviews will disagree but once you get your head around its very very fast! The Wireless Flash System is just one example….
Quality feel and ergonomics are also top notch. Everything feels just extremely durable and long-lasting. Ok, they use plastic as well, esp. for lenses – but its very precise and though and very very well made. Also I prefer the rubber Olympus uses. Better grip and feel.
Where Olympus is really bad is C-AF. I personally think its useless in current state and its better to use the blistering fast S-AF+MF.
The other key area where Oly is/was always behind (the OM-D improved this quite a bid) is the sensor side, esp. DR and ISO. Its really doesn’t need anything special. Real ISO 100 and really good ISO 1600 in RAW (no JPG here!!!) is enough for 99% of the Olympus Systems area of use thanks to the 5 Steps IS (yep, that’s true! Tested this personally with the 300m F2,8 (600mm for 35mm)). The DR now seems to be good enough as well. But we have to wait for the E7 now…..
Where Olympus failed completely is marketing and advertising. Most people will ignore the System from the beginning, esp. based on numbers and on reviews as well as on some forum gurus. But the Professional E-System is not about test results or whatsoever. It’s about being out there is the wild, under though conditions, travelling the world and 100% reliability and optical quality as well as precise working IQ (i.e. AWB, Leica is totally utterly rubbish compared to Olympus in this regard). This brings me now to the main feature:
It’s the lenses baby!
Yes the 12-60 and 50-200 are great and close to unbelievable, but you have to use the SuperHighGrade ones. They are in a league of its own in the DSLR world. Just give the 7-14mm F4, 14-35mm F2 and the 35-100mm F2 as well as the 90-250mm F2.8 a try under real life conditions and of course wide open. You will be blown away. But if its not enough use the 300m F2.8 with the 1.4 and 2.0 converter wide open with AF and stop down while doing so until F16( yup, no F8 limit here!). Jaw dropping!
But there is one left. It’s the 150mm F2. This is a lens Leica would be proud of! Nothing more to say. And all those lenses are not software corrected unlike m4/3.
Maybe one day I will return, esp. for Wildlife outdoor kit.
Ps: Off course there will be always the ones moaning about DOF, crop and equivalence – but that is not what his System is all about!!!
I just made $5000 for a shoot that took about an hour with my Olympus E-5, the SHG 14-35 and 35-100 (both rented) and the client was very happy. I have no complaints 😉
But I agree, a true ISO 100 and a great ISO 1600 would be all you need. But since I shoot a lot of very low light sports and other fast-moving assignments, a very good ISO 3200 would be nice. And real C-AF. I shot a parade last week and it looked like it was going to rain. I was actually hoping it would so I could actually, for the first time ever, just stay out in it and shoot.
The two SHG lenses, especially the 35-100, were simply amazing. The images looked 3D. I’ve never seen anything like it, ever. And I’ve shot with or owned everything from Canon and Nikon. I don’t understand why, if Olympus is shifting to the m43, that they don’t offer that quality in the m43 lenses with full weather sealing. This is the main reason I’ve held off buying. But I am watching.
Thanks for this, one of the very few digital cameras I actually lust for, this and the E-3. Looking back at my older digital files there is one thing I know above all else, by far the best OOC JPEG’s are still from OLY 4/3 cameras by a long, long chalk!
The 12-60mm has to be one of the GREAT all time zoom lenses too.