Olympus E-5 hands-on preview



Evolution, rather than revolution, is what the new Olympus E-5 is all about


The long wait is over and the successor to the three year old Olympus Four Thirds DSLR flagship, the E-3, can now be revealed and there are no prizes for guessing that it's called the E-5, with the number '4' being considered unlucky and so skipped.

The E-5 has European guide price for the body-only of €1699, or around UKŁ1,500, but best check for street prices, which are likely to be lower.

If you are expecting a revolutionary new model, sorry. The E-5 is an evolution of the E-3. Indeed, from some angles it's quite difficult to see any obvious body design differences, especially from the front. But at the back there are many changes, most of which centre around the replacement of the E-3's old 2.5 inch 230,000 dot articulating LCD screen with a shiny new 921,000 high resolution 3 inch articulating screen.

The larger screen has necessitated the relocation of the row of buttons that live under the screen on the E-3, while the IS (Image Stabilisation) button has disappeared altogether; you now have to set it view the super control panel on the LCD.

Here are the key new features:

  • TruePic V+ image processor designed to extract more detail from the sensor image data.
  • Modified sensor anti-aliasing - this is a development beyond the reduced power of the anti-aliasing filter introduced with the Olympus Pen Micro Four Thirds range.
  • 3 inch 921,000 dot articulating LCD screen.
  • 720HD 30p (Motion JPEG/AVI) video recording capability with integrated mono microphone plus 3.5 inch port for external stereo mics.
  • Sensitivity range extended to ISO 6400
  • Four custom reset memories instead of two previously, now called Myset modes.
  • Revised menus
  • Ten Art Filters including Dramatic Tone Art Filter that generates a virtual HDR image with just one shot
  • Dual memory card slots retained now with SD card support replacing xD slot alongside UDMA class Compact Flash support.
  • Up to 7 auto bracketing steps instead of 5.
  • Digital level (three dimensional) from E-30.

Bear in mind that you get the familiarity of the E-3 design, complete with large 100% optical finder, dust and moisture sealing, 11-point biaxial AF system, SSWF sensor dust protection, 1/8000th top shutter speed and 150,000 cycle heavy duty shutter mechanism, Olympus will be hoping that existing E-3 and even E-30 and E-620 users, etc., will be tempted to upgrade.

Whether the E-5 will serve to tempt more people to switch to the E-System is more debatable. The 12.3MP sensor and image processor is a step up from existing Micro Four Thirds Olympus Pens, but some will be disappointed that we don't have a proper next-generation sensor from Panasonic. The unchanged 5fps fastest shooting rate is bound to disappoint some, too.

Undoubtedly, there will be a furious debate among Olympus fans and others about the E-5 and what it means for the future of Four Thirds. In the mean time, don't miss our E-5 pictorial tour gallery below, and a feature comparison of the E-5 next to the E-3 and E-30 on page 2.


Click on a thumbnail image below to see a larger view:

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