E-P5 update to the update: Olympus E-PL5: 90% OM-D goodness for half the price

Note: Since writing this I have moved on to other systems. Not because there is anything wrong with Olympus. As I often mention any modern system would suffice, but others were better suited to my personal preferences.

Update to the update:

I swear I innocently entered Southeastern Camera

The friendly folks at Southeastern Camera, Carrboro.
The friendly folks at Southeastern Camera, Carrboro.

to see if they had a deal on a new or used tripod. After some small talk with Chris and Dennis I found out that they had a lightly used E-P5 just in the day before, a lightly used OMD E-M5 with battery grip, and my current ‘it’ camera in stock new, the OMD E-M1 . Thoughts of tripods evaporated then this happened…

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From left to right the Olympus OMD E-M1 (w/ my much loved 17mm f1.8 on it for a test drive), E-P5, and my trusty E-PL5.
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From left to right the Olympus OMD E-M1 (w/ my much loved 17mm f1.8 on it for a test drive), E-P5, and my trusty E-PL5.
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From left to right the Olympus OMD E-M1 (w/ my much loved 17mm f1.8 on it for a test drive), E-P5, and my trusty E-PL5.
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Olympus OMD E-M1

Even though the OMD E-M5 is what first drew me to Olympus and eventually the E-PL5 a year is a long time in gadgetopia. The OMD E-M5 was struck from the potential upgrade comparison (3 down to 2) for the following reasons:

  • No WiFi. Yes, I do have an EyeFi card, but for that I may as well stay with my E-PL5.
  • EVF evolution. I am pleased with my own VF-4 and by all reports it is superior to the built in on the OMD E-M5.
  • Build. The E-M5 is quite impressive, but the E-P5 and E-M1 feel hewn from granite by comparison.
  • Price. The pre-owned E-M5 was barely less than the E-P5 with superior EVF (my own) and WiFi.

I was quite impressed with the E-P5 from the moment it was introduced. It’s only downside was that it was priced right along side the OMDs. Already having an E-PL5 it made little sense. I was then reminded of the great benefits of shopping at the local camera shop. One key advantage is being able to hold and shoot many cameras back to back. While I still adore the OMD E-M1 in hand I realized a few things:

  • Can’t get this in my jacket pocket. Big hand grip. Big faux SLR hump. Great features and a definite improvement over the E-M5, but I am not quite ready to commit to the grip and SLR humps. With the E-PL5 I had come to love the portability. It is great to have the capabilities you want in your jacket pocket rather than in a camera bag somewhere else.
  • In related news the size would mean I would need to hang on to the E-PL5 for every day shooting. As a hobbyist I cannot make sense of a 2 camera set up quite yet. Plus there is the practical consideration that I could not benefit from a trade in.
  • Price. Admittedly well worth the price. While fantastic I have no need for the water/dust resistant (or the E-M1’s freeze proof) feature. Perhaps the new rumored mid-tier OMD will fill the price void, but $1399 is quite the jump from my humble little E-PL5.
  • I love a good deal. The looks like new E-P5 was less than half the price of the brand spanking new E-M1 and when you add the trade in, that would not happen with the E-M1, it only got better.
  • Personal aesthetic preference. To my own surprise in the flesh I preferred the vintage PEN rangefinder styling of the E-P5 over the, admittedly impressive, demi SLR styling of the E-M1.

Steve Huff was right all along. The difference really lies in personal needs and preferences. I recently dubbed the E-PL5 my little friend on Instagram, and it has served me well, but as of yesterday I now introduce you to my (slightly larger) little friend, the Olympus E-P5.

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First impressions:

  • Having not experienced 5 axis image stabilization in the wild I previously underplayed it’s significance. For example it has noticeably improved the performance of my 40-150mm zoom. This second hand lens wonder can now be used in lower light than before and the macro converter can be used hand held. For example:
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M.Zuiko 40-150mm w/ MCON-P01 Macro Converter
  • It has 1/8000 sec max shutter speed matching the E-M1 and over the 1/4000 speed of the E-PL5 and E-M5. Since I have two fast primes (17mm and 45mm) this should be of benefit.
  • Level. It has a level. ‘Meh’ to more experienced persons I imagine, but this novice is impressed.
  • WiFi brings remote control via smartphone. Cool. Being a smartphone contrarian (Loving my Lumia) I had to commandeer my wife’s Android Phone to sync up. Wow. Hopefully they will expand it’s capabilities beyond iAuto (Hello long exposure January star shots from the comfort of my living room.) but I am still impressed.
  • While I never missed having a built in flash on my E-PL5 due to it’s great low light capabilities I find it is nice to have the flash built in. My next scheduled self tutorial obsession is remote flash photography and while I do appreciate having RC built in I also like having the option of picking up a cheapie flash with slave functionality while still having the hotshoe available for my EVF at the same time.
  • It is the right size for me. In my mits the E-PL5 was on the small side so I had to beef it up with an upsized optional Olympus E-P3 grip and a Kaza-Deluxe half case.
  • Dials, dials, oh the wonderful dials. No more re-purposing function buttons and memorizing scroll wheel commands to use PASM modes. Love having dedicated two position front and back dials.
  • Real focus peaking. I had set up bootleg focus peaking on my E-PL5 (video originally for E-M5, but it works for E-PL5 also.) and mapped it to the record button to good effect, but this is superior by far.
  • No change in the PEN flow. Same VF-4Gariz wrist strap, and compact Swissgear bag that also holds my tablet that worked so well with my E-PL5 also works very well with the E-P5.

Life is good.

-ELW

Previous posts copied below…

Update:

This update is perhaps long overdue, but I purchased the Olympus E-PL5 in March about a month after writing the post found below and I must say I have been very happy with it. So much so that I went on to purchase a sweet retro case from Kaza, and 2 lenses. The Panasonic Leica 14mm and an Olympus Zuiko 40-150mm zoom both purchased for a steal second hand at Southeastern Camera in Carrboro, NC.

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To say I am happy with the decision would be an understatement. So much so I am now eyeing a Olympus vf4 EVF as an early Christmas gift. Even with purchasing that I would have body, flash, 3 lenses, case and EVF for less than I would have paid for many cameras w/o a kit.

Since then I have had a great time snapping pics every day as well as on a DC field trip, a family trip to NYC and upstate NY, local museums and more. Photo sets of all can be found at my Flickr page below:

Flickr

Olympus is still at it and has released or announced some great cameras since, like the OM-D E-M1 and EP-5, but I am still quite happy with the little E-PL5. And the great part is that if I do ever decide to upgrade one day I can still use all of my accessories. Here are my original ramblings from February below:

Short version:

My camera wish list has been answered (great photo quality/auto & manual controls/compact size/flip screen/reasonable price) w/ one camera, and this is it. Click picture to see Robin Wong’s review w/ some great sample shots.

Olympus E-PL5

Long winded version:

Preface:

For quite some time I have been looking for a camera that married the best of my father’s old school Pentax ME Super film camera (interchangeable lens selection/manual control/long range image quality) w/ the best of my smartphone, most recently Galaxy Nexus, iPhone 5 and now  Lumia 920, (quick frame rates/portable/filters on device/great low light performance) in a reasonably sized package for a reasonable price.

The friends:

I have good friends at work who are advanced, quite excellent photographers (Judy Kea and Anthony Smith), and they operate and speak on all things camera on a level well beyond my opportunistic hobbyist “hey look at that, snap” skill level. They operate in the DSLR realm which is fantastic, but beyond my cheap… *ahem* frugal budgetary aspirations when looking at the latest and greatest presently. Not only is the price of admission steep, but the accessory prices are mind numbing to me. The in depth technical jargon causes me to glaze over as well, I must admit. I am not saying DSLRs are not worth the price, just that I am not willing to pay the price of admission. Also these things are huge which means that it would forever be left in a camera bag at home. I have been watching the mirrorless trend with interest because it seemed likely to be the technological/ease of use/compact size/price bridge I have been looking for, but none seemed to nail it just yet. Then enter the latest micro 4/3 sensor system cameras from Olympus.

Enter the OM-D (hm… Had a brief  WuTang flashback for a moment there.):

The reasonable size part was addressed by the Olympus OM-D that has received stellar reviews all around. Considering what you get (image quality, portability, an interchangeable lens ecosystem with many great options from Olympus, Panasonic, and 3rd party companies) it was amazing at the $1,299 price point. Especially considering that the price included a stellar motorized lens and flash bundled with it. Plus look at the thing. It is retro-gorgeous, looking like a miniaturized Olympus OM-1 film camera from back in the day.

I blame Anthony:

Ok, I do not really blame Anthony since I was a willing participant. I first learned of the OM-D when tagging along with Anthony on a trip to Southeastern Camera. He was looking to purchase an old school film SLR and some B&W film (first sample shot of yours truly). Anthony found a sweet old school camera and during the instructional walk through by Chris I had flashbacks to my father teaching me to use his camera when I was a kid. After being hit by the ‘me too’ bug I called my father, confirmed that he still had his trusty old Pentax ME Super and purchased some B&W film of my own (leading to this album). The time to upgrade from my smartphone and string of Panasonic Leica point and shoots had arrived evidently  At the shop Anthony asked Chris if there was a modern camera he would recommend and he brought out the Olympus OM-D. I was hooked immediately, but I love  a good deal. Again, $1,299 was a great price for such a great camera and much closer to my price point (and physical size) than a DSLR, but it was still about twice what I wanted to pay for a hobby. On a return trip to get the aforementioned B&W film developed I asked Chris if there was a cheaper… *ahem* more affordable option to the OM-D that kept the best the OM-D had to offer, more specifically the same 4/3 sensor and flip screen. Enter the E-PL5:

  • $649.99
  • bundled with a lens and flash
  • Same sensor (image quality, autofocus, video quality) as the OM-D
  • 8 frames per second shooting
  • same flip up screen w/ touch focus point/shutter release
  • same 4/3 reasonably priced interchangeable lens system (shared w/ Panasonic)
  • in body image stabilization
  • same filter options w/ ability to save RAW and JPEG simultaneously
  • $649.99
  • While not an OM-1 lookalike it is a decent looker in it’s own right.
  • Did I mention it is half the price of an OM-D?

Huzzah! In all fairness I must mention a couple of cons as compared to the OM-D:

  • 2-axis image stabilization as opposed to 5-axis on OM-D (I will soldier on minus 3 axis of stabilization)
  • no viewfinder built in (an add on viewfinders start at $149.99 which still makes it a bargain)
  • 14-42mm E-PL5 bundled lens not on par w/ bundled motorized OM-D lens (but crucial to me initially, more compact)
  • not dust and splash proof (I may one day regret this omission, but I could buy another E-PL5 and spend the same)

After an obsessive round of internet research I am sold. In addition to the review and sample photos mentioned above I found many links and videos helpful in making my decision with my favorites below:

My accountant/reality checker (aka my wife) has given her whole hearted clearance (love that woman) to purchase this bad boy, so I look forward to posting some photos once I get around to purchasing it.

-ELW