Olympus PEN E-P5 w. VF-4 Hands On Preview

Olympus is introducing today the new flagship of their PEN line, the PEN E-P5. This camera is not meant to surpass the E-M5, which has been the best mFT camera from Olympus but also belongs to another line, OM-D. However, Olympus has incorporated most of E-M5´s features into E-P5 and made some of them even better. 

Mr. Toshi Terada presenting the E-P5 to European press last month. (These presentations are the culprit of leaks like we have seen again with E-P5. Journalists and ethics...)

Mr. Toshi Terada presenting the E-P5 to European press last month. (These presentations are the culprit of leaks like we have seen again with E-P5. Journalists and ethics...)

New PEN E-P5 is faithful to the orginal PEN F in styling. Even the size is practically the same in all three directions.

New PEN E-P5 is faithful to the orginal PEN F in styling. Even the size is practically the same in all three directions.

Maybe the subject line should have been first impressions. I have tried a pre-production E-P5 shortly, but then only to get those first impressions. There and then I did not take any images with me to see on computer screen because I was supposed to have an E-P5 to test in the beginning of this week. Sadly test sample shipments to Europe were postponed to next week... So, now I write about how I see E-P5 compared to OM-D E-M5 and shortly about those first impressions with camera in hands. I´ll write more after I have checked how certain features are working in practice

How is E-P5 compared to E-M5?

Technically E-P5 is roughly E-M5 minus EVF and weather sealing but with a built-in flash. As E-P5 is a newer model by a year, many features are enchanced. Here´s the list of main features compared to E-M5:

- Same sensor and processor

- New extended ISO setting LOW, which is ISO 100.

- New shutter with 1/8000 second as the fastest speed. (Equal to best DSLRs. With ISO 100 combined possible gain towards shallower DOF in bright light is 2 aperture steps compared to E-M5.)

- Shorter shutter lag: Normally 50 ms. In release mode ”Short” with IBIS off: 44 ms. (Equal to best DSLRs. Increases power consumption slightly.)

- Same 5-axis IBIS, but now with automatic detection of panning. (No need to change into special IS mode as with E-M5. Live View is also stabilized, of course.) 

- Same AF, but now with option for smaller AF points. Olympus calls it Super Spot AF. Smallest spot at 14X magnification is 1/70 th of diagonal screen length. Besides this there is also same smaller AF point as introduced in E-PL5.

- Fastest sequential shooting with AF (AF-C + Tr) is now 5 fps, and E-M5 equal 9 fps with IBIS off and AF locked to first frame.

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- Similarly two control dials, but now complemented with a 2x2 Dial Control which doubles the functions of dials. (Example: In 2x2 Dial position (1) control dials may be for adjusting Aperture and Exposure compensation. Switching 2x2 Dial to position (2) changes control dial functions to WB and ISO. These are configurable.)

- Similar menus with same highly customizable controls.

- Start-Up is now 0.5 sec. (Fastest in mirrorless cameras. Fuji X-E1 has the same as limited feature.)

- Histogram can now be displayed during Live Bulb Shooting for assistance in adjusting the exposure.

- One-push (configurable into Fn button) switch between normal shooting and AE bracketing.

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- 3.0”, markedly sharper, 1.04 million dot LCD touch-panel with fingerprint resistant coating. It is tiltable in the same way as in E-M5.

- Flash sync time for built-in flash 1/320 s.

- Mysets can be configured into Mode dial like in E-PL5.

- Same BLN-1 battery, but number of shots is up to 400 from 360 with E-M5 according to CIPA/Olympus test standard.

- Metal body with no visible screws except in the bottom plate.

Completely new features:

- New optional hi-res viewfinder VF-4. (See below.)

- Built-in WiFi with smartphone (iOS and Android; Olympus Image Share app) connectivity and interactivity. (See below.)

- Focus Peaking on MF Assist with black or white accent. Peaking can be configured to Fn button.

- Photo Story (as in Olympus XZ-10 to create template based photo montages in-camera on the go.)

-  Automatically generated time lapse movies with interval shooting function. Up to 99 shots to make a max. 10 second movie.

Other:

- Three colors: silver, black and white.

- Limited premium model with wooden grip.

- Premium accessories: Leather Camera Bag, Leather Body Jacket and Leather Strap.

Not available:

- Weather sealing.

- Optional extra grip. (Lack of extra grip is something I discussed with Mr. Toshi Terada and expressed my opinion for the need for such extra.)

Lenses:

- Now M.Zuikos 17mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8 will be available both in silver and black as regular options and both colors have same price.

Built-in WiFi

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When the WiFi button in the upper left of the screen is touched, a private connection screen with QR code will appear. Read the camera´s QR code with a smartphone. Connection will start and smartphone shows thumbnails of all the images on cameras memory card. Easy. Images can be loaded to smartphone and shared from there.

Camera´s playback screen has also a share button. Touching share button adds share icon and these images can be viewed in smartphone with a one-time connection. Touching send button sends images. Afterwards camera can be turned off, if needed, via smartphone.

Wireless shooting via ”Touch AF Shutter”

This is a remote control function where camera´s Live View monitor can be displayed on a smartphone. By touching image on smartphone screen you can autofocus on subject and release shutter. There are two restrictions: E-P5 itself cannot be operated while connecting to WiFi and the only available shooting mode via WiFi is iAUTO.

GPS via WiFi

Another feature of built-in WiFi is transferring the GPS log acquired by your smartphone as geotags to photos in camera´s memory card.

Electric viewfinder VF-4

At the same time with E-P5 Olympus is introducing a new hi-res electric viewfinder, VF-4. It has a 2.36 million dot LCD panel, which is again markedly better than 1.44 million dots in E-M5 or VF-2. VF-4 shows 100% field of view and has 1.48X viewfinder magnification. Eye-sensor is now included in VF-4.

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VF-4 is hinged in the same way as VF-2 plus it has locking pin to secure it to hot shoe.

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VF-4 magnification compared to other cameras as 35mm camera equivalent magnifications: Nikon D7100 0.61X; Canon EOS 7D 0.62X; Panasonic GH3 0.67X; Nikon D800/D4 0.70X; NEX-7 0.71X; VF-4 0.74X; Canon EOS 1DX 0.76X.

This new EVF has big optics which means also sharp and distortion-free image up to the corners. Looking through VF-4 made me quite happy.

More technical stuff: Image display time lag is 32 ms, eye sensor switching time lag 0.4 s. VF-4 will be compatible with earlier Olympus mFT bodies with an upcoming firmware update for each body. And yes, VF-2 and VF-3 are compatible with E-P5.

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Photo from back shows how big the eye piece is. Also eye sensor is visible here. VF-4 has practically the same measurements as VF-2, it only looks boxier. 

Hands-on

When OM-D came, shooting with it felt cramped until I got horizontal grip. That was because I was used to shoot with E-P3 and VF-2. VF-2 sits higher on E-P3 than OM-D´s EVF relative to shutter. Horizontal grip on E-M5 moves right hand slightly forward, adjusts wrist angle and corrects the right hand position, at least for me. Now with E-P5 and VF-4 everything felt very natural. Thumb rest gives support and both dials are easy to use when camera is on eye. I only miss a somewhat bigger grip than E-P5 has now. It would support fingers when camera is hanging with wrist strap.

VF-4 is a big improvement, literally. Viewfinder image is so big, nice and sharp. The difference was most obvious when I raised my E-M5 on eye again.

That´s all I can say for now. Shooting technique with E-P5 plus VF-4 is not really different from shooting with E-M5 because of similar configurability. More on this later

Personally

Of course, with E-P5 plus VF-4 the technical quality or even style of my images would not change in practice compared to E-M5. For me E-P5 is not really different from E-M5 there. The difference is in seeing through camera, the experience. VF-4 would help in focusing and precise composing. This would definitely be the biggest helper and change here. Related to this, the shorter shutter lag would help with VF-4 when composing things which are moving in viewfinder area. These are the most important improvements over E-M5. 

Of other features I would pick ISO 100, but the image quality and possibly limited DR must be seen first. Also every now and then doubling of dial functions by 2x2 switch, 1/8000s shutter speed and automatic panning detection could be handy. I would not miss weather sealing but the missing extra grip is worth complaining. And again, that´s just me, my preferences.

Compared to any previous PEN, E-P5 plus VF-4 is a huge improvement.

The next OM-D 

For some of us E-P5 actually moves our expectations to the next model in OM-D line. I know pretty much what will be the big highlight of this body. Quite obvious to everyone seeing E-P5 should be that the next OM-D series model goes well above E-M5 in features. Incorporating VF-4 should be just one of them. And that is all I can say now...

Prices in Europe and availability

E-P5 body = 990 €   E-P5 + 14-42mm zoom kit = 1099 €   E-P5 + 14-42mm zoom + VF-4 kit = 1249 €   E-P5 + 17mm F1.8 + VF-4 kit = 1449 €   VF-4 = 279 €. These will be available during the lastter part of June. There is no E-P5 + 17mm F1.8 kit like some rumor sites have speculated. 

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