This is continuation to my previous blog on first impressions of PEN E-P5. Now I had this camera for two days which gave me some time to walk around with it in between other things to do.
Styling and Handling
PEN E-P5 with VF-4 electric viewfinder. The lens here is 45mm f/1.8 in new black color. This test camera was a pre-production sample but it shows high quality of finish. All buttons and dials have nice firm movements. Silver and black is my favorite of the three color options for E-P5.
PEN E-P5 (top) has at first sight very similar top plate as its predecessor, the E-P3 (center). The real difference is two control dials, one around shutter button and the other as thumb dial. OM-D E-M5 (bottom) is different. I have written about practising with your camera to force operating controls into muscle memory. Now E-M5´s thumb dial is more to the left which made my thumb rotate E-P5´s similarly situated mode dial quite a few times in error... While E-P5 with VF-4 and E-M5 are roughly as capable and usable cameras, changing from one to another might have its quirks. While E-P3 had an ON/OFF button, both E-P5 and E-M5 have ON/OFF switch. It is a vast improvement because you can feel if the camera is ON or OFF and switch it ON/OFF without looking at the camera.
PEN E-P3 (below) has removable grips and here I have changed the original grip into optional grip (MCG-2) which improves handling very much. E-P5 (above) sadly has no removable grip and the grip it has is simply awful. I carry my camera hanging from right hand with supporting wrist strap. E-P5's grip gives no real support and its sharp inner edge only eats into my fingers. This is the single most important flaw in E-P5 for me. It might sound a small thing but actually it is huge because it makes carrying the camera around extremely unpleasant. The reason for fixed grip is obviously WiFi antenna. E-P5 has metal body and WiFi antenna can´t be inside metal body. Behind grip there is a hole and antenna, and the grip must have certain material and thickness. All the same could have been achieved with a fixed MCG-2 style grip, IMHO. I have asked Olympus to make an optional grip for E-P5. It might hinder WiFi but who needs WiFi when carrying camera around?
The new high resolution viewfinder VF-4 (right) is really not any larger than older VF-2 (left). Its shape is boxier which makes it look it a bit larger. VF-4´s eye-piece (and all optics inside) is bigger though and this makes rubber hood bigger also. VF-2 had its diopter correction around eye piece and it is prone to rotate accidentally. VF-4´s diopter correction is on the right side of viewfinder as seen. Another improvement is VF-4´s locking pin which secures the viewfinder in place. Lock button is on the other side.
From my point of view E-P5 with VF-4 is just as usable camera as E-M5. It can be configured just the way I want and using controls is just as easy when accustomed to it. Compared to E-P3 with VF-2 it is vastly better because of two dials and better configurability. The superior image of VF-4 makes E-P5 to rise above E-M5 but E-P5´s crappy grip would need a quick fix, either from Olympus or any maker of accessories or creative use of InstaMorph and gaffer tape by me.
ISO Low and 1/8000s Shutter Speed
E-P5 has an extension to its ISO scale, it is ISO Low. Low means here roughly 100. In images above we have ISO 200 above and ISO Low below. Images are JPEGs exposed equally so that red highlight warning just lit up on the lightest part of image outside of window. If you download those images and open them in Photoshop or similar software you can see that white is a bit whiter in image below and all other tones are darker. The latter is obviously seen also here but what happens in the lightest tones is not as easy to see. ISO Low is not real ISO 100. I don´t know how it is technically done but short shoulder in gamma curve hints of just overexposing at ISO 200 and correcting while rendering. On the other hand different response in darker tones hints of something else being done at sensor level. At the moment it is not possible to see what happens shooting RAW files and opening them in Lightroom.
These images are shot with E-P5 and M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 wide open at f/1.8 and ISO Low and 1/8000s. Sun is quite harsh because of dry air, shadows are deep. These are again JPEGs opened in Lightroom. They were shot at muted settings with contrast and saturation turned down into -2. I set the final contrast and saturation in Lightroom with only global sliders. The image above shows that you can have everything in detail from the highlights into shadows. The image below was more difficult because there were more details hiding in the shadows. I used 1/5000s as shutter speed to open up the shadows lightly while keepin ISO Low. You can see how the canvas in the background has clipped into white and can not be saved. Also the highlights of golden street artist are suffering. These image show how ISO Low and new fastest shutter speed 1/8000s give new opportunities to use larger apertures without ND filters. You only need to be careful not to over expose at all with ISO Low.
Focus peaking can be useful with manual focus lenses like Olympus OM series Zuiko 50mm f/1.2 here. I have tried quite a few cameras with EVF and focus peaking and mostly I have not found the peaking feature useful when looking at the whole image. Zooming into image helps but then the peaking function is not actually needed any more. I did not make any side by side comparisons but my feeling is that E-P5´s focus peaking is one of the best I have seen and I found it perfectly usable and exact.
I shot these (slight cropped) images from E-P5´s monitor and they show how focus peaking looks like and works. Above we have a zoom lens as subject and peaking off. Center image shows peaking on and image focused on zoom ring. Peaking can have either white or black as highlight. I liked white better. When peaking is on the luminosity of image is lowered and contrasty and sharp edges are highlighted by white. It is very easy to see. In the third image I moved the subject a bit closer to camera and while doing it I can see how the sharpest details move backwards on subject. With fast lenses it is quite easy to see how the sharpest area moves on a subject with any depth when you rotate the focusing ring.
You can have focus peaking on automatically when camera is on manual focusing and you turn focusing ring. When you stop, peaking goes away. This is handy but I find it too jumpy for me because it is so sensitive to slightest movement of focusing ring. I prefer to have peaking configured to a button (Magnify). Push button = peaking on, touch shutter button = peaking off.
Focus peaking in E-P5 is implemented through a temporary art filter, used only for this function. This feature can not be used for video, it would lower the frame rate.
I did not make any measurements to see how well Olympus´ specs for shutter lags of 50 ms or special 44 ms hold truth. Actually I have no instruments to do so and I´m not too interested of specs like these up to single milliseconds. It only is good that cameras become faster to use and better responding. The image above shows what was the result when I pressed the shutter button when front end of the car on left reached the edge of viewfinder. If you want to be able to compose moving subjects inside images, you need to know how your camera behaves in various situations. Here I had E-P5 prefocused, IBIS on and normal lag mode. Speed of the car is roughly 40 km/h.
AF with 4/3 system lenses
Maybe there is a slight improvement over E-M5 maybe not. I tried shortly but did not notice anything worth closer look because the real thing for 4/3 lens owners is already on its way.
E-P5 is just as handy as E-M5 plus has better viewfinder in VF-4. It also has 1/8000s shutter speed, focus peaking and automatic panning detection in IBIS. It is fast and precise to use, has the best configurability there is and gives just as good images as I am capable to achive. There was not yet a chance to try WiFi as beta version of E-P5 compatible Olympus Image Share was not yet given to test. There are many small spec improvements which do not shake my way of shooting. Did I love it? No, because that grip makes it awful to carry around. Did I love to shoot with it? Absolutely, already the viewfinder is so gorgeous. After a week my fingers would forget E-M5. But not that grip. Did I love the results? No, because I shoot RAW and now I was limited to JPEG. I can´t get the look I want from JPEGs, but the potential is just the same as with E-M5 and I know what I can do with it later.
I know, many E-M5 users are thinking if they should upgrade to E-P5. I´m not sure if it´s worth it unless any of these mentioned features is an absolutely must for you right now: Better viewfinder, 1/8000s, automatic panning detection, focus peaking and WiFi sharing. You won´t lose anything though, just money and grip. For other mirrorless users thinking about upgrading or people thinking about jumping into lighter and happier world of mirrorless, the E-P5 is one of the best options there is. It is beautifully designed and built. It is loaded with features. It gives great images like many people have shown with their E-M5s and E-PL5s. Of course there is no such thing as the best. On the top personal preferences mean more than small measurable differences.