TODO alt text

Olympus E-5 review

Does this DSLR have enough to tempt Four Thirds photographers?

Our Verdict

For

  • Good picture quality at low sensitivity
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Customisable controls

Against

  • Smaller than normal sensor
  • Still quite large considering small sensor
  • Autofocus lacks some high-end features
  • Steep price in comparison to competition

Olympus e-5

When the Olympus E-5 high sensitivity noise reduction system (what Olympus calls the Noise Filter) is in its default or Standard setting, there is very little chroma noise visible in the images it produces. In fact, even with the filter turned off the interference is primarily luminance noise. The results are very good up to ISO 3200 when the level of detail visible drops.

There's no dramatic smudging, but details just start to get a little fuzzy and merge into one another. Helpfully, the raw development module of Olympus Viewer 2 which is bundled with the E-5 allows the level of noise reduction applied to raw files to be adjusted to other 'in-camera' settings. Generally, the best compromise between noise and detail visibility in ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 images is struck when the in Noise Filter is set to Low.

High sensitivity raw images processed using Adobe's Camera Raw have a much coarser texture than those processed using the supplied Olympus Viewer 2 software. The Adobe processed image has less visible chroma noise, but it also has a fragmented texture.

Although noise often appears well controlled when images are viewed at pixel level, even toned areas in images captured at ISO 64000 sometimes exhibit patches of subtly false colour. In one image, for example, a plain wall shot in low light appears to have very faint broad bands of red.

For a 12-million-pixel camera the Olympus E-5 can resolve a high level of detail and the low sensitivity results looks fairly natural rather than overtly digital when examined at 100% on the computer screen. As a general rule, the greatest level of detail is captured when the in-camera noise reduction system is turned off, but as the visibility of noise and detail varies to some extent depending upon the subject it is best to shoot raw images that can be adjusted later if necessary.

On the whole, Olympus demonstrates a good understanding of colour and exposure, and the E-5 doesn't disappoint, though it has a tendency to make reds a bit too vibrant. Switching to the Portrait Picture mode enhances red even further, which is not especially flattering for most subjects apart from with the palest skin.

While the results can be obtained by post capture adjustment, Olympus is very keen on its filter effects. Conveniently on the Olympus E-5 these can be accessed via the Picture Mode options. For most occasions, however, the Natural Picture Mode is the way to go.

We found that the automatic white balance setting turns out natural looking images in a range of natural lighting situations and it retains the anticipated colour of artificially illuminated scenes. Candle-lit settings, for instance, still have plenty of atmosphere. In some cases, for example, when shooting under an overcast sky, the AWB setting produces better results than the warmer output generated by employing the cloudy white balance setting.

Software

Olympus supplies the E-5 with Olympus Viewer 2, which can be used to facilitate image download, organisation into folders and processing. The range of controls is extensive, and although they are largely limited to in-camera type adjustments (plus a curves control option), it is very good. In fact it gives Canon's excellent Digital Photo Professional software that is bundled with Canon DSLRs a good run for its money and Olympus E-5 users should not over look it when processing raw files.

As part of our review process we've implemented a new testing procedure. To test the Olympus E-5 image quality, we shot our resolution chart, each with the Olympus 12-60mm lens.

If you look at our 100% crops below or download the images and view the central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, at ISO 100 the Olympus E-5 is capable of resolving up to 26 (line widths per picture height x100) in it's highest quality JPEG files. Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEGs

ISO 100

0.4secs at f/8, ISO 100: 24

ISO 100

ISO 100: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 200

ISO 200: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 400

ISO 400: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 800

ISO 800: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 1600

ISO 1600: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 3200

ISO 3200: 20 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 6400

ISO 6400: 16 (Click here to view full-res image)

Raw files

ISO 100

ISO 100: 26/24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 200

ISO 200: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 400

ISO 400 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 800

ISO 800: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 1600

ISO 1600: 24 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 3200

ISO 3200: 20 (Click here to view full-res image)

ISO 6400

ISO 6400: 18 (Click here to view full-res image)

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLR Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1280 x 720
Effective Camera Resolution12.3 Megapixel
USBYes
Wide AngleNo
PictBridgeYes
Product FamilyE
Image StabilizationOptical
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameOlympus
DurabilityDust Proof, Water Proof
FeaturesLive View, External Flash Shoe, Face Detection, Continuous Shooting Mode, Manual White Balance, Aperture Priority
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMotion JPEG (AVI)
Viewfinder TypeSLR
Weight (Approximate)800 g
Maximum Image Resolution4032 x 3024
Maximum Frame Rate30 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeLive MOS
Total Camera Resolution13.1 Megapixel
HDMIYes
Camera AssemblyBody Only
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedCompactFlash (CF) Card, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)
Height116.5 mm
Width142.5 mm
Depth74.5 mm
Autofocus Points11
Product SeriesE
Image FormatsRAW, JPEG
Audio FormatsWAV
Flash ModesAuto Flash, Flash OFF, Flash ON, Red-eye Reduction, Rear Curtain Sync, Slow Sync
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerOlympus Corporation
Product ModelE-5
Product NameE-5 Digital SLR Camera
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberN4279292
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.olympus.co.uk
Marketing Information

Built on our revolutionary E-System technology, the new Olympus E-5 adds powerful new features that let you do more than ever before. Designed to maximize the award-winning performance of Zuiko Digital lenses, the E-5 achieves the highest image quality of any Olympus camera-with astonishing detail, blazing speed, and true-to-life color. New options like user control in Art Filters and 720p HD Video give you more freedom to explore creative effects. And with its weatherproof design, the rugged E-5 can go anywhere.

Battery Life870 Shot
Package Contents
  • E-5 Digital SLR Camera
  • Body Cap
  • CB-USB4 (USB Cable)
  • CB-VC2 (Video Cable)
  • BLM-5 Battery
  • BCM-5 Charger
  • Shoulder Strap
  • Instruction Manual
  • Warranty Card
  • BC-1 (Body Cap)
  • EP-7 Eyecup
  • CD-ROM
Display Resolution920000 Pixel
Limited Warranty2 Year
Built-in DevicesMicrophone, Speaker