Olympus PEN E-PL5 review

Pen Lite E-PL5 is one of the latest mirrorless offerings from Olympus. It can be regarded as an intermediate level camera – full of various features yet very small and portable. It was announced alongside its more affordable brother – the Pen Mini E-PM2. These two cameras share so much that it’s very hard to distinguish them… in fact there are only three differences between the two models. Since I published detailed review of E-PM2 a few months ago, I’m not going to review E-PL5 from the ground up. If you are interested in the details, please read my E-PM2 review. Instead, this article will cover only the differences and provide some image samples.


  • Announced: 2012.
  • Type: Mirrorless
  • Dimensions: 111 x 64 x 38 mm
  • Weight: 325 g
  • Sensor: CMOS  16MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • Lens: Kit lens: 14-42mm (28-82 in 35mm), F/3.5-5.6
  • ISO range: Native 200 – 3200, Extended 200 – 12,800
  • Image stabilization: Yes (stabilized sensor)
  • Dust and moisture protection: No
  • Flash unit: External unit (included), hot-shoe, wireless remote control for Olympus flash units
  • Continuous shooting: 8 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″ touch-screen, 460,000 dots, tilt-able
  • Memory card: SDHC
  • Battery: Li-Ion BLS-5
  • Video: 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, 640 x 480 (30fps)
  • Connectors: USB 2.0, mini HDMI


If you don’t have the time to read through E-PM2 review, let me just mention some of the most important features of both cameras. Sensor used is a 16 megapixel unit made by Sony. It performs splendid; has excellent colors, dynamic range and usability up to ISO 6400. The same sensor is used in more expensive E-M5 which was one of the most important cameras announced last year. The sensor is stabilized regardless of the lens used. You can attach almost any lens in the world using adapter and it will become stabilized.

E-PL5 is sold with a small detachable flash unit which attaches via hot-shoe. It has an option to wirelessly control flash units up to three groups. The camera also accepts an electronic viewfinder which is sold separately.

The Menu system is identical to E-PM2. It offers unexpected amount of advanced settings like five aspect ratios, various size/compression settings, extensive reassignment of external controls, selectable burst mode speeds (8fps maximum), ISO and EV step settings, selectable Auto ISO settings (works in manual mode also), proper anti-shock delay with selectable delay, release priority mode to bypass AF confirmation, pixel mapping… there’s no end to it.

In case you got scared by all this, keep calm and leave it in AUTO mode. Little Olympus will do all the job for you.



A 3-inch touch-LCD with 460,000 dots has tilt option. It goes 45 degrees downward, 90°upward and almost 170°to the front. In that way, it can be used when framing self-portraits. Duckface style. :)

In my opinion, this was a feature that lacked the most on Pen Mini. It is so much easier and enjoyable composing shots from various angles using tilt LCD.


Pen E-PL5 has it. Yay! It is way easier to change shooting modes this way, rather than selecting them from Menu system like on Pen Mini. The bad thing is that it’s too easy to rotate the dial therefore I turned it inadvertently more than once and found myself in a shooting mode I didn’t want.


Olympus E-PL5 has two extra buttons in the back. They are used for zooming during playback, and the left one marked with “Fn” can be customized.


Hand grip can be removed and replaced with different looking one or used without it.  If you have some skills, making one for yourself would be an interesting DIY project. Below you can see some of the available grip combinations:



Everything I wrote on E-PM2 can be said for E-PL5 again. Sensor and image quality are superb, a real step forward from old Olympus 12MP sensor used in preceding models. Auto focus is amongst the fastest in mirrorless world and can compete with any similarly priced DSLR. The two main differences which might make E-PL5 more interesting than cheaper E-PM2 are the external mode dial and tilt-LCD. It is way easier composing shots and shooting video with tilt-screen and this might be the sole reason to spend extra $ 100 for E-PL5 compared to E-PM2.


  • Easy to use
  • Wide range of customizations and advanced options rarely seen in this class of digital cameras
  • In body stabilization
  • Small and compact size
  • Low high ISO noise
  • Touch & tilt LCD
  • Standard flash hot-shoe
  • AF speed


  • No dynamic range optimization (occasional highlight clipping in JPEG)
  • Tilt-LCD to close to main rotating dial
  • Mode dial rotates to easily


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6 thoughts on “Olympus PEN E-PL5 review

  1. The E-PL5 is capable of much better image quality than your sample photos would suggest. I would urge you to see the Cameralabs review to ‘get the picture’ ! For some unfathomable reason, your sample images are grainy, lack good focus, don’t ‘pop’, and hence are rather rather flat looking. Pity, because the pictures are otherwise well composed and the subject matter is intriguing. Were you shooting at ISO 3200 with a fogged up 14-42mm kit lens? The ‘new’ kit lens — the 14-42mm II R — is actually a very sharp lens. I use this lens almost exclusively on my E-PL5 and it gives stunning results…

    • I have seen cameralabs review and suggested you check you eyesight since all of my pictures are in focus, are not grainy, were not taken with fogged up lens and “pop” rather more then bland looking cameralabs samples (ugly british weather and completely uniteresting and non-colorful subjects) :)

  2. I like your reviews, and I really like the look of the EPL-5. I’m looking to upgrade very soon but don’t want too large a camera, so the CSC’s look perfect. The more reviews I read the more i’m convinced the EPL-5 is right for me, small, but not too small, a decent range of lenses and excellent image quality.

    Thanks for the review :-)

  3. Pingback: Olympus PEN E-PM2 review | Camerahoarders.com

  4. Pingback: E-PL5 Erfahrungen, Fragen, Wissenswertes - Seite 60 - Systemkamera Forum

  5. Pingback: A new review of Olympus PEN E-PL5 - Blog for micro four third and competing cameras

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