Finally… the long awaited Olympus E-5 dSLR is announced

Written by Gary on September 14th, 2010

Olympus Four Thirds users have been waiting patiently for an upgrade to the pro level Olympus E-3 dSLR.

Today, Olympus has finally announced it formally.

Overview of features:

  • Four Thirds system dSLR
  • weatherproofed body
  • the highest image quality of any Olympus camera – 12.3mp LiveMOS sensor + TruePic V+ image processing
  • Low Pass Filter is less aggressive allowing for more of the optical resolution of the superb Olympus lenses to be visualised
  • built-in image stabiliser – now up to 5EV stabilisation and sensor dust removal system
  • 11 point twin cross hair phase detect AF
  • 11 area sensor contrast detect AF (but no continuous CD-AF)
  • pro level optical viewfinder with 100% view and 20mm eye relief
  • 3″ high resolution swivel LCD – at last both high resolution and swivel!
  • 5fps burst rate x 16 frames RAW, 150,000 shutter life, 7 frame AEB at last (for the HDR togs out there)
  • ISO 100-6400, wireless TTL flash, dual CF/SD card slots at last!
  • apparently, fast sensor contrast detect AF with Face Detect AF capability – I wish!
  • AVI M-JPEG 720p HD video at 30fps with stereo mic jack – not ground breaking compared to the GH-1 but adequate for most people
  • 10 in camera ART filters – adds an extra one to that in the Pen cameras – Dramatic Tone – all can be used in any mode including HD video
  • level gauge, multi-exposure mode
  • new battery – BLM-5 – same form factor as our beloved BLM-1 but 1,620mAh at 7.4 volts instead of 1,500mAh at 7.2 volts so you MUST use the new charger with it – don’t get your chargers and batteries mixed up!
  • 813g, RRP $US1700

On the face of it, it is not going to entice Nikon or Canon pros over, even though the Olympus lenses are superb, but it will be a photographer’s camera able to weather almost any conditions and will give more telephoto reach for lens size than any other current pro dSLR.

The 5fps burst rate is modest and adequate for most people, and at least hopefully it means 5fps of in-focus shots unlike some of its competitors at 10fps.

I would dearly love to have a fast face detect AF in a pro camera, but I suspect it won’t be fast, and it will only work with CD-AF compatible lenses.

When taking portraits with my Canon 1D Mark III and Canon 135mm f/2.0 L lens, I rarely have the face near the centre, so to focus accurately on the eyes with such shallow depth of field means continuously aiming the centre AF point on the eyes, setting focus then recomposing and hope that neither you or the subject has altered position in the meantime.

Fast face detect AF would be brilliant in that situation, but I don’t think the E-5 will deliver on that front unless they make a pro-level CD-AF 75mm f/1.4 lens for me as well, or at least a CD-AF 100mm f/2.0 macro lens (please Mr Olympus, bring out this lens SOON!).

Overall a solid, evolutionary, conservative semi-pro camera rather than the revolutionary one that Olympus has been suggesting is on its way.

It will be a fantastic upgrade to those used to looking through the tiny viewfinders of the E410/420/510/520/620 and give better image quality and weather proofing to boot, and it will compliment the Micro Four Thirds cameras very nicely, but I don’t think it will entice new users to the Olympus camp as they will generally not understand the importance of great lenses, compact size and the renown Olympus jpeg image colours out of the camera.

Sample pics here.

I would have preferred they use the GH-1 over-sized sensor as long as they had removed the banding issue with the initial sensor releases and perhaps added more capable video (if only to be a bit more competitive with the competition in this regard).

In my opinion, it is a better all round photographer’s camera kit than either the Canon 7D or Nikon 300S and if I were buying a Canon or Nikon, unless I was shooting sports, I would be buying one of their full frame sensor dSLRs, not their cropped sensor dSLRs, because then you have a much better reason for carrying around all those big heavy, expensive pro lenses.

The Canon 7D which was announced a year ago has similar specs, size, weight and price but differ on:

  • 18mp not 12mp – not a big deal really, do you really want 18mp to use up your storage space?
  • slightly larger sensor and thus presumably slightly better at high ISO although the 7D was not as good as the GH-1 on DxO tests.
  • 8fps burst not 5fps – probably not a big deal for most of us
  • 1080i video at 30/25/24 fps as well as 720p at 50/60 fps
  • 19 point AF not 11 point – probably not a big deal for most of us
  • LCD screen does not swivel – this is a big deal to me – I love a swivel LCD – thank you Olympus
  • no in-built image stabiliser – this is a big deal to me – I love the built-in image stabiliser – thank you again Olympus
  • no ART filters
  • no multi-exposure mode
  • environmental sealing but probably not as weatherproof or rugged as the E-5
  • optional wireless FTP image transfer grip
  • optional N3 wired intervalometer, remote release

Likewise, the Nikon D300s differs on the following points:

  • 12mp 14bit DX sensor – not substantially different to the E-5 in reality
  • similar ISO 200-6400 and movie functionality (720p)
  • 51 AF points of which 15 are cross hair
  • 1005 pixel metering
  • up to 8fps burst with AC power or MB-D10 power pack
  • LCD screen does not swivel
  • no in-built image stabiliser
  • no ART filters
  • no multi-exposure mode
  • environmental sealing but probably not as weatherproof or rugged as the E-5
  • optional wireless FTP image transfer grip
  • intervalometer, remote release
  • 918g

As long as the image quality of the E-5 matches or betters that of the Canon 7D or Nikon D300s then Olympus has a competitive photographer’s camera with just enough video functionality without wasting money on a feature that most won’t use.

Nikon has just announced a new dSLR which will sit between their D90 and D300S – the D7000, but  like the D300s and 7D, this does not have the weatherproofing, image stabilisation or flip out LCD screen that the E-5 has, nor the superb cropped sensor lenses but does have 1080i HD video, ISO expansion to 25,600, 39 AF point (also uses color to detect subject but only 9 cross hair), 2016 pixel metering and 16mp.

Nikon has also just announced a revision of their 200mm f/2.0 VR lens with a better image stabiliser module. But this lens goes some way to demonstrating one of the benefits of the Olympus E-5 – you can get similar telephoto reach with the Olympus ZD 150mm f/2.0 at MUCH less weight (1.6kg instead of almost 3kg) and expense and instead of having to buy new lenses every few years to get better image stabiliser, you can just but a new camera which will immediately give better IS to EVERY lens – now that is a MUCH smarter way to go in my book! Now I would carry around a 1.6kg lens, but not so keen on a 3kg one – that is going to require a monopod or gimbal head – even more weight to carry around!


Comments are closed.