A Brief, Unordered Miscellany Regarding the Olympus E-PL5, E-P5, and E-M5 Cameras



(Why do camera names always have to be a mouthful of awkward? Nevertheless,) I’ve not been silent in my affinity for the Olympus E-PL5 which I bought over a year ago and have been using and enjoying ever since.

To give myself context when writing about the E-PL5, I’ve rented two other awesome M43 cameras: Last spring I rented the E-M5 (which was the Olympus flagship M43 camera at the time) and over this past holiday I rented the E-P5.

In a nut, each of these three cameras are more-or-less capable of producing the exact same quality of images in almost any circumstance (because they all have the same sensor and image processor on the inside). For the most part, the variables are the lenses and the burden is on the photographer.

However, there are some nice features and other bells and whistles that the E-M5 and E-P5 have which the E-PL5 does not. Such as:

  • E-PL5 doesn’t have any dedicated dials for adjusting Aperture, Exposure, Etc.
  • The E-PL5 has 4-axis In Body Image Stabilization, while the E-P5 and E-M5 have 5-axis IBIS.
  • E-M5 has weather sealing, E-P5 and E-PL5 do not.
  • E-M5 has a built-in viewfinder.
  • The E-P5 has a built-in flash.
  • E-P5 has an ISO range from 100 to 25,600 (the E-PL5 and E-M5 only go down to 200).
  • The E-P5 has a max shutter speed of 1/8000 (presumably for taking pictures of the sun at high noon with your f/1.4 lens’s aperture wide open) compared to 1/4000 for the E-PL5 and E-M5.
  • The E-M5 has good battery life, the E-P5 and E-PL5 have great battery life.
  • All cameras have a dust reduction system that silently vibrates the sensor each time you turn on the camera to help “fling” any dust which may be there and keep the sensor clean.
  • The E-P5 has a wi-fi mode that can connect the camera to the Olympus iOS app and send images to your iPad/iPhone.

In my two weeks using the E-P5 during this past Christmas and New Year, I oftentimes wanted to (and even did) reach for my E-PL5 instead. The E-P5 is noticeably larger and heavier (albeit, not significantly so). And, to my surprise, I hardly ever used the manual dial controls for quickly adjusting aperture, shutter speed, exposure, on the fly.

What I enjoyed most from my rental gear wasn’t the better camera, but was actually the 25mm f/1.4 lens. I haven’t used this lens in over a year and I had forgotten just how fast it is to autofocus when compared to the 20mm f/1.7 lens I have been using, and how much more character there is in the images it makes.

In my opinion, the advantages of the E-M5 and the E-P5 over the E-PL5 are almost entirely in the bells and whistles and not in the end-product capabilities of making photos. For many people, the extra features and controls are worth the extra cost. But for me, I think the $450 saved by buying the E-PL5 instead of the E-M5 or E-P5 is money better spent on a nice lens.

One day I’ll upgrade my E-PL5 to something a little bit bigger with a few more features. But for now, I’d much rather invest in another great lens (or two). The more I’ve tried different cameras, the more I realize the important thing is to just find a kit you love to use. If you find yourself saying “it’s magical” then you’ve got it.