Olympus E-PL5 vs. Olympus E-PM2, a surprise

Olympus E-PM2

Olympus E-PM2

At the Precision Camera mini vendor fair, I finally got my hands on the newest Olympus Pens, the E-PL5 and the E-PM2. I gave a scathing review of Canon’s EOS M, but the Olympus Cameras worked well as expected. However, there was a surprise that I’ll talk about later. Both cameras were lightning fast including the focusing and the frames per second — such a big contrast from the plodding EOS M. Olympus has been at this game for a while and you can tell they have refined their cameras over the years.

My blog readers know that I’m in search for yet another Olympus camera (like I didn’t have enough already?) I’m buying another micro 4/3 camera before the end of the year, but which one? In my post In limbo between the Olympus OM-D and E-PL5 I went back and forth between the Pen and the OM-D. I’ve decide to go “lower end” and opt for the E-PL5 — the smaller size and the familiar Pen interface won out over the high-end OM-D. But, when I actually played with the new Pens, I became unsure.

The E-PL5 is better built than the previous E-PL3. It feels like a skinnier version of the high-end E-P3 with a similar build quality. Design wise, however, I still prefer the E-P3. The chunky flip-up LCD screen dominates the back — so much so that I found it uncomfortable to hold. I had a similar experience with the OM-D EM-5 but the smaller E-PL5 is worse. I probably have smaller than average hands for a guy — people with larger hands will certainly suffer. The OM-D has optional grips to make the camera easier to hold, the Pen line does not. The flip-up LCD is the culprit. It has a beefy build with a big frame, much more than the slender Sony NEX. The big LCD assembly squeezes the controls on the right side and it makes holding and making adjustments a tight experience. The Sony NEX is better ergonomically. Its beefier grip makes it easier to hold and even one-hand the controls. I like flip up LCDs but the slender Olympus grips makes for a compromised holding experience.

The E-PM2, by contrast, was a surprise. Without the articulating LCD, the rear grip was just large enough to make a difference. The camera is also lighter so there is less strain on the hand. For $100 less, you get a camera with the same sensor and image processor but with a cheaper feeling body. You lose the flip-up screen, the beefier metal build and a couple buttons. But, I actually prefer the E-PM2. It feels better in hand and the button placement is better. The E-PM2 has a programable function button by the shutter, just like the E-P3. It also uses the jog dial to zoom into pictures during playback. I prefer this to the slower operating buttons on the E-PL5. I found it ironic that the entry-level unit is more customizable for my needs. I was able to better match its interface to my Olympus E-P3 which is important because I plan to use both cameras together.

I also like the simpler look of the E-PM2. It reminds me of the E-PL1 design with its silver band that wraps the body. I don’t, however, like that cheap plastic feel of the camera. Compared to the E-P3, E-PL5 and even the E-PL1, the E-PM2 feels light and a bit entry-level. But, I like the ergonomics and it’s also the least expensive way to get that new, fantastic 16MP Olympus sensor. It also makes for a really compact kit with the Panasonic 14mm and 20mm pancake lenses. Yup, the E-PM2 is going to be my next Olympus camera.

17 thoughts on “Olympus E-PL5 vs. Olympus E-PM2, a surprise

  1. Good for you. I went out electronics shopping the other day and checked out tablets and the new Olympus bodies. It boils down to features for me – what I must have and what I can live without. I’ve handled so many awkward cameras that it really doesn’t matter that much any more. After shooting with the old RB67 medium format, anything feels comfortable LOL.

    I put up a camera review on th eiPad Mini yesterday in case you’re interested. When I was out shopping, I also did a side by side with small tablets. The Mini still wins for me even though people have been kvetching about the non-retina display. In fact, a friend of mine dropped off his iPad 3 so I could play with both for a size comparison. I keep going for the mini every time. And today I started shooting the PEN with a 25mm f/1.2 CCTV lens. Quirky as all hell but lots of fun. Talk about awkward handling! Posts next week

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving – Libby

    1. Libby, I like the (iPad) mini. I spent two hours at the AppleStore comparing my images on the iPad 4 and the iPad mini. I’ve decided on the mini primarily because of its size and weight. It will fit in my small camera bag and I can have my portfolio travel with me.

      Have a great Thanksgiving!

  2. I had been waffling between the E-PL5 and the OM-D and finally ordered the OM-D with the kit lens… for the weatherproofing (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). I’m not a fan of the Olympus Pen interface but I still like the cameras. I’ll also order a GH3 but only after I sell a bunch of older equipment and more user reviews become available. Of course I won’t be able to handle a GH3 before buying one, I understand Precision will not be carrying Panasonic cameras any longer. I hope that’s wrong.

    1. Looks like you will have a nice set of cameras. Panasonic has really bad distribution in the U.S. and they really don’t support the smaller dealers very well. I believe it is an issue more with Panasonic than with Precision Camera.

  3. You’re surprised, I’m surprised and I think al lot more people will be surprised. The Olympus E-PM2 is a pleasant surprise in a small package. The image quality is excellent with any of the high quality micro 4/3 lenses. Hard to believe, when you have the petite E-PM2 in your hands. It looks like a cheap point and shoot camera. Although compared to the EM-5 the controls are limited, in practice the camera never gets in your way. You just have to get to know the camera and configure it to your liking. The E-PM2 is a very responsive camera that delivers high quality photos, fits in a large pocket and weighs almost nothing. You can carry a whole system with two camera bodies and several lenses in a super small camera bag. Amazing!

  4. I really like the flip out screen. Always holding the camera in front of my face can get kind of annoying. And sometimes shooting lower and shielding the sunlight with my body is useful since this cam doesn’t have an EVF. Whatever works for you, though.

    1. The E-P5 looks great. It’s really the camera I wanted but I bought the E-PM2 last year because I wanted it before my trip to the East Coast.

      1. Thank you. It’s the same sensor so the image quality should be the same. It’s just the better controls, 5 axis IS and the beautiful look of the camera that makes me want it…

        I like the E-PM2 more than I thought though. It’s so small and light, it’s an excellent travel camera.

  5. I dismissed the E-PM2 (like most ‘enthusiasts’ I suppose) as being the entry level P&S upgraders model. Having been using and falling in love with the E-P3 while building my lens collection as while the OM-D seems to be everyone’s darling, I couldn’t get into it handling wise, the flippy screen just ruins the grip that you have at the back of the camera compared to the E-P3 which is just lovely to hold and use. Both the E-PL3 and E-PL5 are in the same boat, small, fiddly and difficult to hold. The OM-D has the saving grace of offering a grip I suppose, but honestly, once you add a grip to the thing it is a) not small and b) bloody expensive.

    So I have been hanging out for the new E-P5 since the very first hints of it months back, worrying that they would ruin it with a flippy screen and tiny place to actually hold it. Thankfully they haven’t! But in that time I made an interesting discovery…

    I actually really like the E-PM2!!! It is just so small and light and offers 95% of what all the Oly cams have in a tiny, cheap, light body. Paired with the 14mm pancake would compete nicely against the GR and Coolpix A, but offers the ability to use an EVF, has a touch screen and faster AF at what is now half the price!! It is small but comfortable to hold with its own mini ‘thumbs up’ style grip built in. It has one less button than the E-PL5 and no mode dial, but I only use two modes anyway and the buttons are highly customizable. But the thing I really like is that Oly don’t dumb down their entry models, you still have all the same internal features and advanced settings from the top models – just the way it should be. I can customize it just the way I like it, plus with the touch screen and updated SCP adjusting anything is not far away. And they still allow me to use my VF2 on there as well (this cannot be said of anyone else Of an entry model).

    So I came to the same conclusion as you, the E-PM2 is quietly a brilliant little package that in many ways handles better than its bigger more expensive siblings. The E-P5 looks nice, but I actually like the idea of the E-PM more and my smaller than E-P5, E-P3 feels downright portly next to it. So instead of an E-P5 I am going with an E-PM2 for the best tiny package and a G6 for the best handling/features/video when I need it.

    1. Matt, looks like you and I are in complete agreement. I really like the E-P3 and would have been perfectly happy with a E-P4 or 5 with the new sensor and the E-P3 body design.

      While I like flip up screens in general, the Olympus implementation just seems to take up too much space and cramps the grip area. The E-PM2 doesn’t get as much love as the OM-D but I love the small size. The Lumix 14mm works so well with it.

      Thanks for your visit and comment.

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