The Olympus E-P5 to take on the Fujifilm X100S?

Olympus E-P5

Olympus E-P5

UPDATE: Read my comprehensive review of the Olympus E-P5

Today’s Olympus E-P5 announcement is interesting. Olympus is clearly going after the Fujifilm X100S market or at least ride on its coattails. A small, classically styled camera with a fast 35mm equivalent prime lens. It’s a shrewd marketing attempt, but will it work?

There is almost nothing new about the E-P5, in terms of features. It uses the same excellent sensor already used on the OM-D, E-PL5 and E-PM2. It uses the same ground breaking 5-axis image stabilizer that’s on the OM-D. It is wrapped in a new design that evokes retro cameras, especially the two-toned silver and black model. The optional VF-4 sets a new Olympus benchmark for resolution and the built in WiFi is the first in for Olympus micro 4/3.

But the biggest news is how these features are put together and marketed. There is no kit zoom option, unusual for cameras these days. It’s sold body only, without a lens or with the new 17mm f1.8 prime lens which gives you a 34mm equivalent view. The 17mm is now available in black or silver to better harmonize with the body. It makes sense, I guess. It is a premium Pen and the feature set distinguishes it from the OM-D line. Image quality wise, it should be exactly the same as any current Olympus micro 4/3 camera.

The E-P5 is really the camera I was waiting for and wanted to buy last year. Except, I ended up buying the low-cost E-PM2 because I couldn’t wait. Am I getting the E-P5? No. Not right now, anyway. There are some nice features in the E-P5 but ultimately the image quality is the same. Perhaps, someday, I’ll pickup a refurbished model if I can get it inexpensively.

How does the E-P5 compare against the Fujifilm X100S? Well despite some tweaks, design changes and repackaging, the camera is still a Pen. Its advantage over the X100S is in its versatility of interchangeable lenses and its class leading image stabilization. But despite the two toned design, and the retro Olympus lettering, the design is a bit ungainly, especially with the EVF attached. It lacks the uniform and classically proportioned style of the Fuji. The high ISO image quality of the X100S is better, though the Fuji details are softer and its RAW processing is till not up to snuff. For most people, though, I think the haptics and the user interface will make the bigger difference. On the Fujifilm X100S, you have an aperture ring, shutter speed dial and an exposure compensation dial. Old school, tactile and simple. The E-P5 still has conventional “computer like” controls.

Olympus now has four micro 4/3 cameras in a narrow price range. The tack they took with the E-P5 does makes sense. They’ve managed to distance themselves from the lower-end Pens via better build and nostalgia. They differentiate themselves from the SLR styling of the OM-D by appearing more like the classic, old school film Pen. Hope it works. At least this camera has more personality than the black, lumpy mini-DSLR look of the Panasonic micro 4/3 line.

20 thoughts on “The Olympus E-P5 to take on the Fujifilm X100S?

  1. The new Panny LUMIX DMC LF-1 looks kind of nifty. That came out today also. I’m still looking for the perfect all in one camera, the one that will do pretty much everything and do it well. Not that I have any money left!

    1. The LF1 was announced alongside the G6 a few weeks ago. I agree it looks like a great carry-all though.

    2. Looks cute. Panasonic’s version of the Canon S110. The f5.9 on the long end is a turn off for me. It has a long zoom range, which I don’t need and which probably means the lens is more compromised, optically.

      1. Yeah but it is the built in EVF that does it for me. I use my RX100 almost exclusively at the wide end, so the slow apertures of those models don’t bother me. Being able to take a tiny but decent compact out of my pocket and up to my eye is really quite appealing, even if IQ is a little bit lower than some of the others.

  2. I dunno, seems kind of apples to oranges to compare it with the X100s. They are really very different beasts – interchangeable lens vs fixed, optional EVF vs built-in hybrid, etc. The pricing of this model is certainly up in Fuji territory at $1000 for a body or $1500 for a kit with EVF and prime lens. This luxury pen might be more closely paired against an X-E1. Odd, I wonder why Olympus doesn’t just do a built-in EVF in the P series? Seems odd to go for a classic styling then require you to attach a big gadget to the camera if you want a viewfinder. From my experience with the external EVF on my old E-PL1 it was really awkward and I lived in fear of it popping off and getting lost when carrying it around dangling from a strap. Yeah, I’m afraid this latest offering gets yet another yawn from me. Curious to see what might replace the OM-D E-M5. Olympus will need to try a little harder to win me back.

    X100S still not up to snuff in the latest Camera Raw, huh? I need to investigate that sometime. I’m really compelled by some of the new features but I’m still enjoying my original X100 so much that I haven’t spent any real time looking more deeply at its successor.

    1. The newer EVFs have a locking pin that stops them from coming off, something the VF2 lacked – it is quite handy and quite secure. Also the build of the new VF4 seems to much higher than their previous add on units.

      The X-Trans Fuji models apply NR even on the RAWs, so when pixel peeping we are lead to believe that it’s high ISO performance is much higher – it really isn’t much (if at all) better than the other (Sony built) 16MP APS-C sensors. Pentax do exactly the same thing.

      1. Interesting what you said about the NR on the RAWs. It sure looks that way when I pixel peep. Did you hear about this from a confirmed source or is it just internet lore?

      2. Not just Internet Lore. Can read about it at DPReview (who are arguably a pretty good source). As I said the Pentax does the same. That said, they do a good job of it, just makes it a bit harder to tell differences at 1:1 – Not that we need to anyway.

    2. Mike, you make a good point comparing it with the X-E1. When I saw the 35mm equivalent, I thought X100. But if you consider the interchangeable angle, the X-E1 might be more apt. I probably didn’t think about it since, the X-E1 has fallen off my radar. Not interested in that camera at all, while I still have interest in the X100S.

      The new Olympus EVFs has a pin that locks them in, I’m assuming the new VF4 does that. The VF3 does while your VF2 did not. Less worry about that expensive EVF falling off but they still look awfully clumsy stuck on top.

      Yes, the RAW converters have gotten better. They seem now to basically match the JPEG output while before the newest ACR they were inferior. But with all the other cameras, RAW output is sharper, have more detail and better color than the JPEG equivalent. Fuji’s doesn’t. Apple’s RAW converter appears to be sharper than Adobe’s but it has its own issues.

      Also go to DPreview and use their lab comparison app. The X100S is clearly less sharp than the OM-D or the Sony NEX-7. It almost looks like there is noise reduction run on the RAWs and of course JPEGS to get their low-noise, high ISO results.

      1. I’ve gotten to where looking at those DPreview comparisons makes my head hurt. Yeah, I’ve looked before and their results don’t make Fuji look very favorable. But then I see images posted by real photographers that I greatly admire and they’re blowing me away with the images they’re pulling out of the X100s. I really just need to get a hold of an X100s and take some pictures and see if the camera’s output works for my style of photography. Precision never has one in stock when I’m in there though! Ah well, I can wait.

        The more I think about it, the less concerned I am about the Fuji raw conversion dilemma. This will sound strange coming from me I’m sure (I seem to remember having a lot to do with getting you away from JPEGs way back when!) but I tend to use a lot of JPEGs from the X100 lately – and I’m loving it. I’ve posted pics that I’ve tweaked from the raw files and JPEGs SOOC, as well as others that I minimally post processed. As you know, I post full sizes of my pictures so people can pixel peep if they want to. Nobody seems to know whether the JPEG they are viewing was born of the in-camera processor or Lightroom. What it does mean to me though is that I generally spend less time in front of a computer when I start out with a good looking file. Fuji concentrated their efforts on excellent in-camera processing and seemed to largely ignore raw post processing in 3rd party apps. Quite odd for a company that seems to want to market in “pro” circles. For all they did wrong, did they do something really right that we miss because we’re so wrapped up over raw post processing? I process raw files from my 5D Mark III because it’s JPEGs suck. The Olympus and Sony cameras I’ve owned were also rather “meh” on the JPEGs.

        As I’ve said before, I’m not by any means defending Fuji. They have their flaws but I think they also have a direction that differs a bit from the rest of the herd. Their products do inspire me and challenge my mindset over how good images come to be, just as Olympus products seem to have become your muse. In the end, that’s all that matters. These digital gadgets are so temporary in nature and it’s somewhat amusing how we fuss over things with such short useful lives. Whether it says Fuji, Olympus, Sony, whatever on the front, they all too quickly become inferior technological has-beens when the next shiny new box of chips comes to market.

      2. Mike, I’m willing to bet that an average X100 user is a better photographer than the average Canon, Nikon or Olympus user. Why? Just by the nature of the X100, it is not designed for the inexperienced. It’s too specialized a camera to appeal to the masses. So I believe, by extension, people who tend to buy this camera are more passionate and better photographers. Probably no way to prove this but this is what I believe.

        I definitely have the analytical side and the creative side. My creative side is a bit embarrassed by the analytical side because he knows that ultimate sharpness or high ISO performance really doesn’t mean much in terms of making a great photo. That’s why I also enjoying shooting with, my comparably lower quality, XZ-1 point and shoot. And though I talk about equipment from time to time on this blog, I’m much more happy and proud of my photography.

        For the record, color is the most important photographic quality for me. That is why I moved away from the NEX and more to the Olympus. I’m not sure how much loyalty I have to a brand. per say. The biggest factor that’s locked me into a brand is the investments in lenses. I’m sure that is part of the manufacturer’s plan. I’m cheap enough that I really don’t want to sell everything and switch to something else.

        I found the Fuji X100’s colors to be a little too cool at times, at least for the images I’ve seen. The X100S colors appear to be a bit better and more to my liking. So despite the embarrassing number of cameras I own, I sill have an open mind about the X100S. I talk about it so much here not to knock the camera, rather it’s because I’m intrigued by it.

  3. Personally I like that new Panasonic G6.

    Anyway, on the E-P5 – It is now by far my favourite Olympus m43’s. Way more so than the OM-D. Like you however just recently bought an E-PM2, which while not being as pretty or having as many bells and whistles, has 90% of the function, which I paid $250 with kit lens. I will wait for the E-P5’s price to come down, which by all comments on the Internet shouldn’t take long. Cannot count the number of times people have had the ‘revelation’ that the E-P5 is the same-ish price as an OM-D, but doesn’t have an EVF or weather sealing.

    At any rate, I buy my cameras when the value has plummeted out of them (mirrorless anyway), that is when I will snap up the beautiful new E-P5. As an owner of an X100 and an E-P3, I can tell you I will buy an E-P5 before I buy an X100S.

    Oh, but will be buying one of those VF4’s as soon as I can get my hands on one!

    1. It’s interesting how Olympus and Panasonic, both micro 4/3 vendors have different approaches. Makes sense. Why have two companies, with the same basic sensor, create similar looking cameras.

      From the start the Panasonic took a more conservative SLR look. Olympus tended to go more retro. I think it could be said that Olympus is more gimmicky in design, especially their OM-D. Panasonic, on the other hand, to me, is just a bit boring. Just a smaller Canon or Nikon.

      $250 is a sweet price. I like the new E-P5, if I didn’t buy the E-PM2, I would be tempted. But it doesn’t make sense right now. I too take the opportunity to buy cheap and refurbished when I can. But it didn’t work out with the E-PM2 since I wanted to get it before my East Coast Vacation.

      Interesting what you say about the E-P5 vs the X100s. Maybe you can start a conversation with my friend, Michael Connell.

      1. As a new owner of the OMD, I probably would have gone with this new E-P5 if I had both to choose from. I liked the idea of the built in wifi, integrated flash, faster shutter speed for those bright days, and retro look. I am not finding myself using the viewfinder often. As your post warned, I find there is not much to grip on the OMD, so will probably wind up purchasing one of the 3rd party bottom mounting grips. I use Really Right Stuff for the D800 and they sell a compatible plat for the OMD. I am slowing mastering the OMD customization and have a Myset defined for HDR captures. I am shooting everything in RAW to date. As always thanks for sharing your insights.

      2. The OM-D’s lack of grip is what turned me off that model. Or more specifically its poor ergonomic design generally, which seems to be more about ‘looking cool’ then being functional. The rear holding area if the camera is too narrow and being that the only ‘grip’ one has on it is to do a pincer type squeeze on the right hand side, having such a small area basically makes it so that while you can just barely hold it like this, you definitely can’t hold it like this and use the controls. Moving your thumb from the straight up verticle grip along the length of the narrow grip section, to reach any buttons causes rotation of the hand (rather than just thumb), forcing the hand away from the body and losing the grip entirely.

        On the other hand, the Panasonics are dull, but have great ergonomics. Which if I am going to carry a bigger OM-D or G6 type camera, it is because I want better ergonomics and controls… Not to look pretty. But what I like about m43’s is the small size, so the E-PM2 appeals more to me than the OM-D as well.

        The Fuji’s and Sony’s are also both far better than the OM-D. The OM-D is pretty well an ergonomic nightmare, all in the name of ‘looking cool’ – at the end of the day, at the end of the day, despite this, it is by far the most popular mirrorless camera to date. Goes to show what average joe values.

      3. Matt, I strongly agree with you. The Olympus tilting LCDs are bulky and the controls are really crammed into the right side. Sony does a better job, in this regard, with the NEX-5 models. I thought seriously about getting the OM-D but really didn’t like the feel of the camera. I didn’t match my hand unless I added the extra grips, which of course made the camera bigger. The E-P3 is much better and the E-PM2 is also quite good. Ironic given that the E-PM2 is the smallest camera. But again, the E-PM2 lacks the tilting screen which gives more grip space.

        Yes, I also agree that while the Panasonic designs are boring, they do tend to be more ergonomic. The OM-D is a bit gimmicky in design. I’m actually not a EVF guy so the new E-P5 sans EVF could be good but not necessary at this time. I’ve never seriously considered the Panasonic cameras for two reasons. 1. No in body IS. 2. The color and exposure seems a bit dull.

  4. The comments I have received have been in the vein of “A thousand bucks, no EVF, no thanks”. The EP-5 is a nice camera, but with this move, it looks like the midlevel is being squeezed out. When I saw the specs leak, my first thought was that this camera was an attempt to become more Fuji-like in their offerings.

    Andy you said “I’m not sure how much loyalty I have to a brand. ”

    It’s independent thinking that will make your work better, not allegiance to a company. If branded offerings fit your needs with little to no tradeoffs that’s one thing, but to buy in order to say you own every Canon ever made is just daft.

  5. It will be interesting to get an actual E-P5 in-hand and compare it to a (borrowed) E-M5.

    For me the EVF could be enough to make the difference. It seems I’m still trying to find my way back to the through-the-lens view enjoyed with my 1970s Pentax Spotmatic.

    If the apparent size of the image and its detail/color/contrast are a significant improvement over earlier EVFs the VF-4 may justify its cost.

    The reports of an even further enhanced image stabilization system are encouraging as well. It’s my own personal curse to be in need of a Steadicam equivalent for still photography, but others may benefit too.

    Waiting for price to drop could be an endurance test. Look at the price stability of the E-M5 to date.

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