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.