The Olympus E-P5, is it worth it?

Olympus E-P5

Olympus E-P5

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

I mentioned on last Friday’s post that I thought the E-P5 was Olympus’ take on Fujfilm X100S. — the retro style, the packaged 35mm prime (34mm to be exact) lens and the premium pricing to match. My friend Mike aptly says it’s closer to a Fuji X-E1 because of the interchangeable lenses. Even though the X-E1 does not yet off a 35mm equivalent, he has a good point. Either way, it seems like Olympus created an upscale camera that echoes cameras of a bygone era. The big question is, is it worth the premium price?

I’ve been busy with my, yet unannounced, equipment changes so I really didn’t look into the E-P5, until today. I knew I wasn’t going to get one any time soon. After all, I already bought an E-PM2, late last year and the image quality should be the same. But what if I didn’t get the E-PM2? Would it make sense to buy the E-P5? As I already mentioned, it’s pretty much the camera I wanted last year — it has most the features on my wish list.

First, let’s compare the E-P5 vs. the OM-D E-M5. The two cameras mostly share the same feature set. Sure the body style is different, but they both have the same sensor, same image processor, the roughly the same 5 axis image stabilizer and the same speedy focusing system. You lose the water resistance and the EVF (Electronic View Finder) on the E-P5 but gain WiFi, 1/8000s max shutter speed and a faster 1/320s flash sync speed. The OM-D body is $999, the same price as the E-P5. However, keep in mind that the body-only E-P5 doesn’t come with an EVF. Bought separately, the EVF costs more than $200. So effectively, the E-P5 body is sold at at least a $200 premium.

Second, the E-P5 replaces the E-P3 introduced in 2011. The E-P3 with the standard $100 kit lens ran $899. Subtract out the kit lens and a fictional body-only E-P3 configuration should run $799, again $200 lower than the E-P5 body-only price.

Third, assuming you support my premise that Olympus is competing against the Fuji X100S with the 35mm equivalent lens, consider this. The Fujifilm X100S is priced at $1299. The Olympus E-P5 with the 17mm lens (34mm equivalent) and the EVF is packaged at $1499. Now, despite the retro look of both cameras, they are very different beasts. Direct comparisons are a bit of a stretch, but let me try. On the plus side for Fuji, you get a very good hybrid optical/EVF, arguably better image quality, true analog exposure controls and an attractive well designed body with a seamlessly integrated viewfinder. The E-P5 has the advantage of a world-class in-body image stabilizer and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses. People can quibble of the price but I believe the two cameras should be priced the same. Certainly, I find it hard to justify a $200 premium over the X100S.

My conclusion, the Olympus E-P5 is overpriced by $200. The body only price should be $799 and the kit price should be $1299. Still expensive, but it makes sense based on the competition. So is the camera worth it? Only you can answer that question, however, if I were in the market for an Olympus, I wouldn’t pay $999 for the body or $1499 for the kit. So despite my fondness for Olympus micro 4/3, I can’t recommend the E-P5 at the current price.

I also predict that the prices will fall fairly quickly. Olympus will inevitably have a $200 rebate or just reduce the price. No guarantees of course, but that’s been Olympus’ pattern over the last couple of years. What do you think? Is the E-P5 worth it to you?

21 thoughts on “The Olympus E-P5, is it worth it?

  1. Andy,

    I think Olympus’ pricing is even further off the mark than your analysis would indicate. Not only is the new camera priced higher than the model it supposedly replaces which has the effect of moving it up market where it is competing against different cameras, but the pricing completely ignores the changes in the Dollar/Yen exchange rate which have occurred since the pricing decisions for the earlier camera. Instead of roughly 80 Yen to the Dollar, the current exchange rate is roughly 100 Yen to the Dollar. All else being the same, the price should be 25% less.

    All this makes me wonder what the pricing of the OMD-EM5’s replacement will be. If Olympus prices it relative to their, in my opinion, incorrect pricing of the E-P5, i think you can put the camera division of Olympus on the corporate death watch list because they will be committing suicide.

    As far as the camera itself goes, the EVF look awkward, to say the least. It is just not appealing at all. Functional? Probably. Just not appealing.

    I am going to sit back and watch what happens in the micro 4/3rds market for quite some time before I decide whether to add any more equipment to my collection. I do not see the release of this camera as being a good thing.

    I have been burned by Olympus before. We will see.

    “We now return to regularly scheduled programming.” What’s the new acquisition?


    1. Rick I agree with you in general, however regarding the dollar/yen exchange rate, though it affects profitability, is not directly relevant to the pricing discussion. The exchange rate will fluctuate and it might reverse course again. Olympus is not going to be able to raise camera prices so they need to set it where the market can bare.

      The new camera is $200 than the one it replaces (EP-3) at intro.

      I think the issue for Olympus is that they have too many cameras in a narrow price range.

      I agree that the camera loses all elegance with that huge EVF. Luckily I don’t use EVFs so a E-P5 without the appendage looks pretty nice, I think.

      I’ll talk about my new acquisition in due course.

      1. Andy,

        Believe it or not, exchange rates are a factor in pricing. Nikon, for instance set their pricing based on the 80/1 exchange rate and is trying to avoid the obvious need to adjust prices directly by running periodic specials that more or less reflect the exchange rate. The Prime Minister engaged in a policy of devaluing the Yen for the very specific purpose of making Japanese products more competitive in foreign markets upon which Japan relies, as any nation in the “global trade” era does.



      2. Yes, I undertand. But the final arbiter is the market, regardless of the exchange rate. Price it too high and people wont’ buy it and then you are SOL.

        That’s part of the big reasons so many Japanese companies have lost so much money recently.

        Now if everyone in a particular industry raises prices, then the company has a bit more price elasticity.

    1. That’s my general strategy too, unless I need it before a special trip.

      I’m not worried about the E-P5. It appears to be a nice camera and the price will drop for the people who are patient.

  2. That is a really unattractive EVF. It’s probably easy to use because the eye cup is so big … especially for people who wear eyeglasses. I don’t think I have any excuse to buy any more camera equipment for the forseeable future, but I have an ugly suspicion that my computer is on the way to desktop heaven. FYI I reblogged you (actually, I scooped you πŸ™‚ … You should get a pingback from ScoopIt. Your reviews are among the most popular posts on MY site … enduringly popular and get more hits than most of my stuff!

  3. There are a couple of things to remember here:

    1. Olympus are clearly aiming the E-P5 as a ‘premium product’, not a mass market one like the E-M5 and E-PL5. They shifted gears (and release schedules) after the release of the E-M5.

    2. When the E-M5 launched and the X100/X100S there was/is such huge demand for them they can’t make them fast enough (stock is impossible to find). If I had a premium product like that and the demand was going to be higher than I could make them, hell yes I would jack up the price, the price can go down when demand does!

    3. In lots of ways the E-P5 IS Oly’s flagship. Just because they have the OM-D line now doesn’t mean all Pens need to sit below that level price wise. It is like saying the NX-7 needs to be below all Alphas, because it is a NEX. Again the E-M5 is more mass market too.

    4. Compared to the other mirror less for a minute, rather than comparing to other models by the same manufacturer. Sony NEX-7 with 24mm f1.8 is over $2000! Fuji X100S is $1300 but cant change lenses. X-E1 is $1400 or there abouts with prime kit (though no 35mm equiv yet). Samsung NX has no direct competition. No does Nikon. Canon EOS-M however does with the 22mm, but it isn’t even remotely in the same league yet.

    5. Compare to DSLRs with APS-C sensors. Pick any dual control dial DSLR and any OEM 24mm f2 or faster lens (35mm equiv) and you are WAY over $1500.

    6. People assume that having add-on EVF is somehow inferior to built in. 2 points, first is that add-on finders can be detached making your supposedly ‘small’ mirror less cam, actually small. Second is that you can buy 1 EVF and use on multiple bodies, over multiple generations and only buy the EVF once, rather than make a massive loss on selling it on when your ‘latest and greatest’ camera is superseded. The same thing happens with lenses, my X100 (fixed lens) is worth less now than just a lens like that is worth second hand, due to the fixed nature. A Panasonic G1 is worth less than $80. The EVF for a GX1 alone sells for $150-200… Same EVF, but one is built in, the other not. I bought a VF2 with my E-P3, new the E-P3 cost 3-4x what the EVF cost. Now the E-P3 body is worth about the same, if not less. One last point (I know I said 2), is you can upgrade finders with add-on units, which is what I plan to do by buying a VF4… Because my EVF is external. Try seeing how ridiculous your E-M5 looks with a VF4 attached and then tell me add-on EVFs are inferior!

    So price is all relative. An OM-D with 17mm would cost slightly less, but is less well specified other than the weather sealing (which it isn’t sealed with 17mm attached anyway). A NEX-7 costs more with 35mm equiv lens and has NO IS, 1/4000 shutter, no touch and no WiFI. A X100S has no flippy screen, has limited shutter speeds 1/1000 @ f2 (due to leaf shutter), smaller lower res screen, no touch screen, no WiFi, non-interchangeble lenses.

    So it comes purely down to the fact the EVF is not built in. Don’t believe me? Try and imagine for a minute the Olympus released an E-P5, but this time it had an EVF in the top left corner, rather than detachable. All other specs remain exactly the same. It comes in 2 options $999 for body only and $1449 with 17mm f1.8. It is higher specced than the OM-D, but isn’t weather sealed, instead it is a bit ‘sexier’. Now compare with the X100S, NEX-7 and E-M5 in a similar config – E-P5 doesn’t seem so bad.

    Body only price though is a bit of a tougher sell @ $999, especially without EVF. My guess is they might start doing VF4 redemptions or something pretty quickly after release. If they do, I might have to grab one after all.

    1. Matt, thank you very much for the detailed comment. It’s nice that readers can get alternative viewpoints. Your opinion and mine combined with others will only add to the discussion.

      I think Olympus has two challenges with the E-P5 and promoting it as a premium camera. And I certainly agree with you that they are using the premium angle here.

      1. The Fuji X100, X100S, X-Pro 1, X-E1 and the Sony NEX 7, all had special sensors that were not available on their other cameras. The original X100 sensor was ground breaking and unique. The X Trans sensors, despite some controversy are also unique and the NEX 7 had the 24MP sensor, new and unique to the NEX line.

      The tough sell with the E-P5 is its sensor and image quality is exactly the same as all the other cameras in the micro 4/3 line. As you know, the E-PM2 at $450 is equal image quality wise to the E-P5.

      2. Then there is the aesthetics / design issue. I completely agree with the versatility arguments you make about a detachable EVF, however, in my opinion, that big VF-4 appendage just ruins it. Practical YES, but I doesn’t match the elegance of the Fuji X100S. And I think we can’t discount the emotional attraction a good looking camera can impart,which I believe is an important component to an aspirational or premium device.

      Last point, there is a uniqueness factor that can also impart a premium. Let’s assume Olympus had not introduced the OM-D, E-PM2 and the E-PL5 last year. Then this E-P5 will truly stand out and I think people will line up and buy the camera at this price. It’s just that the package of features on the E-P5 is not unique enough.

      It’s still a great camera, I just think it lacks the basket of features that makes it an aspirational, premium camera.

      1. You make an interesting point about sensors, one that I hadn’t quite thought about. Olympus do seem to put the best sensor available to them in all their models, which I actually appreciate! They also offer all the same ‘menu features’ regardless of whether you spend $400 or $1000, which again is awesome in my opinion. Too many ‘entry’ models are designed to be crippled so that we get up sold, I don’t think you or I would have an E-PM2 if this weren’t the case – So should Olympus be criticised or praised for this?

        Going back to those other manufacturers and their ‘special sensors’ in premium model, I don’t think that is quite right either. The X100’s sensor isn’t special. It is the Sony made sensor found in the 2 years earlier D90. There is nothing inherently special about it, other than it being the first time someone had used it in a ‘fixed lens’ camera – But the same could have been said about whatever sensor they jammed in there.

        The X-Pro1 had a new and unique sensor, but they have rolled it out across their whole line now, exactly as Olympus did with the ‘OM-D sensor’. So yes it was special on release, but it probably would have been ‘special’ regardless of what camera they first brought it out in.

        The NEX-7 does sit alone in this however, that model is still the only NEX to have received the 24MP sensor (but also found in their Alpha 65 and 77 models). I think the reason being is that it has been almost universally panned as being inferior to the lower resolution 16MP sensor in their cheaper models, so they have avoided using this sensor again.

        So it is a good theory, but I don’t think it is quite it. If we look at fuji also, they currently have 3 models that are all VERY similar, with the main differences being either hybrid viewfinder or ILC in the smaller two models (X100S and X-E1) and the big one having both (X-Pro1). The rest of the more minor differences more show in their releases with X100S being the newest and most technically proficient, X-E1 behind it and X-Pro1 last (it was released first). Oh and there is a price difference too of course. But again, very similar overall specs with one or two major thing separating them.

        Going back to the E-P5 vs E-M5, that difference essentially lays in the built in EVF with add-on flash, or built in flash and add-on EVF. No so different to the Fuji triangle.

        It also doesn’t get a mention much because according to the internet the ‘OM-D is awesomer and the E-P5 is crap’, but one of the pleasures of the X100’s, RX1’s, Ricoh GR’s, CoolPix A’s etc is the ability to use some lovely optical viewfinders with them. This is something that works very well with the Pen series… But I can’t imagine it working out too well with an OM-D!

        Still I will wait to grab one at $500-600 body only, not because that is what I think they are worth, just I’m a cheapskate and do photography particularly on the cheap!

      2. Olympus’ low-end pricing really does benefit us. I don’t think enough people know how good the E-PM2 is and the fact that it is such a bargin.

        I’m not exactly being critical of Olympus per say. I’m just saying that the E-P5 is about $200 over priced in my opinion. But for others, it maybe worth it. I think a bit of time will easily rectify that problem.

        Are you sure about the Fuji sensor? Perhaps it is a Fuji design manufactured by Sony. Fujifilm is one of the few companies that design their own sensors such as the Super CCDs and more recently the X-Trans. Of course Sony designs sensors and so does Canon. I vaguely remember a interview with a Canon exec that basically said that Canon most feared Fujifilm because of their unique sensor technology.

        However, I think Fuji messed up with the X-Pro 1. It had enough problems that they had to lower the price. Now the have too many cameras bunched together between $1300 and $2000. But the fact remains that at $1300 the X100S is the least expensive model. They don’t have a $400 – $600 model that has the same sensor.

        Good discussion. I think we can both agree that we are both cheapskates and won’t pay the full price for the E-P5.

    2. Andy,

      Olympus is now offering $100 off the VF-4 when you buy the E-PL5 so I guess they are sensing market resistance. You are correct that the market will be the final arbiter of what the paying customer perceives the value of a product to be.

      I realize that you do a great deal of photography after the sun is low, if not down, but my experience has been that the rear LCD displays are essentially useless outdoors in bright light. Framing, let alone actual composition, is worse than a crapshoot. Without the EVF, I simply do not find my E-PL2 to be very useable.

      When one factors in the cost of the viewfinder and the E-PL5 body, a Nikon D7100 is price competitive and outperforms the E-PL5 when judged by virtually any criteria save weight of the lens system. I’m sure that similar results would obtain with Canon products as well.

      While I do not plan to pull a Kirk Tuck and put everything in a box and go the Precision to be rid of it, I am seeing less and less which is attractive about the entire m4/3rds system. There are too many P&S cameras that compare favorably on a performance basis as well as cost and too many larger sensor systems that are competitive on price and plainly outperform them.

      Olympus are reported to use Sony sensors in all current generation m4/3rds bodies. Though there performance of these sensors offers better performance than the old Panasonic sensors, The high ISO performance is not even in the same league.

      I am beginning to believe that Olympus’ camera division simply may not survive. Panasonic’s m4/3rds products may or may not survive either, but it is better positioned than Olympus.

      Anyway, have fun with your FF adventures.


      1. Rick,

        You make some good points but part of the difference in perception might be that I’m using the latest generation of Pen gear, in addition to the older ones.

        To my eye, via DPReview, I do not see the noise performance of the Nikon 7100 to be better than the latest Olympus/Sony sensor up to about ISO 3200. At ISO 6400, I think the 7100 has the edge. Now this is a per pixel examination which is not necessarily the most accurate since the 7100 has a higher resolution. But I really don’t know if I need a 24MP on a APS-C sensor. Plus I don’t want to deal with 30 – 35MB RAW files.

        As for Canon APS-C, the current Olympus/Pen sensor is clearly better. My E-PM2 has better quality than my Canon 7D, which is about the same as the other Canon APS-Cs. Canon has clearly fallen behind in their sensors. That is a major reason I moved to the full frame Canon 6D.

        I currently have or tested the highest quality point and shoots with a zoom and I can definitely say the image quality is no where as good as micro 4/3. Now the new Nikon A with a APS-C with fixed 28mm is clearly better. But that is a different kind of comparison.

        Finally regarding not using an EVF, yes my tendency to shoot in darker areas/times makes it easier to use the rear LCD. But the new LCDs are better and I do find it possible to use mid day, not ideal but possible.

        I can tell you that while I like the low light performance of the 6D, I don’t enjoy the bulk and weight. SIze and weight is a very big factor. I don’t think it can be overlooked.

        However, that said, I do believe that the mirrorless cameras in general have a challenge. They are stuck between the point and shoots and DSLRs and that ground is clearly getting smaller.


  4. It does look like a textbook case of marketing clutter. Too many choices, too little significant variation, and a pricing hodgepodge.

    That said, I look forward to living long enough for the price to come down so I can buy one.

    The E-PL1 continues to produce excellent images when permitted to do so. It’s just that using it outdoors, in daylight, requires a tripod and a black fabric hood like those used with a view camera.

    The VF-2 viewfinder, including the one built into the E-M5, won’t sync with my compromised vision.

    Pray for the VF-4, even if it is clunky in appearance.

    1. The E-PL1 is still very good, as long as one stays at ISO 800 and below. I’m curious about the VF-4 but I seem to be one of the rare ones that really don’t care too much about EVFs.

  5. Thing is, if you prioritize any of:

    – nearly instant a.f. even in low light,
    – a wide selection of lenses including stellar fast primes in good focal lengths,
    – phenomenal stabilization, functional with any lens you attach
    – really good video
    – tilt screen
    – ultimate lens-attached-pocketability
    … you’re going to value the E-P5 above any Fuji — whatever the price difference.

    Otoh, if you prioritze the
    – larger sensor (= some bokeh at wide angles)
    – phenomenal high ISO low noise
    – built in finder
    – traditional style controls
    … no one’s going to convince you to pay for the E-P5.

    Vive le choix libre!

  6. In your opening commentary you stated that the E-P5 “was Olympus take on the Fuji X-100s.” The digital pen design (-P1) was introduced in 2008. The E-P5 is an evolution of that design which has no relevance to the Fuji X-100s as a take on another design by any other manufacturer. Olympus has always marched to it’s own drummer. They showed that long ago with the introduction of the Pen and OM series of cameras. They did it again with the E-1 and recently the digital Pen.

    They use a new and in many opinions more efficient wifi implementation than any current manufacturer regardless of model type. To the older Pens they added focus peaking, GPS tracking, better ergonomics, micro point focusing, the availability of what many are calling the best electronic viewfinder yet (VF-4).

    Another commenter already listed a wealth of reasons to place a higher value on the E-P5. You did agree with the importance of those features.

    I think the E-P5 is a fabulous value (as the flagship) in the current mirrorless market. I believe that as early buyers start posting comments and images momentum will build and it will sell very well.

    I like your blog and appreciate the opportunity to participate in this discussion.

    Portland, Oregon

    1. Hi Dan, welcome and thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I realize that Olympus via the original Pen E-P1 is the first to this retro movement. So in a way, one can argue that Fujifilm’s X100 maybe copying Olympus’ lead.

      Two points regarding my comment about “Olympus’ take on Fuji X-100”.

      1. The bundling of a 35mm equivalent lens without a kit option. Basically the same in focal length as the X100S. It’s unusual for a interchangeable lens system to not have typical “kit” lens of of 28 to 84 equivalent.

      2. The two tone color scheme reminiscent of classic cameras and the X100S.

      There is no question the E-P5 is an excellent camera, capable of great image quality. It has a nice feature set too. My point is it worth the $999 to $1499 price? That’s up to each individual buyer, of course. My option is that it can be a bit less expensive given the competition, including the OM-D.

      WIth the price drops (temporarily?) of the Fuji X-E1 and NEX-6, there is a lot of competition out there, all worth cameras in their own right.

      We live in great times for camera equipment.

  7. Marketing clutter, mentioned above, is really an understatement. it’s like walking down the cereal aisle in a supermarket.

    Ah, but then I found the house brand of oat circles sold by the Publix chain is vastly superior to the original Cheerios. Now I get better texture and taste at a lower price.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.