Review: Olympus E5

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Even though Canon and Nikon remain the preferred DSLR choices of most professional and semi-professional photographers, Olympus has developed its own niche following. We have with us the Olympus E5, an upgrade to the Olympus E3. Read on to find out if the improvements are incremental or if the camera is long overdue for a rehash.

Design and build

The first thing that you will notice about the camera is that it is extremely well built with its weather-proof structure carved out of magnesium alloy. The grip, thumb rest and sides of the camera have a rubberized finish, which not only adds to the rugged look of the device but also to the comfort factor while holding it.

The overall look and build of the camera is top notch but the button layout will appeal only to an Olympus veteran. If you are a Canon or a Nikon user, it will take you quite a while to get used to the button layout.

To the top right of the device you have an information LED display. This display gives you all the information you need, ranging from the shooting mode, image mode and ISO settings to flash, white balance, battery level and more. There is also an option to light up this display for use in a dark situation. In front of this display is the white balance button and ISO selection button. A little below the shutter button is a toggle wheel that lets you swift between options on display.

On the left of the flash lies the flash mode button, a mode selection button and the focus select button.

The rear of the device houses the viewfinder, a 3-inch 9,20,000 dots LCD display, the navigation, OK, delete and on/off button. Above the LCD display you will find the menu, information and a button that lets you toggle between the viewfinder and the LCD. A zoom wheel, function and focus point button rests above the navigation buttons near the thumb rest.

Phew, that's a lot of buttons on one DSLR!

In terms of connectivity, the left panel of the camera houses the mic, HDMI, micro USB, AV out and the DC-in port. All these connectivity options are well hidden under a rubber flap.
The right panel of the device houses the storage option. A great feature of the camera is that it supports SD storage along with CF (Compact Flash).

Overall, the build of the device is top of the line but its functions layout takes a lot of getting used to.
 
Features and performance

The Olympus E5 has a 12 MP Live MOS sensor and has a TruePic V+ image processor. There are 17 picture modes to choose from but 10 of these are really arty and fun to shoot with. These 10 are: Pop art, SoftFocus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia and Dramatic Tone. Personally, we felt Dramatic tone was the best of the list as it drained the colour off the image in a "dramatic" way.

Using the E5, the first thing you will notice is that the images produced are soft making this camera ideal for profile photo shots or shoots particularly relevant to the fashion industry.
Olympus has gone all out on this Rs. 85,000 machine and given it all the bells and whistles in terms of customization options. For example, you have a wide variety of white balance options -- auto, sunny, shadow, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, underwater, WB flash, four custom options and 5400K.

With the plethora of customization options offered by DSLRs it's very difficult to wrap your head around the "all over the place" button placement on the device.

On the downside, the shutter of the E5 enables you to shoot at a mere 5fps (frames per second) whereas the competitions lets you go up to 8fps. It also takes a heartbeat longer than we'd like to switch on and off.

Another upgrade from the E3 - the E5 lets you shoot video in 720p at 30fps. There is an on-board mono microphone on the camera and an option to attach a stereo microphone as well. Happily, you can use any of the art filters while shooting in video mode.

The overall video quality is crisp and the only jitter came from our shaking hands. Shooting video in some of the art filters felt a bit off but then again we faced this problem with the stills as well.

Verdict        

Overall, the Olympus E5 is the much awaited upgrade to the E3. Although most of the upgrades feel incremental, the improvement in picture quality and the addition of HD video recording in particular bring the device up to speed with the offerings from Nikon and Canon. The array of art filters offered is great too and can help you take some amazing pictures. The only downside is that if you are too used to the function layout of a Nikon or Canon, getting used to an Olympus will definitely take some time.

Price: Rs. 85,000

Pros

Fantastic build
720p recording
Great art filters for shooting in stills and video
Very comfortable to hold
Great for fashion, portfolios and profile shoots

Cons
Functions layout won't appeal to all.
Images are softer than we'd like
Feels a bit heavy

In the Box
Camera body
Lithium-ion battery
Charger
Power cable
17.5 to 45mm lens
Lens caps

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