Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Olympus E-5 Preview

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Review based on a pre-production E-5Taking what could be most politely described as a ' considered ' approach to product upgrades, Olympus has lifted the curtain on the third generation of its professional SLR, in the form of the much anticipated and-5. Olympus introduced the world to the first Four Thirds camera, the E-1, back in June 2003, and finally got round to updating it with the E-3 four years later. We got a sneak preview of the E-3 's successor a couple of weeks back we'll update this short article to a full review as soon as we get to production and-5 in the office.It is perhaps indicative of where Olympus's priorities lie-or the way the market is headed-that whereas the E-3 took the E-1 back to the drawing board and introduced several new features, the E-5 is probably best described as a warm over of its predecessor. It's also interesting to note that it benefits from a ' trickle up ' of technology from the latest developments in the company's Micro Four Thirds cameras-a situation unusual for what is, effectively, the hero product in the E-system range.The long delay has caused some wild speculation about the E-5, borne not out of dissatisfaction with the existing model (in fact most E-1 and E-3 users are still happily taking pictures with their ' old ' cameras), but, I suspect, out of a need to see Olympus competing with the ' big boys ' at this level, and the need for a clear sign that it hasnt abandoned Four Thirds in all the excitement surrounding the mirrorless system. The E-5 sat between two of its most obvious competitors (in spec terms): the Nikon D300s and Canon EOS 50 d.At first glance the E-5 (and the lack of any other E-system camera announcements) is unlikely to calm those fears; if anything it confirms that precious little R&D resource is going into the reflex system. Dig a little deeper, however, and you realize that the E-5 is a perfectly sensible upgrade that takes an excellent camera and addresses nearly all the complaints and offers, according to the marketing blurb, the best image quality ever seen in an Olympus DSLR. It also throws in a nice sprinkling of 2010 must-have features (such as movie mode).It is, without a doubt, room aimed at the Olympus faithful, designed (as described to us) to ' finally offer image quality to match that of Zuiko lenses. Olympus knows that the E-system lenses are the jewel in its crown and ain't going to abandon that-or its users. The future for Zuiko Digital lens owners might not be a reflex camera (we've had strong hints that a common live view only FT/MFT platform lies ahead), but Four Thirds isn't going away.Evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the E-5 is, effectively, an E-3 with a bigger screen, an updated sensor and processor and a few new features. Physically the only changes are a spot of button unattainability (necessitated by the new screen) and the long-overdue replacement of the redundant xD card slot with an infinitely more useful SD version. Inevitably after three years there's a lot of feature enhancements, though these are (almost) all lifted from the latest Micro Four Thirds models.The thing Olympus is really pushing with the E-5 is image quality. It's not a new sensor (from what we can tell this is almost certainly the same as the one in the E-PL 1), but it does sport a redesigned (for which read lighter) Low Pass Filter (with moir? removed by the processor) and a new ' professionally tuned ' Image Engine (The TruPic V +). The combination of Zuiko Digital lens, the new sensor and the new processor is claimed to offer image quality better than any 12MP APS-C camera, and, according to Olympus, many with even higher pixel counts.Let's have a look at the main changes: New sensor (12MP Live MOS vs 10MP) New TruPic V + processor (E-3 was TruPic III) Large 3.0? vari-angle 921k screenFast AF Sensor (Inc. Face Detection) 720 p movie mode (AVI M-JPEG) + Stereo Mic Audio recordingHDMI and connectionsArt Filters (10, including new Dramatic Tone Filter) top sensitivity of ISO 6400 (vs E-3 's ISO 3200) More customization optionsRedesigned color-coded menus systemNew features including Level Gauge in the viewfinder, multi-exposure,-Enhance, frame 7 AEBSD/CF slots (E-3 was xD/CF) Looking at the E-3 and-5 together it's clear that from a photographic point of view the models share a lot more than they differ, with most of the changes relating to the sensor and to digital features (most of which have already debuted on MFT models). The main physical differences can be seen below-from the front they look almost identical, but round the back the larger, higher resolution screen takes up more space and has meant some buttons have moved (and a couple have gone altogether).

Apologies if this list isn't exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of where the key differences lie):

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion/Recommendation/Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.To navigate the review simply use the next/previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y and Z and ideally A, B and c. This article is Copyright 2010 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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