Olympus E-PL5 Comments

Much of this page is a rehash, revised from the similar E-PL1 & M4/3 page so bear with me as we cover some of the same ground, particularly designed for newcomers to the M4/3 world. Page in progress......
Back to Menu Page

Basics       New Features on E-PL5      Lenses      Stabilisation     Menus  

Rear Screen LCD    Focus     Flash    Preview and Histograms


 Basics

The first thing to mention is that the M4/3 line uses the same sensor size as the 4/3 DSLR line of cameras. Just the mount bayonet size is smaller and the distance from mount to sensor is reduced on the M4/3 cameras due to having no flip-up mirror.

The name "Four Thirds" stems from the fact that the sensor size in industry terms is sized at 4/3 inch (1.333 inches). This is an old method of rating sensor sizes that stems from 1950's Vidicon imaging tube technology where 4/3 inch was the size of the vacuum tube containing this sensor size of 17.3mm x 13mm.

This sensor size when compared to the standard of 35mm film frame size has about half the diagonal measurement and one quarter the surface area.. The net result is that a, say, 14mm lens on an M4/3 camera covers the same field of view as a 28mm lens on a 35mm film camera. This is an advantage with tele lenses in particular when a 300mm lens on an M4/3 camera behaves like a 600mm lens would on a 35mm film camera.

So the basic kit lens 0f 14-42mm covers the same field of view as 28-84mm would in 35mm film camera terms. The optional kit tele lens of 40-150mm covers the equivalent of 80-300mm. The superzoom 14-150mm covers the equivalent of 28mm to 300mm. The wide angle 9-18mm zoom covers the equivalent of 18-36mm.

The E-PL1 was the first of the "Light" version of the Pen line of M4/3 cameras. The initial Pen line started with E-P1 followed by E-P2 and later E-P3. In the PL line the E-PL2,  E-PL3 and E-PL5 now exist (no E-PL4 due to '4' being unlucky in Japan), my comparison chart of the PL series is here. Many ideas first tried out in the E-PL cameras do make it into the main E-Px stream of bodies.

In making the E-PLx versions, some simpler methods of construction have been used plus some features on the regular P series are not on the PL series.  Against that the E-PL1 and E-PL2 have a pop-up flash for more versatility plus that also enables the Olympus RC remote slave flash system to work with the Olympus R series flashes. The E-PL3 and E-PL5 have the small accessory flash FL-LM1 included in the box to be attached when needed for flash or for RC control.


 New features on E-PL5

To many people the change to the 16MP sensor that is also in the E-M5 is the feature that makes the E-PL5 attractive, but in reality it is a few other features that make it a more useful camera than the E-M5.

The ability to assign the MySets to any spot on the Mode dial is what sold this camera to me after using the E-PL1 for a few years. So now my favourite everyday A mode settings that I need for most shots are assigned to MySet1 and then assigned to the Mode dial spot A. That way whenever I turn on, or turn the Mode dial away and back to A, the MySet1 settings are there. No more mistakes because of strange settings being forgotten after some experiment. A page explaining MySets and Mode dial assignment is here.

I never use iAuto, Art or Scene Modes so these are available to me to make into something else via the MySets, or maybe just assign the 4 MySets to all of the PASM modes so they behave as expected with my preferred settings when I turn the camera on.

The other "at last they did it" feature is the ability to use Panasonic lens OIS on lenses that have no OIS switch. The menu item to set to lens OIS priority fixes that previous sad omission and now makes mixing Olympus and Panasonic lenses fully functional. This is important of course for any video as the E-PL5 video normally uses the usual Pen pixel shifting method which can produce jello effects. The Custom menu C "Lens IS Priority" needs to be ON and also turn on IBIS in the SCP or the menus, the logic is that stabilisation is on but the lens OIS has priority over IBIS so that is now off, until changing to a non OIS lens when the IBIS will take over.

The major body feature is the swivel up/down LCD screen which can make waist level shooting work well, also it can be swiveled up and forward somewhat to attempt better framing for self portraits. To some it is a disappointment that it is a 16:9 screen but I see that as no problem as I view most images on 16:9 or 16:10 screens and I try to shoot that way. I always shoot RAW+jpeg now so can always recover other aspect ratios from the 4:3 RAW.

Button layout changed where the playback and delete buttons are on the upper left and seems to work more comfortably using the left thumb when reviewing images. The right thumb only needs to "remember" that below the dial is the Menu button, and above the dial is the Info button.

The Delay Timer function has been expanded to include a C (Custom) option. Use Shooting Menu 2 (first item in Shooting Menu 2) to access the full features where you can set the camera to a delay of up to 30 seconds then take from 1 to 10 shots at a selected interval  of 0.5,  1, 2, or 3 seconds. The anti-shock delay can also be in addition ranging from 1/8 sec to 30 secs which will add to the delay before each shot. Once set up it can also be accessed via the normal Down button to select single shot, burst, or delays, including the custom delay, where pressing Info allows the setting of the number of shots from 1 to 10.

In Shooting Menu 2 the Bracketing function now includes HDR bracketing and from one shutter button press the camera can deliver any of  3 shots x 2EV, 5 shots x 2EV, 7 shots x 2EV, 3 shots x 3EV, 5 shots x 3EV or Off.

At last a smaller focus box can be set to be there at turn on, instead of the usual rigmarole with the Magnify button. To set the smaller box use this method....
Press Left button to get to focus choices.
Press Info.
Use Up/Down or the dial to cycle though focus choices until you see what you like.
Use Left/Right to set Face Detect options, can also happen via SCP.
From now on at turn on that focus arrangement chosen will be there.

There are other small things to make life nicer like stereo microphones for video and a removable grip which accepts the E-P3 grips so the supplied small grip can be changed to the larger E-P3 grip if needed for heavier lenses. The battery/card hatch now opens differently so is much easier to extract the card. The earlier Pens made it a bit of a fumble due to the lid hinge being too close to the card.

The E-PL5 follows the usual Pen/OM-D pattern where the USB port is also available to control the camera with a remote cable or wireless link. The E-PL1 being the only camera that did not have that remote ability. In my case I bought a Hähnel Giga Pro T remote device (now a later V2 has more features) that allows either the controller to be plugged into the camera or the controller to be used remotely and the cable plugged into the radio receiver. Good control of shutter operation with burst and bulb and intervalometer all covered.

One problem with many of these remotes (and the Hähnel is included in this) is that the cable and plug they use fits too tightly in the Pen socket and may come apart when extracted. Mine did. I measured the USB plug that came with the camera (that fits nicely) and it measures a significant 6.35mm long (significant in that it equals 1/4 inch exactly). The Hähnel plug measured 6.5mm and that made it very difficult to push in and to come apart when extracted. The remedy was to file down the ends of the plug metal until they measured 6.35mm or a whisker less, and now the plug works nicely. The plug metal appears to be plated brass so is easily filed to size.

The HDMI out socket is now the smaller Micro size instead of the mid sized Mini used on the E-PL1, suitable cables can be found easily, evidently Blackberry units and some game play units use the same micro HDMI size so their cables will work. Usually cheaper from an office supply company  (such as Officeworks in Australia) or even from some of the discount bargain shops that stock a variety of cables for home entertainment than trying to source it from a video & hi-fi store.

At this moment (March 2013) I am just back from a 3 week holiday to New Zealand and extensive daily use of the E-PL5 proved to me that it is a definitely superior camera to earlier Pens (and even to the E-M5) for holiday shooting. Better image quality of the 16MP sensor is a bonus, but to me I proved again to myself that having the ability to assign MySets to the mode dial is the feature that makes the E-PL5 special to use. No mistaken setups lingering from an earlier session, at turn on the assigned MySet is ready to use and previous experimental adjusts are forgotten. Plus of course the auto focus is much more reliable in low light and the better high ISO performance than the old 12MP sensor allows me to leave the camera always in auto ISO mode with a preferred limit and just get on with shooting.


 The Rear Screen

The LCD at the back of the E-PL5 is now indeed very useful, it is fold-up/fold-down type where the LCD can be lifted to enable easy waist level shooting for a more natural appearance for most people shots, particularly for children as the camera is nearer their height. It also folds up and over so a self portrait can be done with more success. It also folds to  face down, so holding the camera high in the air to reach over crowds works well.

The details in the specifications are 3" LCD 460,000 dots, which works out to 522x294 pixels at 16:9, tiltable up 170°/down 65° and with touch screen control , only single touch action so far, no two finger zoom available.

In playback a single finger swipe either way takes images back/forward. a touch near the right side bring up the touch zoom slider and the multi-image button to get back to the thumbnails. When zoomed the image can be slewed around by dragging the finger.

In preview mode the icon on the left of the display shows the choices of no action, focus only, or focus and shoot. If set to focus then wherever you touch the preview image the lens will try to focus, you need to hold the finger there until focus is achieved, usually happens within the short touch period, but a macro lens or adapted old 4/3 lens always is slower due to its range of focus so the finger needs to dwell longer. If set to focus and shoot then hold the finger on the desired spot until the shot happens. Ideal for tripod work and macro to have the camera steady and focus only on what you need.

The touch screen also applies to the SCP and item selection can be made but then OK and left/right buttons are needed, so it is not fully implemented as yet in firmware to be a truly touch operation of the camera.

One drawback for many is that it is a 16:9 ratio screen so if working in the default 4:3 ratio then the image displayed for preview and review is smaller than than a regular 4:3 screen would display, though the advantage then is that the image information in preview sits nicely beside most of the image and not overlaying it.

This leads the screen to appear as in these measurements, made to nearest millimetre for clarity.
E-PL5 width of image shown at....

Image height for all = 37mm
at 4:3 ratio width = 49mm (diagonal 61mm or 2.4 inch)
at 16:9 ratio width = 65mm (diagonal 75mm or 2.95 inch)
at 3:2 ratio width = 55mm (diagonal 66mm or 2.6 inch)
at 1:1 ratio width = 37mm (diagonal 52mm or 2.03 inch)
at 3:4 ratio width = 28mm (diagonal 46mm or 1.81 inch)
 
As a follow on to the size list, it makes sense to see exactly what you are looking at when enlarging the view of the image, here's the list with the available magnification options in review. If considering the view a crop of a print then this is what you are looking at in regard to the default 4:3 view where the image width is 49mm.....

at 1x = viewing 49mm or 1.9 inch wide display
at 2x = viewing 98mm or 3.8 inches wide display
at 3x = viewing 147mm or 5.8 inches wide display
at 5x = viewing 245mm or 9.6 inches wide display
at 7x = viewing 343mm or 13.5 inches wide display
at 10x = viewing 490mm or 19 inches wide display
at 14x = viewing 686mm or 27 inches wide display

The display on the screen at 2x and above does fill it side to side. Only at 1x do you get the black side bands at 4:3.

So for focus/DOF examination on my E-PL5 I consider it a bit silly to go much past 7x to stay in the real world unless intending to create a very large print or perform a savage crop to the image, such as a post process zoom.

Adjusting the screen to suit is the next step and the default Vivid setting may not be to taste. In the Wrench/Spanner menu is the item for LCD adjustments, when there the Info button toggles the Vivid/Natural appearance of the screen This has no effect on the image produced. For use in bright daylight it will usually help to put the LCD brightness up to maximum +7. Also there is an adjustment for colour temperature if trying to align the screen with the image output colour temperature. Though not a screen issue be aware that in Custom Menu G - WB Auto Keep warm colour = off makes for a more natural jpeg as Olympus by default does boost the reds somewhat.

When the screen is folded out and up or down there are plenty of small spaces under it where possibly owner contact details or little help notes could be stuck. I usually label all possessions with my generic gmail address, so if an honest person finds my misplaced items then they may get back to me.


 Lenses

With the advent of the E-M5 there seems to have been a large increase in the numbers of people starting in the M4/3 forum on DPReview, many converting over from heavier DSLR systems, or at least buying the M4/3 system as the light weight casual system and keeping the DSLR as the work system. This preamble brings up the fact that there has been a sudden increase in the number of people who change a lens and the LCD/viewfinder is black and nothing works.

Read the manual.... early on (page 6 in the case of E-M5) it says "Do not press the lens release button" [when mounting a lens]. The reason being that holding the button in allows the lens to rotate just a little past the proper home position and when you release the button the lens locating pin does not drop into the hole in the lens, thus shutting down live view. The instant fix is to take your finger off the release button and rotate the lens back a bit until the pin does click into place, or of course never to hold the release button when mounting a lens. It will happen on my E-PL1, E-P3 and E-PL5 as well when I tried it, so is a common "problem" that is not a problem.

The kit lens for the E-PL5 is the Mk2 version of the 14-42mm lens which is a compact double barrel lens to keep the overall size small when stored. The latest R version of the lens has some cosmetic changes over the earlier Mk2 version but is the same lens internally. The R lens has a slim removable cover ring over the external bayonet where lens hoods and other lens accessories might be mounted.

WCON-P01 two element wide angle converter takes the focal length to about 11mm
FCON-P01 three element fisheye converter takes the lens to about 10mm but with a typical curved fisheye field of view
MCON-P01 single element +2.5 dioptre lens gives better close focus. 

Slowly other dedicated M4/3 lenses are appearing and a number of manufacturers have become involved. See the available M4/3 lenses here.

Lens reviews and tests and interesting interactive displays of quality in a graph of aperture vs focal length is available (if indicated as "Tested") for many lenses here.

The older 4/3 line of lenses can be used by using the MMF-1/2/3 adapters or the Panasonic DMW-MA1 adapter that does exactly the same task as the MMF-1/2/3, any of those adapters can be used on Olympus or Panasonic M4/3 bodies. The auto focus may be a lot slower with some of the 4/3 lenses. The latest version of this adaper is the MMF-3 which is weather proofed to suit the weather proof E-M5 camera. The MMF-3 of course can be used on a Pen body but does not cause any weather proofness as the Pen bodies and lenses have no weather proofing.

Try the simulator here to see any lens on any body.

Olympus make an adapter to fit the old Olympus OM film lenses to the M4/3 bodies, plus some other adapters as seen on that same link. 

Panasonic M4/3 lenses can of course be used on the E-PL5 with the new feature that in the menus the lens OIS can be used instead of the body IBIS, this applies to those lenses without an OIS switch. The lenses with an OIS switch are easier to use as the switch just needs to be moved and no menu dive required. It is advised not to use both lens and body stabilisation at the same time. The Olympus bodies do not correct for chromatic aberration (purple fringing) so Panasonic lenses on Olympus bodies lose that correction. The usual barrel and pincushion distortion is corrected.

Many third party adapters are found on eBay and the like to enable fitting of many old lenses to the M4/3 bodies. The lens best needs a separate aperture control ring, so your favourite Leica lens on your M4/3 body is possible, it's just of course a smaller field of view behaving as though the focal length had doubled when compared to that lens on a 35mm film camera. See my links page for a few suppliers of adapters.

A summary of lenses available in M4/3 mount now on a separate page.



 Stabilisation

Image stabilisation is in the body with Olympus and involves a dynamic mechanical shifting of the sensor to combat shake for stills. With video, on the Pen series to avoid overheating the mechanism and to avoid noise in the recording, a pixel shifting method is used to lessen shake. This contrasts with Panasonic where the OIS stabilisation is in various lenses, but not all of them.

If using a Panasonic OIS lens with a control switch on the lens itself, the stabilisation can be controlled via either the lens OIS or the in body stabilisation (IBIS). The effect is roughly the same in terms of improved minimum shutter speeds attainable, something in the order of up to 3 stops or 10x shutter time period.

If using video then the OIS stabilisation is the better method. Any Olympus owner who is a very keen video user should probably choose to buy a Panasonic OIS stabilised lens, but easier is one with a switch on the lens, as the OIS lenses that have no switch on them disable OIS when on an Olympus body unless the E-PL5 Custom menu C item is set to Lens IS Priority = On.

In general it appears to be better to avoid using stabilisation until you reach shutter speeds that are too slow for good hand-holding, if out in the sunlight and the shutter speeds are say 1/500 sec then there is no need for any stabilisation as long as the user can hold a camera correctly.

To use the OIS in a Panasonic lens so equipped, then the Custom menu C item of Lens IS Priority needs to be ON, and also the camera body IBIS needs to be on. As it says, the OIS has priority over the IBIS so the OIS works and not the IBIS. When the lens is changed to a non-OIS one then of course IBIS works again. The big advantage with using OIS appears at the long end of a tele zoom as the preview is stabilised and is much easier to frame. Be aware of the slow "floating" effect of the lens stabilisation so the floating effect may deliver a slightly different framing as to when you decide to press the shutter because of the slight delay involved.

The E-PL5 menu has that "Len IS Priority" item, so an unswitched OIS lens will use its OIS. The IBIS is the master switch and must be on to enable the Lens IS Priority.

With those items both turned on this happens.....

♦ Mount a non OIS lens - the IBIS works.
♦ Mount an unswitched OIS lens - the OIS works and the IBIS is disabled.
♦ Mount a switched OIS lens.......
    ♦ Turn on the switch and the OIS works and the IBIS is disabled.
    ♦ Turn off the switch and the IBIS works.

Next, with the IBIS turned off, which also disables the Lens IS Priority......

♦ Mount a non OIS lens - no stabilisation.
♦ Mount an unswitched OIS lens - no stabilisation.
♦ Mount a switched OIS lens.......
    ♦ Turn on the switch and the OIS works.
    ♦ Turn off the switch and no stabilisation.

The E-PL5 never allows the OIS and IBIS to both work at the same time, it's always one or the other or none.

E-PL5 & E-PM2 and all later bodies foillow these rules, earlier bodies didn't.

 New  is that the E-M10 Mk3 has changed the rules again and it seems that non-Olympus OIS lenses always have the OIS disabled, whether it be switched or unswitched. Needs verification.

Years later and there still is confusion as to how IBIS and OIS interact, so many people have it wrong.
Maybe adding this chart can help......

With a Panasonic switched OIS lens:

Lens IS PriorityIBISLens OIS SwitchStabilisation Result
OnOnOnOIS
OnOn    OffIBIS
    OffOnOnOIS
    OffOn    OffIBIS
On    OffOnOIS
On    Off    Off-
    Off    OffOnOIS
    Off    Off    Off-

With a Panasonic unswitched OIS lens:

Lens IS PriorityIBISStabilisation Result
OnOnOIS
    OffOnIBIS
On    Off-
    Off    Off-

That of course is for E-PL5 & E-PM2 and all later bodies (except E-M10 Mk3). Earlier bodies had chaotic rules.
Also see my Timeline for more information about which body has which stabilisation abilities.

 Menus

The Olympus Pen models have a very complex menu system allowing a great variety of customisation options, so it takes careful reading of the manual to sort them out. The E-PL5 manual is poor in many places at explaining the features and sometimes other manuals  often are better to read to sort out some of the common features. Find all Pen body manuals from here.

The very first thing to do with this camera (or any Pen or OM-D camera) is to turn on the optional custom menus (the gear wheels item in the menu list) by....
 Menu ► Spanner/Wrench Menu ► Gear Wheels Menu Display = ON.
While there also turn on the accessory port menu to make it available for the accessories that may be attached at some later time.

Next is to enable the extremely useful SCP (Super Control Panel) by....
 Menu ► Custom Menu (Gear Wheels) ► D DISP/x/PC ►  Control Setting ► then go though the iAUTO, P/A/S/M and ART/SCN settings to set the way things display on the LCD when the Start/OK button is pressed. 

The choices for each are Live Guide, Live Control and SCP. I have only the SCP turned on for all three modes. If two or three options are turned on for any mode, then when the OK button is pressed then you may need to press the INFO button to cycle to the control screen desired.

The SCP allows easy access to all the usual functions needed during a day's shooting and saves delving into menus to make changes.

More details on enabling the Custom Menu and the SCP is here.

A page explaining MySets and Mode dial assignment is here.

A page listing the whole Custom Menu is here.


 Auto Focus

The Pen series of cameras, because of no mirror and thus no phase detect auto focus method, have to rely on the  contrast detect method of auto focus. This is good in daylight and with good contrast subjects but starts to get slow and hesitant in lower light with the small maximum apertures of the kit lenses. Using a lens with f/2.8 or better vastly improves the low light focus performance. Many buy the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for this purpose, the lack of zoom is somewhat balanced by the greatly improved low light performance.

In experiments in poor light I have found (with camera in normal landscape position) that a contrasty edge in the focus box makes focus more reliable. At a certain low light level horizontal edges fail to focus, but twist the camera so the edge is not exactly horizontal and then the camera will focus reliably. At a certain lower amount of light (depends on the aperture of the lens) the auto focus fails completely, usually with the E-PL5 that is a situation so dim that you can't see properly anyway..

The magnify button can be used to enlarge the focus box area of the screen by an optional 5x, 7x, 10x, 14x choices (if you see 2.5x, 3.5x, 5x, 7x choices then you are set in 2x digital tele mode). This magnified view helps to check auto focus accuracy or to make manual focus more precise. In preview press Magnify, then Info and Up/Down to select box size then  Magnify again to expand the display, Magnify again to go back to 1x or hold Magnify for a second (or press OK) to go back to turn on default focus mode. The 2x digital teleconverter can also be assigned to the Fn or the Red button to make a quick and easy toggle to a 2x magnified view. If you shoot with 2x enabled then the jpeg is the middle 4 MP of the frame interpolated up to 16 MP. The accompanying RAW file is always the full 16 MP 4:3 ratio image, so taking RAW+jpeg is always recommended so as to recover from any framing or magnification blunders.

Many ask "why can the lens be focused past infinity?" and that has to be the case for contrast detect focus. The lens needs to hunt each side of the highest contrast point to find the proper focus. If aiming at a distant object then the lens has to focus past it (past infinity) and then back closer in order to zero in on best focus point.

Using an older 4/3 lens adapted to the E-PL5 via the MMF-x adapter you can clearly hear the focus motor making the appropriate steps to attain focus. The dedicated M4/3 lenses work much, much faster so the steps are not obvious.


 Preview and Histograms

Some are dismayed that in preview the histogram does not change when the exposure compensation is moved plus/minus. Ditto the highlight/shadow blinky warnings don't change. 

This is due to the camera being in Live View Boost = ON.

Turn Live View Boost = OFF and now the histogram and blinkies will obey exposure compensation changes in preview. The Live View Boost setting is found in Menu ► Custom Menu (gear wheels) ► D ► Live View Boost ► ON/OFF. Live View Boost tries to always brighten the display in dim conditions to allow easier framing.

The histogram and blinkies highlight and shadow limits can be changed by a small amount to better suit your post process RAW converter or print results, find that also in Menu ► Custom Menu (gear wheels) ► D ► Histogram Setting ► Highlight (245-255) & Shadow  (0-10).

Blinkies = Highlight & Shadow, setting buried in Menu ► Custom Menu (gear wheels) ► D ► Info Setting ► and set it ON/OFF for preview, playback etc. "Blinkies" name because on review the highlights and shadows blink, but on preview they don't blink.

To my mind preview blinkies are easier to use than peering at the histogram. Make sure Live View Boost = OFF and then wisely use Exposure Compensation  to get just maybe a minimal amount of insignificant red highlights blown. This may be hard to do in some places with washed out white polluted skies. Keeping an eye on the highlights and attempting to "expose to the right" lowers the overall noise and improves shadow areas. The desired exposure to get the correct look to the image can be adjusted later in post process. The resulting jpeg mostly shows less red blinkies than the same frame when in preview, so there is usually no harm is having a small amount of red blinkies for the exposure. Naturally using the RAW file even more highlights can be recovered than from the jpeg.


 Flash

The latest flashless bodies E-PL5/E-PM2/E-M5 are supplied with the small accessory flash FL-LM1/2 to be attached as needed. If using the flash for RC mode control then up to three groups of flashes can be separately controlled and each group can have three flashes in it.

The normal maximum flash sync shutter speed is 1/250 and varies down to 1/160 dependng on what flash is attached and the camera can be tricked into using any shutter speed. I find the true maximum  flash sync speed is 1/400 second. To use an even faster shutter speed then a flash capable of high speed sync is needed. More on the flash page.

 Flash compatibility tables are here.

The Olympus accessory flashes sold are:
FL-600R new in 2012, same output as FL-36R, uses 4xAA batteries for faster recycle, has extra features over older FL-36R.
FL-300R small flash, takes 2 x AAA batteries. Bends back for bounce, bends forward to flat when not needed.
FL-36R medium size, suits M4/3 bodies, takes 2xAA batteries.
FL-50R large size, unwieldy on M4/3, takes 4xAA batteries.

Panasonic GH3 has lately adopted the same RC flash control method.


Last change 5th June 2013


Back to Menu Page for the more detailed pages on some general M4/3 features