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14th September 2010
Olympus E-5 hands-on preview
by Ian Burley

The last hurrah for traditional Olympus DSLRs?


With the E-5 and the E-3 before it, Olympus remains the only DSLR maker to feature a fully-articulating LCD in rugged moisture and dust sealed body

The long wait for Olympus fans who have been waiting for a new DSLR model for 18 months, is over. The successor to the three year old Olympus Four Thirds DSLR flagship, the E-3, can now be revealed and there are no prizes for guessing that it's called the E-5, with the number '4' being considered unlucky and so skipped.

Expected to be available from the end of October, the new E-5 has a European guide price of 1699 and in the UK 1500.

If you are expecting a revolutionary new model, sorry. The E-5 is an evolution of the E-3. Indeed, from some angles it's quite difficult to see any obvious body design differences, especially from the front. But at the back there are many changes, most of which centre around the replacement of the E-3's old 2.5 inch 230,000 dot articulating LCD screen with a shiny new 921,000 high resolution 3 inch articulating screen.

The larger screen has necessitated the relocation of the row of buttons that live under the screen on the E-3, while the IS (Image Stabilisation) button has disappeared altogether; you now have to set it view the super control panel on the LCD.

Here are the key new features:

  • TruePic V+ image processor designed to extract more detail from the sensor image data.
  • Modified sensor anti-aliasing - this is a development beyond the reduced power of the anti-aliasing filter introduced with the Olympus Pen Micro Four Thirds range.
  • 3 inch 921,000 dot articulating LCD screen.
  • 720HD 30p (Motion JPEG/AVI) video recording capability with integrated mono microphone plus 3.5 inch port for external stereo mics.
  • Sensitivity range extended to ISO 6400
  • Four custom reset memories instead of two previously, now called Myset modes.
  • Revised menus
  • Ten Art Filters including Dramatic Tone Art Filter that generates a virtual HDR image with just one shot
  • Dual memory card slots retained now with SD card support replacing xD slot alongside UDMA class Compact Flash support.
  • Up to 7 auto bracketing steps instead of 5.
  • Digital level (three dimensional) from E-30.

Bearing in mind that for existing E-System users you get the familiarity of the E-3 design, complete with large 100% optical finder, dust and moisture sealing, 11-point biaxial AF system, proven SSWF sensor dust protection, 1/8000th top shutter speed and 150,000 cycle heavy duty shutter mechanism, Olympus will be hoping that existing E-3 and even E-30 and E-620 users, etc., will be tempted to upgrade.

Whether the E-5 will serve to tempt more people to switch to the E-System is more debatable. The 12.3MP LiveMOS sensor and image processor is a step up from existing Micro Four Thirds Olympus Pens, but some will be disappointed that we don't have a proper next-generation sensor from Panasonic. The unchanged 5fps fastest shooting rate is bound to disappoint some, too. Critics will say that Olympus has simply produced the E-5 to satisfy pent up demand from existing Olympus users. A big question is what next for E-System users? Rumours indicate that the E-5 could well be the last thoroughbred E-System camera from Olympus, which might mean E-System users might eventually have to consider switching to Micro Four Thirds Pen models. Micro Four Thirds camera bodies can use Four Thirds lenses via adapters and without a major loss of functionality. At present, however, Olympus has no Pen models that could remotely be considered a comparable replacement for a top-end DSLR.

Undoubtedly, there will be a furious debate among Olympus fans and others about the E-5 and what it means for the future of Four Thirds. In the mean time, don't miss our E-5 pictorial tour gallery below, and a feature comparison of the E-5 next to the E-3 and E-30 on page 2.


Click on a thumbnail below to see a larger captioned version of the picture...

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