Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 camera (preview)

Olympus beefs up its PEN Lite interchangeable lens camera, adds Wi-Fi hotspot support via Toshiba FlashAir cards

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Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 camera (preview)
  • Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 camera (preview)
  • Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 camera (preview)
  • Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 camera (preview)
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Bottom Line

Olympus has given the new version of the PEN Lite a handgrip to make it a little more comfortable to use. It has also improved the screen and the in-camera filters and focusing, making the E-PL5 a better offering than the E-PL3 that it replaces.

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Olympus has just announced an upgrade to its PEN series of cameras, introducing the PEN Lite E-PL5, which is a direct replacement for the PEN Lite E-PL3.

The new model has a bulked up physical appearance that includes a handgrip and a screen that can flip up to facilitate self portraits. It takes on more of the look of the PEN E-P3 thanks to the new handgrip and it has been designed to offer a more balanced and comfortable in-hand experience. If you don't like the grip, it can be removed or interchanged with another colour.

It's still based on the Micro Four Thirds lens mount, which ensures that it can make use of a large array of already existing lenses that are on the market from both Olympus and Panasonic, and it incorporates a sensor that has 16 megapixels. It's the same sensor that the OM-D E-M5 uses and can offer the same image quality as that camera for the most part. However the OM-D is said to have better dynamic range, and it's designed with more high-end users in mind thanks to its weather-resistant body and built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF); the E-PL5 isn't weather-resistant, and it requires an optional EVF if you don't like using the LCD screen primarily.

 The PEN Lite E-PL5 has a screen that flips up 180 degrees.
The PEN Lite E-PL5 has a screen that flips up 180 degrees.

It can be used effecitvely for self portraits.
It can be used effecitvely for self portraits.

The focusing technology is the same as the OM-D and is said to be extremely fast and more accurate when it comes to face detection. The fast experience is aided by the inclusion of a capacitive touchscreen that incorporates touch-to-focus and touch shutter technology, which allows you to simply tap on a point on the 3in LCD in order to take a photo. For self-portraits, the screen is mounted on a hinge that allows it to flip all the way up (180 degrees). It can also be angled up or down to help you capture more interesting perspectives of your subjects.

The control layout is simple and the touchscreen adds flexibility when it comes to adjusting settings, focusing and shooting.
The control layout is simple and the touchscreen adds flexibility when it comes to adjusting settings, focusing and shooting.

A trend we've seen among camera vendors recently is the inclusion of in-camera help that can aid new users when it comes to blurring backgrounds or getting sharp images. Olympus has followed suit, adding its own LiveGuide to the E-PL5, which is designed to work with slider controls on the touchscreen. Using these sliders, users can make adjustments to settings in real time. Like other Olympus cameras, the PEN Lite E-PL5 continues to offer art modes, and there is even a bracketing mode that allows you to apply multiple art filters to one single shot, just like there is on the OM-D. Furthermore, art filters can be applied to photos after the fact when you shoot RAW and process the images on your computer.

Another key feature of the new PEN camera is its support for wireless connectivity. Specifically, the camera supports wireless communications through the use of Toshiba FlashAir SD cards, which can turn the PEN into a hotspot and allow you to connect to it from a phone or computer to browse photos on the camera directly. The photos can then be transferred and uploaded to the Web. Olympus will also supply its own O.I Share app, which will make the sharing process to social media sites more streamlined. It's not clear yet whether Olympus will bundle the new PEN with a FlashAir SD card — at the time of writing, Olympus was still undecided. The camera also supports Eye-Fi cards.

The camera has built-in image stabilisation that is based on image shifting and it can work with any lens that is attached to the camera. Importantly, it works to correct movement from up and down movements in addition to left and right movements. The OM-D is still more advanced in this regard though, as it has stabilisation support for rolling and horizontal and vertical movements as well.

A shutter speed of up to 1/4000 of a second is supported by the PEN E-PL5 and it has a high-speed burst mode that can rattle off a stated 8 frames per second depending on the mode. It has improved low-light sensitivity (200-25600) and it can shoot up to Full HD video using the MOV container for MPEG-4 files.

The camera will come bundled with a clip-on flash (FL-LM1), but the EVF (VF-2) will be optional. A couple of new lenses will be released at the same time as the new PEN: a 15mm f/8.0 Body Can lens (which is basically as thin as a lens cap), and an M.Zuiko Digital 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

Olympus will sell the PEN Lite E-PL5 in a single lens kit for $799 and a double zoom kit for $999. It will be available from the middle of October.

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