Two top experts call the Olympus E-5 the best Four Thirds camera ever, and a good bet if you've already invested in Four Thirds lenses. However, reviews say it can't compete with traditional DSLR cameras in low light, which is a fault of the smaller Four Thirds image sensor, and it's pricey for what you get.
"A great shooting experience," but glitches bug testers. Four Thirds cameras use smaller image sensors than regular DSLRs. This makes for less bulky lenses, but doesn't shave any size or weight off the camera itself. The Olympus E-5 looks and works much like any semi-pro DSLR, with a handy LCD screen on top so you can check and change settings at a glance, and a big, bright viewfinder that shows 100 percent of the scene. The tilt-and-swivel rear LCD screen is useful for odd-angle shots and video. Overall, experts love shooting with the Olympus E-5, but many complain about the frustrating menus that bury settings so deep that new users might never find them. In addition, the small, closely spaced buttons are hard to press with gloves on.
Outclassed by its rivals. Whether you're shooting fast action, low light or video, the Olympus E-5 can't keep up with regular DSLRs. In decent light, images from its 12.3 megapixel sensor look terrific, even "breathtaking," rave the hard-to-please critics at DPReview.com. The Olympus' beautiful colors and unusually crisp detail actually outclass rival DSLRs, says Zoltan Arva-Toth at PhotographyBlog.com. However, detail starts to deteriorate at ISO 1,600 in tests, and the E-5 only goes up to ISO 6,400. Speed is another weakness: At 5 fps, the Olympus E-5 is slower than many DSLRs. Video lags behind, as well. While almost all other DSLRs on the market can shoot full 1080p HD, the Olympus is stuck at only 720p, and there's no continuous autofocus. Battery life is rated at 870 shots per charge, which is low for this class.
"Built like the proverbial tank." So says Arva-Toth at PhotographyBlog.com, and critics at DPReview.com agree: The E-5's "tank-like body should take years of abuse." An all-metal, weather-sealed, splashproof body makes the Olympus E-5 one of the toughest under-$2,000 cameras you can buy. Jerry Jackson at DigitalCameraReview.com says the E-5's just as durable as its predecessor, the Olympus E-3, which he has used "during fierce thunderstorms and on the beach getting splashed with salt water" with no ill effects. One Amazon.com owner treats his Olympus quite roughly: "I've placed it on wet sand to get a low-angle beach shot, then washed it clean under a faucet. I have much confidence in the build."
Clever features, and one that's not. The Olympus E-5 adds a couple of nifty extras that offer more than rival DSLRs. First, you can apply special effects called Art Filters when shooting video clips or photos. Some competing DSLRs let you do this with photos but not videos, and often only in Auto mode. Second, exposure bracketing on the E-5 isn't limited to the usual three shots; it can shoot from two to seven photos to make sure you catch the perfect exposure. While the Olympus E-5 has two memory card slots, you can use only one at a time. Otherwise, the E-5's features are pretty much par for the class.
"The Olympus E-5 is the best Four Thirds DSLR ever made," built to last and capable of shooting great photos, reviewers say. However, it costs more than a good traditional digital SLR, and has less dynamic range and relatively poor low-light quality.
Review: Olympus E-5 In-depth Review, Barney Britton, Lars Rehm and Simon Joinson, February 2011
Zoltan Arva-Toth says the Olympus E-5 is "clearly the best Four Thirds DSLR to date," but it's very expensive and stumbles in low light. He also finds Movie mode "a mixed bag." Still, the camera is extremely rugged and delivers crisp, beautifully colored images at lower ISOs, and this site gives it a Highly Recommended tag.
Review: Olympus E-5 Review, Zoltan Arva-Toth, Dec. 22, 2010
Jerry Jackson lists several of the same pros and cons as other reviewers in this complete, critical evaluation of the Olympus E-5. He likes its solid body and articulating LCD screen, but noisy low-light images are a major drawback.
Review: Olympus E-5 Review, Jerry Jackson, Oct. 22, 2010
Imaging-Resource.com hasn't put the Olympus E-5 through the site's usual exhaustive testing. Still, editors evaluate all of the camera's features and are "impressed with the images" after shooting with a prototype.
Review: Olympus E-5 Review, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins and Zig Weidelich, Sept. 14, 2010
5. Popular Photography
Philip Ryan finds plenty to like about the Olympus E-5, including its in-body image stabilizer and rugged, weather-sealed body -- two things it does better than Nikon and Canon. Its slow autofocus in dim light is the E-5's major stumbling block.
Review: Tested: Olympus E5, Philip Ryan, Dec. 3, 2010
About 35 customers review the Olympus E-5 at Amazon.com, with many giving it a perfect 5 stars. Some complain about noisy low-light images, however.
Review: Olympus E-5 12.3MP Digital SLR, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014