Full environmental seals; fast autofocus; great image quality; tilt/shift screen with Live view
Menus are too complex; control layout a little cumbersome; lacks customisability
There hasn’t been much activity on the digital SLR front from Olympus since they released the E-30 in 2009. Now at last comes their new flagship camera, the E-5. It has a weather-resistant magnesium body that feels solid in the hands and the same 12-megapixel sensor as the E-30, though the processor has been upgraded. It also features a 3in articulated LCD, very snappy autofocusing, HD movie capture and both CF and SD memory card slots.
Overall, the camera delivers beautiful pictures under a variety of conditions, though with brightly lit scenes you might see some highlight clipping in JPEGs. High ISO performance is good, but even at ISO1600 there is a fair amount of grainy luminance noise (at least it’s not chroma noise, with its distracting colour artefacts).
True to the Olympus tradition, mechanical image stabilisation is built in, so there’s no need to buy pricey IS lenses to get this functionality. Speaking of lenses, the 12-60mm f/2.8-4 SWD zoom (equivalent to a 24-120mm lens on a 35mm film camera) complements the E-5 nicely.
The movie mode gives two basic options of 1,280 x 720 or 640 x 480, at 30fps. The camera has a built-in mono mic and a stereo mic socket.
Top of our complaint list is the lack of a mode dial, something nearly every other top-notch digital SLR has. Also, 12 megapixels seems underpowered for a flagship camera now, especially when rivals have higher resolution and better high-ISO performance. The E-5 also lags behind in its burst mode, which peaks at 5fps; the Nikon D7000 tops out around 6fps
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Even though many of its core specifications seem conservative compared to other top-rated DSLRs, the E-5 does what a serious DSLR is supposed to: it takes good pictures. Photographers with older Olympus consumer four/thirds bodies will enjoy the performance and quality provided by the E-5.