Top positive review
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Great camera! Comparison with OM-D
on July 6, 2013
Just received my E-P5 + VF4 + 17mm lens kit yesterday! I've had a chance to try it out some, and draw some quick comparisons to the EM5.
I ALREADY HAVE AN EM5. SO WHY DID I PURCHASE THE EP5 KIT? I got into photography during the digital age, and like many photographers in their 30s, have become accustomed to composing with the screen. In contrast to many others, I upgraded from the EPL1 to the EM5 not for the built-in VF but for the IBIS and improved IQ. I went ahead and got the battery grip as well because I got a good package deal. I've done a lot of traveling over the past year. Although I use the landscape grip all the time, I hardly ever use the VF, except when in bright sunlight. Although I love my EM5, I've been frustrated with the certain aspects of the handling: the implementation of the bracketing function, the small size of the function buttons. I found that the placement of the control wheels made it uncomfortable to hold the camera without the landscape grip. Another consideration is that my needs have changed. Because of my new job, I won't be traveling that much over the next year or so, and plan on shooting primarily at family events, at restaurants and bars, and on the street. The ability to fit the EP5 with a compact lens in a small case--together with the fact that the EP5 has a built-in flash--also appealed to me. Finally, aside from the 12-35mm, which I use quite a bit, all the other lenses I use are quite small.
HANDLING: Because of the placement of the buttons and the shape of the front part of the grip (extends further toward the lens mount), I find the EP5 more comfortable to hold than the EM5 sans landscape grip. The EM5 with landscape grip is undeniably more comfortable when shooting with heavier lenses like the 12-35mm. I find the EP5 comfortable enough for short periods of time (which is all I need it for), especially since I tend to shoot with 2 hands. However, if I were shooting events in which I have to hold up the camera for extended periods of time (like weddings), the EM5 would be a better choice.
OPERATION: The 2x2 switch (which allows you to change the function of the control wheels) together with the ability to assign My Sets to the control dial makes a huge difference. If you set up the camera properly, I can see no reason why I'd ever need to dive into those Olympus menus. I use the 2x2 button to switch from exposure control to white balance / ISO. I've set up function 1 as HDR bracketing, which allows you to switch bracketing on and off with a push of the button (i.e., you don't have to hold on to the function button while shooting, as is the case with the EM5), and you can change bracketing settings just by holding down the button and toggling the rear control wheel. I.e., no need to dive into the menus. I've assigned focus peaking to the magnify button, flash to the right direction button, and bracketing / timer to the down direction button. Unfortunately, the button assignments carry across all four mysets. It's impossible to set a function button to do one thing in myset 1 and another thing in myset 2. But I guess that keeps it simpler, and it's not a problem for me.
One problem with the EM5 is that you have to dive into the menus to change my sets (no way of doing it on the control dial, as with the GH cameras), and it's easy to forget what functions you've assigned. With the EP5, I was able to assign mysets to the control menu in a logical manner that's easy to remember. For instance, when the camera is in A mode, myset 1 is enabled. The settings are S-AF+MF, max auto-ISO 800. Perfect for landscapes or non-moving subjects, when I can afford to have a lower shutter speed and want to keep the ISO down. In contrast, when in S priority, myset 2 is enabled. C-AF, max auto-ISO at 6400. Again, these settings make sense in shutter priority, so they're easy to remember.
I intend to make use of the other two my sets, but haven't yet. All in all, this is wonderful. I can now instantly get the optimal settings for all my common shooting needs just by switching from A to S priority, without diving into menus.
BUILD QUALITY: buttons feel better than the OMD, and the camera in general feels very solid. Although smaller than the OMD, it weighs about the same as the EM5 without the grip. In fact, I remember reading that the EP5 is slightly heavier, although the difference is not readily apparent.
The hot shoe is better implemented in the EP5. One problem with the EM5 is that in order to use the hot shoe, you had to take off two separate protective covers, and the bottom one (silver colored in the silver OMD) is fiddly and difficult to remove. As a result, I found it impractical to attach a flash quickly in the field. If I anticipated needing fill in flash, I would attach it in advance, which made the camera bulkier. With the EP5, the flash is built in. And if you want to use the hotshoe (e.g., to attach the VF4), there's only one piece to remove. It's made of rubber and comes off easily. I can remove the hotshoe cover and attach the VF4 cover in just seconds, without needing to put the camera down on a bench or table.
Although some people might not use the built-in flash at all, I find it useful both for fill-flash (especially outdoors) and to trigger another flash. And sometimes, there are occasions where there's simply not enough available light to shoot without flash. Although you obviously need an off camera flash for optimal IQ, there are occasions when flash is required to "get the picture," and for casual shooting purposes, the results are acceptable.
VF4: As I mentioned above, I rarely used the internal VF in the EM5. Partly because I had become accustomed to shooting without a VF, but also because I found it uncomfortable to look through grainy electronic VFs. In contrast, the VF4 is amazing and does not feel like an EVF. The image is huge, clearer, and not at all grainy. My eyes don't get tired using the VF4. And, as I mentioned earlier, it locks into place securely and can be taken on and off very quickly. One annoying thing is that Olympus did not see fit to include a pouch for either the VF4. In contrast, the external flash that came with the EM5 did include a little pouch. Not a huge deal, but should have been included.
I haven't shot enough to come to a definitive conclusion, but from everything I've read, the IQ should be similar to the EM5. The good news is that according to one article I read, you don't sacrifice much dynamic range at all by using ISO 100 on the EP5, although the EM5 as a whole has slightly more dynamic range than the EP5 across most ISO values. However, the difference seems pretty negligible. See [...] (google the tech radar review).
17mm LENS AND CONCLUSION: When I purchased the kit, my original intention was to sell off the 17mm lens to get the overall price down to $1,000 (a new 17mm lens goes for $499). However, I love the fast autofocus speed of the 17mm, and decided that the pictures were sharp enough for my purposes. Although I found the 20mm slightly shaper in the corners, that's not an issue for me, since I plan on using the lens mainly for human subjects rather than landscapes. I just sold the 20mm lens yesterday on Craigslist for $300. Although not quite as compact as the 20mm lens, it's compact enough to fit in my leather case (pictured above) while attached to the EP5. And even with the 20mm lens, the EP5 will not fit in jeans pocket, and would be uncomfortable even if it did, due to the weight. One further advantage of the 17mm is the snap to MF feature: if you pull the manual focus back (into the lens), the camera will automatically switch to MF mode. I.e., without having to change any settings on the camera itself. The snap to MF mode also works great in conjunction with FP! The only issue I had is that the infinity mark on the camera is slightly off. On my lens, if I want it to focus to infinity, I turn the MF ring so that it's slightly shy of the infinity mark. But in practice, this is not an issue once you're aware of it, especially if you use focus peaking.