Olympus has been teetering on the edge of nailing mirrorless camera design for years. In fact, many would argue that last year's retro-fantastic OM-D E-M5 bordered on perfection. Aesthetes fell in love with its looks at the same time that real, serious photographers were amazed at its spectacular image quality.
Olympus' new flagship Pen-series camera is aimed at replicating that success in a package that's maybe slightly less intimidating — or at least easier to carry around. The new Olympus Pen E-P5 is slimmer and smaller than the OM-D, but retains much of bigger camera's hands-on functionality. We had the chance to play with a pre-production version of the camera, and everything about its design is intuitive, and the all metal-body feels like serious business.
The E-P5 isn't arbitrarily retro. It's actually supposed to look like the old Olympus Pen F from the 1960s:
You'll note the P/S/A/M, etc. mode dial up top. There are little adjustment scroll wheels on both the front and the back of the camera, just like you'd see on a DSLR.
...and the standard button lay out on the back. That's a 1.04 million dot, tiltable touchscreen LCD, by the way.
Well, actually, there's one nice little touch on the design on the back. See that little 1-2 switch directly bellow the video record button? Flipping it allows you to toggle between two programmable configurations for the adjustment wheels on the front and the back of the camera. So you could have the wheels set to adjust shutter speed and aperture in position one and ISO and white balance in position two. Very smart design.
Beyond the basics, Olympus will make a new electronic viewfinder accessory to work with the camera. The E-P5 will be the first Olympus mirrorless camera to have built-in Wi-Fi, which is becoming an increasingly essential feature as basically every manufacturer has adopted it. There will also be a focus peaking made for fine-tuning your manual focus that's already been available on other cameras.
But really, the E-P5 borrows a lot from last year's lovely OM-D, including its 16-megapixel micro four thirds image sensor, its 5-axis image stabilisation, and even its super-precise autofocus. (Olympus insists each of these features has been tweaked and improved over the last year, to which we say, "AWESOME.")
In short, you can expect the same dope image quality you got before with some new features and modified — I would argue improved — packaging.
The Olympus Pen E-P5 will be available this month, and it'll be bundled with a 17mm f/1.8 lens and VF-4 electronic viewfinder for around the £900-mark.
OK, so that's pretty damn expensive compared to other cameras in the mirrorless market. Remember, you're going to want to get a few extra lenses for this camera, because that 17mm lens won't be good for everything. Still, this is a mighty impressive piece of design and craftsmanship. [Olympus]