Like all Olympus Pen models up to now, E-PL5 has that retro spirit reflected in the right angles, curved edges and simple black finish, with no extraordinary details (except for the silver logo surface). Even if you use the camera without the changeable grip, the only details on the front mask are the Olympus logo, ring and button for objective release.
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The top surface of the camera is dominated by the mode scroll wheel, as well as the hot-shoe connector for flash and other add-ons. E-PL5 itself has no flash, but the bundle contains a small plastic one, with strength adequate to what other competing manufacturers have on offer. The model in question offers not only the usual PASM modes, but also iAuto – a fully automatic mode that tweaks all settings according to current conditions, then Scene – a selection menu for you to choose the setting in which you’re taking the photo, as well as Movie mode.

The back of the camera is almost entirely covered by the articulate touchscreen with a 3” diagonal. The display is horizontally oriented, with a movement range of some 170 degrees, which means that you can extend it over the camera when it points at the direction of shooting, which definitely makes self-portrait shots simpler. Since the hinges are vertically placed, it’s very easy to make side shots, but doesn’t really help with overhead shooting, nor can the display be entirely oriented at the body for protection.

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The display itself is sufficiently lit, providing a pleasant experience, even with angle shifts at larger distances or under direct sunlight. The novelty touchscreen feature seems to have been added last to this model, as the camera’s software only makes partial use of its potential. First and foremost, the menus are still condemned to the use of cursor keys. Furthermore, while the interface is able to use the touchscreen for focal point selection (with the ability to take the picture by simply pressing the touchscreen), quick settings still have to be done the old-school way.

Due to the large display surface, the back controls are placed around the display, with the scroll wheel on the right, followed by the menu and info buttons. The playback, delete and (playback) zoom buttons are situated above the display, although you can use the typical touchscreen approach for zooming in and out of a photo as well, and the same goes for gallery browsing. Like most modern cameras, E-PL5 has a separate trigger for video recording, housed on the right under the user’s thumb.

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That modern objective

The camera was tested with the new model of fixed objective, namely Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45 mm f/1.8, which is the second flagship model Olympus has had on offer for their Micro 4/3 series. However, unlike its 20 mm predecessor, this objective isn’t a “pancake”, and E-PL5 can no longer be counted as a pocket camera with it. With a weight of 116 g and length of 46 mm, the objective is still unlikely to cause much strain in your strolls around the city or portrait sessions, which are its two primary purposes, as speed and sharpness are all that matters. Combined with the excellent performance of the camera in low-light conditions, you’ll be able to capture crystal clear shots even with the faintest street light. The objective is made of nine optical elements placed in eight groups alongside a blend with seven petals, which provides excellent sharpness of the focused objects, but also a very pleasant bokeh. The minimum focal length is 50 mm, so this objective shouldn’t be your primary tool for making macro shots. General sharpness levels are consistent with the expectations one may have and remain satisfactory even with a wide blend opening, whereas it simply shines in the F2.8 to F8 range. Vignetting isn’t pronounced, while the distortion levels are almost unnoticeable. The insignificant amount of vignetting in highly contrasted images is easily rectifiable with basic photo editing.
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That speedy work

The new generation of TruePic VI processor in this camera provides high autofocus speeds, as well as agility in processing and recording images in both JPG and RAW formats. The focusing system uses 35 reference dots and showcases all the advancements that years of contrasted autofocus perfection have brought to the PEN line. Speed and precision are top-notch, while the processor even supports full-time and tracking autofocus. The only drawback of this mechanism can be noticed when the focal object is too close (50 cm of distance with a 45 mm objective), as the camera spends too much time searching for the focus before forfeiture.
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Of course, if you’re only looking to have some fun and be creative, the ArtFilter mode will offer a more than wide selection of filter types and fine-tune settings for each of them. One of the more useful ones in our opinion is the Dramatic Tone filter, which gives a close-to-HDR experience without the need for overexposure or additional editing.

Olympus E-PL5 
Effective resolution 16 MP Micro Four Thirds sensor (4/3" CMOS)
Max photo size 4608x3456 pix
Max video clip resolution 640x480-1920x1080 (30 fps), MPEG-4, H.264, Motion JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO 100 - 12800, Auto (200 - 1600)
Exposure 60-1/4000 s
Lens Kit lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6; Secondary: Olympus 45mm F1.8
Flash Pop-up
Display 3″ OLED display (614.000 pix), touch
Dimensions 111 x 64 x 38 mm
Weight 325 g (including battery and card)
Price $600

At first sight, E-PL5 is just another model in the long line of PEN devices, based on the new generation of a platform that’s been improved for years now. However, that isn’t exactly the case. E-PL5’s production quality and options represent a much bigger leap than previous PEN models in the same price range, with improved image quality, speed and overall product quality. Combining all these characteristics with an excellent, fast fixed objective turns E-PL5 into an agile, light and discreet companion for any street photographer looking for cred.