Olympus E-5: Build and Design

October 22, 2010 by Jerry Jackson Reads (7,822)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.75
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

The E-5 is a big camera compared to a typical entry-level or mid-range DSLR, but feels like a perfect fit next to pro cameras like the Canon EOS 7D and Nikon D300S. The magnesium alloy body with weather sealed “splashproof” construction makes the E-5 one of the most rugged cameras currently on the market. I’ve used the E-3 outdoors during fierce thunderstorms and on the beach getting splashed with salt water with no additional camera protection other than a weather-sealed Olympus Zuiko lens attached to the camera. The E-5 shares the same level of extreme durability. Even the optional Power Grip HLD-4 battery grip (the same one used with the E-3) features additional weather sealing to protect the camera when you’re exposed to the elements. Dials and buttons are very sturdy and work smoothly.

Olympus E-5

Ergonomics and Controls
The E-5 is virtually identical to the E-3 both in look and feel. The E-5 is well-balanced in your hands with a deep right-side handgrip. The shutter button and control dials fall naturally under your thumb and index finger. The only real changes to the camera body between the E-3 and the E-5 are the removal of several buttons on the back of the camera (to make room for the larger LCD) and the removal of the memory card door release. The memory card door on the E-5 now uses a simple sliding lock mechanism similar to many entry-level and mid-range DSLRs.

Olympus E-5

The E-5 isn’t the heaviest pro-grade DSLR on the market, but it certainly feels like a hefty tank in your hands … even more so when combined with the HLD-4 battery grip. The E-5 features a stainless steel Olympus Four Thirds lens mount. The Four Thirds format gets its name from the horizontal and vertical ratio of the image sensor. At the time of this writing Olympus, Panasonic, and Sigma all support the four thirds format and manufacture a variety of lenses.

Olympus E-5

The Four Thirds mount is different than the newer “Micro” Four Thirds mount used on cameras like the Olympus E-PL1. Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds lenses have a 2x (35mm equivalent) magnification factor, so the focal length of telephoto lenses double – an 50-200mm zoom becomes a 100-400mm (35mm equivalent) zoom. Unfortunately, the same thing happens to wide-angle lenses: a 14-35mm zoom becomes a 28-70mm zoom.

Menus and Modes
The E- 5 features both a main menu which offers control over things like in-camera image processing and a “quick access” shooting menu that allows for more rapid changes to ISO, white balance, and other camera settings.

Olympus E-5

While the quick access menu is actually quite nice, I remain less than impressed by Olympus’s main menus. We’ve described the main menu on Olympus DSLRs as “poorly polished” in the past and you shouldn’t expect any major improvements in this regard. The fact that settings such as picture modes, saturation, sharpness, contrast, B&W filter, B&W toning, and gradation are hidden away in the pages of the main menu frustrating at times. If you didn’t know to look for them, it would be easy enough to use the E-5 at a fairly high level without ever stumbling across some of these useful options.

As for the main shooting modes, they include:

  • Program AE: Allows the user to manually adjust all of the camera’s settings, other than shutter speed aperture, or leave them on auto (although by using a method called program shift, the user can adjust shutter speed and aperture while in program mode).
  • Aperture Priority: The user can set the aperture value while the camera sets the shutter speed.
  • Shutter Priority: The user can set the shutter speed while the camera sets the aperture value. 
  • Manual: All settings can be adjusted, including aperture value and shutter speed.

The photographer can also select from among a range of “picture modes” via the camera’s menu. These include i-ENHANCE, Vivid, Natural, Portrait, Muted, Monotone, Custom (default setting: Natural), Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Gentle Sepia, Cross Process, and Dramatic Tone.

The E-5 has a new 3.0-inch swiveling LCD with a 920k-dot resolution. This is a welcome update to the E-3’s 2.5-inch 230k-dot swiveling monitor. It folds out and can be twisted 90 degrees forward and 180 degrees back, which I found to be very useful in taking photos at strange angles. The LCD monitor can be adjusted to 15 brightness levels and the color can be tinted for better visibility with 15 different settings. That said, even at the default settings I rarely had a problem seeing the monitor, in bright sunlight.

Olympus E-5

The E-5 also offers a 100% optical viewfinder (1.15x magnification) that is essentially unchanged from the E-3. Like the E-3, the E-5 makes use of 11 cross-type AF points. Looking through the viewfinder, the E-5’s 11 AF focus points are clearly visible and there’s a comprehensive settings/status/function info display (Aperture, Shutter speed, Record mode, AF confirmation, Flash status, WB, AE lock, remaining image capacity, Exposure compensation value, Metering mode, Battery warning, Exposure mode, IS status, ISO value, etc.) along the bottom of the image frame. For eyeglasses wearers, there’s a diopter correction (-3 to +1) dial.



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