Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5: Performance

December 5, 2012 by Chris Gampat Reads (143,154)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.80
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


The Olympus E-PL5 has overall excellent performance for autofocusing, responsiveness, and image quality. But it enters into a domain where there is lots of competition that is very stiff on different fronts.

Shooting Performance
Power up time for the E-PL5 is on the slower side – the screen was lit about 3 second after startup and a first shot can be taken after unlocking and extending the lens. Single shot-to-shot times ran about 1 second. The camera made 8 fps in “sequential” (continuous) drive at full resolution with JPEGs.

Shutter lag on the E-PL5 was a very respectable 0.01 seconds, and AF acquisition time ran about 0.27 seconds.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Digital Camera Score
Olympus E-PL5 0.01
Olympus Stylus XZ-2 0.01
Olympus E-PL3 0.01

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Digital Camera Score
Olympus Stylus XZ-2 0.35
Olympus E-PL5 0.27
Olympus E-PL3 0.13

Continuous Shooting

Digital Camera Score
Olympus E-PL5 8
Olympus Stylus XZ-2 6
Olympus E-PL3 4.7

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

Battery life is listed as approximately 360 shots when IS is on. We experienced good results with battery life.

The Olympus E-PL5 has an included flash that can be slid into the hotshoe/accessory port. To use the flash it must be lifted to the “up” position.

This port also allows you to attach several different accessories developed for the Olympus line of cameras, including the VF-2 and VF-3 electronic viewfinder, the SEMA-1 microphone adapter set and the MAL-1 macro lights. Unfortunately, only one of these can be attached at a time.

Lens Performance
The kit lens is the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 and provides a 24-84 field of view. The lens is really quite good, sharp, fast to focus, and collapses into itself for more compact storage. What users will need to keep in mind though is that if the lens is locked/collapsed, the camera won’t take pictures. You can, however, access the menu functions.

If used correctly though, the lens’s Bokeh can look very nice though not as pleasing as some of the compact prime lenses that the company makes. Also, this lens will force the camera/user to shoot at higher ISO settings in low light. Thankfully, Olympus’s sensor-based image stabilization system works well to ensure that camera shake doesn’t happen.

If the user chooses to shoot in JPEG mode and auto ISO, then the images they yield will look great on the web when using this lens. Chromatic aberration, softness, vignetting and flare are also very well controlled. However, the lens can suffer from some fringing in super high contrast areas.

Video Quality
The EPL5 has one distinct advantage when it comes to recording video, and that is the fact that it has sensor based stabilization. That means that when you’re moving around trying to record, the footage will look much smoother. But for the best results, we still recommend holding the camera in as close to your body as you can.

The footage looks a little muted even when the camera is set to the vivid mode; so users might want to import the files into their favorite editing software to give it a bit if a sprucing before showing off their masterpiece.

Image Quality
Overall image quality on the Olympus E-PL5 is excellent. Borrowing the sensor from its bigger brother, the OMD EM5 helps quite a bit with this. Color capturing and white balancing are extremely true to life, though the camera can sometimes render images warmer than they should be. This can be turned off though by adjusting the according setting in the camera’s menus. The exposure performance also ranked very well with the images all being very balanced according to the camera’s light meter.

Using the art filters can be fun if you’re looking to be creative, but in the end it will only just degrade the image quality.

Pop Art

Soft Focus

Pale and light color

Light Tone

Grainy Film

Pin Hole


Cross Process

Gentle Sepia

Dramatic Tone

Key Line


ISO performance is exceptional up to 1600; and there is where the camera starts to not perform as well as some of its competitors in this category. When noise reduction is turned on, it can smear fine details. For the best results, we recommend shooting in RAW and adjusting the noise reduction and sharpness accordingly.

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12,800

ISO 25,600

Additional Sample Images

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1 Comment

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  1. danieladougan

    I own this camera as well as five Micro 4/3 lenses. It’s my “good” camera, not a backup.

    Pros: The compactness is great, although that gets eroded somewhat since I use the (excellent) VF-4 viewfinder. Nevertheless I can fit this camera along with four lenses, a second battery, the little flash, the viewfinder, and a macro adapter into a small bag and carry them all easily. If I moved up to a messenger bag then I could even fit my kit lens, but I never want to use that anyway. I can’t overstate the importance of this: the best camera is, after all, the one you have with you.

    The camera is very, very fast to focus and shoot. I would agree with the author that ISO 6400 and above are only for emergencies…but ISO 3200 is quite usable. When I replaced my old E-PL1 with the E-PL5, it was a huge leap forward.


    Like most mirrorless cameras, the E-PL5 falls down when it comes to tracking autofocus on moving subjects. Just yesterday I tried to track a flying egret (beautiful bird) that I saw at the park, and it really let me down. I really wish Olympus would put phase detect AF on more of its models than just the pricey OM-D E-M1.

    Another con is the grip. The author talked about the grip being removable to make the camera thinner, but if anything I want a deeper grip. Olympus sells a deeper grip that fits this camera, so I may have to buy it soon.

    Although I love the flip-up LCD screen (pro), I would prefer a flip-and-twist screen like the one on my old Canon PowerShot S2 IS (P&S circa 2005). I see that the new E-PL7 has a screen that flips down instead of up, but good luck using that with a tripod.
    I’m not saying that I need a separate screen to show my exposure settings (but it would be nice), but it would be nice to be able to make adjustments by turning a dial instead of just pointing up, down, left, or right one stop at a time.

    All in all, the E-PL5 is a very good camera that is just short of being excellent.