Olympus E-5 Preview

Using the Olympus E-5

Record Mode

Olympus has requested that I don't post any performance numbers from my pre-production E-5, but you can get a good sense of how it'll do by looking at my E-3 review.

The E-5 has a ton of image size and quality options, and even I was a little confused by all of them. Hopefully this chart makes some sense:

Resolution Compression Approx. file size # images on 4GB SD card (optional)
4032 x 3024
N/A 14.0 MB 216
4032 x 3024
Super fine 8.4 MB 404
Fine 5.9 MB 580
Normal 2.7 MB 1280
Basic 1.8 MB 1908
3200 x 2400
Super fine 5.6 MB 616
Fine 3.4 MB 1020
Normal 1.7 MB 2016
Basic 1.2 MB 2988
2560 x 1920
Super fine 3.2 MB 1076
Fine 2.2 MB 1580
Normal 1.1 MB 3104
Basic 800 KB 4572
1600 x 1200
Super fine 1.3 MB 2692
Fine 900 KB 3972
Normal 500 KB 7572
Basic 400 KB 11012
1280 x 960
Super fine 900 KB 4176
Fine 600 KB 6056
Normal 300 KB 11536
Basic 300 KB 16152
1024 x 768
Super fine 600 KB 6376
Fine 400 KB 8972
Normal 300 KB 16152
Basic 200 KB 22028
640 x 480
Super fine 300 KB 14252
Fine 200 KB 20192
Normal 200 KB 34616
Basic 100 KB 40384

Now that's a lot of options. To make things even more confusing, you can take a RAW photo along with any of the JPEGs listed above at the same time.

Olympus uses a rather unusual file naming convention on their cameras. Files are named PMDD####.JPG where M = month, D = day, and #### = 0001 - 9999. Photos taken with the AdobeRGB color space start with an underscore, instead of a "P". You can customize the first two characters of the file name in the setup menu, if you wish.

The E-5 has a detailed, complex menu system. There are a lot of options to be found here, some of which are buried pretty deep. Unlike many of Olympus' consumer camera, there's no in-camera help available in the menus. The manual doesn't explain things terribly well, either (though again, it was pre-production). The menu is divided into five tabs, covering shooting, playback, and custom options. Here's what you'll find:

Shooting Menu 1
  • Card setup (All erase, format)
  • Reset/MySet (Reset, MySet 1-4) - reset to defaults or to settings of your choice
  • Picture mode (i-Enhance, vivid, natural, muted, portrait, monotone, custom, art filters) - more below
  • Gradation (Auto, normal, high key, low key) - see below
  • Image quality
    • Still picture (RAW, Large/Fine, Large/Normal, Medium/Normal, Small/Normal, RAW+LF, RAW+LN, RAW+MN, RAW + SN)
    • Movie (HD, SD)
  • Image aspect (4:3, 16:9, 3:2, 6:6, 5:4, 7:6, 6:5, 7:5, 3:4) - plenty to choose from
Shooting menu 2
  • Image stabilizer (Off, IS 1 - 3) - mode 1 is normal, mode 2 is for horizontal panning, and mode 3 is for vertical panning
  • Bracketing
    • AE bracketing (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0EV, 5 frames/0.3EV, 5 frames/0.7EV, 5 frames/1.0EV) - described earlier
    • WB bracketing (Off, 3 frames/2 steps, 3 frames/4 steps, 3 frames/6 steps) - camera takes three shots in a row, each with a different white balance setting; you can bracket in the red/blue and green/magenta directions
    • Flash bracketing (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0EV) - same as exposure bracketing but for flash exposure
    • ISO bracketing (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0EV) - same as exposure bracketing, but for ISO sensitivity
  • Multiple exposure - combine up to four exposures into a single image
    • Frame (Off, 2 - 4 frames)
    • Auto gain (on/off)
    • Overlay (on/off)
  • RC mode (on/off) - for shooting with the wireless remote
Playback Menu
  • Slideshow
    • Start
    • BGM (Off, melancholy, nostalgic, love, joy, cool) - music
    • Slide (All, stills, movies)
    • Slide interval (2 - 10 sec)
    • Movie interval (Full, short)
  • Auto rotate (on/off) - rotates images taken in the portrait orientation
  • Edit - I'll discuss these later
    • RAW Data Edit
    • JPEG edit
    • Image overlay (2 - 4 image merge)
  • DPOF print marking (One, all)
  • Copy all - from one memory card to another
  • Reset protect (on/off)
Custom Menu 1
  • AF/MF
    • AF area (All target, single target, dynamic single target) - see below
    • Focus point setup (Off, loop, spiral) - how the focus points are navigated
    • Reset lens (on/off) - resets lens to infinite focus when camera is turned off
    • Bulb focusing (on/off) - whether you can focus during a bulb exposure
    • Focus ring (Clockwise, counterclockwise) - select how manual focusing works
    • MF assist (on/off) - frame enlargement when manually focusing
    • Set home focus point - choose a single focus point that the camera as the default
    • PD AFL (on/off) - whether phase detection AF can be used in live view
    • AF illuminator (on/off)
    • C-AF lock (on/off) - prevents sudden changes in focus
    • AF area pointer (on/off) - whether AF targets light up in the viewfinder
    • AF sensitivity (Normal, small) - set the size of the AF point in single-target mode
  • Button/Dial
    • Dial function - select what the rear and front command dials control
      • Program mode (Program shift, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation)
      • Aperture priority mode (Aperture, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation)
      • Shutter priority mode (Shutter speed, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation)
      • Manual mode
        • Main dial (Shutter speed, aperture)
        • Sub dial (Shutter speed, aperture)
      • Menu
        • Main dial (Left/right, up/down, value)
        • Sub dial (Left/right, up/down, value)
    • Dial direction (Dial 1, 2) - allows you to adjust the rotational direction of the dials
    • AE/AF lock button - how this button works; I'll save the details for the camera manual
      • S-AF (Mode 1, 2, 3)
      • C-AF (Mode 1, 2, 3, 4)
      • MF (Mode 1, 2, 3)
    • AE/AF lock memory (on/off) - whether the lock "sticks" when you let go of the button
    • Button function - customize these buttons
      • Function button (Face detect, preview, live preview, one-touch WB, home focus point, manual focus, RAW quality, P/A/S/M mode, test picture, MySet 1-4, underwater, underwater macro, level gauge, magnify, AF area select, IS mode, off)
      • Focus point button (AF area select, one-touch WB, home focus point, manual focus, RAW quality, P/A/S/M mode, test picture, MySet 1-4, level gauge, IS mode, off)
      • Preview button (AF area select, face detect, preview, live preview, one-touch WB, home focus point, manual focus, RAW quality, P/A/S/M mode, test picture, MySet 1-4, level gauge, magnify, IS mode, off)
      • Four-way controller (Off, focus point select)
    • Button timer (Off, 3, 5, 8 sec, hold) - how long the "direct buttons" are active
    • AE/AF lock <-> Function button (on/off) - swap the function of the two buttons
  • Release
    • Release priority S (on/off) - whether focus lock is required for shutter release
    • Release priority C (on/off) - same as above, but for continuous AF mode
    • Low speed continuous rate (1 - 4 frames/second)
  • Display/Sound/PC
    • HDMI
      • HDMI out (1080i, 720p, 480p, 576p)
      • HDMI control (on/off) - for use with a compatible HDTV
    • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
    • Sleep (Off, 1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
    • Live view boost (on/off) - boosts low light visibility
    • Face detect (on/off)
    • Info settings - what is displayed when you press the Info button
      • Playback mode info (Image only, overall, histogram, highlight & shadow)
      • LV info (Displayed grid [5 to choose from], histogram, highlight & shadow, zoom, multi view, image only)
      • Thumbnail settings (4, 9, 25, 100, calendar)
    • Control settings - turn these two menus on or off
      • Live control (on/off)
      • Super control panel (on/off)
    • Histogram settings (Highlight, shadow)
    • Backlit LCD (8, 30, 60 secs, hold)
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Volume (0 - 5)
    • USB mode (Auto, storage, MTP, print, control)
    • Level gauge (on/off)
    • 4 h time (on/off) - whether camera shuts off after being idle for 4 hours
    • Picture mode settings - here you can choose which of the picture modes/art filters are shown in the Picture Mode menu
  • Exposure/Metering/ISO
    • EV step (1/3, 1/2, 1 EV)
    • Metering (ESP+AF, ESP, center-weighted, spot, highlight control spot, shadow control spot)
    • AEL metering (Auto, center-weighted, spot, spot highlight, spot shadow)
    • ISO step (1/3, 1 EV)
    • ISO Auto set - set the upper limits for auto ISO
      • High limit (200-6400)
      • Default (200-6400)
    • ISO Auto (P/A/S/all) - when auto ISO is available
    • Bulb timer (1 - 30 mins) - preset a time for bulb mode
    • Anti-shock (Off, 1/8 - 30 sec) - set the interval between the time the shutter release is fully pressed and when the photo is taken; reduces risk of blur due to the button-pressing action
  • Flash custom
    • X-sync (1/60 - 1/250 sec)
    • Slow limit (30 - 1/250 sec)
    • Flash exp comp + exp comp (on/off) - I believe this links flash exposure compensation with exposure compensation
  • Quality/Aspect/Color/WB
    • Noise reduction (Off, on, auto)
    • Noise filter (Off, low, standard, high)
    • White balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, underwater, flash, one-touch 1-4, color temperature) - see below
    • All white balance compensation
      • All set (-7 to +7) - in either the amber or green directions
      • All reset
    • Color space (sRGB, AdobeRGB)
    • Shading compensation (on/off) - supposed to help reduce vignetting
    • Image quality set (Large/Medium/Small, Superfine/fine/normal/basic) - select the size and quality of the four image quality settings
    • Pixel count - select the resolution for these two sizes
      • Middle (3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200)
      • Small (1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480)
    • Aspect shooting (LV only, all) - whether you can change the aspect ratio when using the viewfinder
  • Record/Erase
    • Quick erase (on/off) - whether camera prompts you to delete a photo
    • RAW+JPEG erase (JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG) - what's removed when you delete a RAW+JPEG photo
    • File name (Auto, reset)
    • Edit filename (AdobeRGB, sRGB) - you can customize the naming convention for each of these
    • Priority set (No, yes) - initial position of the cursor when All Erase or Card Format is selected
    • dpi setting (Auto, custom) - the latter lets you select the dpi of your choosing
    • CF/SD - switch between the memory cards
    • Copyright settings - new to the E-5
      • Copyright info (on/off) - whether this info is embedded in photos
      • Artist name
      • Copyright name
  • Movie
    • Sound recording (on/off)
  • Utility
    • Pixel mapping - removes dead pixels
    • Exposure shift (-1 to +1) - tweak each of the metering settings
    • Cleaning mode - flips the mirror up, for manual sensor cleaning
    • External WB detect (on/off) - whether the external white balance sensor is used
    • AF focus adjust - allows you to fine-tune the focus for up to 20 lenses
    • AA battery type (1, 2, 3) - the manual wasn't very helpful about this option for use with the optional battery grip
    • Warning level (-2 to +2) - how soon the low battery warning comes on
    • Level adjust (Reset, adjust) - calibrate the electronic level

Setup Menu
  • Date/time (set)
  • Language
  • LCD settings
    • Color/brightness (-7 to +7) - adjust the color temp and brightness separately
    • Auto brightness (on/off) - whether the LCD brightness adjusts automatically
  • Rec View (Off, auto play, 1 - 20 secs) - post-shot review; the auto play option enters playback mode after a photo is taken
  • Custom menu display (on/off) - whether the custom menu is even shown
  • Firmware - displays the firmware version of the body and attached lens

Hopefully I explained most of the menu items well enough up there. I do want to mention a few specific menu items, though.

Picture Mode menu Available options for a custom Picture Mode

I'll start with the E-5's Picture Modes. There are several presets, including i-Enhance (which boosts saturation and contrast), vivid, natural, muted, monotone (black & white), and custom. For each of those, you can adjust the contrast, sharpness, saturation, gradation (see below), and the amount of the "effect" in i-Enhance mode. If you've selected the monotone option, you can also add virtual filters or apply a color tone to the image.

The Picture Mode menu is also where you'll find Olympus' Art Filters, which are a new addition to the E-5. These special color effects, which can be used for both stills and videos, include:

  • Pop art
  • Soft focus
  • Pale & color
  • Light tone
  • Grainy film
  • Pin hole
  • Diorama (miniature)
  • Gentle sepia
  • Cross process
  • Dramatic tone

The gradation feature takes advantage of Olympus' Shadow Adjustment Technology. When you set this to "auto", the camera will break the image into smaller sections, analyzing and adjusting the brightness in each individually. You can see this feature in action in my E-30 review.

As you'd expect, there are numerous white balance options available on the E-5. First, you've got the usual presets, such as auto, sunlight, cloudy, etc. The camera can also store up to four sets of custom white balance settings, which you create by taking a photo of a white or gray card. You must set the Function button to One-touch WB first, though. You can also set the color temperature, with an available range of 2000K - 14000K. If that's still not enough, you can tweak any of those in the amber/blue or green/magenta direction.

There are three AF area modes on the E-5. First up is "all target AF mode", which lets the camera automatically select one of the eleven focus points. Single target AF lets you select one of the focus points. You can adjust the size of the focus point with the AF sensitivity option in the custom menu. A third AF mode is called dynamic single target mode. This is like single target AF, but if the camera cannot find anything at that point, it'll check the adjacent points as well.

The E-5 has four types of auto bracketing. You can bracket for exposure (now with more options), flash exposure, white balance, and even ISO sensitivity. For each of those modes, the camera takes multiple exposures, each with a different setting (exposure, WB, ISO). If you've got the space on your memory card, this is a good way to always get the shot you want.

Alright, that's about it for menus. Since this is a preview, there are no photo tests, so let's continue!

Movie Mode

It's pretty funny to look back at my E-3 review and see the words "no digital SLR has a movie mode". Boy, have times changed!

The E-5 can record video at 1280 x 720 (30 frames/seconds) with sound until the file size reaches 2GB. That takes approximately 7 minutes. For longer movies you'll have to leave the HD world behind and drop down to 640 x 480, where you can record for up to 14 continuous minutes.

As you'd expect, you can operate the optical zoom all you want in movie mode. The camera doesn't seem to continuously focus, though you activate the AF system by pressing the AE/AF lock button (or just doing it manually). I'm not entirely sure if the sensor-shift image stabilization is available while recording, due to the fact that Olympus says "the recorded image is enlarged slightly" if you use it.

There are three exposure modes in movie mode. In Program mode, the camera does everything, and the ISO is set to Auto. In aperture priority mode you can adjust the depth-of-field, though the ISO remains set to Auto. Only in full manual mode can you adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO yourself. There's no manual audio level adjustment or anything like that.

The art filters are all available in movie mode, though do note that some of them may look a little choppy.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the Motion-JPEG codec.

Since this is a preview, I can't show you any sample movies, sorry.

Playback Mode

The E-5 has a fairly nice playback mode by D-SLR standards. Basic features such as slideshows (now with music and transitions), DPOF print marking, image rotation, image protection, voice captions, and playback zoom are all here.

Photos can be viewing one-at-a-time or as thumbnails of varying sizes. You can also navigate to photos that were taken on a certain date by using the calendar view (pictured).

Side-by-side image viewer (from the E-30)

Another nice feature is a side-by-side image (light box) viewer. Press the focus point selection button to split the screen, select the image you want for the right half, and then you can compare them easily. When you scroll one image, the other one scrolls with it. Very handy!

The camera offers two edit modes -- one for JPEGs, another for RAW images. The JPEG editing feature lets you brighten shadows, remove redeye, crop or resize a photo, change the aspect ratio, adjust the saturation, smooth skin, or change a photo to black & white or sepia.

The RAW data edit feature is handy, but not as easy to use as it could be. Instead of just adjusting the RAW properties right there in playback mode, you first need to set the desired settings in the record menu, and then return to playback mode to use the RAW edit function. The resulting image is saved as a JPEG.

Since the E-5 has two memory card slots, it's not surprising that it lets you copy photos back and forth between an SD and CompactFlash card.

By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos, but press the info button a few times and you'll get a lot more.

The E-5 moves from photo to photo instantly in playback mode.