E-M5 vs. E-P5: The VIEW makes the difference

Recently, I got an E-P5 in my hands. It’s not my own camera as I’m also waiting for the arrival of the Panasonic GX7 and the next Olympus OM-D body before buying anything new. But anyway, I could compare these two bodies right now… and I have to say it’s much simpler than I thought:

The new viewfinder of the E-P5 is huge. By huge I don’t refer to its physical appearance which you can judge on the photo below. Huge is the image it gives. Coming from the E-M5, the impression is like switching from a small APS-C SLR to a 35mm one. It’s bright and big and stunningly detailed and its appearance is very natural.

Olympus E-M5 vs. E-P5
Olympus E-M5 vs. E-P5

The rest of these cameras is very similar. But you already knew that. I personally prefer the E-P5’s thumbwheel over the arrangement of the E-M5. There is also not that ugly dreaded play and FN1 button. The E-P5 adds focus peaking and a very easy way to select a smaller AF field. Time has shown that the Olympus guys just don’t give you any important firmware updates for the E-M5, even if they could easily: The small AF field thingy has already been introduces a long time ago with the entry-level E-PM5 and E-PL5! Really, how Olympus deals with their E-M5 customers sets me up so much that it alone might shift me towards a Panasonic body next time!

The overall build of the E-P5 feels very tight and solid and the silver finish is much better than on almost any other modern camera, it really looks the part. Image quality is, by all means, identical but of course the E-P5 gives you ISO 100 and 1/8000 seconds which the E-M5 lacks. All in all a lot of small advantages but the probably biggest wow effect is that different viewfinder experience.

So here is my E-P5 advice for you:

If you can live with the tacked-on looks, and if they sell that E-P5 kit with the viewfinder and 17/1.8 lens for €1499 in your country, get it and don’t think about the E-M5 any more. That is, of course, if you are sure you want Micro Four Thirds and also sure that you want a Olympus body and not a Panasonic. (The upcoming GX7 will most likely have a slightly worse image stabiliser but we’ll have to see, haven’t we….)

If you already have an E-M5, forget selling that one for the E-P5, though, and wait just two more months like I will do myself. In the meantime, the E-M5 is more compact and gives just the same image quality.

Really, the biggest trouble of the E-P5 is that there will be so strong competition in so short a time after it finally hit the market: Especially the GX7, but also the next OM-D. I just can’t imagine the GX7 giving the same huge viewfinder image but again, we’ll have to see how good it will be, and also it’s cheaper and much more compact than the E-P5 with viewfinder.

So what about the lenses? Panasonic 20/1.7 vs. Olympus 17/1.8?

Oh, I forgot to say anything about the lenses: By all practical means, my Panasonic 20/1.7 gives the same kind of image quality as the new Olympus 17/1.8 of the E-P5. When looking very closely, I’d say that all the reviews and tests are, of course, correct, in that the 20 is slightly sharper. But you’ll probably never notice in real world! And the 17 does not give those dreaded blue color fringes. But really, with Lightroom 4 these are easily corrected most of the time (not always, though!).

I would be hard pressed to select one of these lenses over the other. If you get your E-P5 as a kit, just use the 17. If they’ll ever give you a good deal with the E-P5 and viewfinder without 17 mm lens, and you already own the Panasonic 20/1.7, then just continue with that lens. Basically they are both good and both small lenses, but not perfect. The difference in their field of view – due to their slightly different focal lengths – is probably bigger than you’d expect, but see that for yourself:

Volksgartenstraße, Cologne. (Olympus 17/1.8 at f/5.)
Volksgartenstraße, Cologne. (Olympus 17/1.8 at f/5.)
Volksgartenstraße, Cologne. (Panasonic 20/1.7 at f/5.)
Volksgartenstraße, Cologne. (Panasonic 20/1.7 at f/5.)

Anyway, watch this space when the GX7 and next OM-D have arrived…! I am almost sure I’ll get one of these two as a replacement for my own Olympus E-M5. :)


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