Olympus has just announced two new cameras at Photokina: the PEN E-PL5 ($650 body or $700 with kit lens) and PEN E-PM2 ($550 body or $600 with kit lens). Both models share a number of features, like the 16 Megapixel sensor and the TruePic VI dual-core image processor. For low-light conditions, both can extend their ISO range to 25600 and have an AF illuminator to help the camera focus as fast as possible. Olympus claims to have the world’s fastest auto-focus for this category of camera. We haven’t been able to measure it, but if it is like the Olympus EM5, then yes, it is certainly very fast.
The LCD display keeps the same resolution than the previous PEN cameras, but the new version has a touch sensor that is bonded between the LCD module and the protecting glass. The bonding makes it possible to produce a display that has better viewing angle.
Both cameras come with a 14-42mm kit lens (4X optical zoom) and users can obviously purchase other micro four thirds lenses from Olympus or another vendor (Panasonic…). If the lens comes with image stabilization (IS), it is now possible to disable the internal Olympus IS so that both IS system don’t interfere with each other.
The cameras also feature a touch screen AF shutter, which means that upon tapping on the screen, the camera will focus on that particular location and snap a photo. I find it most convenient when composing photos with a nice out of focus area (bokeh). That way, I can focus on the photo composition and not worry about what the camera will focus on. The touch to focus also works when shooting 1080p movies.
It is possible to shoot full-resolution photos at 8FPS, which is really good for a camera this size. Some time ago, I had reviewed the Olympus PEN E-P3 which could only shoot at 4FPS. The Olympus EM5 shoots at 9FPS.
The main difference between the two cameras are in the body design: the Olympus PEN E-PL5 has changeable drips, a swivel display (180 degrees max for self-portraits) and more manual controls, so it is aimed at “enthusiast” photographers. The Olympus PEN E-PM2 is more compact, has menus that are easier to navigate and looks more fashionable (or less-pro, depending on your tastes). The E-PM2 comes in silver, black, white and red.
There are a lot of options, tweaks and special effects in the firmware, but instead of going over all of them, I’ll only talk about a couple that I found more interesting:
1/ FlashAir SD card support: Olympus directly supports FlashAir, which is a WIFI SD card which is capable of transmitting data to another WIFI device (phone, tablet, PC) without relying on a local network. Basically, the card creates its own hotspot that devices can connect to. This is different from the Eye-Fi cards, although the more recent Eye-Fi cards also do have a similar functionality. All the sharing uses Olympus Image Share (OI Share) and Penpal, an Olympus smartphone app (iOS/Android).
2/ It is possible to edit the RAW files directly on the camera in case you don’t want to wait until you’re back to a computer to change the color balance or something like that. If you won’t have a second chance at a specific time/location, this may be handy.