By TAN KIT HOONGbytz@thestar.com.my
OLYMPUS has gone full retro with its latest Micro Four Thirds camera, the Pen E-P5.
While previous Pen models already share a similar design to the original Pen half-frame film cameras, the E-P5 takes it a step further with a design and logo that looks very close to the classic Pen F camera.
However, in this case the design is only skin deep, and underneath the sleek exterior, the E-P5 features everything you'd expect from a modern mirrorless interchangeable lens camera plus a few features unique this model.
The E-P5 shares many features with the OM-D E-M5 camera, including the 16-megapixel Live MOS image sensor and excellent five-axis built-in image stabilisation system.
Also unchanged is Olympus' extremely fast contrast detect autofocus also taken from the OM-D, but now with a new "short release time lag" mode which will allow for faster shot-to-shot times, although at the expense of battery life.
New design, updated feature set
With the E-P5, Olympus has once again taken a look at the features of its previous cameras and improved on them.
In keeping with the sleek retro looks, the company has redesigned the camera to have no visible screws on the top and sides. In fact, the only screws are on the bottom plate of the camera.
More importantly, Olympus has also introduced a new LCD screen that is even thinner than the one found on their previous cameras - it now sits almost completely flush with the lines of the body.
Unfortunately, like in the OM-D E-M5, the LCD screen still only tilts forwards and backwards and cannot be rotated.
The E-P5 also comes with a new more reliable shutter unit, and now boasts a 1/8,000sec mechanical shutter speed.
However, the most interesting new addition to the E-P5's feature set is built-in WiFi, which allows iOS and Android device users to not only transfer images from the camera but also to obtain a live view image and snap photos.
While this in itself is not unique in the digital camera market, the method by which the smartphone or tablet pairs with the E-P5 is - when WiFi is turned on, the camera will actually generate a QR code which can be read using the smartphone/tablet camera and appropriate QR code reader.
If the smartphone or tablet does not yet have the Olympus OI.Share software, the user will be prompted to install it from Google Play or the iOS App Store.
If it's already installed, the OI.Share app will be launched and the camera and the smartphone/tablet will be paired together using information obtained from the QR code.
We got a demonstration of this and it looks like the pairing is as simple as claimed and as an added bonus, the OI.Share app will also utilise the smartphone's GPS to automatically tag photos with geolocation information in the EXIF header.
There is a catch, however - from what we understand, WiFi pairing only works for Android or iOS devices and is not meant for wirelessly connecting PCs to the E-P5.
This means that connecting the E-P5 to a PC or Mac must still be via a regular USB cable.
One other notable feature that's new on the E-P5 is the inclusion of the increasingly-popular "focus peaking" which assists users who are manually focusing by highlighting in-focus areas in white or black.
The E-P5 will also feature a faster continuous burst rate of up to 9fps (frames per second) when set to single-shot autofocus, and up to 5fps when continuous autofocus is used.
Accessories, special editions
With the E-P5, Olympus is also offering a special edition of the camera (it's not a limited edition) that comes with a premium, handcrafted maple wood grip.
This special E-P5 will only be available in the online store that Olympus Malaysia is due to open with the launch of the camera.
In case anyone is wondering, unlike its predecessor, the E-P5 does not have user interchangeable grips, so this means that the user cannot buy this maple grip as a optional extra later.
Together with the E-P5 Olympus is also offering a new VF-4 EVF (electronic viewfinder) with a much higher 2.36-million dot resolution and 1.48x magnification, giving the user a higher-definition and larger EVF image than ever before.
Because of the new black and white aesthetics of the E-P5, Olympus will also be offering many of its lenses in basic black instead of the silver finish that is currently on some of them.
According to Yong Kee Nyap, general manager of the imaging system division of Olympus (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the E-P5 will be the first step in the opening of the Olympus online store.
"We decided to open an online shop because we get a lot of customers asking us about purchasing Olympus camera accessories, such as lens caps, straps and bags, which are not so easily available in retail outlets," said Yong.
The online store will officially go up in June, although pre-orders for the E-P5 will start in May. Delivery for the pre-orders is expected to be in early July and in stores later that month.
For now, pre-orders of the E-P5 will require a deposit to be paid online and when the camera is available, the balance can be paid for and the camera picked up at an authorised retailer of the customer's choice.
According to Yong, this only applies to the E-P5, as all other accessories can be paid for online and shipped to the customer via courier when the online store is up and running.
In a change from the usual kit lens bundle which is usually a zoom, the E-P5 will only be bundled together with the black M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 lens for RM4,499. A body-only option will also be available for RM3,499.