Olympus PEN E-PL5 vs E-PL3 Comparison

December 9, 2012

e-pl5 vs e-pl3

In this article I will be talking about the Olympus PEN E-PL5 Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and compare it to the E-PL3.  The E-PL5 is one of Olympus’ latest cameras and it was announced together with the PEN Lite E-PL5 and PEN Mini E-PM2 at Photokina 2012.  As for October 2012, Olympus is still the leader in the mirrorless market followed by Sony and then Panasonic.  Olympus PEN cameras are aimed for both beginners and enthusiasts alike. In this review I will be talking about the E-PL5 and hopefully help make up your mind whether you should buy this camera or whether to check our the alternatives.

Who is the Olympus E-PL5 For?

Olympus has nine PEN camera models in its lineup (including archived products) but four of the currently active models are:

  • E-P3 – $600 / June 30, 2011
  • Lite E-PL5 – $700 / September 17, 2012
  • Mini E-PM2 – $600 / September 17, 2012
  • Lite E-PL3 – $500 / June 30, 2011
  • Mini E-PM1 – $350 / June 30, 2011

* round up prices via Amazon.com 12/8/2012. Price includes the 14-42mm lens Kit.

You can see that the E-PL5  is the most expensive model in Olympus lineup and the most updated one along side E-PM2.  But note that the E-P3 still don’t have any official replacement (E-P4?).  The E-PL5 represent the latest and greatest from Olympus, and suppose to deliver (according to Olympus) Best-in-class image quality. If you really want to upgrade to a more “professional” Micro Four Thirds camera, you have that option, and that is to upgrade to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 which is an amazing MILC however you look at it, packing the latest technology innovation from Olympus.

The E-PL5 can suit for both beginners and enthusiast alike, but it it aimed towards the advanced photographer who is willing to pay more, for a move advanced camera. The Lite models sits above the Mini models and below the Px models. This model suppose to satisfy photographers who bought the Mini and searching for to upgrade to a better model, while still getting a relatively compact size camera.


What so Special the E-PL5? (vs E-PL3)

The Olympus E-PL5 is probably the most attractive camera in Olympus’ PEN camera lineup at the moment.  The camera was designed for optimal image quality meeting the demands of enthusiast and pros alike. Out of the box, the E-PL5 delivers amazing image quality that will surely impress even the hardcore pixel-peeper. One goal of Olympus is to make this PEN camera not less attractive than its flagship model, the E-M5, when it comes to image quality.  So the E-PL5 is Olympus first attempt to satisfy the high demand of advanced photographers for top-notch image quality at the same level of the OM-D E-M5 model, which is much more expensive (+$400 over the E-PL5 with the 14-42mm lens = ~$1100; as for the time of writing this article).

The E-PL5 also fits those photographers on a tight budget who are searching to invest in a high quality mirrorless camera, but prefer investing more money in a better lens, rather than the body. So instead of paying more for the OM-D E-M5, they will buy the E-PL5 and spend more money on a better o secondary lens.

The E-PL5 includes a 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor. This means that the camera is compatible with all the Micro Four Thirds lenses out there. So for example, you can mount any Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lens. A big advantage is that even if you change from an Olympus camera model to a Panasonic M43 model, you can keep your lenses and use them with your new Panasonic M43 camera! – This is one of the biggest advantages of the Micro Four Thirds system.

Olympus E-PL5 vs E-PL3 comparison

Olympus E-PL5 vs E-PL3 comparison

The E-PL5 is almost the same size as its predecessor, the E-PL3, just 1mm wider and thicker and weights 12 grams more (inc. battery). Olympus added a built-in but removable grip which the E-PL3 lacked, a nice addition and asked by many photographers.  The E-PL5 features a 460K-dot 3-inch 16:9 aspect ratio tilting touch-screen, the E-PL3  didn’t have a touch-sensitive display.

The E-PL5 has the following advantages over the E-PL3:

  • Touch-sensitive screen
  • Faster continuous shooting (8 fps vs 5 fps)
  • In-camera Panoramas
  • Higher effective resolution (15.1 vs 12.3 MP)
  • Higher default ISO range (25600 vs 12800)
  • Longer battery life (360 vs 300; CIPA rated)
  • Including ‘Underwater’ preset setting
  • Improved white balance bracketing adjustment
  • Including extra scene mode: ‘Wide converter’
  • More Art Filters, including: Pale & Light color, Light Tone, Cross Process, Dramatic Tone, Gentle Sepia, Key Line and Water color.
  • More display information including Touch Panel Condition and histogram in Live View Mode
  • Added Touch Target AF mode
  • Screen tilts up all the way for self-portraits
  • New ‘Lens IS Priority’ option in the menu
  • In-camera Raw processing with pre-defined or custom defined settings
  • Movie effects lie those on the E-M5


Both the E-PL3 and E-PL5 have the same light metering and 35-point autofocus systems. The E-PL5 have more finer control over the AF by using fewer selection point for better focus precision.

No doubt that the E-PL5 takes the PEN Lite cameras to a new level, and it will certainly attract more advanced photographers.  Note that the EPL5 doesn’t come with a built-in electronic viewfinder like the OM-D E-M5, but you can buy it as an optional accessory (VF-2 and VF-3 Electronic Viewfinders) and mount it using the accessory port 2 beneath the flash hot shoe.

The E-PL3 already won the TIPA award 2012 for Best CSC Entry Level camera and dpreview.com’s Silver Award. It certainly got the photography community approval and the E-PL5 is here to do this again.

Here is an Olympus E-PL5 Video Review by digitalCameraWorld:


Image Quality – WOW!

One of the main selling point of this camera is its high image quality. some of you might worry that the E-PL5 has higher resolution and that might hurt the overall IQ performance, but fear not. According to other reviewers and my observation, the E-PL5 is capable of delivering usable result up to ISO 6400, best under ISO800 and below. The E-M5 had a roughly one stop advantage over the E-PL3 in terms of ISO performance, the E-PL5 has closed that gap and now offers E-M5 like performance in a small camera body. The E-M5 image quality matched the ISO performance of many entry-level and enthusiast DSLR cameras, even surpassing some of those (compare the E-M5 ISO1600 to the Nikon D7000 and see what I mean).


E-PL5 Sample Images

ISO 200


ISO 3200

Birds On A Wire

ISO 200


Olympus E-PL5+Olympus MZD 12-50/3.5-6.3 EZ ED MSC / ISO 1600



ISO 320

Monday morning celebrations


Image quality is impressive hands down.  Even at ISO 1600 the image looks relatively very clean. I also really like the default JPEG colors that come from the Olympus, very well saturated colors, but not that kind that looks artificial. Colors are just spot on,  color rendition, contrast and dynamic range is truly impressive, I really mean it! – Even skin colors look very natural, but with the right complementing warm tone to it.

The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 was designed to impress even the most demanding photographers. Certainly a big step over older models when it comes to image quality. If you loved the E-M5 image quality, you will love the E-PM5, and I think those E-PL5 sample images can tell part of the story, don’t you think?

Before we end out comparison article, here are two  Olympus E-PL5 Video samples:

With the fade effect




The Olympus PEN E-PL5 isn’t a cheap camera, but that’s the price that you pay for to get the best and latest from Olympus.  Olympus done an amazing job with this camera and improve it in many aspects. What I would like to see in future models is Olympus improving the light metering and AF focusing system to something more advanced, because it’s still maintaining the same system as the E-P3. Not that it’s a bad thing, but let’s not forget the competition like the Panasonic Lumix GX1 and Sony NEX-5R which are both excellent CSC when it comes to features and image quality.

The Sony NEX-5R features fast autofocus , has external mic jack, 24p movies, 99 AF points, larger APS-C sensor, smaller size and higher default maximum ISO. The Panasonic Lumix GX1 has a built-in flash, it’s smaller and thinner. The NEX-5R is really an impressive camera, it has very good build quality, Wi-Fi, very good low light performance and it certainly a viable alternative.

If you are looking to upgrade from your EPL3, the E-PL5 gives a very good upgrade path.  The E-PL3 c0sts $200 less than the E-PL5, so it’s a good option for photographers on a tighter budget and those who prefer spending  that much for a camera + 2 lenses. When Olympus throws the slogan “Best-in-class image quality” on its official website and press release, some people have doubts, but after viewing sample images, you can see that Olympus stands behind this claim. The E-PL5 brings DSLR image quality in a compact package. As for the time of writing this article, the E-PL5 is the best PEN camera in my opinion, at east until the E-P4 is announced. Highly recommended mirrorless camera for those who do not compromise on image quality.

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