Olympus PEN E-PL7 vs OM-D E-M10 vs OM-D E-M5 vs PEN E-P5

September 2, 2014

Olympus PEN E-PL7 camera

In this article I will compare the newly announced Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7 versus three other Olympus MFT cameras, the OM-D E-M10, OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-P5.  It’s interesting to see how the new E-PL7 compares to the other popular MFT model, and you’ll get to learn about its cons and pros and whether or not this should be your next Micro Four Thirds camera.

We’ll start with an introduction to the E-PL7 and move on to the comparison itself, so let’s get started!

Olympus PEN E-PL7

Announced on August 28 2014, the E-PL7 is Olympus’ latest MFT camera as of the time of writing. It’s a entry-level ILC that offers a very good value in return for your investment for the advanced amateur or enthusiast photographer, and you’ll soon see why. Let’ take a look how the E-PL7 stands in terms of price compared to the other cameras.

  • PEN E-PL7 (body only): ~$599.00
    PEN E-PL7 (14-42mm IIR lens): ~$699.00
  • OM-D E-M5 (body only): ~$799.00
    OM-D E-M5 (12-50mm lens): ~$999.00
  • OM-D E-M10 (body only): ~$690.00
    OM-D E-M10 (14-42mm lens): ~$799.00
  • PEN E-P5 (body only): ~$799.00
    PEN E-P5 ( 17mm & VF-4 EVF): ~$1300.00

* price from Amazon and B&H rounded up, updated as of the time of writing (9/2/2014). Visit the websites for updated prices

As you can see comparing the ‘body only’ prices, the E-PL7 is the cheapest among the four cameras, followed by the E-M10 in a mid-range price and E-P5 and E-M5 which cost the same and are the most expensive cameras in the list. That said, you’ll soon see that regardless of its cheaper price, the E-PL7 boast an improved camera design inherited from the E-P5 and features that made it behave and feel like a mid-range offering. In fact, it inherited some of the great features of the OM-D cameras.

Olympus PEN E-PL7 and E-PL5 side by side size comparison

Olympus PEN E-PL7 and E-PL5 side by side size comparison (click to view on camerasize.com)

The E-PL7 is slightly larger and wider then its predecessor the E-PL5 but Olympus certainly made noticeable changes. Olympus upgraded the exterior providing a textured metal finish, a textured grip and leathered texture  wrapping that surrounds the mid-front section of the camera, giving the photographer better grip and adds to the professionalism look of the camera. The hand grip  was also gotten slightly deeper. The metal body and dials, all add and enhance the beautiful vintage design that many photographers gets attached to. This certainly brings those great nostalgic memories from the film days, at times when we were (some of us) shooting with film cameras and cameras were built quite differently than they are today.  I’m sure that many of you will love the new design and appreciate its cosmetic changed — it’s a beautiful camera I have to say.

One-Touch Selfies

The vintage look certainly camouflage the digitalization of this camera, but don’t let the camera design fool you. At the back of the camera you get to enjoy a 3-inch 1.4M dot high-res tilting touchscreen display. The E-PL5 also had 3-inch tilting display, but with only 460K-dots resolution. The E-PL7 screen can tilt upward 80 degrees and  downward 180 degrees for easy selfie shooting.

Olympus also added a unique “Selfie mode” which is automatically activated when the rear LCD it tilted downward. When it does, the image on the monitor is mirrored to give you the correct view. Furthermore, if a zoom lens is attached, the camera recognizes it automatically and it tells the lens to move to a wide angle of view so it’s quicker and easier for the user to take selfie photos . You can also use the e-Portrait, shutter release and custom self timer (interval shooting) buttons on the monitor to get that perfect selfie shot. With the interval shooting, you don’t have to worry about misfocus, the camera automatically refocuses on the subject (you) each frame.

3-axis VCM Image Stabilization & Performance

The Olympus PEN E-PL7 Lite inherits the E-M10‘s 3-axis VCM image stabilization mechanism. This IBIS helps combat camera shake and minimize the occurrences of image blur when shooting handheld and especially when capturing selfies one-handed. You selfie photos will look sharp and clear every time!

The Olympus PEN E-PL7 utilizes a 81-point fast AF system which was inherited from the OM-D E-M10 camera, as well as a fast 8 fps in continuous shooting mode when the focus is locked on the first frame. At C-AF mode, the camera can capture photos at 3.7 fps and the focus is readjusted for each frame, which is useful and needed when shooting subjects that moves away or towards the camera.

At the heart of the camera is a 16.05 megapixel Live MOS sensor and  TruePic VII processor, the same processor used in the O-MD E-M1, Olympus’ flagship MFT camera. This new image processor utilizes many technologies that automatically enhanced the image output with sharpness and chromatic aberration correction, remove false colors and enhance the color in the image. At the end you get an image that looks very natural and beautiful to look at.

Other features include: new Photo Story shooting mode, Live Guide (apply multiple effects simultaneously), new “Panning” scene mode (sets the shutter speed automatically, matching the camera movement), “Old film” movie effect, two HDR modes, Hand-held startlight mode (blue-free low-light capturre using 8 merged shots), Live composite, interval shooting, self timer movies, live bulb shooting, 14 art filters, built in Wi-Fi for easy sharing and remote shooting and compatibility with the PT-EP12 underwater case for underwater photography.

No doubt that Olympus took the E-PL7 very seriously, and wanted to make even its entry-level cameras in the same high standards as its flagship PEN camera, the E-P5. The competition doesn’t get any easier, and that made Olympus upgrade its entry-level standards. This is great because you can enjoy a very capable and great looking MFT camera for less. The E-PL7 is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds lenses. This is also one of Olympus (and Panasonic) main strengths, the lens selection. Many people made their decision based not only on the camera’s capabilities, but also on the amount of available lenses the company offers. Because this camera has a MFT mount, this means that you can enjoy MFT lenses made by other companies, not just those made by Olympus. This includes Sigma, Tamron, Panasonic, and others.

The E-PL7 is a very fun camera to use and adopted to the latest trends in the mobile photography era.  For some of you, this might be the perfect camera to buy in 2014/2015, but I before you make a decision, let’s first take a look how it compared to other Olympus MFT cameras.

E-PL7 vs E-M10 vs E-M5 vs E-P5

Now it’s time to compare the Olympus E-P7 to the E-M10, E-M4 and E-P5. I’m sure that many of you wanted to know how the E-PL7 stacks up against those other cameras.

E-PL7E-P5E-M10E-M5
AnnouncedAugust 28, 2014May 10, 2013January 29, 2014February 8, 2012
Estimated Price
(as of 9.2.2014
- body only)
~$599~$799~$699~$999
Build QualityComposite (metal and plastic) and metal dialsMagnesium alloy frame and metal dialsMix of magnesium alloy and polycarbonateMagnesium alloy frame
Weather SealingNoNoNoYes

Dust-proof, and Splash-proof (e.g.sand, dust, rain, water spray)
The E-M5 is the only camera among the four that has weather-sealing that protects the camera against dist and water splashes. It's the best option for the outdoor photographer. Don't forget to use a weather-sealed lens as well. The E-M5 battery holder is also weather-sealed.
Sensor16.1MP (effective)
Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
4:3 aspect ratio
SWF (dust reduction)

4608x3456 pixels
16.1MP (effective)
Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
4:3 aspect ratio
SWF (dust reduction)

4608x3456 pixels
16.1MP (effective)
Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
4:3 aspect ratio
SWF (dust reduction)

4608x3456 pixels
16.1MP (effective)
Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
4:3 aspect ratio
SWF (dust reduction)

4608x3456 pixels
Pixel Size3.75 microns3.75 microns3.75 microns3.75 microns
ProcessorTruePic VIITruePic VITruePic VIITruePic VI
All four cameras uses the same sensor type. The E-PL7 and E-M10 however utilize a next-generation TruePic VII image processor that further enhances image output rendering and has better algorithms to fix different type of optical aberrations, color and sharpness corrections.
ISO100 - 25600100 - 25600100 - 25600200 - 25600
All the cameras except the E-M5 has an extended ISO 100 (Low), but the native ISO starts at ISO200 for all cameras.
Exposure CompensationStills ±5 EV
Movie ±3 EV
±3 EV±5 EV±3 EV
RAW12-bit losless12-bit losless12-bit losless12-bit losless
Image Stabilization- Built-in sensor-shift
- 3-axis (yaw/pitch/roll)
- 3.5 EV compensation (CIPA)
- Lens IS priority (uses lens IS if available)
- 4 different modes
- Works for stills and videos

*roll useful when shooting selfies on-handed
- Built-in sensor-shift
- 5-axis yaw/pitch/vertical shift/horizontal shift/roll)
- 5 EV compensation (Olympus in-house test)
- Lens IS priority (uses lens IS if available)
- 4 different modes
- Works for stills and videos

*roll useful when shooting selfies on-handed
- Built-in sensor-shift
- 3-axis (yaw/pitch/roll)
- 3.5 EV compensation (CIPA)
- Lens IS priority (uses lens IS if available)
- 4 different modes
- Works for stills and videos

*roll useful when shooting selfies on-handed
- Built-in sensor-shift
- 5-axis yaw/pitch/vertical shift/horizontal shift/roll)
- 5 EV compensation (Olympus in-house test)
- Lens IS priority (uses lens IS if available)
- 3 different modes
- Works for stills and videos

*roll useful when shooting selfies on-handed
Both the E-P5 Pen flagship and E-M5 use a more advanced 5-axis IBIS mechanism. In practice the advantages depends on a few variable like how stable you hold the camera, what shutter speed you use, etc. All in all, the 5-axis stabilization for a given setup should give better performance and result in more images being sharp and less blurry. The extra 1.5 EV advantage over the 3-axis IBIS might not be crucial for many, but it does give an advantage in low-light shooting, as it allows you to shoot at approx. 1.5 stops slower shutter speeds, which means 3 times more light. Certainly helpful for low-light photography.
Shutter Speed60 - 1/4000 sec

Bulb
60 - 1/8000 sec

Bulb
60 - 1/4000 sec

Bulb
60 - 1/4000 sec

Bulb
The E-P5 is the only camera here to offer 1/8000 sec shutter speed, which is twice faster than the 1/4000 sec of the other cameras.

Among its advantages is being able to better freeze very fast moving subjects and have better control over the amount of light passing throw onto the sensor. So you can use it for example with fast lenses in order to reduce the amount of light when shooting with fast aperture (e.g. f/1.4) and prevent overexposure for a given same ISO speed.
3D/MPO StillsYesYesYesYes
AF SystemHigh-speed imager AF

81 AF points (covers most of the frame)
Contrast detection
High-speed imager AF

35 AF points
Contrast detection
High-speed imager AF

81 AF points
Contrast detection
High-speed imager AF

35 AF points
Contrast detection
The great news for those considering the E-PL7 is that it has a new AF system with 81 points, much higher than the E-PL5 and E-M5, although the same amount of AF points as the E-M10.

According to Olympus, this AF system is the fastest ever produced by the company. This certainly gives us a good look at the companies vision towards future models. If an entry-level camera has such a fast and advanced AF system, what future PENs will get.

I'm sure that many of you will appreciate having such an advanced AF system, as it's useful for many type of shooting styles, especially when shooting fast moving subjects / fast action photography / sports.
LCD3-inch
1037K-dots
3:2 aspect ratio
Touchscreen
Tilting (downward 180 degrees for selfies / upward 80 degrees)
3-inch
1037K-dots
3:2 aspect ratio
Touchscreen
Tilting (downward 50 degrees / upward 80 degrees)
3-inch
1037K-dots
3:2 aspect ratio
Touchscreen
Tilting (downward 50 degrees / upward 80 degrees)
3-inch
610K-dots
3:2 aspect ratio
Touchscreen
Tilting (downward 50 degrees / upward 80 degrees)
The E-PL7 has the best monitor among the four with a high-resolution large touchscreen display and the ability to tilt downward in 180 degrees angle. The E-P5 and E-M10 LCDs are also great but have limited tilting mechanism which is not suitable for selfie shooting. The E-M5 is the least impressive with lower resolution display, but other than that, the same specs as the E-P5 and E-M10.

So again, it's great to see that a new-gen entry-level PEN gets an excellent rear display specs.
Eye-level ViewfinderNo

Compatible with the Olympus VF-4 EVF (2.36M dots, 90º up tiltable, 1.48x magnification)
No

Compatible with the Olympus VF-4 EVF (2.36M dots, 90º up tiltable, 1.48x magnification)
Electronic
1,440K-dots
100% coverage
0.58x (35mm equiv.) magnification

60fps (0.027 sec.) /120fps (0.007 sec.) refresh rate

2 axis level gauge

Eye sensor
Electronic
1,440K-dots
100% coverage
0.58x (35mm equiv.) magnification

60fps (0.027 sec.) /120fps (0.007 sec.) refresh rate

2 axis level gauge

Eye sensor
Both the E-P5 and E-PL7 lack a built-in electronic viewfinder, which is quite petty, especially the E-P5 as a flagship PEN model.

I personally was expecting Olympus to surprise me here, but I have to admit I was disappointed.

That said, you do have the option to buy the excellent VF-4 EVF, but I am pretty sure that most people won't bother paying $280 for it, and it certainly takes lots of room at the top, and that "kills" the compactness advantage of this camera.

The E-M5 and E-M10 both enjoy a built-in EVF, and a high quality one. That also leads to the two cameras being considerably taller and have more dpeth than the E-PL7 and E-P5.

The good news is that the E-PL7 and E-P5 screen is a high-quality one, but I know many people who won't purchase a camera without a built-in viewfinder. I personally think that it shouldn't be a deal-breaker for the amateur photographer. Unless you have experience and find the lack of EVF to be a deal-breaker yourself.
Built-in FlashNo (external flash included)Yes (7m)Yes (5.80m)No
Another drop in the specs from the E-PL5 is omitting of the built-in flash in the E-PL7.

You do get a small external flash (FL-LM1, GN7/ISO100) which you can mount on the hot-shoe at the top of the camera, but I'm sure that some of you find it a bit irritating not having a built-in flash in an entry-level camera.

I personally almost never use the built-in flash because I don't like the results. Sometimes I do use it to feel shadows when shooting portraits outdoors, but I personally don't see this as a deal breaker, you might think differently.
Flash X Sync Speed1/250 sec1/320 sec1/200 sec1/250 sec
Burst Speed (max.)8 fps9 fps8fps9 fps
All four cameras shoot very fast.
Exposure Compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 1 EV steps)±3 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 1 EV steps)±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 1 EV steps)±3 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 1 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)±5 (2, 3, 5 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)(2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB BracketingYesYesYesYes
Video (highest res)1080p30 Full HD
H.264, Motion JPEG

Stereo sound
1080p30 Full HD
H.264, Motion JPEG

Stereo sound
1080p30 Full HD
H.264, Motion JPEG

Stereo sound
1080i60 Full HD
H.264, Motion JPEG

Stereo sound
Mic InputNoNoNoYes
WirelessBuilt-inBuilt-inBuilt-invia Eye-Fi connected card
Battery Life (CIPA)350 shots330 shots320 shots330 shots
Dimensions115 x 67 x 38 mm (4.53 x 2.64 x 1.5″)122 x 69 x 37 mm (4.8 x 2.72 x 1.46″)119 x 82 x 46 mm (4.69 x 3.24 x 1.81″)122 x 89 x 43 mm (4.8 x 3.5 x 1.69″)
The E-PL7 is the smallest camera among the three.
Weight357 g (0.79 lb / 12.59 oz)420 g (0.93 lb / 14.82 oz)396 g (0.87 lb / 13.97 oz)425 g (0.94 lb / 14.99 oz)
Time-lapse RecordingYesYesYesNo
Built-in GPSNoNoNoNo
HDRHDR1, HDR2 (painting-like)

Bracketing HDR
Bracketing HDRHDR1, HDR2 (painting-like)

Bracketing HDR
No (read this

Conclusion

Olympus dropped the built-in flash as in its predecessor, but I think that all in all the E-PL5 is a very attractive camera. Olympus did add a small tiltable flash that in my opinion will give you better results. It’s stronger than the E-PL5 built-in flash (GN10) and it’s tiltable, so it’s a nice little flash and it’s compact and easy to carry around. That aside, let’s look at the E-PL7 advantages.

First of all, I personally really like the camera design, it looks like the E-P5 more or less, but I think it looks better overall. It’s build quality is not at the same league as the E-P5 and E-M5, but still feels very sturdy and durable. If you want a weather-sealing, you should look at the E-M5 instead.

The E-PL7 enjoys a new generation processor, built-in IS (although not as good as the E-M4 and E-P5 one), the best AF system (along the E-M10) with 81 AF points which greatly enhanced subjects-tracking performance, the only camera with 180 degree tilting mechanism for easy selfies,  best battery life among the three (not by much though, but still very good for its size).

The E-PL7 image quality and high ISO performance is identical to the E-PL5 with more subtle/natural colors, less saturated colors than the E-PL5. The image quality and high ISO performance is excellent up to ISO 6400. I did notice some slight advantage in terms of noise compared to the E-M5 and E-P5, but those were only noticeable when looking at 100% scale image. The difference might be due to the different processor. You can check out imaging resource comparometer tool to observe the differences yourself. Overall, I wouldn’t pick any one camera over the other in terms of image quality and high ISO performance, as all four offer around the same performance.

This means that you will give more weight to the camera features.  Olympus did add more creative options to the E-PL7, but that’s something that we might see in future firmware update on the other models. I think that the Olympus PEN E-PL7 main selling point is its selfie-friendly tilting display, great design, small size, excellent AF system and the Wi-Fi wireless features, all that backed up with excellent image quality and impressive high ISO performance.

The E-P5 costs around $200 more, and I find it hard to justify the extra price. The E-P5 advantages over the E-PL7 are the 5-axis IBIS, 1/8000 sec shutter speed (mechanical shutter), better build-quality, built-in flash, faster flash x sync speed, slightly faster burst (but with subject tracking) and more flexible exposure compensation. I think that all in all, the E-PL7 offers an excellent value compared to the E-P5 for those who don’t find those advantages that useful for their type of shooting style.

The OM-D E-M10 comes with a built-in EVF, built-in flash, improved ergonomics, more buttons and dials that offer fast access to frequently used functions,  and for extra $100, I think that some of you might, although its larger size, that the E-M10 worth the investment for its built-in EVF, advanced button layout and design. The E-M5 is a step above the E-M10 and brings some great features like the weather-sealing,  5-axis IBIS,  built-in EVF, 9 fps burst but it lacks the built-in WiFi feature.

The E-M5 will appeal to outdoor photogoraphers and those who might prefer the larger body when using large and heavy lenses, as it helps to better stabilize the weight, especially if you also intend to use an external flash as well.

The E-PL7 will certainly be criticized for the lack of built-in flash, especially for a compact MFT camera. If you want both an EVF and flash, you should probably look at the E-M10.  Although this is not a huge update over the EPL5 and therefore I would probably think twice before upgrading to the E-PL7. That said, the E-PL7 main competition would be from entry-level APS-C and APS-C based CSC.  Furthermore, the E-PL7 price seems a bit too steep, considering its an entry-level offering, not a mid-range camera. You can find an entry-level camera like the Nikon D3300 for ~$600 with a 18-55mm lens or with the Sony Alpha NEX-5T + 16-50mm for around $500.

The thing is that their are some good alternative too the E-PL7 on other camps, but I some photographers might made a decision based on the camera format itself. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera, so you get to enjoy a large selection of lenses and have the option to upgrade to one of Olympus or Panasonic excellent mid-range and flagship models in the future. The lens selection and upgrade options is also something to consider, and let’s not forget the superb contrast-detection AF performance of Olympus PEN cameras.

I do expect Olympus to improve upon the E-PL7 in the future with more advanced video features, maybe on-sensor PDAF (phase-detection AF) and implementing a new sensor. All in all, I think that the E-PL7 is a good addition to the PEN camera’s lineup and overall highly-capable MFT camera.

What’s your opinion, what do you think about the new E-PL7? — share your opinion in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.

Buy the Olympus PEN E-PL7 from B&H: Silver, Black



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