Olympus PEN E-P5 vs E-PL5 vs E-PM2 Comparison

May 11, 2013

Proboscis monkey on a tree with Olympus Pen cameras at the bottom

In this article I will be comparing thee Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Olympus PEN E-P5, PEN E-PM2 and PEN E-PL5. The E-P5 is the latest to be announced of the three, and I’m sure that you want to know the differences between those cameras and know the cons and pros of each one.  It’s easy to get overexcited when a new camera is announced, but it’s also worth considering the other models as well, which are being sold with a lower price since they were launched (September 17, 2012) and might have all the features that you are looking for. After reading this article you will have a clear understanding of the differences and can make a more educated buying decision – OK, let’s start!

I will start with a short introduction to each camera, so you will have a good overview of what type of camera you are actually looking at. Later on, I will compare the E-PL5 vs the E-PM2 and E-P5 so you’ll now what to expect when you purchase one model over the other, or upgrading to one of these Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Olympus PEN E-P5

Olympus PEN E-P5

Olympus PEN E-P5

The Olympus E-P5 is the latest and best Micro Four Thirds camera in the PEN’s lineup, Olympus PEN flagship model that signifies Olympus commitment to the Micro Four Thirds standard.  This retro-style looking camera continue the success of the E-P3, which was an excellent and very popular camera in its own right, but it’s time for a new model to replace it, since the PEN E-P3 was announced almost two years ago on June 30, 2011.

The new E-P5 Micro Four Thirds camera has an all-metal body and built to the high standard as expected for a high-end model. The design if inspired from Olympus Pen F camera that released back in the year 60’s. Photographers who had the Pen F film camera will probably feel very nostalgic at this moment, it’s nice to bring all those beautiful memories back from the film camera days. Nevertheless, the designs is not the only thing that shines in this camera. The E-P5 is equipped with many useful features, including a mechanical shutter speed that allows the camera to achieve a very faster 1/8000 sec. shutter speed, it features ultra-focus autofocus system with Pinpoint AF for fast and super accurate focusing, faster release time lag compare to the E-P3 and one of my favorite features, a built in 5-axis image stabilization.

At the back you’ll find that the E-P5 lacks an electronic viewfinder. This is probably one of the features that many enthusiast have wished to see on this camera, but apparently Olympus saves this feature only for it’s OM-D cameras (right now only on the OM-D E-M5 camera). If you do want to use an electronic viewfinder, you always have the option to buy an EVF separately, like the Olympus VF-3 or VF-4, but you will have to say goodbye to $100 – $200, and those viewfinder do had to the height of the camera quite a lot.

The camera features a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor. This is the same sensor used on the Olympus OM-D E-M5. This is great news, because the E-M5 sensor is absolutely an amazing sensor, beats many APS-C sensors that you find on  many DSLR cameras. I will talk about image quality later on.

At the back of the camera you also find a 3-inch 1,037K-dots tiltable LCD touch-sensitive screen. The display is of  a very high quality, responsive and have very high resolution. This is very important for a camera that don’t rely on an electronic viewfinder to compose the shot.

What else do you get, well.. you get a super fast 9 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed. You can record Full HD videos at 30 frames per second and have a built-in time 720p timelapse video recording option too. The E-P5 doesn’t come with a mic jack, but you can purchase the SEMA-1 mic adapter that will provide you with the 3.5mm mic connector and it comes with a small stereo mic as well, although I would probably use a better one if I already decided to purchase this accessory.

The E-5 also features Wi-Fi wireless connectivity. This means that you can transfer images between your camera and your mobile device like your smartphone or tablet. You can control your camera (ie. focus, shutter release) via your mobile phone or tablet device, just remember to install Olympus app one your device first.

As you can see, the Olympus PEN E-P5 is a fully features Micro Four Thirds camera. It’s so easy to get excited about it because it really comes with some great features that many people  have wished to have on their next camera. I personally a fan of built-in IS, I am so excited to see that Olympus have decided to implement this feature. 5-axis IS was only available on the E-M5 prior to the E-P5 announcement.

Olympus PEN E-PL5

Olympus E-PL5 camera

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 camera

The Olympus PEN E-PL5 sits below the E-P5 and above the E-PM2 in Olympus PEN camera’s lineup. As for the time of writing this article, the E-P5 is almost two times more expensive than the E-PL5, (E-PL5: $549.00, E-P5: $999.00 — last checked on B&H on 5/11/2013). So the E-PL5 was designed for people who are searching for an affordable Micro Four Thirds camera.

The Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 (this is its full name) comes with very attractive features. First of all, it has a magnesium alloy body construction which is great for this price point.  It’s equipped with 16MP Micro Four Thirds Live MOS Sensor and TruePic VI image processor. This is the same sensor used on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. The camera does employ a  sensor-shift image stabilization with up to 3EV-stops compensation, but compensate movement for only two directions, both vertical and horizontal movement. It’s not the same 5-axis image stabilization that you’ll find on the OM-D and E-P5, which is a better one.

As with other cameras in the PEN series, the E-PL5 doesn’t employ an electronic viewfinder and you will have to purchase it separately if you intend to use one. At the back of the camera you’ll find a 3-inch widescreen (16:9) 460K-dots tiltable touchscreen. A relatively lower resolution than what we are used to see in latest model (> 921K-dots), but still decent resolution to get a clear and sharp view of the scene for composing your shots.


The E-PL5 uses FAST AF plus Touch operation for fast, accurate and easy autofocus operation, that many beginners will find very convenient and easy to use. The E-PL5 was designed for both beginners and enthusiast alike, probably more towards the advanced photographer, those who love the OM-D E-M5 image quality and performance and want something like that but for a cheaper price. The combination of high performance, fun image editing featureseasy of use and exquisite image quality, make the E-PL5 a really attractive package and offer a very good value.

Olympus PEN E-PM2

Olympus PEN E-PM2

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2

Last but not least is the Olympus E-PM2.  The E-PM2 is the least expensive in  the PEN series, it’s a beginner’s Micro Four Thirds camera that replaces the E-PM1 model that was introduces to the market on June 30, 2011. The E-PM2 brings great looks, intuitive controls, fast operation and image quality all together.  The main emphasize is on ease-of-use. This camera is aimed towards beginners and those who are moving from point-and-shoot to mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras for the first time.

It is a more striped version of the E-PL5, it’s more compact in size, has less button and controls (no top mode wheel), has less prominent grip and doesn’t have a built-in flash (you get a plastic-y  small flash bundles with the camera instead).

The E-PM2 like other PEN cameras come with a built-in two-dimensional image stabilization with up to 3EV compensation. At the back you find a 3-inch widescreen (16:9) 460K-dots fixed (not tiltable) touchscreen. The camera can shoot up to 8 fps in burst mode, which is a very fast speed  for a camera in its price. Lots of this camera features are based around its large selection of scene modes, art filters and Live View functionality.


The camera is available in four difference colors, including red, black, gray and white. The design of the camera is more modern but still resembles other PEN cameras with its grip design and the slight curve at the top.

The E-PM2 can record Full HD videos at 30 frames per second with stereo sound. All in all, an entry-level camera that was designed to appeal to beginners and even for people without any prior experience in photography. Those who want to upgrade from a point-and-shoot camera and get a more advanced camera to unleash their creativity and get higher quality photos and videos.


A Few Words about the 5-Axis IS

The Olympus E-P5 and OM-D E-M5 are the only Micro Four Thirds cameras who have the privilege of having Olympus 5-axis image stabilization mechanism built-in their camera body. The E-PM2 and E-PL5 have a less advanced image stabilization mechanism. Both are of the sensor-shift type, which means that the image stabilization works by moving the sensor to different directions in order to compensate for the camera movement. Lens-shift image stabilization is different. It works inside the lens itself rather than inside the body of the camera. This means that with a sensor-shift IS you don’t need to buy a lens with IS in order to enjoy the image stabilization advantages, every lens that you attach to the camera will be stabilized.

2 axis vs 5 axis image stabilization

2 axis vs 5 axis image stabilization (click to enlarge)

Most built-in sensor-shift image stabilization mechanisms compensate for only two type of camera movement, yaw and pitch.  5-axis IS compensate for pitch (camera rotates on the Y-axis), pitch (camera rotates on the X-axis), horizontal shift (camera moves along the X-axis), vertical shift (camera moves along the Y-axis) and rolling camera shake (camera rotates around the Z-axis). This is much more advanced IS and does a better job helping photographers getting a sharp image when shooting handheld.  This is very useful at time that you don’t have a tripod with you nor you want to carry one.

In-body image stabilization (IBIS) is a big advantage for the Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras in general, and for the OM-D E-M5 and E-P5 in particular for their 5-axis image stabilization. It can also save you quite a lot of money, considering the fact that non-IS lenses cost less than lenses with IS.


What Should I Look for in a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera?

Before we continue to the comparison, let me give you a quick guide about what to look in your next camera  for those of you who lack the experience and moving from point-and-shoot.

Size and ergonomics – plays a very important role for many photographers. Some people prefer having larger camera for a few reasons, if they have a large hands and feel more comfortable holding a large camera, intend to use heavy and large lenses (or/and external flash) and want to have a good balance between the lens and the camera body. Large camera ins many case over a larger battery and that give you the option to shoot more on a single charger

The thing is about Micro Four Thirds cameras is that you won’t be able to put them in your pocket, unless you have a a big enough pocket and even then  it really depends on what Micro Four Thirds lens you are planning to attach to the camera. with a pancake lens an the E-PM2 you might be able to put it in your large jean pocket, but I haven’t tried it personally.  Remember: even if the camera body is very small, you still need to attach a lens to this camera. Those lenses are not going to fold into the boy of the camera but protrude from the camera and add to its thickness.

Accessibility – very important for serious photographers who want to have many buttons which will allow them to easily and quickly access and change popular camera settings. It’s much easier to change the ISO or white balance when you have a dedicated button for it, instead of diving into the menu to do so, even if you have a touch-screen, it still take a lot of time and you can miss a shot. Some cameras offer function buttons that can be customized to change specific setting of your choice. Having a P/A/S/M mode dial is the most basic thing that I look in a camera, because it allows me to quickly switch between different exposure control modes.

Build Quality and Weather Sealing – If you are a beginner with a small budget to spend, you probably don’t need to worry about that. But nevertheless, if you intend to shoot outdoors in rough weather conditions, like in the rain, desert or at the beach, you should consider buying a camera that has weather sealing and can protect your camera against dust and water splashes.  (tip: non of the Oly cameras that we compare he have weather sealing). Some cameras have plastic chassis, others are made of light and durable magnesium alloy body that which also give the camera that professional touch.

Lens Selection – Probably one of the most important thing that you should be aware of. When you buy an interchangeable lens camera you are buying into a system, not just a camera. Each companies have different selection of lenses to offer. Although that selection is pretty larger and growing every year, make sure that you are using a camera that have the lenses that you intend to shoot with. The great thing about the Micro Four Thirds is the lens selection, so in this case you shouldn’t worry about that.

Connectivity, Features & Accessories – Each photographer have different needs. Some photographers might want to have a pop-up flash, sweep panorama, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and the option to attach a macro ring to the camera. Each Compact Camera System camera offers a set of features, connectivity options and accessories that are compatible with the camera. If you know that you will be needing a specific feature, have a specific connectivity option and use a specific accessory, make sure it’s available in your system.

Battery Life & Battery Type – Some people ignore this, but the battery life is really important. Not everyone wants to carry a spare battery with him. All the cameras in this comparison, the E-PL5, E-P5 and E-PM2 works on Lithium-Ion battery pack, Some cameras can also work with AA batteries as well. Make sure you know what batteries are compatible with your camera and take a look at the battery life (CIPA Standard)  in the spec sheet.  Some cameras have a much less powerful battery and you might need a spare battery, which can add to the overall cost.

Viewfinder – An important feature for many photographers. Some MILC cameras come without an electronic viewfinder, but offer an optional viewfinder which you can buy separately.

There many other things that you should consider as well, like the resolution of the video,  AF performance, image stabilization and so on.  The more you understand your needs as a photographer, the easier it is for you to make a decision. If you are just starting out, just follow my recommendation in the next section but also keep in mind the things that I mentioned here in this section.



E-P5 vs E-PM2 vs E-PL5 – Features Comparison

Now that you learned a bit about what to expect from each camera model, let’s jump straight into the comparison itself. I will also add some side notes to better explain the cons and pros of having and not having a specific feature. This is where most people are making up their mind which camera to buy. You might find out that the more expensive camera, the E-P5 have very cool features, but they might not be useful for your type of photography style. Those who pay for the higher end models are usually enthusiast photographers that are very picky about the features they want on their next camera. The want to be more creative, have fast access to popular function so it’s faster to operate the camera rather than going through the menus to change settings. Some of them might prefer a heavier and bigger body to help them stabilize long and heavy telephoto-zoom lenses that they intend to mount on the camera.

If you are reading this comparison you might be among those who want to upgrade from an older model, like from the E-P3 to E-P5, from E-PM1 to E-PM2 or from E-PL3 to E-PL5. You probably know that it’s not about which camera is the best or have the best features, but about which camera offers the features that YOU NEED, and offer an extra value over the camera that you currently own (if you do own own).

OK, let’s take a look at the E-P5 vs E-PM2 vs E-PL5 comparison table and I will continue talking about the differences afterwards.

Olympus E-P5, E-PM2, E-PL5 size comparison

Olympus E-P5, E-PM2, E-PL5 size comparison (via camerasize.com, click to view on camera size website)

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The E-P5 vs E-PM2 vs E-PL5 comparison table above clearly shows the key differences between the three cameras.  No doubt that the E-P5  have the most advanced feature as expected for a camera at its price point and the target market that it’s aimed for. Still, both the E-PM2 and E-PL5 are not to be taken lightly. If you are serious in being more creative with your camera, I would recommend looking at the E-PL5 / E-P5, the E-PM2 isn’t the camera for serious photographers because you will want to shoot and experiment with different settings in the scene and you want the fastest way to access and change the settings. The E-P5 offer the best button layout and functionality, so you will spend less time trying to setup the settings correctly and spend more time focus on your subject. For beginner, the Olympus PEN mini E-PM2 is great, because it doesn’t float them with many buttons and advanced function and won’t scare them off.

Image Quality Comparison

magnifying glass on image, inspecting qualityAs for the time of writing this comparison there are still no sample images to compare against the other cameras. However, if all camera have the same sensor, same as the E-M5, we should see that result in E-PM2 and E-PL5 sample images that are already available on leading camera reviews’ websites. I checked both imaging resource and dpreview and analyzed the image quality at various ISO sensitivities.

I’ve found that the Olympus PEN E-PL5 test images are identical to the Olympus PEN E-PM2 test images. After all, same processor, same image processor and same lens, image quality should be the same (unless the image is processed differently, and it is not).  The image quality is great, excellent performance up to ISO 1600, even even at ISO 3200 you can get some very usable images for small prints at well.

Now it’s time to compare the PEN E-PM2 and E-PL5 versus the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I’ve compared the E-PL5 sample images against the OMD EM5 and found that the IQ is virtually the same, even the color output is the same on all cameras. No doubt in mind mind that all those camera use the same sensor. I did find the E-PL5 tto be a bit sharper than the OM-D E-M5, just a bit at ISO 6400, but overall same results.

We can expect the E-P5 to have the same image quality, which isn’t a bad thing, on the contrary, the image quality of all those cameras is amazing. Thinking that you can just grab the PEN Mini E-PM2 for around $450 and get such high image quality, this is great.

On the other hand, I know that some photographers will be upset about this. They probably expected a newly developed sensor for the E-P5 and want to see a change in IQ between one model to another, especially between the entry-level and the high-end models. This is completely understandable and I think that Olympus should do something about it. It doesn’t take a lot from the already great features that the E-P5 has — It is the best PEN camera no doubt about it.

I also went to DxO Mark to check out the color depth, dynamic range and low-light ISO score, just to be sure that I am not missing anything that my eyes just can’t see.

DxO Mark Score

Olympus E-PL5: Overall score: 72, Color Depth:22.8, Dynamic Range: 12.3 Evs, Low-light ISO: 889 ISO
Olympus OM-D E-M5:  Overall score: 71, Color Depth: 22.8, Dynamic Range: 12.3 Evs, Low-light ISO:828 ISO.
Olympus E-PM2:  Overall score: 72, Color Depth: 22.7, Dynamic Range: 12.1 Evs, Low-light ISO, 932 ISO.

Well, according to DxO Mark, the E-PL5 and E-PM2 have better low light performance than the E-M5,  with the E-PM2 having a much better score than the E-M5. I didn’t notice that, all the sample images looked the same to a naked eye. I don’t know how accurate those results are, but even with the difference in score at the low-light ISO, the color depth and dynamic range is the same, and what we can be sure about is that the image quality of the E-PL5 and E-PM2 doesn’t fall from the IQ of the E-M5 – that’s great news!

Before we end our comparison and go to the conclusion, please take a look at this useful video by RedDotPHoto that demonstrated some of the great new features on the EP5, including the Time lapse, WiFi, Photostory and others – Enjoy!


I’m Still Confused, Still Don’t know which one to Buy

The comparison table above should give you a good understanding of the cons and pros of each camera. Nevertheless, I would buy the E-PL5 over the E-PM2 if I don’t mind having a slightly bigger camera, want/need a tiltable display, want more external controls. Would I pay extra $100 for the E-PL5…mm…probably not, but more advanced photographers would certainly will, I guess.

I would get the E-P5 if I want a camera with better build quality,  larger camera for improved ergonomics and grip, 5-axis image stabilization, higher resolution tiltable touch screen, 1/8000 sec shutter speed, want a camera that is better for macro photography with more accurate focusing (Super Spot AF),  1/320 sync speed, has Wi-Fi and has very fast burst (9fps).

The E-P5 is a big step over the other two cameras.  This camera is not for everyone, and beginners might be intimidate with its more advanced functionality, and having lots of buttons and switches. It’s worth the price for those who don’t mind having a Micro Four Thirds camera without an electronic viewfinder (if not, you will probably be better with the OM-D E-M5, Sony NEX-6 or Sony NEX-7), those who can take and will take advantage of its more advanced features. For me, the 5-axis IS, camera design, 1/8000 sec shutter speed, high-res display,Wi-Fi, time lapse video recording and the new Super Spot AF all worth buying the E-P5 over the E-PL5, and also worth the upgrade from the E-PL5 / E-PM2 to this new flagship model.

I do agree with those who think that the price might be too steep. I was expecting a lower price, but that’s what we have right now. The price will go down in a few months but serious photographers don’t wait months to buy a camera, they buy one when they need / want one. I think that some people might find it problematic (maybe even very problematic) investing in the E-P5 that for the same price they can buy the OM-D E-M5.  What Olympus has done was to take most of the good stuff from the E-M5 and put it into a new body, and what you get – the E-P5.

All in all, three excellent Micro Four Thirds cameras, each one with its own pluses and minuses. I don’t think that it’s too difficult to make a decision, all the information is laid in front of you. The E-PL5 and E-PM2 have gor very high ratings across many reviews websites and great opinions from customers on Amazon. You just can’t go wrong choosing either. You get to have a great camera that can take amazing high quality photos and offer great degree of manual control for the more advanced photographer.

I hope that you find this comparison interesting and useful to help you make up your mind. If you enjoyed reading it, please don’t forget to LIKE and share it with your friends online. See you on the next comparison. Thanks for reading.

Check latest price and buy from:

Olympus OM-D E-M5: B&H, Adorama, Amazon

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2 : B&H,  Adorama, Amazon

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5: B&H, Adorama, Amazon



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