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.

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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