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Gear & Apps

My Experience Using the Olympus Pen E-P5 for Travel Photography

By Christopher Lin on August 28th 2013

I’ve been a DSLR Photographer for about 7 years with Lin and Jirsa and this was my first experience with a Micro 4/3rds Camera. I was planning a trip to Cartagena, Colombia and I knew I wanted something light and versatile with high image quality.

I decided to test out the 4th generation Pen series camera, the Olympus Pen E-P5 in conjunction with two of their lenses, the Olympus M.ZUIKO 12mm f/2.0 Lens and the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 Lens.  See the following travel photography setup:

olympus pen digital camera

First Impressions – Aesthetics

The unique look and feel of the Pen E-P5 sets this camera apart. The EP-5 is a retro-meets-modern mashup. It has the classic rangefinder look, a solid build, high-quality finish and solid metal accents for a sturdy feel.

Relevant Specs of the Pen E-P5

  • 16.1 MP sensor
  • ISO Range Low-25600
  • 9 frames per second
  • 3.0″ 460k-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Full HD 1080i Video at 60fps
  • 5 axis image stabilization
  • Built-In (popup) Flash

Why the Olympus Pen E-P5 is Awesome For Travel Photography

DSLR vs. Micro 4/3rds for Travel Photography

CL1_8247

I fully realize that comparing Micro 4/3rds Cameras to DSLRs is like comparing (tiny) apples to (large, luscious) oranges. However, if those tiny oh-so delicious apples were comparable to the heavy, burdensome oranges, it would be worth considering the smaller alternative.

In all honesty, I really missed my 5D Mark III in many situations, particularly in low light. But for this particular trip, the pros of the smaller camera far outweighted the cons.

Safety – In a country of high poverty and crime rates, staying inconspicuous can be the difference between going home with happy memories and going home camera-less. To those outside of the photography world, bigger appears more expensive, which can lead to the conception of being an easy target.

As you can see below, the Olympus Pen is small and nimble.

olympus-pen-field-test

Weight – In a country of long hikes, sleeping in hammocks, and just-out-of-the-shower-and-already-sweating combinations of heat and humidity, the difference between a 5 pound camera/lens DSLR setup and a 1 pound Micro 4/3rds setup goes a very long way. I remember having my Canon 40D on a Machu Picchu hike a few years ago and missing a ton of great moments because my camera was packed away in my backpack.

With the smaller setup, I felt like my camera was a bit more accessible. In fact, I converted a small personal item belt normally used for running into my lens belt and didn’t need to carry around any additional bags for my camera. With a small pocket for credit cards and cash and another one for my lens, I was good to go.

CL1_8263

With the belt, I was able to leave my One Bag for my DSLR entirely at home.

Quick and Accurate Focus on the Olympus Pen E-P5

The focusing on the Olympus Pen E-P5 is quick and accurate. Even at F2.0, I was getting pretty sharp images of the people of Colombia and of the group of friends I was travelling with. Below are a few examples:

cartagena-colombia-people

cartagena-colombia

Accurate Colors

I shot all images with Auto White Balance in RAW file format with the intention of importing into Lightroom for post production with our presets. For most day time shots, after import, minimal color correction was necessary, as the colors were very accurate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Easy to Use | Focusing

A huge plus of the EP-5 for travel photography is its ease of use. Once you set the settings, it doesn’t take a photographer to understand how to use the touch screen display. Simply tapping the subject on the touch screen focuses and fires the shutter, making it great for the ever so tourist task of having others take your picture.

The image below was taken by a friend with no photography experience. It definitely beats a selfie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wish list for the Olympus Pen E-P5

In-camera HDRs and Panoramas – I would have appreciated in-camera panorama stitching functionality and in-camera HDR functionally. Though it’s something you can do in post processing, it’s much more satisfying to see the result in-camera. It also gives you the ability to correct mistakes, as you get a glimpse of the final product. Here is a panorama that I later stitched together of Tayrona National Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weather Sealing – Though I wasn’t in Colombia during their rainy season, we did experience a few quick, short, heavy downpours. Though the camera never came into direct contact with the elements, weatherproof sealing would have provided a much-appreciated level of comfort.

Sample Images and Conclusion

Below are a few more sample images from the trip. For those who haven’t been, I highly recommend Colombia as a travel destination. It’s an amazing blend of gorgeous beaches, rich history, and lively nightlife.

I was glad to have a camera with me that was light and accessible. After all, the point of travelling for me is not to search for amazing photographs, but to experience the culture, broaden perspectives, and have a memorable time with great people. The fact that the Olympus Pen got out of the way of my travels and came along for the ride, while also taking great quality images made it a wonderful on-the-go choice for the casual photojournalist.

cartagena-street-art

cartagena-trinkets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

[FAQ: What is HDR Photography?]

Co-Founder of SLR Lounge and Photographer with Lin and Jirsa Photography, I’m based in Southern California but you can find me traveling the world. Click here to connect on Google +

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Scotty

    Do you need a degree in science to drive this model as it sounds a great entry level camera..I want a camera that is easy to work and not over complicated buy still takes good shots…will this do the trick Cheers

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    • Scott

      I am a relative beginner and just purchased this camera. The great things about this camera (and others in the pen line) is that they have an iAuto feature – which essentially turns the camera into a Point and Shoot. Using the more advanced functionality is not that difficult to learn, so far. and makes this camera even more enjoyable to use.

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    • SCOTTER

      I think the new OM-D E-M10 is a better camera. It doesn’t have the ‘shutter shock’ problem that the E-P5, E-M5 and the E-M1 have and it features a decent build-in viewfinder. So only if you absolutely want the looks of the E-P5, I see no reason to get this older model. Especially the shutter shock is important. Made me sell my E-M5 and return a brand new E-M1.

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  2. Alan

    Why does anyone bother commenting or asking questions if the maintainers of this site don’t care enough for their users to provide answers and discussions?!

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  3. Eric

    Sorry, one more question…
    Where did you get the blue anodized version of one of your lenses…? Looks cool.

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    • Mike Mu

      Eric,

      That’s not blue anodized, its actually a protective plastic film that comes on Olympus’s brand new lenses. It doesn’t hurt the functionality of the lenses so it can be left on. Removing it simply reveals the silver-ish finish underneath.

      -Mike

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  4. Eric

    Did you use the EVF any? If so, what are your thoughts?

    I like the idea of an EVF for more stable shooting, but I hate having to carry it separately.

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  5. John Foote

    As far as a pack, I have one of these http://www.amazon.com/Mountainsmith-Kinetic-Recycled-Lumbar-Heritage/dp/B001ADR3V0 and it works great. I can wear it to the side or back and it will hold water bottles. The picture is a little off, it is wider than tall, more rectangular than square.

    Nonetheless, it will easily hold an extra lens, I either put in in my Nikon 24-85 or an manual focus Nikon 105. You could throw in a small 50mm with no problem and a few snacks. It has a couple smaller pockets also and you can never have too many of those.

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  6. David Stahl

    The specs for the LCD screen given at the beginning of this article are incorrect. The E-P5’s screen has 1 million dots, not 420k.

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  7. Alan

    What’s this running belt you had that fit a lens? Sounds like it’d be useful to have!

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    • Jesse

      Bump
      I would like to know what belt as well. Thanks!

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  8. John D.

    I shot a E-PL2 and happy with it except for low light. But I got an early heads up from Olympus of a brand new camera coming soon that has not been disclosed. I was tempted to get the OMD from Olympus but reframed to see what the next generation will bring. I believe in this technology, they just need to improve the sensor (not size, but sensitivity).

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  9. Joe

    The E-P5 also has the amazing 5-axis in-body-stabilization that is just phenomenal to use!

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  10. Aaron Tsuru

    Nice! Yeah, I have the Oly Pen E-P1. It’s become my go to travel camera. The dSLR stays tucked away at home. In fact, even regular photo shoots here at home, it takes most duties (well, that or my 35mm film cameras). I imagine the latest version of the camera is only that much better at handling challenging photos when you are out and about.

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