Nikon D5 vs Olympus E-PL9
The Nikon D5 and the Olympus PEN E-PL9 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2016 and February 2018. The D5 is a DSLR, while the E-PL9 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (D5) and a Four Thirds (E-PL9) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 20.7 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D5 and the Olympus PEN E-PL9? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D5 and the Olympus E-PL9. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-PL9 can be obtained in four different colors (black, brown, blue, white), while the D5 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PL9 is considerably smaller (69 percent) than the Nikon D5. Moreover, the E-PL9 is substantially lighter (73 percent) than the D5. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D5 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-PL9 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D5) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-PL9). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-PL9, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
Concerning battery life, the D5 gets 3780 shots out of its EN-EL18a battery, while the E-PL9 can take 350 images on a single charge of its BLS-50 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D5 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Nikon D5||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Olympus E-PL9||4.6 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||13.4 oz||350||n||Feb 2018||599|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Nikon D6||6.3 in||6.4 in||3.6 in||44.8 oz||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|Nikon D850||5.7 in||4.9 in||3.1 in||35.5 oz||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Nikon D4S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.6 oz||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D750||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D610||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D600||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D3S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D3X||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Olympus E-PL10||4.6 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||13.4 oz||350||n||Oct 2019||599|
|Olympus E-M10 III||4.8 in||3.3 in||2.0 in||14.5 oz||330||n||Aug 2017||649|
|Olympus E-PL8||4.5 in||2.6 in||1.5 in||12.6 oz||350||n||Sep 2016||549|
|Olympus E-M10 II||4.7 in||3.3 in||1.9 in||13.8 oz||320||n||Aug 2015||649|
|Olympus E-M10||4.7 in||3.2 in||1.8 in||14.0 oz||320||n||Jan 2014||699|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The E-PL9 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 91 percent) than the D5, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D5 features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-PL9 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-PL9 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the D5 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-PL9 offers a 4:3 aspect.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 20.7MP, the D5 offers a higher resolution than the E-PL9 (15.9MP), but the D5 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.44μm versus 3.76μm for the E-PL9) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-PL9 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 1 month) than the D5, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 27.9 x 18.6 inches or 71 x 47.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 22.4 x 14.8 inches or 56.8 x 37.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 18.6 x 12.4 inches or 47.3 x 31.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-PL9 are 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 102400, which can be extended to ISO 50-3280000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PL9 are ISO 200 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Olympus E-PL9||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D600||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|Olympus E-PL10||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Olympus E-M10 III||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Olympus E-PL8||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-M10||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||884||72|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the D5 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-PL9 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D5 and Olympus E-PL9 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
|Olympus E-M10 III||2360||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.6||Y||Y|
|Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
One feature that is present on the D5, but is missing on the E-PL9 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.The E-PL9 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the D5 does not have a selfie-screen.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the E-PL9 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Nikon D5 and the Olympus E-PL9 both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The D5 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or XQD cards, while the E-PL9 uses SDXC cards. The D5 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-PL9 only has one slot.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D5 and Olympus PEN E-PL9 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Olympus E-M10 III||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
It is notable that the D5 has a microphone port, which is missing on the E-PL9. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D5 (unlike the E-PL9) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
The E-PL9 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Olympus. In contrast, the D5 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D5 was succeeded by the Nikon D6. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Olympus websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D5 and the Olympus E-PL9? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Nikon D5:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (20.7 vs 15.9MP) with a 16% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
- Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1040k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 8.6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (3780 versus 350) on a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in January 2016).
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL9:
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (117x68mm vs 160x159mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1035g or 73 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (91 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D5 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D5 is the clear winner of the match-up (20 : 12 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D5 and the Olympus E-PL9 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D5 or the E-PL9. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Nikon D5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Olympus E-PL9||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2018||599|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Nikon D6||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|Nikon D850||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Nikon D4S||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D750||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D610||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D600||+ +||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D3S||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D3X||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Olympus E-PL10||..||77/100||..||..||4/5||Oct 2019||599|
|Olympus E-M10 III||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2017||649|
|Olympus E-PL8||..||..||4.5/5||..||4/5||Sep 2016||549|
|Olympus E-M10 II||+ +||80/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649|
|Olympus E-M10||..||80/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2014||699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Nikon D5
- Canon 300D vs Olympus E-PL9
- Canon D60 vs Olympus E-PL9
- Canon Rebel vs Olympus E-PL9
- Leica M10 vs Olympus E-PL9
- Nikon D5 vs Nikon L840
- Nikon D5 vs Panasonic GX80
- Nikon D5 vs Panasonic GX800
- Nikon D5 vs Sony A7R II
- Nikon D5 vs Sony A7S II
- Olympus E-PL9 vs Panasonic LX15
- Olympus E-PL9 vs Panasonic TZ95
Specifications: Nikon D5 vs Olympus E-PL9
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D5||Olympus E-PL9|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2016||February 2018|
|Launch Price||USD 6,499||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D5||Olympus E-PL9|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||858.01 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.1 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||20.7 Megapixels||15.9 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5588 x 3712 pixels||4608 x 3456 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.44 μm||3.76 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.42 MP/cm2||7.08 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 102,400 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 3,280,000 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 5||TruePic VIII|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.1||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.3||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2343||..|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D5||Olympus E-PL9|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||no viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||2359k dots||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D5||Olympus E-PL9|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||14 shutter flaps/s||8.6 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/16000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or XQD cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D5||Olympus E-PL9|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D5||Olympus E-PL9|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||3780 shots per charge||350 shots per charge|
160 x 159 x 92 mm
(6.3 x 6.3 x 3.6 in)
117 x 68 x 39 mm
(4.6 x 2.7 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||1415 g (49.9 oz)||380 g (13.4 oz)|
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