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Olympus E-1 vs E-5

The Olympus E-1 and the Olympus E-5 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in June 2003 and September 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-1 has a resolution of 4.9 megapixels, whereas the E-5 provides 12.2 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-1 versus Olympus E-5
Olympus E-1 Olympus E-5
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
4.9 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-800 (100 - 3,200) ISO 100-6,400
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
1.8 LCD, 134k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
Lens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
750 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
141 x 104 x 81 mm, 738 g 142 x 117 x 75 mm, 873 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-1 and the Olympus E-5? 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.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-1 and the Olympus E-5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Olympus E-1 vs Olympus E-5
Compare E-1 versus E-5 top
Comparison E-1 or E-5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-5 is notably larger (13 percent) than the Olympus E-1. Moreover, the E-5 is markedly heavier (18 percent) than the E-1. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Olympus E-1 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699i
 
Olympus E-5 142 mm 117 mm 75 mm 873 g 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699i
 
Canon 6D Mark II 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i
 
Canon 7D 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699i
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499i
 
Nikon D500 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i
 
Nikon D610 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Olympus E-450 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2009 499i
 
Olympus E-600 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 n Aug 2009 449i
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699i
 
Olympus E-3 142 mm 116 mm 75 mm 876 g 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699i
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999i
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799i
 
Sony A77 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 732 g 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399i
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.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Technology-wise, the E-5 uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic V+) than the E-1 (TruePic), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Olympus E-1 and Olympus E-5 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-5 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 4.9 MP of the E-1. This megapixels advantage translates into a 58 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-5 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 6.78μm for the E-1). However, it should be noted that the E-5 is much more recent (by 7 years and 2 months) than the E-1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-1 are 12.8 x 9.6 inches or 32.5 x 24.4 cm for good quality, 10.2 x 7.7 inches or 26 x 19.5 cm for very good quality, and 8.5 x 6.4 inches or 21.7 x 16.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Olympus E-1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 800, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-5 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-1 versus E-5 MP

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.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Olympus E-1 Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920none........
 
Olympus E-5 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
 
Canon 6D Mark II Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285
 
Canon 7D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
 
Nikon D500 APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
 
Nikon D610 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.551256
 
Olympus E-600 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.510.354155
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
 
Olympus E-3 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.610.557156
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
 
Sony A77 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The E-5 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-1 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-5 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-1 and the E-5 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the E-5 has a higher magnification than the one of the E-1 (0.58x vs 0.48x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-1 and Olympus E-5 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Olympus E-1optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Olympus E-5optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Canon 6D Mark IIoptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 6.5 n n
 
Canon 7Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D500optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
 
Nikon D610optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Olympus E-450optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Olympus E-600optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-3optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-330optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Olympus E-300optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Sony A772359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y

One feature that differentiates the E-5 and the E-1 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-5 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the E-1 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

The E-5 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 E-1 does not have a selfie-screen.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-1 and the E-5 write their files to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

Connectivity comparison

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 Olympus E-1 and Olympus E-5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Olympus E-1Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-5Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Canon 6D Mark IIYstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
 
Canon 7DYmono-Y-mini2.0---
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereomono---2.0---
 
Nikon D500YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYY
 
Nikon D610YmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-450Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-600Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-620Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-3Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-330Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-300Y-----2.0---
 
Sony A77YstereomonoY-mini2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the E-1 and the E-5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-1 was replaced by the Olympus E-3, while the E-5 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus E-1 better than the Olympus E-5 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-1:

  • More compact: Is smaller (141x104mm vs 142x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 135g or 15 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2003).


Advantages of the Olympus E-5:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 4.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 58%.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic V+ vs TruePic).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.58x vs 0.48x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 134k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 2 months of technical progress since the E-1 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-5 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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.

E-1 03:13 E-5

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-1 and the Olympus E-5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-1 or the E-5 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Olympus E-1..+oo.. Jun 2003 1,699i
 
Olympus E-5..75/1004/5..4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699i
 
Canon 6D Mark II+80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i
 
Canon 7D+ +84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699i
 
Leica Digilux 3.......... Sep 2006 1,499i
 
Nikon D500+ +91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i
 
Nikon D610+ +87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Olympus E-450....4/5..4/5 Mar 2009 499i
 
Olympus E-600........4.5/5 Aug 2009 449i
 
Olympus E-62088/10072/1004.5/5o5/5 Feb 2009 699i
 
Olympus E-388/100+ +oo4/5 Oct 2007 1,699i
 
Olympus E-330..+o3.5/5.. Jan 2006 999i
 
Olympus E-300..+oo4.5/5 Sep 2004 799i
 
Sony A7791/10081/100..4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,399i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Olympus E-1:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-5:
Check Ebay offers

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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-1 vs Olympus E-5

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Olympus E-1 Olympus E-5
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date June 2003 September 2010
    Launch Price USD 1,699 USD 1,699
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-1 Olympus E-5
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 4.9 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 2560 x 1920 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.78 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 2.19 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 800 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 3,200 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor TruePic TruePic V+
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 21.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 519
    Screen Specs Olympus E-1 Olympus E-5
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.48x 0.58x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 1.8inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 134k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Swivel screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-1 Olympus E-5
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy150 000 actuations150 000 actuations
    Image StabilizationLens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XD cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-1 Olympus E-5
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-1 Olympus E-5
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BLM-1 BLM-5
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 141 x 104 x 81 mm
    (5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 in)
    142 x 117 x 75 mm
    (5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 738 g (26.0 oz) 873 g (30.8 oz)

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