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Olympus E-5 versus Olympus E-420

The Olympus E-5 and the Olympus E-420 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2010 and March 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-5 has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the E-420 provides 10 MP.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-5 and the Olympus E-420. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the E-5 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Olympus E-5 vs Olympus E-420 front
E-5 versus E-420 top view
E-5 and E-420 rear side
Body view (E-5 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-420 is notably smaller (29 percent) than the Olympus E-5. Moreover, the E-420 is substantially lighter (50 percent) than the E-5. Cameras intended for semi-professional or professional use tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary ruggedness. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-5 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-420 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt) 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 YES 2010 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft) 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 no 2008 599discont. check
Olympus E-P3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.0 oz 330 no 2011 799discont. check
Olympus E-P2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.4 in 12.5 oz 300 no 2009 799discont. check
Olympus E-P1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.4 in 12.5 oz 300 no 2009 799discont. check
Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 no 2009 699discont. check
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 no 2009 499discont. check
Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.9 oz 500 no 2009 449discont. check
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 no 2008 699discont. check
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 no 2007 699discont. check
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 YES 2007 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 no 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 YES 2003 1,699discont. check
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 no 2007 599discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-420 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the E-5, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 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.

Olympus E-5 and Olympus E-420 sensor measures
Sensor size

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-5 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixel, compared with 10 MP of the E-420. This megapixel advantage translates into a 11 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 4.74μm for the E-420). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the E-5 is much more recent (by 2 years and 6 months) than the E-420, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

E-5 versus E-420 MP
Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 720/30p 21.6 10.5 519 56
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.5 10.4 527 56
Olympus E-P3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 1080/60i 20.8 10.1 536 51
Olympus E-P2 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 720/30p 21.5 10.4 505 56
Olympus E-P1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 720/30p 21.4 10.4 536 55
Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 no 21.3 10.3 536 55
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.5 10.5 512 56
Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 no 21.5 10.3 541 55
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.4 10.4 548 55
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 no 21.3 10.4 530 55
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.1 10.0 494 51
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.6 10.5 571 56
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no - - - -
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920 no - - - -
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.3 10.8 429 55

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The E-5 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-420 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-5 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-5 and the E-420 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-5, the Olympus E-420, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft) optical no 2.7 215 fixed no 4000 3.5 12 no
Olympus E-P3 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 614 fixed YES 4000 3.0 10 YES
Olympus E-P2 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 no YES
Olympus E-P1 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 no YES
Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 230 swivel no 4000 4.0 12 YES
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 215 fixed no 4000 3.5 12 no
Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 230 swivel no 4000 4.0 12 YES
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 215 fixed no 4000 3.5 12 YES
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.7 230 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 10 no
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 10 no
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 1.8 134 fixed no 4000 3.0 no no
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 207 swivel no 4000 3.0 11 no

Both the E-5 and the E-420 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. Neither of the two has a direct successor, so they represent the end of the respective camera lines from Olympus.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-5 and the Olympus E-5? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Olympus E-5:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/30p movies.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 215k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has a higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 500) on a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 6 months of technical progress since the E-420 launch.

Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-420:

  • More compact: Is smaller (130x91mm vs 142x117mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 433g or 50 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (65 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in March 2008).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-5 is the clear winner of the match-up (12 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs.

E-5 12:04 E-420

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-5 or the E-420 handle or perform in practice. 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 why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt) - 75/100 4/5 - 4.5/5 2010 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft) 85/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2008 599discont. check
Olympus E-P3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 83/100 74/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2011 799discont. check
Olympus E-P2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 83/100 Rec 69/100 Silver 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2009 799discont. check
Olympus E-P1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 83/100 Rec 66/100 4/5 4/5 4.5/5 2009 799discont. check
Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 72/100 HiRec 4.5/5 reviewed 5/5 2009 699discont. check
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 - 4/5 2009 499discont. check
Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - 4.5/5 2009 449discont. check
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) 87/100 HiRec 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2008 699discont. check
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 71/100 HiRec 4.5/5 - 4/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 699discont. check
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed 4/5 2007 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 - 4/5 - 4/5 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed - 2003 1,699discont. check
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 Rec 3.5/5 reviewed 4/5 2007 599discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

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. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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