Olympus E-5 versus Sony A7
The Olympus E-5 and the Sony Alpha A7 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2010 and October 2013. The E-5 is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (E-5) and a full frame sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-5 and the Sony A7. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 – the E-5 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is notably smaller (28 percent) than the Olympus E-5. Moreover, the A7 is substantially lighter (46 percent) than the E-5. 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-5) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7, 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.
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
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt)||142 mm||117 mm||75 mm||873 g||750||YES||2010||1,699||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||474 g||340||YES||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||YES||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Olympus E-P3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||122 mm||69 mm||34 mm||369 g||330||no||2011||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-P2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||no||2009||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-P1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||no||2009||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt)||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||521 g||500||no||2009||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt)||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||440 g||500||no||2009||499||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||535 g||500||no||2009||449||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt)||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||535 g||750||no||2008||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt)||142 mm||108 mm||75 mm||701 g||750||no||2008||1,299||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||142 mm||116 mm||75 mm||876 g||750||YES||2007||1,699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||141 mm||104 mm||81 mm||738 g||750||YES||2003||1,699||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||133 mm||93 mm||84 mm||560 g||500||YES||2014||1,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||YES||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||489 g||380||YES||2014||2,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||YES||2013||2,299||discont.||check|
The listed 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. 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.
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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A7 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7 is 280 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the E-5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A7 offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 24MP, the A7 offers a higher resolution than the E-5 (12.2MP), but the A7 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 4.29μm for the E-5) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A7 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 1 month) than the E-5, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7 offers substantially better image quality than the E-5 (overall score 34 points higher). The advantage is based on 3.2 bits higher color depth, 3.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.1 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt)||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.6||10.5||519||56|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|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-3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||no||21.6||10.5||571||56|
|Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||4.9||2560||1920||no||-||-||-||-|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.2||12.8||791||74|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||1080/60p||23.9||13.2||3702||87|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the A7 provides a better video resolution than the E-5. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Olympus is limited to 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the E-5 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-5 and Sony A7 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||920||swivel||no||8000||5.0||13||YES|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||4000||6.0||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-3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||230||swivel||no||8000||5.0||13||YES|
|Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||1.8||134||fixed||no||4000||3.0||no||no|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||no||3.0||1036||swivel||YES||8000||12.0||17||no|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||921||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||4.0||no||no|
Both the E-5 and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The A7 was replaced by the Sony A7 II, while the E-5 does not have a direct successor.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-5 or the Sony A7 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Olympus E-5:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2010).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 43%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (34 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3.2 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.7 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.1 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60p vs 720/30p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 920k dots).
- More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 142x117mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 399g or 46 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 1 month of technical progress since the E-5 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 7 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.
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 A7 handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. 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.
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ rgt)||-||75/100||4/5||-||4.5/5||2010||1,699||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||HiRec||80/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Olympus E-P3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||83/100||74/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2011||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-P2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||83/100 Rec||69/100 Silver||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2009||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-P1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||83/100 Rec||66/100||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||2009||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100||72/100 HiRec||4.5/5||reviewed||5/5||2009||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||-||4/5||2009||499||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||-||4.5/5||2009||449||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt)||87/100||HiRec||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||2008||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||71/100 HiRec||4.5/5||-||4/5||2008||1,299||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100||HiRec||reviewed||reviewed||4/5||2007||1,699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||Rec||reviewed||reviewed||-||2003||1,699||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||86/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2014||2,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2013||2,299||discont.||check|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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.
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