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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.

Body comparison

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).

Olympus E-5 vs Sony A7 front
E-5 versus A7 top view
E-5 and A7 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 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
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) 142 mm 117 mm 75 mm 873 g 750 YES 2010 1,699discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. 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 799discont. check
Olympus E-P2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 no 2009 799discont. check
Olympus E-P1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 no 2009 799discont. check
Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 no 2009 699discont. check
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 no 2009 499discont. check
Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 no 2009 449discont. check
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 no 2008 699discont. check
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) 142 mm 108 mm 75 mm 701 g 750 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 142 mm 116 mm 75 mm 876 g 750 YES 2007 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 YES 2003 1,699discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. 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 2,499discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. 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.

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. 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.

Olympus E-5 and Sony A7 sensor measures
Sensor size

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.

E-5 versus A7 MP
Sensor resolution

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.

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
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.

Feature comparison

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.

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
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.

Summary

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.


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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).

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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.

E-5 07:12 A7

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.

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
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. 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 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-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed 4/5 2007 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed - 2003 1,699discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. 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 2,499discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. 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.

Other comparisons

In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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