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Olympus E-PL5 vs Sony NEX-5

The Olympus PEN E-PL5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2012 and May 2010. Both the E-PL5 and the NEX-5 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-PL5) and an APS-C (NEX-5) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 14 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-PL5 versus Sony NEX-5
Olympus E-PL5 Sony NEX-5
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses Sony E mount lenses
15.9 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 14 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-25,600 ISO 200-12,800
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Tilting touchscreen Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
8 shutter flaps per second 7 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
360 shots per battery charge330 shots per battery charge
111 x 64 x 38 mm, 325 g 111 x 59 x 38 mm, 287 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-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-PL5 and the Sony NEX-5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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-PL5 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the NEX-5 is available in two color-versions (black, silver).

Size Olympus E-PL5 vs Sony NEX-5
Compare E-PL5 versus NEX-5 top
Comparison E-PL5 or NEX-5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5 is notably smaller (8 percent) than the Olympus E-PL5. Moreover, the NEX-5 is markedly lighter (12 percent) than the E-PL5. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL5 nor the NEX-5 are weather-sealed.

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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-PL5) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-5). Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the E-PL5 gets 360 shots out of its BLS-5 battery, while the NEX-5 can take 330 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

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-PL5 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599i
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699i
 
Olympus E-PL9 117 mm 68 mm 39 mm 380 g 350 n Feb 2018 599 i
 
Olympus E-PL8 115 mm 67 mm 38 mm 357 g 350 n Sep 2016 549i
 
Olympus E-M10 II 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 n Aug 2015 649i
 
Olympus E-M10 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 n Jan 2014 699i
 
Olympus E-PL7 115 mm 67 mm 38 mm 357 g 350 n Aug 2014 599i
 
Olympus E-P5 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 n May 2013 999i
 
Olympus E-PL6 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n May 2013 599i
 
Olympus E-PM2 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 269 g 360 n Sep 2012 499i
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
 
Panasonic G6 122 mm 85 mm 71 mm 390 g 340 n Apr 2013 599i
 
Sony NEX-5R 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749i
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599i
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699i
 
Sony NEX-C3 110 mm 60 mm 33 mm 225 g 400 n Jun 2011 599i
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
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 naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-PL5 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 14 percent) than the NEX-5, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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. 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-PL5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-5 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-5 is 62 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the E-PL5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-5 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Olympus E-PL5 and Sony NEX-5 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Olympus E-PL5 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 14 MP of the Sony NEX-5. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.76μm versus 5.11μm for the NEX-5). However, it should be noted that the E-PL5 is much more recent (by 2 years and 4 months) than the NEX-5, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The Olympus PEN E-PL5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

E-PL5 versus NEX-5 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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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-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.279669
 
Olympus E-PL9 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p........
 
Olympus E-PL8 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p........
 
Olympus E-M10 II Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273
 
Olympus E-M10 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472
 
Olympus E-PL7 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.487372
 
Olympus E-P5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572
 
Olympus E-PL6 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p........
 
Olympus E-PM2 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.293272
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
 
Panasonic G6 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p21.311.563961
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977
 
Sony NEX-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the NEX-5 provides a faster frame rate than the E-PL5. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL5 and the NEX-5 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. However, optional viewfinders – the VF-3 for the E-PL5 and the FDA-SV1 for the NEX-5 – are available as accessories. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-PL5 and Sony NEX-5 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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-PL5optional n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
 
Sony NEX-5optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
 
Olympus E-PL9none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.6 Y Y
 
Olympus E-PL8none n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-M10 II2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-M101440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-PL7optional n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-P5optional n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/8000s 9.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-PL6optional n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-PM2optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
 
Panasonic G61440 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 1/4000s 7.0 Y n
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n

One feature that differentiates the E-PL5 and the NEX-5 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL5 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the NEX-5 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.

The E-PL5 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-5 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The E-PL5 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-5 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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 PEN E-PL5 and Sony Alpha NEX-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-PL5Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-PL9Ystereomono--micro2.0Y-Y
 
Olympus E-PL8Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-M10 IIYstereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-M10Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-PL7Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-P5Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--
 
Olympus E-PL6Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-PM2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Panasonic G6YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereomono--mini2.0Y--
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-C3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---

Both the E-PL5 and the NEX-5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-5 was replaced by the Sony NEX-5N, while the E-PL5 was followed by the Olympus E-PL6. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus and Sony websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Olympus E-PL5 better than the Sony NEX-5 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-PL5:

  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (14 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 4 months of technical progress since the NEX-5 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-5:

  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 460k dots).
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 38g or 12 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in May 2010).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-PL5 emerges as the winner of the contest (6 : 4 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-PL5 06:04 NEX-5

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL5 and the Sony NEX-5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-PL5 and the NEX-5 in practical situations. 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.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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-PL5+ +..4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
 
Sony NEX-5+ +71/1004.5/54/54/5 May 2010 699i
 
Olympus E-PL9+..4.5/54.5/54/5 Feb 2018 599 i
 
Olympus E-PL8....4.5/5..4/5 Sep 2016 549i
 
Olympus E-M10 II+ +80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 649i
 
Olympus E-M10..80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699i
 
Olympus E-PL7+..5/54.5/54/5 Aug 2014 599i
 
Olympus E-P5+ +78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999i
 
Olympus E-PL6.......... May 2013 599i
 
Olympus E-PM2..77/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499i
 
Olympus E-PL3+ +72/1004.5/5..4/5 Jun 2011 599i
 
Panasonic G6+ +..5/5..4.5/5 Apr 2013 599i
 
Sony NEX-5R....4.5/5..4.5/5 Aug 2012 749i
 
Sony NEX-F3..74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599i
 
Sony NEX-5N+ +79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699i
 
Sony NEX-C3+ +74/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
 
Sony NEX-3..70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods 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-PL5:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-PL5 vs Sony NEX-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-PL5 Sony NEX-5
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2012 May 2010
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL5 Sony NEX-5
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 15.9 Megapixels 14 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 4592 x 3056 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.76 μm 5.11 μm
    Pixel Density 7.08 MP/cm2 3.84 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 25,600 ISO 200 - 12,800 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic VI BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 72 69
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.8 22.2
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.3 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 889 796
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL5 Sony NEX-5
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen no Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL5 Sony NEX-5
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing Aidno Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 8 shutter flaps/s 7 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-PL5 Sony NEX-5
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-PL5 Sony NEX-5
    Battery Type BLS-5 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)360 shots per charge330 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 111 x 64 x 38 mm
    (4.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
    111 x 59 x 38 mm
    (4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 325 g (11.5 oz) 287 g (10.1 oz)

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