Olympus announces E-5 midrange dSLR with tilt/swivel LCD and art filters

The new Olympus E-5 adds creative art filters, HD video recording, an improved articulating LCD, and better storage media options to its successful predecessor.

Although today's announcement of the new Olympus E-5 comes a good three years after its predecessor the E-3 was announced (eons in the fast-paced digital camera market), and isn't able to out-spec the big guns in its price point -- namely the Canon EOS 7D and the Nikon D300s -- Olympus' new midrange digital SLR delivers some key improvements over the well-regarded E-3 and holds its own among competitors, with some stand-out features.

Though Olympus has nurtured its reputation for innovation of late with its PEN series of Micro Four Thirds digital cameras, it's been slow to update its digital SLR line, making it harder to keep up with the Canons and Nikons of the world.  Still, Olympus is no dSLR slouch, with a history of introducing new features that its more popular competitors have quietly usurped: Olympus was the first to introduce Live View, a dust-reduction system, and creative art filters to dSLRs (the last gaining further legitimacy with Canon's inclusion of its own version of art filters in the Canon EOS 60D announced last month).

While the new E-5 can't beat most of the specs of the king-of-the-hill 7D or the Nikon D300s, it does one-up them with an articulating display that tilts and swivels a full 270 degrees (while matching their LCDs' 3-inch size and 920,000-dot resolution). Other distinguishing features include Olympus specials like its rugged splashproof and dustproof body design and 10 art filters (a new Dramatic Tone filter has been added to the nine existing filters available in the Olympus E-30, E-620 and PEN cameras).

But the real market for the E-5 is likely existing users of Four Thirds format cameras, and the E-5 offers some attractive updates over the E-3, not the least of which is the addition of 720p HD video recording capabilities. The E-5 doesn't mess with its predecessor's rugged body design and looks quite similar to the E-3, but it does update the articulating LCD with a larger and higher-resolution version. I also like the E-5's choice of SD-type memory cards (in addition to Compact Flash) over the odd xD-Picture Card format and Microdrive media used in the E-3. And last, but not least, the E-5 brings Olympus' surprisingly popular art filters to the midrange offering. Look for the E-5 to start shipping next month at an estimated street price of $1,700 for the body only.

Here's a quick specs comparison with similarly priced competitors as well as the E-3:

Olympus E-5 Canon EOS 7D Nikon D300s Olympus E-3
Price $1,700 (body only), shipping in October $1,700 (body only) $1,700 (body-only) $1,300 (body only)
Sensor 12.3 megapixels, 17.3x13mm Live MOS 18 megapixels, 22.3x14.9mm CMOS 12.3 megapixels, 23.6x15.8mm CMOS 10.1-megapixels, 17.3x13mm Live MOS
Continuous Shooting Speed 5 fps 8 fps 7 fps 5 fps
LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot (articulating) 3-inch, 920,000-dot (fixed) 3-inch, 920,000-dot (fixed) 2.5-inch 230,000-dot (articulating)
Autofocus 11-point (all cross-type) 19-point (all cross-type) 51-point (15 cross-type) 11-point (all cross-type)
Sensitivity ISO 100-6400 ISO 100-12800 ISO 100-6400 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200
Live View Yes Yes Yes Yes
Storage Media CompactFlash Type I, SD, SDHC CompactFlash Type I/II CompactFlash Type I/II, SD, SDHC CompactFlash Type I/II, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card
Movie Mode 1280x720 (30 fps)/640x480(30 fps) 1920x1080 (30 fps)/1280x720 (60 fps)/640x480 (60 fps) 1280x720 (24 fps)/640x424 (24 fps)/320x216 (24 fps) none
Dimensions 5.6×4.6×2.9 inches 5.8x4.4x2.9 inches 5.8x4.5x2.9 inches 5.6x4.58x2.9 inches
Weight 28.2 oz (body) 28.9 oz (body) 30 oz 28.64 (body)