Like previous E-series digital SLRs the E-5 is suitably fast in operation. Startup time is to all intents and purposes instant while up to five frames per second capture is offered in burst shooting mode. The thumb-operated on/off switch is located near the camera's base, rather than the more familiar setting of a DSLR's top plate, while the shutter button is in its usual spot where it falls under the forefinger. Spacing is such that both can easily be reached simultaneously so there's no operational slowdown.
The E-5, as expected at this level, has the ability to shoot Raw files, JPEGs or a combination of both with incremental JPEG compression levels selectable whether shooting individually or in tandem. In auto focus (AF) mode we found that, courtesy of its 11 point AF system, the E-5 locked onto target within a second or so. There's no dedicated AF/MF switch on lens or camera body but instead a quick twist of the manual focus ring will set manual focussing in motion and allow for fine tuning. In this regard, taking photographs with the E-5 feels particularly intuitive.
The chunky Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Four Thirds system lens we were provided with makes a very able match for the E-5's sensor, helping to deliver truckloads of detail even when shooting handheld at maximum telephoto and in spite of the camera's apparently modest headline resolution. Flexibility is such that we were able to achieve some lovely shallow depth of field shots, ideal for portraiture and still life, as well as expansive landscape shots at maximum 24mm equivalent wide angle.
For those who want to shoot in low light and avoid the need to use either the E-5's built-in pop up flash or accessory flashgun attachable via its vacant hotshoe, the maximum ISO level of 6400 will be something of a disappointment, as will the noisy results you get even at this level. Adjustable in inrements from ISO100 up to ISO6400, it's really only from ISO800 below that noise is kept in check. True enough, we're not really reaching ruinous levels until ISO3200 and ISO6400, but there are other candidates out there better suited if low light photography is your thing.
Under daylight conditions the camera and its lens fared rather better with generally sharp results all round. Colours on the E-5's default 'natural' filter setting proved a little muted for our tastes, with Vivid setting delivering to our eyes a result that was closest to the scene at the time, and the 'i-Enhance option effecting some impressive decisions too, colours being bolder yet more naturalistic than the garish results to be had from otherwise selecting the pop art filter.
The E-5 comes across then as a very capable option for anyone looking for top quality images from a very durable DSLR body who is not already wedded to the systems of the 'big two' in Canon and Nikon, though as we mentioned earlier and will do so in our conclusion, there are further caveats to take into account if you really are considering a purchase.