Cameras for video: olympus e-5

As Olympus focuses its attention on its PEN range of Compact System Cameras there's been a lot of suggestion that the Four Thirds format E-5 will be the company's final DSLR camera. Even so it's also the first Olympus DSLR to feature a movie mode.

Able to capture 720p HD clips, the E-5 utilises the Motion JPEG format at a 1/12 compression ratio to capture its AVI movie files. The format means large files at around 285MB/min, but the final quality doesn't seem to correspond to this high number.

Compression is excessive, colours appear muted and shadow areas (even at lower ISO settings) show presence of mottled image noise that doesn't make for the most appealing shots. Framing up is also difficult as the movie mode uses a different portion of the sensor than for its stills shots (even in 16:9 mode) that results in a sudden 'crop in' where recording captures a slightly different frame.

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Autofocus and manual control

However there are some plus points: the E-5's autofocus system is nippy (though only single autofocus or manual focus is available); full manual controls are available for shutter and aperture control; a 3.5mm mic jack means external microphones can be attached; and Art Filter modes can also be used in movie capture for added in-camera creativity such as Grainy Film, Soft Focus and several more.

On the downside the camera is expensive (£1420 covers just the body without a lens) and the Art Filter modes drop the movie frame rate so low that they're unlikely to be of use. Even when setting focus prior to shot the final captures are often a little out of focus unless focus is re-acquired during recording, manual controls can't be adjusted in real time during capture, plus the on-board microphone captures a hissing mid-high frequency that's distracting compared to competitor models.

Indeed the E-5's movie mode feels like it was 'tacked on' rather than added as an intrinsic part of this camera.

Olympus E-5 Key video specs

Approx price: £1,419 body only
Sensor: Four Thirds (2x magnification)
Maximum resolution: 720p capture (1280x720px)
Frame rate: 30fps
Compression: Motion JPEG 1/12
Audio support: 3.5mm audio jack for external microphones
File format: AVI
Exposure mode:
Programme mode with pre-shooting aperture, ISO and exposure compensation control; full Manual, Shutter and Aperture Priority control (pre-determined values prior to recording only)
Focus modes: Single autofocus (AF-S), Full-time autofocus (AF-A), Manual focus
Connectivity: HDMI-C out, A/V out, USB out