In a year which is relatively quiet for new camera releases – 2012 saw really big hitters from the likes of Canon and Nikon – the E-P5 is easily an early contender for camera of the year.

We were very excited about all that the latest incarnation of the well respected PEN series had to offer, from the excellent OM-D technology (sensor and 5-axis image stabilisation) to Wi-Fi and the tilting screen.

Very happily we have not been disappointed by image quality from the camera, with it matching the OM-D E-M5 in terms of detail and vibrance. The camera is well suited to a wide range of different shooting subjects.

That's another area that cameras such as this excel in. Managing to produce fantastic image quality but keeping the body and overall system size down is something that is only really achieved in good balance by Micro Four Thirds cameras made by Olympus and Panasonic.

The rest either have large sensors which equate to great image quality but large bodies (Fujifilm), lenses (Sony) or both, or small sensors (Nikon and Pentax) which struggle to compete in terms of image quality. We've found that the E-P5 is capable of beating some APS-C size sensors in terms of dynamic range and noise – our labs data indicates that it outperforms Sony's NEX-7 for instance.

In terms of operational speed, this is one of the fastest cameras we've had the pleasure of using in recent times. A quick start-up time is joined by swift shot-to-shot times while general processing speeds are impressive. Autofocusing is also remarkably quick – it seems as if Panasonic and Olympus will continue to argue who exactly has the fastest speeds in this department but needless to say, it's very, very quick.

We continue to enjoy using the range of Olympus art filters. Although we'd argue that the latest Panasonic cameras (GF6 and G6) have a slightly better range, the fact that you keep creative control when using an Olympus does elevate it overall.

We liked

There's so much to like about the E-P5 it's hard to distill it down to one paragraph. Olympus has thrown everything it's got at its latest PEN camera to make it without doubt its best compact system camera yet, and certainly one of the best on the market. Its stand out feature has to be superb image quality, perhaps joined by its stylish retro looks.

We disliked

If we had to nitpick, we're a little baffled by the menu system on Olympus cameras at times. This could be streamlined, or made more obvious, as some settings can be hard to find without first consulting the manual... and who reads those? Oh and if you're desperate for a built in viewfinder, you'll be out of luck here.

Final Verdict

The E-P5 is one of the most fun cameras we've used recently, but that doesn't stop it from also being one of the most impressively performing.

Image quality is superb, while handling, on the whole, is sensible and intuitive. It helps that the camera has some pretty stylish looks too, drawing more than a pinch of inspiration from the original analogue PEN camera, too.

At this point in time, the camera is a little on the expensive side – but you do get a lot for your money. Consider functions such as 5 axis image stabilisation, 1/8000 second shutter speed and that superb screen and you can see where your money is going. It'd be nice if the price dropped a little though.

We'd be tempted to recommend ditching the kit lens when purchasing this, especially if you already have, or intend to purchase, different optics at some point. As well as the standard 14-42mm kit package, the E-P5 is available as a kit with a 17mm pancake lens, which offers the equivalent of 34mm making it an ideal carry around lens for street work – that would be the one we'd go for. If you can stretch, to it, we'd also highly recommend the excellent VF-4 external viewfinder too.