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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Full Review

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Full Review - Joshua Waller tests the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, the E-M5 is such a significant upgrade to previous Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras that it gets a completely new name. But is it a case of style over substance? Find out in our review...

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Category : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product : Olympus OM-D E-M5
Price : £742
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front sensor
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front sensor

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus, and rather than follow on from the Olympus PEN series (such as the E-PM1, E-PL3 and E-P3), Olympus has gone "retro" and made this their digital version of the Olympus OM. The new OM-D not only features a stylish classic design available in black or silver/black, but also features a completely new 16 megapixel sensor, 5-axis image stabilisation, weather sealed magnesium alloy body, electronic viewfinder and promises the World's fastest AF.

Previously we posted our hands-on first impressions review, our hands-on preview, and sample photos from the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Olympus OM and Olympus OM-D 1/4 sec | f/4.0 | 28.0 mm | ISO 1600
Olympus OM and Olympus OM-D with OM to M43 adapter.

When compared to one of the original Olympus OM film cameras, the OM-10, the digital version is much smaller, even when using an OM lens and adapter. When we asked for the reason behind the new name, we were simply told it's a mystery, although Olympus did say they are often keen to avoid any confusion by having a name similar to other camera manufacturers, unlike some! Also, despite the camera being weather sealed and featuring an SLR-like design, the camera body is really rather compact, which can be seen in the comparison below, showing it next to the Olympus PEN E-P2.

Olympus OM-D size comparison with E-P2 - front view
Olympus OM-D size comparison with E-P2 - front view

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front With Lens
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front With Lens

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Features

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front Angle
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front Angle

This is the first Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus with a built in viewfinder, previously if you wanted a viewfinder, you would either need to buy an optional electronic viewfinder from Olympus, or look at the Panasonic Lumix G series of cameras. The viewfinder features 1.44 million pixels, eye-detection, and dioptre correction.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Rear Screen
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Rear Screen

Video features are updated to include additional features previously unseen on Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras such as microphone level adjustment (three levels) and wind noise reduction. The 5-axis image stabilisation is also available when recording videos.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Top
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Top

Key Features

  • 16.1mp Live MOS CMOS sensor
  • EVF 1.44million with eye-detection, dioptre adjustment, vignetting correction
  • 3inch OLED tilting capacitive touch-screen 610k dots (equivalent to VGA)
  • World’s fastest*2 FAST AF auto-focusing system plus 3D tracking
  • World’s first*1 5-axis Image Stabilisation (Photos / Video)
  • 9fps shooting, 4.2fps continuous shooting with AF
  • ISO200 - 25600
  • Full HD Video, MPEG4
  • Flash Hot Shoe
  • AP2 - Accessory Port
  • Electronic spirit level
  • 2 Function buttons
  • Front and Rear Dials
  • Dedicated video button
  • Weather-sealed magnesium alloy body
  • Focus assist lamp
  • AV/HDMI Out
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card
  • Lithium Ion Rechargeable battery
  • New “Key Line” Art filter

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Handling


Olympus OM-D E-M5 Flash
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Flash

Handling - The mode dial is on the left and the camera has front and rear dials on the top, plus top function and video buttons. It feels more compact than the Olympus PEN E-P3, but is larger than the E-PL3. There is a large rear thumb grip and a textured leather effect front grip that covers the camera across the front, as well as side access to the SD memory card - this is weather sealed. The buttons are quite chunky making it possible to use the camera in cold weather when wearing gloves even though the buttons are quite small the amount they protrude from the camera helps.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front Grip Part1
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front Grip Part 1

For additional grip the optional two part grip can be used, the first part gives a much larger hand grip and moves the shutter release and front control dial forward. The second part of the grip adds a vertical shutter release, with both rear and front dials, as well as two function buttons and a lock switch. The second part of the grip allows you to put a second battery in the camera, gives a DC input connection, a large rubberised base, as well as another strap loop so that the camera can be kept round your neck in the vertical position.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front Grip Part2
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Front Grip Part2

Menus - The menu system is very similar to the Olympus PEN E-P3 with even more options and controls. A number of buttons on the camera can be customised to get the camera setup how you want it with quick access to your favourite settings and it didn't take us long to get it customised so we could quickly change ISO and shooting options. Below you can view the menus as well as the new touch-screen "Super Control Panel" in the walk-through video below. The EVF refresh speed can also be increased and the effects of IS can be viewed in the EVF. The camera's menus have built in pop-up help describing each option - this can be switched on or off:


Battery Life - The camera's battery life is rated at 330 shots (the same as the Olympus PEN E-P3) which is similar to other mirrorless cameras, for example the Panasonic Lumix GX1 has battery life rated at 310 shots, while the Sony NEX-5N has battery life rated at 400 shots. Battery life can be extended to 650 shots with the optional battery grip. We took over 400 photos before the battery went flat, although a number of these were taken using the 9fps shooting mode.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Bottom Battery
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Bottom Battery

Speed - We tested each camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot to shot time, continuous shooting etc and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced. Shown next to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 results are the Sony NEX-7 results, another premium mirrorless camera with high speed shooting.

  Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sony NEX-7
Shutter Response <0.05 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.125 0.2
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2 0.2
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.0 1.1
Shot to Shot (without flash) 0.3-0.4 0.6
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.5 0.7
Continuous Shooting (JPEG) 9fps (19 shots before slowdown) 10fps (18 shots)
Continuous Shooting (with Flash) 1.4s 0.6 (2 shots)
Continuous Shooting (RAW) 9fps (16 shots before slowdown) 10fps (14 shots)
* Tested with Lexar 600x SDHC card

Focus speed was extremely quick with excellent shutter response. Switch on time and shot to shot time were also very good, quicker than the Sony NEX-7 and with a fast memory card it was possible to take 19/16 shots before slow down at 9fps in JPEG and RAW respectively. The number of shots taken before slow-down depended on what speed card was used, with faster cards allowing more shots to be taken.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Rear Grip Part2
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Rear Grip Part 2

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Performance

Here are several sample photos from a production version of the new Olympus OM-D E-M5. The camera was tested with the 12-50mm lens as shown above, as well as a few other lenses. Additional photos of the camera and sample photos can be found in the Equipment Database, where you can also add your own photos and ratings.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sample Photos


Sample photos - Flash performance is good with no signs of red-eye. The camera performs well whether outdoors in bright light or indoors in low light. It performed well in our studio with a remote flash trigger taking over 400 photos without problems.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Lens test images


Lens test images - The 12-50mm lens provides a good range from the equivalent of 24mm to 100mm with very good macro performance. It also offers power zoom, or manual zoom by pulling the zoom ring towards the camera. To activate the macro mode you press the side macro button and push the zoom ring forwards, this sets the lens to 43mm (86mm equivalent) and you can get very close to the subject. Performance from the lens is good, however it becomes noticeably softer when the lens aperture is closed down and chromatic aberrations are visible in the shot of the trees.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 ISO test images


ISO Noise Performance - Olympus say that the camera has 1 stop lower noise compared to the 12 megapixel sensor in the Olympus PEN E-P3, and our results show impressive noise performance. In our E-P3 review we recommended resizing ISO12800 images, with the E-M5 the ISO12800 results are significantly better than the E-P3, with even ISO16000 and above producing usable results, although at ISO20000 colour loss is noticeable, so at this setting and above it may be best to resize or convert to black and white.

The camera has a number of noise reduction options: Off, On, Auto, with the noise filter options of: Off, Low, Standard, High. Low gives a nice grain with good detail, Standard (Default) does a very good job of removing most of the noise if you're not a fan of noise, while High was a little too strong in our view.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 White-balance test images


White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performed well under tungsten and fluorescent lighting, often producing better results than using the respective presets. The camera has an option to "Keep warm colour" when using auto white balance, which can be useful for capturing the mood of a scene - examples can be seen above. Detail and resolution is excellent, and clearly better than the 12 megapixel Olympus PEN E-P3, with no signs of moire.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Digital filters


Digital Filters - The camera has an updated range of Art Filters, including a new Key Line mode that was described as similar to "Manga" and being all about emphasis of the lines in the image. Dramatic Tone has been updated to include a new black and white version and there are further options for Cross Process. Image stabilisation works extremely well with photos taken at 1/6th of a second producing a sharp image. The camera features a panoramic scene mode, however this does not automatically stitch together images.

Another unique feature of the E-M5 is a new "Live Bulb" mode, you set the camera up in the normal way with a remote release, press the shutter button and hold it and while you're taking the photo, the exposure is shown on the rear screen of the camera "developing" as you watch it, so you can decide when the photo is exposed correctly. We tried this and were impressed by the results, an example can be seen in our earlier hands-on review.

Video - There are P/A/S/M video modes, as well as Art Filters, Wind Noise Reduction (Off, Low, Standard, High), Recording volume (Low, Standard, High) and ISO from 200 to 3200. When using the power zoom, there are two speeds available, slow and fast depending on how far you turn the zoom control. The built in image stabilisation works very well, with a hand-held example with image stabilisation Off here, and another hand-held video with image stabilisation On here. We've also posted a video recorded at ISO3200.


Lenses available: The Micro Four Thirds system has the widest range of lenses available out of all of the compact system cameras available with a number of lenses available from Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, Tokina, Voigtlander, Noktor, Samyang and other thirds party manufacturers such as Yasuhara, SLR-Magic, and others. Details of the lenses available on the Micro Four Thirds site, as well as details of three upcoming lenses from Olympus and Tokina.

Value For Money

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is available as a kit with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 lens for £1149.99, or £999 body only. This puts it into the premium mirrorless camera market, although this is the only model to feature a weather resistant body making it somewhat unique. Alternatives include the 24.3 megapixel Sony NEX-7 and 16 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix X-Pro1. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 will benefit from a high speed memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Verdict

For anyone doubting the ability of mirrorless / compact system cameras, this is the camera that should answer a lot of concerns. It has a weather-sealed compact body, an excellent range of lenses and most importantly excellent image quality - that is significantly improved over previous Olympus PEN cameras. The noise performance and detail in images is very good even at high ISO settings, comparable to cameras with APS-C sized sensors, despite the Micro Four Thirds sensor being smaller. The built in sensor based image stabilisation is excellent and works extremely well on photos and videos. Focus speed, shutter response and continuous shooting are all excellent with the camera shooting at a fast 9fps - the quickest of any Micro Four Thirds camera, only bettered by the Sony NEX-7 and NEX-5N with 10fps shooting.

Additional lenses have been announced by Olympus, a 75mm portrait lens and a weather sealed 60mm macro lens and with Sigma and Tokina recently releasing and announcing new lenses, the appeal of the Micro Four Thirds system continues to expand. Now that we have tested a full production version of the camera, the camera continues to exceed our high expectations with better than expected noise performance even at high ISO settings! The sensor in the camera has more resolution, with 16 megapixel compared to the PEN cameras 12 megapixels, yet also offers lower noise results! The price of the camera is relatively high compared to other Micro Four Thirds cameras, however we feel that the added performance, handling and features of the camera make it easily justified.

 
  The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a stylish weather-sealed camera with exceptional performance.


Olympus OM-D E-M5 Pros

Excellent noise performance
Excellent image quality
Excellent Image Stabilisation
9fps continuous shooting
Extremely fast focus, shutter response, shot-to-shot etc
Weather sealed body
Excellent range of lenses

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Cons

12-50mm Lens not the best - but good for macro
IS system noise

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
VERDICT

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Specifications

ManufacturerOlympus
Image Sensor
CCD pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeLive MOS Sensor
Sensor SizeMicro / Four Thirds
Sensor Size (width)17.3mm
Sensor Size (height)13mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution610k dots
Touch ScreenYes
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Touch AF
  • Spot
  • Multi
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest60sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity200 - 25600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Shade
  • Flash
  • Underwater
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder
Viewfinder Resolution1.44million dots
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting9fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
  • 1280x720 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 2
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium Ion
CIPA Rating330
Box Contents
Box ContentsBody, Flash FL-LM2, Li-ion battery BLN-1, Li-ion battery charger BCN-1, USB/Video Multi cable, Shoulder strap, OLYMPUS Viewer 2/ib CD-ROM, Instruction manual, Warranty card
Dimensions
Weight373g
Width121mm
Height89.6mm
Depth41.9mm

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Comments


StrayCat e2
10 14.9k 2 Canada
30 Apr 2012 7:02PM
Thanks Josh, well done.

Denny

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Lockhart 8 6 United States
30 Apr 2012 7:10PM
Your review says: "The buttons are quite chunky making it possible to use the camera in cold weather when wearing gloves even though the buttons are quite small the amount they protrude from the camera helps."

DPReview states that one cannot use this camera while wearing gloves.

Photographers at other nature forums report that using the buttons is very difficult because of their size. One very well known photographer I know stated that the buttons were designed to be used by a six-year old! Other reviews report that small controls are sometimes awkward (especially with cold/gloved hands).

For those of us who anticipate using a camera in cold weather, this is a deal breaker.

Others complain about the arrangement of the camera's menu, that useful options are buried deep within the menu and very difficult to sort out, reporting that several useful features hidden in obscure and confusingly-named menu options.


Other negatives include:

Focus tracking distinctly unreliable
Image stabilization not effective for continuous shooting
No in-camera correction of CA (which can be problematic with 12-50mm kit zoom)
Default JPEG settings a bit keen to blur detail away
Otherwise useful HLD-6 grip makes some controls more awkward to reach
No warning given that focus is locked during high-speed shooting

Overall, most reviews rate this camera very high, some stating that it is the best 4/3 camera available today. However, some of us need more detailed observations about using this camera in a field environment. Especially for those of us who are trying to lighten the load yet obtain high quality images.

I appreciate your review, please don't take my comments as negative, I am just raising issues that others have made.

Best regards,

Bill Lockhart
joshwa e2
4 603 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2012 8:50PM
Hi Bill, thanks for the comment, I used the camera on a cold day with woollen gloves and it seemed easy enough to use the controls. However, as everyone's hands are different and the type of gloves varies greatly it is likely to be different for different people.

The menus (like the other PEN cameras) are very long, and it can take a long time to find what you want to set - but I have found that after a while you start to get more familiar with it, and if you can't find something you can always search the manual to find where it is. Not ideal, but have a look at the video above to see what you think.


Quote: No warning given that focus is locked during high-speed shooting

This is a little annoying as the camera appears to be tracking focus, even when using the 9fps shooting mode, and perhaps the camera should automatically disable AF tracking when in 9fps shooting mode or vice versa. Perhaps a firmware update will address this issue. (This is mentioned in the Key Features part of this review).

Personally I liked the first part of the grip - with the extra grip offered adding to the ability to hold the camera firmly with one hand. Again though, I think whether you get on with the additional grip or grips (if you use both) will be down to personal preferences. It's good to have the option, and each part of the grip adds something useful - so in my opinion I wouldn't give the camera negative marks for it. Some people will want them, and some people will prefer to keep the camera small.
Lockhart 8 6 United States
30 Apr 2012 9:18PM
Hi Josh,

Thanks for your response. Maybe using gloves is a nit, but it is very important to me. I have spent too many days in Scotland when my bones were ice and my hands were largely dysfunctional. Good to hear that you are able to use the camera with woolen gloves. I use synthetic gloves, as thin as I can stand, but as you know sometimes it gets a tad cold and hands won't function well without ski gloves and warmers.

I shoot both landscapes and wildlife. So tracking focus is very important. I would hate to miss the shot of two wild swans moving across a vivid landscapes because the camera would not maintain focus.

Menus. I sometimes wonder who thinks them out. Surely not photographers. Being a simple guy, with limited abilities, I need someone else to figure things out for me. As in the old IBM KISS principle. If you can't keep it simple, then what the heck are you doing?

Thanks for your response. Like you, I have an interest in new technologies. We both hope for new stuff that will help us in the field.

I do appreciate your review and your opinions.

Best regards,

Bill Lockhart
joshwa e2
4 603 United Kingdom
1 May 2012 9:48AM
Hi Bill,

I've tested the AF tracking at 3fps and 4fps (Continuous L on the camera) and it kept up with a catwalk style shoot where the model was walking towards the camera. Whether this represents the style of shot you will be taking, unfortunately I do not know.

But I hope this helps,

Thanks

Josh
CEB 12 1 Wales
2 May 2012 6:50PM
Wow, great, I saved and saved for the original OM1 now it appears I must re-morgage my house, ahh, well, the stuff of dreams.

Dave
2 May 2012 11:15PM
Mine came and refused to work. Lost faith and having a refund. Shame as it seemed nice.
BobEH 9 14 United Kingdom
24 Oct 2012 3:34PM
Just bought a an EPM1 from Jessops with two lenses, for travel. What a bargain. I am now hooked on Olympus. My Canon Lump will stay in the cupboard for a while. Who needs controls? Pressing OK on the back command dial brings up everything you need and stays on the last one changed. Very quick when you get used to it. Everything is so light its like carrying a toy. However it feels solid and well made in the hand. Image quality is terrific. Waiting for a review of the EPM2 and maybe Ill get an OMD in two years time when the price has dropped 50% - just before they bring out the latest new model.
PS my eye level viewfinder has dropped on the mat. Brilliant.
Abyss3 1 6 India
16 Jan 2013 7:41PM
Menu is not a problem with the Olympus cameras. I dont use the E-M5, but I am having the E-5 and the controls and menus are quite similar.

You can just leave the super control panel on and ALL the settings that you use on day to day will be changeable right in the screen. You dont have to go digging anywhere.

Moreover the E-M5 is one of the most customizable cameras currently available. So if you think a particular setting is important to you and is not available in the super control panel, you can very well customize a button to bring that setting up!

Ram
montu 6 Bangladesh
12 Aug 2013 5:13AM
hiTongue

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