Olympus OM-D E-M5 Hands-On Review - We give our first impressions on the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 with updated sample photos and more. The E-M5 is the latest Micro Four Thirds camera and has an impressive specification.
Previously we posted our hands-on preview, and sample photos from the Olympus OM-D E-M5, and we've been able to spend some time taking photos with the camera and testing it to its limits under a variety of conditions. Here we post our hands-on first impressions review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5. We tested a nearly final pre-production version of the camera, running a beta version of the firmware and although the image quality is said not to be final, the camera operated and performed extremely well without any cause for concern. Read our full Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review here.
Olympus OM and Olympus OM-D with OM to M43 adapter.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is the beginning of a new line of cameras from Olympus, with it being the Digital version of the OM series, however, as you can see in the photo above, 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!
Olympus OM-D E-M5
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Features
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sensor
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
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.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Top Front
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
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 Rear Dial
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 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 nearly 1000 photos before the battery went flat, although a number of these were taken using the 9fps shooting mode, as well as using the Art Filter bracketing mode that automatically duplicates the same photo with each Art Filter selected applied.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Battery
Speed - We were not able to test the cameras speed scientifically, however Olympus has said that the focusing and shutter response is quicker than the Olympus PEN E-P3, which was very quick, so we expect to see good results when we do test the cameras speed in the studio. In our time shooting with the camera, focusing was very quick, the continuous shooting was as quick as expected shooting at 9fps and the camera responded quickly each time we came to use it. The EVF refresh speed can also be increased and the effects of IS can be viewed in the EVF.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Performance
Here are several sample photos from a pre-production version of the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, it is running a firmware that is not yet finalised so we have been asked to resize the images to 1600 pixels wide. The camera was tested with the 12-50mm lens as shown above, as well as a few other lenses, including the excellent Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lens. If you have any questions or want to discuss the camera, please post in the forum. Additional photos of the camera and sample photos can be found in the Equipment Database.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 ISO test images
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Other sample images
Olympus OM-D E-M5 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 appears to have worked extremely well with the photo taken in the hotel at 1/6th of a second producing a sharp image. Olympus say that the camera has 1 stop lower noise compared to the 12 megapixel sensor in the Olympus PEN E-P3, as well as 1/3 stop better Dynamic Range.
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 above in the test shots.
Value For Money
The OM-D is available from April 2012 as a kit with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 for £1149.99. 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
Rather than come to the table with a retro / classic styled camera, the OM-D E-M5 takes the premium mirrorless market one step further, with a weather sealed body, making it more useful for outdoors photographers and those looking for a professional level camera that's (much) smaller than the typical weather sealed Digital SLR. With the new camera, Olympus has also introduced two new lenses, a 75mm portrait lens and a weather sealed 60mm macro lens, further expanding the appeal of the system. This brings the total number of lenses available for the Micro Four Thirds mount to nearly 30 lenses and this is just from Olympus and Panasonic with a number of other lenses from other third party manufacturers also available.
When the Olympus OM-D E-M5 details were announced bit by bit it almost seemed too good to be true, with high speed continuous shooting, high resolution sensor, updated image stabilisation and weather sealed metal body and we were very excited to test the camera. Thankfully the camera lived up to our high expectations, and in some ways surpassed them 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! While the firmware may not be final, if the final results are anything like those we've seen so far, then this should be capable of producing excellent results. We look forward to testing the final version of the camera!