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Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review

ePHOTOzine member, Brian Wadie gives us his impressions of using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 as a replacement for his Canon gear.

| Olympus OM-D E-M5 in Mirrorless Cameras

Olympus OM-D EM-5 User Review, brian1208 records his early impressions

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 In Rain
I have watched the development of the micro four thirds cameras with interest since buying and then quite rapidly selling the Panasonic Lumix G1. I was looking for a replacement for my back-up Canon DSLR which would be lighter to use as a travel camera but the compromises involved were such that I decided to stick with my Canon system.
Since then I have found that the weight of the DSLRs (Canon EOS 5D Mk2 + 60D) and associated lenses were getting too heavy for me, such that I was reduced to having to choose which lens to take with me (and it was invariably the wrong one).
When the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was announced I read all the reviews available and felt that, just maybe, here was the system that could finally replace at least my 60D + some of my travel lenses.
My local friendly Jessops let me play with the camera over several visits including running some images onto my SD card. Reviewing those on my PC convinced me that it was worth giving it a try so I sold my 60D + a couple of less used lenses and purchased the OM-D EM-5 + kit lens.
My photography covers a wide range of subjects including water sport (kite boarding and sail boarding), bugs & bees macro, studio, landscape, flowers and wildlife (particularly birds in flight and small mammals). As you can see, I'm not a specialist!
Early tests indicated that I had made the right choice so I invested some more money and got myself a travel kit which now comprises:
The weight of my old setup compared to this new setup is noticeable:

Canon EOS 5D Mk2 + 17-55mm L IS + 24-105mm L IS + 100mm L IS macro + 70-300mm L IS = 3.8kg
Olympus OM-D EM-5 + 9-18mm + 12-50mm + 45mm f1.8 + 75-300mm = 1.24 kg

Which means that I can carry my entire Olympus rig in my Lowepro Nova 180 AW shoulder bag, without injuring my shoulders or neck after a days shooting. So far I am delighted with the results I am getting under a variety of shooting situations:

Macro: with the kit lens

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Crab spider with hoverfly
Crab spider with hoverfly

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: 4 sport chaser profile

4 sport chaser profile

Water sports: with the Olympus 75-300mm

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Board jump colour
Board jump colour

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Board Jump

Board gybing

Landscape: with the Olympus 9-18mm

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Quay sunset

Quay sunset

Studio: with the kit lens

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Colin with kit

Colin with kit

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Eye detailEye detail

Flowers: With the kit lens, 45mm f1.8 and 75-300mm

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Gazzania

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Bee hunting   
Bee hunting

Wildlife & Nature: Using the Olympus 75-300mm

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Cormarant

Olympus OM-D E-M5 2-Month User Review: Fox stare
Fox stare
Birds in flight is one area were I have had real problems using the techniques I developed using my Canon DSLRs as the AF performance of the E-M5 + 75-300mm does not seem capable of getting focus lock on birds against the sky and, to a lesser extent, against other backgrounds. I have started to use manual focus for this purpose and am finding that as I develop the technique I am getting more successful with this genre. I have also found that using the 45mm f1.8 allows very rapid and accurate focus lock using S AF mode which suggests that it may be the lens that is a major contributor to this "problem".
(Since writing this I spent a while at our local airport flying club and found that the E-M5 + 75-300mm is very capable when it comes to shooting aircraft in the sky, dark planes against dark skies, distant shots and so on. I get the impression that the key is to have the subject occupying at least 30% of the frame, use the centre-point focus and shoot in SAF mode.)
Another technique I have been playing with relates to shooting macro using the "fn2" and "fn1" buttons, first to reduce the centre focus point to a minimum (I like the fact that using the "Info" button let's you select whether to use 7x, 10x or 14x magnification, I tend to use 10x). Having set this and got approximate focus on the subject tapping (very lightly) the fn2 button gives a magnified view in the view-finder which lets you manually fine focus accurately and rapidly on the subject. A quick press of the shutter button then nails the shot (but don't touch this button until you want the shot as it switches out of the magnified view).

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Conclusion:

This has been a most interesting and fun period of my photographic life, first deciding whether to buy into the m4/3rds system via the OM-D E-M5, then whether I should dispose of my Canon system. I'm happy that I made the right decison and, as others have reported, find that it has brought a sense of fun back into my hobby. It's not all good news though, I'm still finding the Menu system confusing, the buttons can be a real pain at times (as with the need to "tap" the “fn2" button to magnify the view) but it's getting better with use.

Read our full Olympus OM-D E-M5 review for full sample photos and ratings.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Pros:

Well made (some of the lenses are built like a watch)
Comparatively small, even with the battery pack
EVF is excellent, clear and large enough to compose and manual focus with
Very fast, accurate AF in SAF mode using center focus point
The kit lens is excellent value, particularly for close-up & macro work
A good range of lenses is available
The ability to use 3rd party / legacy lenses via adapters is a bonus
Prints from processed RAW images are close to the quality of those I got from my Canon system (tested up to 18"x12" so far)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Cons:

Menu system is not easy to use
Buttons are not nice to use, a bit "squidgy" and imprecise feeling
Continuous AF and Focus Tracking are not well enacted, I've stopped using this for my work
It's not best suited to shooting Birds in Flight, particularly against light, bright skies

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Specifications

Image Sensor
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 modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Touch AF
  • Spot
  • Multi
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest60sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • 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 Resolution1.44million dots
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting9fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Wi-FiNo Data
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)330shots
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

View Full Product Details

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Photographs taken using the Olympus OM-D E-M5

City Viewmirrored...shadowed tulips...Frank ReidCherry Blossom Time.DOWN THE CANEL******From a Window 5From a Window 13From a Window 13From a Window 12From a Window 11From a Window 10From a Window 9

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walkerr 20
14 Aug 2012 10:24AM
Interesting review, thanks
josa 11 25 Czech Republic
14 Aug 2012 10:44AM
Hm, I believe this is a great camera but the price kills it. Other thing is design, compare it to OM-1 and you wonder what happened to designers to create a such ugly thing. I pass, maybe next time...
walkerr 20
14 Aug 2012 2:28PM
Have been pondering an upgrade for a while, truth is though my photography has taken a bit of a back seat lately so muddling along with my 40D works well enough for the small amount I've been doing. If I did have a pressing need/desire to upgrade right now, this would def be on top of my list - for now though it's wait and see.
14 Aug 2012 3:51PM
There's some great shots here, you've managed to achieve some really sharp stuff that so far I haven't been able to reproduce in my dabblings with my OM-D, I wonder what PP you've been doing, or whether I'm just still too much of an OM-D novice? It's interesting that you've come to many of the same conclusions I have (I have a 'first impressions' review over on the blog this week) but also that you've been using a 75-300 lens as well, something I will have to look into. I'm really looking forward to getting some legacy lenses on the camera and using the magnifier to get the best out of them. As a fellow Canon shooter I'm certainly glad of less weight...
brian1208 19 11.8k 12 United Kingdom
14 Aug 2012 4:36PM
Thanks for taking time to comment.
I think its cute (but ugly?) and I'm certainly not ashamed to be seen out with her in public Wink In fact people are frequently wanting to know what it is and getting quite excited by the whole package

Saul, I'm shooting in RAW and processing in LR4, depending on the lens I use I need very lttle sharpening at all (45 f1.8 is so sharp that for portraits I often soften a bit by reducing the clarity slider).

With the 75-300 at 200 to 300mm I find I need a bit more sharpening but I'll put some butterfly / bee shots up in my PF later which confirm a suspicion I've had for some time - namely the more I use this camera the better its getting at taking sharp images Grin

With the legacy lenses, I suggest you get ones with a built in manual iris as otherwise you end up using them wide open (unless you go the 4/3rds route)
15 Aug 2012 6:56PM
I am also a former canon user traded in all my kit for an omd plus panny 45-200 and a sigma 19 I can now fit all my kit in a low pro 100 sling bag and have more than enough space for battery's and filters the best bit is I can go out all day with all my kit and not feel like I have been on an assault course . I share your views on the caf and also use safe to track moving subject only had the camera for two weeks but I am very pleased with it I also have an epl1 and this triggered my interest in csc
mdpontin 19 6.0k Scotland
15 Aug 2012 7:31PM
Ugly? In my opinion it's a beautiful little thing and worthy of the OM name.

Great review, Brian
brian1208 19 11.8k 12 United Kingdom
16 Aug 2012 8:23AM
Nigel, I find that setting the IS to mode 2 and tracking a moving object whilst half-pressing the shutter to keep refocusing as needed, then pressing the shutter release at the right moment works best for me (until I find a better way Smile )
brian1208 19 11.8k 12 United Kingdom
18 Aug 2012 6:58AM
I've had the chance to do some fairly intensive trial of action shooting and thought I would update my review accordingly.

These included a child trampolining, a dog trying to catch a ball and a Wakeboarder in the throes of a major wipeout.

The child and dog were shot using the Olympus 9-18mm and the Wakeboarder using the Olympus 75-300mm.

I found that using 6fps in SAF mode with IS1 or IS2 allowed me to track the action and keep focus on the subject for around 70% - 80% of the the frames.

I'm very impressed with this performance which is up there with what I was achieving with my canon 7D + L lenses

You can see a small collection of images from these shoots (all hand-held) here

StrayCat 19 19.1k 3 Canada
19 Aug 2012 5:22AM
Excellent review Brian; we're of a like mind about just about everything. I had to ship a parcel from the airport the other day, so I took the camera and got some shots of airplanes taking off, I'll post some in the forum thread.

brian1208 19 11.8k 12 United Kingdom
19 Aug 2012 10:32PM
Thanks Denny, so - we know that we at least are right! Grin
MarkBauer 13 127 1
22 Aug 2012 12:57PM
An interesting review, Brian. I've just received an Om-d for to test for a review I'm writing, and am looking forward to getting out and shooting a few frames with it.
brian1208 19 11.8k 12 United Kingdom
22 Aug 2012 10:17PM
Thanks for dropping by Mark, I hope all is well with you.

I look forward to reading your review when it comes out (can you say where it will be published?), it will be interesting to get a pro's view on how this little thing performs, it will give me a chance to see what else it can do Smile
kodachrome 11 789
26 Aug 2012 8:52AM
Brian, excellent pictures and good honest review, but there doesn't seem to be that famous Olympus colour signature we have all grown to love. Yes, it shows very good colour but its not quite the same.

I have handled an E-M5 and to be honest, its not as nice to hold as a DSLR or the Panny G5, i guess this is the price paid for going retro with OM styling.
Olympus need to bring out a budget version which would possibly bring it into my price range, if they do that then the Panny G5 must be a serious alternative.

Great camera though, shame about the price.
brian1208 19 11.8k 12 United Kingdom
26 Aug 2012 8:54PM
Thanks Peter, I don't have experience of the "famous Olympus colour signature" as this is my first Olympus but to my eyes there is a difference between the EM5 colour and that of the canon system I am more used to. If anything I would judge the colours I am seeing on the Olympus as more natural (less rich) than the canon colour palette.

One other thought is that I am still learning how to post-process my RAW files and maybe am not showing the Olympus colours at their best?
kodachrome 11 789
27 Aug 2012 2:54PM

The older Olympus colours when they used a Panasonic sensor were liked very much by Oly users and especially in Jpeg. The palette was punchy but always retained the lesser more subtle hues without going over the top and shots of landscapes were always lovely. Olympus deservidly earned their excellent colour signature reputation from mostly landscapes.

Ironically, the Panasonic G series cameras using the same or similar sensor as the Oly were a tad more neutral if not a slightly cooler palette than Olympus, colours looked 'flatter'. Its been heavily rumoured that the E-M5 uses a Sony sensor, but no body has ever confirmed or denied it.

However, the colours from the E-M5 are superb but not quite as 'warm' as the old Oly palette.
The older Oly sensors were so good in Jpeg mode that very little more detail could be gained using RAW making it almost reduntant for those not bothered to do loads of PP.
I agree with your comments on the Canon, but then all manufacturers to one degree or another over emphasise the colour palette to make the pictures more attractive to Mr average.

Once again, great pictures, excellent review and a nice camera, but not for me.

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