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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.

| Olympus OM-D E-M5 in Mirrorless Cameras

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Hands-On Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 In Black

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-D E-M5 Hands-On Review: 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.

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 Hands-On Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Features

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Hands-On Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sensor
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 Hands-On Review: 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.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Hands-On Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Top Front
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Top Front

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 Hands-On Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Top dials
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Top dials

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 Hands-On Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Rear Dial
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 Hands-On Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Battery
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!

Read our full Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review here.

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

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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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kodachrome 11 789
22 Feb 2012 3:50PM
Excellent Preview, it looks a winner, however, I hope they bring out a slightly cheaper version, may be without the weather sealing to make it more affordable to a wider market.
Perhaps this could be checked out with Olympus. It will be interesting to see how picture quality compares to other M4T cameras, in particular the Panasonic 16mp G3.

brubaker 17 5
22 Feb 2012 4:31PM
I have used Olympus SLR's since the early 70's. Latterly OM2n's and an OM4 which I still occasionally use as I do the Zuico lenses on my E-3 DSLR. I naturally progressed to the Olympus DSLR's starting with the E-500 and latterly an E-3 - both are capable of excellent results in the right conditions but the 4/3 system has proved to be far less than satisfactory in night and low light situations and totally unsuitable at ISO's above 400 really because of excessive noise. I have been forced to de-camp to the ubiquitous Nikon camp where I can use ISO 800 and even 1200 with better low light results than Olympus at 200! I do not consider the 4/3 system to be on a par with the larger sensors from other marques and from what I've seen of the micro 4/3 it's even worse. So the OM-D looks superb and it would fit fine in my retro bag with the OM-2n but there's only so many times you can present the results in monochrome and claim the noise is 'intentional' grain. Olympus and I - end of a 40 year relationship - sorry.
Bruce Baker-Johnson (Brubaker Imaging)
walkerr 20
23 Feb 2012 7:22AM
I had OM1, and OM2n's and there's a definite retro lure for me here from those happy days of film!

Would agree with brubaker on noise at higher ISOs from my 1st gen GF-1, it's definitely high above 400.

From samples I've seen though, the newer gen 16MP 4/3 sensor seems to have much lower noise. The 1600 ISO samples I've seen have less noise than my older 14MP sensor at 400 ISO.

My aging Canon 40D will pack up at some stage, or I'll finally want to change it. At that point I'll definitely look if 4/3 can give me both SLR and compact body with 1 series of lenses. So far, I reckon it's looking hopeful.

My gripe isn't noise but the lack of shallow DoF - that's the one area I don't think you can ever solve in 4/3 unless you are happy to achieve it through post processing effects.
Paul Morgan 22 19.9k 6 England
23 Feb 2012 6:09PM

Quote:My gripe isn't noise but the lack of shallow DoF

No problems there, have you ever used 4/3 or M4/3 ?
walkerr 20
24 Feb 2012 6:42AM

Quote:My gripe isn't noise but the lack of shallow DoF

No problems there, have you ever used 4/3 or M4/3 ?

Yep - as per my note, I use a Gf-1 regularly with the 20mm 1.7 pancake. It's nice, but the DoF is noticeably broader than my current 50mm 1.4 on APS-C, not to mention on a FF which I've borrowed occasionally.
24 Feb 2012 10:21AM
Apples to Oranges...try compare Olympus 45mm f1.8 with your 50mm f1.4. 20mm its too wide (and slower) to give you very shallow DOF...Wink
walkerr 20
24 Feb 2012 11:00AM

Apples to Oranges...try compare Olympus 45mm f1.8 with your 50mm f1.4. 20mm its too wide (and slower) to give you very shallow DOF...Wink

Maybe I'm missing something here:

20mm on 4/3 = 40mm on FF. So 50mm is not far out, 20mm on 4/3 is def not wide angle

and one is 1.7 and the other is 1.4

45mm 1.8 on 4/3 would be a 90mm on FF

rrf105 17 42 United Kingdom
24 Feb 2012 11:31AM
I shoot mostly video nowadays and use a 5D Mark II and a GH2. The GH2 is great for low light precisely because it has a smaller sensor so manageable depth of even at f/1.2. I'd LOVE to switch it for the OM-D with built in 5-axis stabiliser (which looks seriously impressive) but WHY OH WHY is 24p/25p video not included!? This has become such a standard feature from every other manufacturer- Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony- but not Olympus it would seem.

I really want to be able to use this camera for video; it would be an amazing, small, run-and-gun solution giving stabilisation to even my old, manual focus primes but I just can't use it if it can't shoot 24p/25p.

I really hope Olympus add this in firmware like Canon did with the 5D Mark II.
vinnyg 11
24 Feb 2012 2:27PM
a 20mm lens is a wide angle lens, regardless of the size of the sensor. it is still a 20mm lens. therefore it inherently has very deep depth of field. it "becomes" a 40mm lens on a m4/3 camera in "field of view" only .
walkerr 20
24 Feb 2012 3:23PM

Quote:A 20mm lens is a wide angle lens, regardless of the size of the sensor. it is still a 20mm lens. therefore it inherently has very deep depth of field. it "becomes" a 40mm lens on a m4/3 camera in "field of view" only .

That was really the point of my original comment - depth of field at "equivalent focal length" is deeper. Never mind ....
Paul Morgan 22 19.9k 6 England
24 Feb 2012 3:51PM

Quote:a 20mm lens is a wide angle lens, regardless of the size of the sensor. it is still a 20mm lens

Lol so it is, but in reality your talking a load of tosh, WYSIWYG.

Quote:I shoot mostly video nowadays and use a 5D Mark II and a GH

This is a major + for M4/3, the format is almost the same size as 35mm motion film camera and the lenses depth of field is more or less identical as well, video on camera`s like the 5D MK11 is something like 58% larger in scale.
vinnyg 11
24 Feb 2012 3:52PM
@ walkerr,
my post was intended to be a general helpful tip for anyone who could use the info. not everyone understands the concept of depth of field and angle of view etc etc. it can be confusing for some, just trying to help.
iScot 11
24 Feb 2012 4:26PM
Thank you... nice review and variety of samples! This is a really impressive little camera! I'd assume the "live bulb mode" shot of the fire is tripod mounted, correct?
24 Feb 2012 7:22PM
I don't understand why people are complaining that MFT cameras have more noise and more DOF than FF cameras. Duh. Buy the kind of system that best suits your needs. Or reflect on what your "needs" really are.
oneill 15 155 Ireland
25 Feb 2012 12:22AM
i would like to thank epz for there review of this camera, also as i have said before this is a great site as there reviews are not based on the big companys givin big hand outs to say things that suit these conpanys to sell there wares, now onto this new om-d e-m5 camera which could be a god send for persons that have disablities, i know i will wait till the next part of the review and then take the plunge to get this camera, as i have been putting off buying for some time now, just 2 get the right camera for me,
kodachrome 11 789
25 Feb 2012 7:03PM
I saw a rumour on an other site that said Olympus may not using a Panasonic sensor on the OM-D and could be using a Sony sensor!

oneill 15 155 Ireland
27 Feb 2012 7:08PM
thats even better news, pete , sony does a better senor by far.
StrayCat 19 19.1k 3 Canada
27 Feb 2012 9:37PM
Good preview; nice looking kit. It still comes accross as specialty kit though, with a lack of affordable long telephoto lenses available, which is the main reason I moved on from m4/3, plus, I am not a fan of touch screens for some reason that I can't put a finger on.Wink
Paul Morgan 22 19.9k 6 England
27 Feb 2012 11:37PM
The argument over what is better, inbody IS or in lens IS could soon be over.

From what I understand the effect of the inbody IS can now be seen in the viewfinder.
lemmy 16 2.9k United Kingdom
29 Feb 2012 2:51PM

Quote:I don't understand why people are complaining that MFT cameras have more noise and more DOF than FF cameras. Duh. Buy the kind of system that best suits your needs.

Exactly! I used to use Hasselblad 6x6 and a Mamiya RB67 6x7 because the depth of field was too wide for many portraits on my Nikons. Every now and again I'd hire a 5x4 for a portrait session, again because you could get that beautifully shallow DoF you see in the old black and white Hollywood portraits, usually shot on 10x8 for ease of retouching.

These days, weight and size are more important to me, so I use MFT GH2 amd G3. It's horses for courses. But the notion that MFT has shallow depth of field is a bit parochial. It does compared to 35mm - but so does 35mm compared to 6x7 and 6x7 compared to etc etc etc....
1 Mar 2012 5:33AM
StrayCat, I totally agree with your on not being a fan of touch screens on cameras, and I too can't put a finger on it lol. While I was reading this review, as soon as I found out that this camera had a touch screen, all bets were off for me. And that was before I saw your comment, which finally put the nail on the coffin! For me, it's gonna be the Fujifilm XPro1
pabloisme 13 566 England
1 Mar 2012 7:42AM
wow looks like they went through the dressing up box of olympus really retro?
kodachrome 11 789
12 Mar 2012 12:40PM
I think they have a nerve to sell a high end camera at a high price on the back of its retro looks, a grand, just for the body. The price really does need to drop before I consider buying.
If Panasonic can produce a camera such as the DMC G-3 with performance to match a DSLR or at least picture quality, for £500, then why can't Olympus. Yes I know the E-M5 is a much higher spec, but I suspect a good percentage of the price is the retro look. Just think, Panasonic had no legacy products to fall back on which could be used as a price hike. Having said all that, I still admire the quality and ethos behind the E-M5, but a bit cheaper please.
1948custom 15 6 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 2:06PM
Love the retro look and feel of the classic OMs and 'arty' features, but at such a high price Sad

Is it really that good ? Looking forward to an extensive reviewWink

Not all of us are wealthy enough to afford such luxuries so I guess I'll have to look elsewhere for an affordable camera, hello to the Panasonic GX-1, or a 'pre-owned' unit.Wink

Now if I can get a real 'hands-on' test drive of one.........................Smile
27 Mar 2012 10:34AM
i want to buy a new camera but i don't know which is the best i'm just a little bit confused between olympus SZ-10 & SP610UZ
so i want your advice & i will appreciate your quick response with full details... please .
my email is : [email protected]
kodachrome 11 789
28 Mar 2012 6:32PM
On another review site, the Oly EM-5 struggled in some areas to equal the picture quality of the Panasonic GH2. Now considering I can get a GH2 body for just over £500 and the E-M5 body is a touch over a grand [although like all new cameras, prices drop eventually], I know what I will buy if I need another M4T body.


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