on April 24, 2012
I've been invested in the m43 format since the launch of the E-P1 in summer 2009, successively moving up to the E-PL2, E-P3 and now the OM-D E-M5. Features have been added and the cameras tweaked with each generation, and it's safe to say that Olympus have produced their best m43 camera yet in the E-M5. But there is a lot of competition out there, and the robust E-M5 with built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) may not be the best option for everyone. Let me walk you through my experience using the camera having upgraded from past models. (Note I'm based in Japan, which is why I have the camera early).
[Size and Weight]
My initial reason for choosing the mirrorless m43 (micro four thirds) format was a desire to have a high quality imaging sensor inside a compact camera body. I did not want to carry around the bulk and weight of a DSLR camera, but was tired of the poor performance from point and shoot cameras, especially in low light. The Olympus PEN series met my needs perfectly in this respect, and have retained their small form factor throughout the range, despite consistently improving and adding features.
The E-M5 is no exception - it is the same width as the E-P3, with a little extra height because of the EVF on top of the camera and 50g heavier, weighing in at 425g with battery. In pictures online, it can look rather large, but after holding the camera in my hands, it became clear just how small it really is. The E-M5 is certainly not a pocket camera (although it will fit into large coat pockets), but the form-factor and equally small, lightweight m43 lenses mean it is an excellent choice for hiking and travelling, especially if you value its robust body and weather sealing.
The E-M5 boasts a tough magnesium alloy shell and weather sealing. Videos posted online showing the camera having water poured on it and shooting out in the rain are testament to its high quality construction, although do note that `splash-proof' is not `water-proof'. You probably shouldn't submerge the camera in water, and note too, that you'll need weather-sealed lenses to fully utilise the benefits (as of today, only the 12-50mm kit lens is weather-sealed, with a 60mm weather-sealed macro lens on the way).
The camera has a lovely heft to it when held in the hand and suitably good grip - certainly heavier than most point and shoot cameras, but lighter than most DSLR cameras. In contrast to the PEN cameras, the E-M5 has a slightly protruding thumb `hook' on the back that really aids stability, as well as a nice grip (with the option of an external grip and additional battery holder available separately to help when using larger lenses).
The biggest departure from the previous PEN models is undoubtedly the bult-in EVF and two dials on top of the camera. The EVF is similar to the VF-2 that Olympus sold separately to complement the PEN cameras and provides a bright and useful display. For users who like viewfinders, this is a long-awaited addition and most people will not be disappointed. The 100% field-of-view 1.15x EVF is, as current technology goes, one of the best (although the magnification is not as good as the GH-2 EVF with 1.42x, providing a larger image).
The two dials on top of the camera allow access to various functions, but most people will use them to change the aperture, shutter and exposure compensation. You can also assign functions such as manual mode or focus zoom to one of 3 function buttons on the camera. The rear control pad is also customisable, meaning it is finally possible to access all of the main settings without having to dive into the detailed menu system.
One of the most pleasing things for me was finally being able to use the camera while wearing gloves (something I could not do easily with the previous PEN cameras). Although it can still be difficult to use the rear control pad while wearing gloves, the main settings assigned to the dials and function buttons are easily useable. Another little tweak that I love is the offset tripod mount (to accommodate for the additional grip the E-M5 is able to use). This means that I can now change the battery while the camera is mounted to a tripod plate. Thumbs up!
The 9fps shooting speed mentioned is without AF and IBIS turned on, but it's certainly a welcome addition over previous PEN models. I've used it for bracketing shots when creating HDR photos. You can shoot a maximum of 7 photos in bracketing mode to capture the dynamic range of the scene and then combine them later in software. Using the 9fps speed, this is done in an instant, and it may even make handheld HDR bracketing possible. It's also worth noting that the E-M5 is compatible with 3rd party intervalometers such as the JJC TM-J that support the Olympus RM-UC1 remote to do timelapse shooting.
The m43 cameras have made incredible progress in improving autofocus speed since their initial launch and are far better than the sluggish focus of the original E-P1. Previous Panasonic cameras like the GH-2 held the crown, but in the latest generation of PEN cameras and with the new OM-D line, autofocus speed matches the Panasonic models and even surpasses it in some tests. The bottom line is that the E-M5 can hold its own against consumer DSLRs in autofocus speeds, with perhaps two caveats: 1) that AF slows down in low light and 2) that AF tracking when shooting sports is still not quite as good as DSLR rivals. That said, the E-M5 has some big improvements in this area, and can quite reasonably track moving objects while shooting at a respectable 4fps.
[Sensor and Noise Performance]
One of the bigger criticisms of the E-P3 and other PEN cameras was the ageing 12MP sensor inside the camera. While it was still perfectly good for shooting at lower ISOs, its performance suffered when moving up, especially beyond ISO1600. The Panasonic GH-2 arguably had the best noise performance of a m43 camera up until now, but the E-M5 can be said to claim this crown. A new 16MP sensor inside the camera offers about 1 - 1.5 'stops' of improvement in noise performance. Basically this means that if you thought ISO1600 on the previous PEN cameras was acceptable, you will likely be happy with ISO3200 on the E-M5.
As usual, Olympus offer lovely Jpegs with gorgeous colours straight out of the camera for users who do not like to post-process their images in software. But for users who do, the Raw files offer more flexibility and noticeably increased dynamic range over previous PEN cameras (also about 1 - 1.5 'stops' improvement), allowing highlights and shadows to be pulled back. Practically speaking this means less white skies and richer colours! Noise is also very well controlled and easily reduced in software afterwards.
[In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS)]
The image stabilisation built into the camera body is, in my opinion, one of the strongest reasons for considering the PEN line or OM-D line over other mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX series or Panasonic cameras. The previous IBIS system built into the PEN cameras was already good, but Olympus have found a way to improve it even further. Marketing tells us it's a 5-axis IBIS system that constantly stabilises the sensor, and indeed it does. You can see it kick in as the sensor moves into position when you power on the camera.
The biggest area this offers improvement in is the video mode (although naturally, still shots also benefit). The E-P3 was notorious for its rolling shutter and jellylike wobble when it received even the slightest bump. The E-M5 and its new IBIS system completely removes this wobble and significantly reduces the rolling shutter effect. What this means is that you can take very smooth videos handheld, so much so that you might even have been mistaken for using a steadicam in some cases. It isn't a substitute for a steadicam however, and walking with the camera will still introduce a minor amount of image `shifting' as the sensor compensates for the movement. But handheld panning and careful walking with the camera is as smooth as could be.
One of the most interesting and pleasing features of my E-P3 was the capacitive touchscreen. Perfectly implemented with just 3 `modes' - off, on to focus, or on to focus and take picture. Some might view this feature as a gimmick, but I found it exceptionally useful. Rather than focus and recompose the shot like in traditional cameras, you can simply compose your shot and lightly touch the screen to focus on your desired area and take the shot. I found it very useful for macro work, as well as general shooting when out with friends. The E-M5 continues this feature, and the beautiful OLED screen works like a charm.
Another reason I chose the m43 format (supported by Olympus and Panasonic, as well as other 3rd party makers) over competing cameras such as the Sony NEX series is the large selection of lenses available. This still continues to be the case. Using a bright prime lens such as the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and coupled with the improved high ISO noise performance, I find the E-M5 to be formidable in low light. (If you are on a budget, consider the equally-excellent Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens or Olympus 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens).
It obviously will not match a full frame sensor's performance, but the difference between the E-M5 sensor and the larger APS-C sized sensors like the one in the Sony NEX series is very small. A larger sensor means better noise performance (cleaner pictures), but a smaller sensor means smaller and lighter-weight lenses can be made for the camera. All things considered, I find the m43 system to provide the best balance between all these factors, with the E-M5 and GH-2 providing the best sensor performance among m43 cameras.
I do not have any serious criticisms of the camera, but rather a few niggling complaints that I will list below.
- The camera makes a low fan-like/humming noise when switched on that is audible in quiet environments. This is normal and a result of the always-on new IBIS system. Most users will not be able to hear it in regular shooting. Also note that the noise is lowered and essentially gone when in video mode, meaning it does not affect video. However, it is worth noting as many will be surprised when first turning the camera on and it may prove annoying for some people who shoot often in quiet environments.
- The position of the viewfinder and small size of the camera mean that for left-eyed shooters, you may find your nose slightly squashed against your thumb when holding the camera. If concerned about this, it would be best to check at a store first. I found using my right eye avoided this problem.
- No built-in flash. Although an extra mini flash unit is provided in the box, users who value having a flash built into the camera body may be disappointed. I used to value this feature until I realised I rarely use the built-in flash at all (and quite often it isn't powerful enough to improve pictures). For those occasions where I need a flash however, I can take the little flash unit with me.
- New battery. The battery used is not the same as previous PEN cameras, meaning you'll need to buy replacement batteries (I take 2 spares on a heavy day's shoot). Olympus are usually good with this though, and I think we can expect the new battery will be used across the OM-D line in future models.
- High cost and lots of customisability. This isn't really a negative so much as a realistic assessment. For many point and shoot upgraders, the E-M5 may be more than you need. Indeed, the camera is larger than other PEN models and offers lots of flexibility to customise controls (meaning the menus are suitably packed with features). Although you can just use the camera in P or iAuto mode, you can find much cheaper PEN cameras that will still offer great image quality in a smaller package. For those who want the best possible image quality and value the EVF and extra controls, the E-M5 will not disappoint.
I've never owned a m43 Panasonic camera myself, so it would be unfair of me to compare the E-M5 to the GH-2 (its nearest competitor), but for the image quality I've seen online, the two cameras are close, with the edge for the E-M5. You may also find the Panasonic G-3 a cheaper alternative that offers competitive image quality. Similarly, the Sony NEX cameras such as the NEX-5N and the Fuji XPro1 will give you better image quality than m43 cameras, but at the expense of a wide-ranging and small lens selection and at the expense of functionality.
There isn't a great deal I'm left wanting from the E-M5. Perhaps faster AF tracking for sports and full speed AF support for older 43 lenses when used with an adapter (there does not seem to have been much improvement here between the E-P3 and E-M5). Also, 1/8000 second max shutter speed and ISO 100 (the range begins at ISO200, like previous PEN models) would be welcome. A mic-out port for monitoring video using external headphones and 24p mode would also be nice.
It will be exciting to see what Olympus can innovate next to improve upon the camera. But for the time being, I feel happy awarding it 5 stars when compared to other cameras within the same class. If you feel the niggling faults are serious however, feel free to subtract one.
on May 25, 2012
First, who I am: I'm an avid street photographer who usually has 1-2 gallery showings a year and occaisionally gets my photos picked up by the papers--I've been into photography for alomost 50 years and teach it at the university level. While I bought the camera with the 12-50mm kit lens, most of my shooting has been with the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f:1.4 lens, as I just prefer shooting with a fast, standard focal length, prime lens. I'm just telling you this because some of the things that might wow me might be inconsequential to a novice photographer who just wants to point and shoot (although the camera does that as well).
All of that out of the way, this camera is just plain nuts (in a good way). Unless you're really splitting hairs, this tiny little camera can pull in virtually the same shots that a big, bulky, pro DSLR can. Honest. I've been getting stunning images in the most photographically problematic situations ever since I started shooting with this thing--If you don't believe me, go to [...] and do your own side by side comparisons. Did I say it was small? Not only can you carry it with you all day, but when you hold it in your hands you just know that the magesium frame is going to take all the abuse you can throw at it. This camera doesn't just look like the legendary Olympus OM-1 & 2 cameras from the 1970's it's inheritted the very same strong and sveldt spirit which made them so appreciated by both professional photojournalists and enthusiasts.
Aside from the size and image quality, this camera is also blistering fast with its autofocus--as in how can it do it that fast? But as frosting on the cake, the auto zoom-in of the EVF when manually focussing makes going that route a snap, even for somebody with poor eyesight, like me--way beyond what one can do easily on a DSLR. And while a mere 9 frames per second might just be so-so for a pro DSLR, it's plenty fast for more than 99% of the photographers out there. I could go on and on.
The worst part of owning this camera now is that every day I have to look at well over $10,000 in my DSLR gear which I haven't touched since getting this mighy mite.
If you're serious about photography and want a cary-with-you-anywhere-do-anything camera, and you can afford the serious money that Olympus is asking for this camera, just do it.
on May 8, 2012
SIMPLY A JOY TO USE
I took a leap of faith and sold my precious X100 to buy this camera. I've had the EM-5 for almost a month now and I just love it. To me it's almost the perfect camera. I enjoy using it every time and it makes photography fun for me again.
WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR
A small lightweight camera with great versatility for outdoor hikes, indoor portraits and low light photography. The X100 was charming and produced beautiful OTC jpegs, but it did not have the versatility of an all-in-one camera that I was looking for to replace my DSLR. Focusing was too slow for taking pictures of my nieces or any action photography, focal length was not ideal for portraits or wild life shots, and video recording features were limited. It did excel at street photography but I wanted more.
WHAT I FOUND IN THE EM-5
Since you can change the lens, the possibilities are endless with the EM-5. Especially when paired with an exceptional lens like the Olympus 45mm or Panasonic 25mm, the Olympus can produce some breathtaking results. There are more controls and settings for movie recording. With lenses that feature MSC, zooming and focusing is absolutely silent. You can also add external mic input with an adapter and there are custom settings galore! It is more of an investment than the X100 with all the lenses but that depends on what you want out of it. IBIS let's me slow down the shutter speed to 1/20 of a second hand held so I don't have to stick to 1/60th and crank up the ISO.
Although the EM-5 has a smaller the sensor, the image quality is very high. I would even say that the raw files from the EM-5 are equal or sometimes better than the X100. I still prefer the X100's beautiful jpeg engine but the EM-5 jpegs with noise reduction off and sharpening tone down are also superb. It's amazing how much detail you can get out of the raw files with the small 16MP sensor. I was initially worried that I would be sacrificing some image quality jumping into the EM-5 but my worries are non existent now. I don't hesitate cranking the ISO up to 6400 either, especially if I know it's not for prints. But do yourself a favor and get at least one tack sharp prime lens for the EM-5 (Olympus 12mm, 45mm, or Panasonic's 20mm and 25mm) so you can appreciate this camera.
With an MSC lens, focus is blazing fast and accurate. DSLRs might still have the advantage in extremely low light but the size tradeoff isn't worth it to me. X100 can not compete here at all. 3D Tracking only works with slow moving object but maybe a future firmware will make it more useful.
I wish the EM-5 was made in Japan like the X100 but the build quality is solid. What drove me crazy was dust getting into the viewfinder of the X100, but the EM-5 is dust proof and weather sealed. The paint is not impervious to wear but neither was the X100. They both feel like quality cameras in your hands.
The EM-5 feels more compact to me and has the perception of a more compact camera (unless you stick a giant telephoto lens on it). I like the layout of the X100 better and it feels less cramped. But with the optional hand grip or a half case, the EM-5 would be perfect. Buttons on the X100 feels a bit more responsive and I loved how you can add your own custom shutter button. However, the EM-5 camera setting don't get bumped around in your bag like the X100 since the dials are not notched to specific values. (There were times when I had exp compensation set to +/- 1 without noticing.) You can pretty much customize everything on the EM-5 which was something users complained about on the X100. (Took them a year to update the firmware just so you can set the raw button to something else useful.) Both the EVF and tilting OLED screens display images beautifully, and I'm usually not a fan of EVFs. The touchscreen is great advantage for selective focusing and quickly changing settings. The X100's hybrid viewfinder was extremely cool but the EM-5's EVF and tilting screen combo is much more practical. I do miss the X100's aperture ring on the lens, intuitive controls, and quiet leaf shutter with 1/2000 flash sync, but overall the speed and customization of EM-5 wins over the X100. Both of them have convoluted menus but with the EM-5, once you've customized everything, there's very little need to go back.
LOOKS AND FEATURES
X100 is gorgeous and has a classic look but my silver EM-5 is a close second, especially with a silver lens... stunner. EM-5 has features out the wazoo! More than you'll ever need probably. I especially like the diorama art filter and being able to take 3D photos. X100 is simple and their classic film filters will be missed, but the EM-5's 5-axis IBIS and 9fps shooting is killer.
QUIRKS ON THE EM5
IBIS humming is there and noticeable indoors. The EVF auto switch sensor is very close to the lcd screen so sometimes it switches when you're touching the screen. Left side ports are hard to get to without first tilting the lcd screen out. I don't mind these few quirks since the X100's list of quirks was much longer and annoying.
I do not regret selling my X100 or my Canon DSLR at all. With the right lenses, the EM-5 does everything I want/need it to. Image quality is superb and almost all the settings can be customized. Everything is packaged in a nice compact and weathersealed body that's reasonably priced for what it delivers. It lets you shoot photos without getting frustrated and gives you more creative freedom than most cameras on the market. I did not care for the m4/3 system before but the lens selection is awesome and is still growing. The EM-5 made me a believer that you can have everything you want in a camera without lugging around a 25lb kit. Unless you want to shell out for a Leica or need the quality of a medium format camera, I see no reason to get anything else until Olympus makes and EM-6.
P.S. I don't compare the EM-5 to the original OM series. I think it's irrelevant and snobby. They both great photographic achievements in compact photography during their time. I hate useless reviews like on DigitalRev.com where all they talk about is how it's not like the original OM series... rubbish. The EM-5 is like nothing else in it's market and should be commended for it. Yeah the Nex-7 and X Pro 1 has APS-C sensors but how many lenses are available for those systems? X Pro1 focusing is still slow and it's a clunky camera that's not really compact anymore. The Nex-7's EVF, although crispy, is quite laggy, not as enjoyable to use overall. The Panasonic GX1 might have a 16mp sensor but it's what you do with the sensor that counts. If you're looking at this camera, it's really a no brainer when you get features here that you only find in top of the line DSLRs.
on July 27, 2013
I have been using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 as my primary camera for about 7 months now, with the exception of the two months it was with Olympus for warranty service. I love the images that this camera produces, the size, the in body image stabilization (IBIS), and the excellent Olympus prime lenses. However, I have also experienced a number of serious quality issues in the short time that I have had this camera, and I am considering other options now.
Within two weeks of receiving the camera, the paint below the Olympus logo and around the lens mount on the front of the camera started to flake off. I had not dropped or dinged the camera, so I believe that this was just a bad paint job. The flakes that were coming off looked like tiny black pepper flakes, which is the last thing that I want to see around the lens mount of an interchangeable lens camera. I also noticed that the bottom of the frame that surrounds the rear screen had a hairline crack near the center screw. After a little research, I learned that this defect was common in a certain batch of OM-Ds and mine was one of them. Apparently the cause was an over-tightened screw.
I sent the camera to the Olympus America repair facility in Hauppage, NY as directed by the Olympus America website where I filed an online repair ticket. What I did not know is that Olympus was in the process of moving their repair facility to Texas. It took Olympus almost two full months to repair the camera and return it to me, and for the first month and a half I could not even confirm that they had received my camera despite numerous emails and calls to customer service. I finally learned that my camera had been forwarded to the Texas facility where it was assigned a new repair ticket number, and I was finally able to track the repair online. However, I signed up for email notifications and never received a single one.
Since receiving the camera back from the repair center, I have had no further issues with the paint flaking off. However, one of the plastic textured grips popped off the front of the camera, and I discovered that it was only held on with double sided tape. The person who installed the tape had put a large crease in it, which meant there was less surface area to hold the piece in place. The repair center also lost the accessory port cover that prevents water intrusion when the accessory port is not in use. Finally, less than a week after I got the camera back, the hairline crack was clearly visible again near the center screw on the bottom the rear screen frame. After learning that the crack does not affect the integrity of the weather sealing, I opted to not send the camera back again after my first negative repair experience.
Yesterday, I was shooting some photos before work and noticed that each time I engaged the IBIS, I would see either green or magenta horizontal lines within the EVF. I have the IBIS set to engage with a half press of the shutter button so that I can stabilize longer lenses in the EVF for more accurate framing. I was also disappointed to see that the same green and magenta lines appeared in several of the photos that I took, completely ruining the photos. At this point, it looks like I have no choice but to send the camera back in for another repair.
When this camera is working, it is one of the best cameras that I have ever used and the image quality is exceptional. I love the small size, light weight, and tilting screen too. However, I have completely lost confidence in this camera, and have returned to shooting with my DSLR for the time being.
I cannot recommend this camera based on my experience with it, and with the Olympus America repair center.
on May 20, 2012
This is my fifth Micro 4/3 camera, having previously bought the G1, GH1, GH2, and E-P3. Full disclosure: Olympus gave me an E-PM1 as part of their Pen Ready promotion. However, I bought the OM-D E-M5 with my own money and in fact paid almost $150 extra to get one when all the stores were out of stock.
Pros (from my subjective point of view):
-Very fast AF
-Great image quality sensor
-Great available lens choices
-Good looking camera
-Great flip screen (I prefer to fully articulated flip and twist type)
-Great integrated viewfinder
-Best in-body image stabilization I have ever used.
-Subdued, pleasing shutter release sound and feel.
-Heavier than I would have liked.
-Small, mushy-feeling buttons
-Doesn't correct color fringing automatically like Panasonic cameras do
There are other Pros (like weather sealing and terrific in-camera JPEG engine) and Cons (like limited AF tracking ability and limited manual controls during video) which don't matter to me at all but might matter to someone else.
Bottom line is that I love the camera. Sure there are flaws, but it gets 5 stars from me because I prefer it to any other camera in today's market.
on April 23, 2012
Size - Smaller than I thought! It just feels so right on my hands. It feels solid. Not too light. Definitely not too heavy. I'm sure the extension of HLD-6 would make it even comfortable to hold... but I don't think it's worth $300 given my satisfaction over its ergonomics.
Buttons - Still getting used to the orientation. I've owned previous PEN series so the menu is not that hard to absorb.
EVF - Nothing great to write home about. It's OK... but not as great as the NEX-7's (drop by at your local camera store & compare). I'm not very picky regarding the feature since I don't use it as much as the 3-inch screen.
New IBIS - Just awesome. I actually have better pictures coming out of my Panny 100-300mm lens, on the long end of the zoom - handheld! (not 100% of the time though, but that's user-error due to handheld test).
Flippity screen - Very very useful. I prefer to take pictures of children at their eye level so this helps A LOT without having to kneel or bend down as much. Also very useful on over-the-head shots. I just wish it was the same articulating screen as Panny's G-series. Oh, well.
Touch screen - Another COOL feature. Great for stolen shots. Not fast enough for active children at play.
14-42mm Lens - Nothing special. But I prefer this over the 12-50mm lens since I don't care for videos & weather seal stuff. Not to mention $200 cheaper at half the size! I'm sure others would disagree.
Humming sound - Yeah, it's there. Only noticeable in a quiet room. I had some friends around our house to drool over the camera & none of them commented on the humming sound. I guess it only matters if someone is looking for it. Not about to consider this an issue.
Lugs - It has grown to be a pain. At such a small footprint for a camera, right hand tends to hit that annoying triangle coil (for the neckstrap). I read some suggestions regarding the matter, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to alter it... Yet.
Images - I'm coming from a previous user of the E-PM1 & E-PL2 & I must say that the images are just STUNNING! I will have to do more test shots with my panny 25mm 1.4 & oly 45mm 1.8 to compare.
I know that this is a brief review of the camera. I will update more about its functions in the future.
---------------------- UPDATE 04/28/2012 -----------------------
I just added some pictures, on Amazon's gallery, with some various lenses. For those in doubt if the silver prime lenses would not look good in the all-black E-M5, you may be surprise by its color-combo (or not).
on April 28, 2012
The prior reviews are already plenty detailed, so I'll make this short. This is my first m4/3 camera and I am very very happy with it.
Coming from a much larger DSLR, it was a bit of an adjustment in terms of ergonomics. I had to learn to be comfortable holding it, but that took a day or two at most. I am happy with the image quality and high ISO images are better than any digital Olympus camera I have seen. Now that Lightroom 4 supports the E-M5 and I can process the RAW files, I think the image quality is excellent. It's not perfect, but then what camera is?
The famous "hum" actually sound more like air from a tiny fan in the camera, or like when you hold a seashell to your ear. Most of the time I don't notice it- in fact I have accidentally left the camera on several times and forgotten about it. I don't hear anything. It might be audible in a completely silent room, but barely.
I am normally a bargain hunter- I rarely pay full price for anything. When the first PEN came out I thought it too expensive and passed on it. I was very nervous about paying over $1000 for a camera combo- I'd didn't even pay that for any of my DSLRs! That said, I have no regrets about paying full price for this camera.
My only complaint is that I really wanted the silver body but they seem to be quite rare right now. Seriously, after handling this camera I forgot all about color preferences.
My background.... I am a part time professional photographer and I own a range of canon cameras and lenses. I still use the canon for my work photography most of the time, but I am starting to use this olympus more and more.
Let me start by saying that I absolutely love this little camera. I clicked the "buy it now" button the moment it first appeared on amazon. I waited several months for the backorders to clear and I've now owned it close to a year. I have absolutely no regrets. As odd as this may sound, this camera makes me happy. Whenever I use it I imagine I have a dopey grin on my face.
Initially I fought with this olympus to get sharp shots. If, like me, you are coming from a DSLR camera, you might have some difficulty adjusting to the balance of the camera. It is very light (which is one of the great things about it) but that means that it is a bit more prone to camera shake if you don't have it on a tripod and if, like me, you don't have rock steady hands. I stuck with the camera through my initial frustration and I'm so glad I did. I learned my own best way of holding it in order to keep it steady.
If you are thinking of buying this camera I think its important to hear some thoughts on what it can and cannot do. There are already so many good solid reviews here on amazon that I am only going to hit the high and low points as I see them. These might not be the same highs and lows that everyone else has so just keep in mind that these points are my OPINIONS.
- WEIGHT/SIZE Light as a feather and beautifully constructed. I can carry this camera in a small bag with 2 or 3 or 4 lenses all day and not feel any strain. I used to carry a camera with one lens with me EVERYWHERE, but after several years the dslr around my neck or on my shoulder started to take a heavy physical toll. Now I can go back to having a camera with me at all times.
- IMAGE QUALITY can be outstanding. I have taken some stunning photos with this thing. Punchy colors, Creamy bokehs. Good photos taken with this thing rival good photos taken with any DSLR. The olympus 45mm f1.8 lens is a relatively inexpensive thing of beauty.
- MENU SYSTEM. The super control panel is, hands down, one of the best and most intuitive menu systems I've ever used on a camera. Changing settings is effortless and takes only seconds to accomplish. You might not think this is all that important, but when you need to get your shot, you will be endlessly grateful for this brilliant super control panel. I've gotten shots with this camera that I wouldn't have gotten with my higher end DSLRs because I would have been fidgiting with the settings and the moment would have passed.
- FOCUSING Super quick focusing and enough focus points to keep anyone happy. With the grid system they use in this camera it is absolutely effortless to switch focus points. The touch screen is amazing. Touch any place on the LCD and the camera can instantly focus on that spot and take the shot before you can blink. I know the iphone can do this but it is my first experience with that touch focus. Focusing is accurate. Gone are the days of shutter lag. Reviewers more scientific than I am can tell you relative to other cameras whether the focusing is faster or slower, but for my purposes it is fast enough and tremendously accurate.
- UNOBTRUSIVE This might not be an issue for some people but for me it is. When I pull out a DSLR to take a shot it can draw a lot of unwanted attention particularly if I have a large lens attached. If I am photographing an outdoor event with a long white canon L lens, inevitably several people will come up to me to discuss just how big my lens is. So, this camera really doesn't attract attention to itself. I can get the photos I need to get without making folks self conscious and without ending up in long discussions about the length of my equipment. Seriously, unobtrusive is a good thing.
- this is a matter of personal taste, but I find this camera to be a thing of beauty
- this little camera just puts the fun back into photography. I can't say that enough. Fun Fun Fun. I love taking pictures.
THE NOT SO GOOD
- HIGHER ISOs - I have several friends who are very good or excellent photographers who also own this camera and we debate this point heavily. I have not found this camera to be reliably noise free at ISO 800 or higher. My feeling is that you need to shoot wide open in darker settings and if your lens doesn't open up wider than f4, I think you will struggle with noisy shadow detail. That said, I have gotten some beautifully low noise images at ISO 800 or even 1600 when I use f2 and even with f8. I should say for the record that I do like some noise in my images at times particularly if I am going to convert them to black and white. But not all noise is created equal and I just don't like some of the noise visible in the backgrounds or shadow detail with this camera at higher ISO. Many of my friends disagree with me completely so this is up for grabs
TRACKING OF MOVING OBJECTS - I photograph active dogs a great deal and so far I have not been successful in using the focus tracking of this camera to get good shots. In fact, I am terrible with it. But I have seen shots from other photographers which are very good at this. I don't know what their secret is. I am guessing the majority of people will have problems with this the way I do and there are probably a handful of folks who can nail the focus tracking. So many reviews site it as a weak point of the camera so if sports is your thing and tracking moving subjects is your thing, this is not the camera for you. But lets put it in perspective... if you want to capture your baby's first steps or your childrens' antics, this camera would be quite capable.
Did I mention this camera put the fun back in photography for me? I can't stress that enough. If you are an experienced photographer coming from a dslr you may be frustrated at first and you may not relinquish all of your photo chores to this puppy. I still do not trust it quite enough to bring it as my only camera for very important photo shoots. Or maybe the camera is trustworthy but I don't trust myself quite enough to coax the best out of it every time. If you are coming from a point and shoot you will be in camera heaven. Make sure you get yourself a couple of really good lenses to cover a range of situations. I can't stress enough how gorgeous that 45 mm f1.8 is. The 12-50 kit lens isn't half bad either. I also own the panasonic 45-200 lens. For the money, you can't beat it and I use it often, but there are better longer range lenses out there.
So why not 5 stars? I was tempted to give it 5 stars but I try to save those 5 star reviews for near perfect items. The grainier high ISO shots and the so so focus tracking keep me from pushing in that fifth star.
I get asked about this camera all the time and I lend it out often to prospective buyers. I am thinking of putting up an OMD-EM5 gallery on my website so people can see shots at different ISOs taken with different lenses. If it turns out that there is enough interest, I'll probably put the gallery up and I will edit this review if I do.
If you do get this camera, ENJOY and HAVE FUN!
on May 25, 2012
The Oly OMD has to be one of the best cameras I've ever owned.
I've been a professional photographer for 25+ years traveling the world shooting for magazines and stock.
I own Nikon,Leica and Canon pro gear.In many situations the OLY aces past the Nikon D7000 in focus and image quality.
I mainly use the prime lenses 45mm 1.8,Leica 25mm 1.4,14mm 2.5 and only use zooms when I have no other choice.
By the end of the year,when I am confident the OLY can be used in all photo situations I cover,I will be selling off my massive collection of DSLR gear.
This camera really is that good!
on April 25, 2013
A bit of my usage background: I have been a photography hobbyist and enthusiast for over 20 years. I have owned all sorts of cameras, analog film and digital. SLRs, DSLRs, 110 film, digital Point-and-shoot and so forth. My most recent camera was the venerable Canon 5D MkII which I will use as a comparison basis.
The not-so-technical review:
The most amazing aspect of this camera, as a photo enthusiast, is that in theory, from what we know about digital photography, it shouldn't be this great. A camera this small should not give a full-frame DSLR a good run for its money. It shouldn't even be a contest between and APS-C and a m3/4 sensor, but it is! Olympus must have found a secret alchemical potion with powerful arcane power because this camera is what I call a true market shaker. A trend-setter. A disruptive technology.
Couple years back you could've suggested me to give up my beloved 5D for a m4/3 and I would have laughed at your face for having such ludicrous ideas. Today, with Olympus leading the way, not only would I say you were 100% correct, but in fact, I would go further and say that DSLRs have their days counted in the-high end hobbyist arena. Looking back, the 5D was mighty expensive, it was heavy and bulky, and for most situations not all that much better than the OM-D E-M5 -- in fact, the difference is marginal at best.
I also considered the NEX6/7, the Fujifilm EX1 and others. They all sounded equally good, with the exception of available variety of lenses, which tilted the balance for me for this camera.
Add to that the fact that there are tons of available premium vintage lenses compatible via converter with the m4/3 format and you get a camera with virtually limitless options for your creativity.
The slightly-more-technical review:
* ISO performance (noise): in my informal tests with some control shots I took with the 5D at different ISOs, then compared with this little camera, up to ISO 800 it's really a wash both perform very, very similarly. Over 800, however, the 5D has slight edge, but not all that pronounced, to be honest. At ISOs 2000+ the 5D wins out, but neither produce acceptable noise levels without heavy post-processing noise reduction.
* Video: I don't record video all that often, but the 5D video settings were archaic even if it produced beautiful 1080p videos. The OMD video is just as gorgeous and the settings are very intuitive.
* Auto-Focus: The OMD is far superior to the 5D MK II in this respect. I cannot fathom why a camera with a sensor 1/2 the size of the 5D's can focus so wickedly fast. No question, at least in my usage.
* Shutter Lag: none to speak of.
* User-friendliness: here is where I took 1/2 star off. In as amazing as this camera is, if you are not well versed in photography or have good tech sense, you would have a hard time figuring out how to customize you camera to make the best of it. It's like a having a Lamborghini stuck in second gear. They packed too many buttons and nobs and wheels together and the menus can be overwhelming if you do not know what you are doing. The 5D was much easier to use and readily intuitive.
* manuals: another 1/2 star loss for this camera. The 5D had two decent manuals, a quick reference and even a pocket reference card. This camera has a "manual" which is just reference and nothing else. Other than that you are on your own. No reason why a $1000 camera shouldn't have a comprehensive manual hard copy.
* EVF vs OVF: In spite of the fact that the EVF is (and likely) will never be as they real thing (OVF), I'm beginning to like it -- a lot. The ability to see exactly what the picture will look like, the ability to see live depth-of-field is so important to me that I'm willing to forgo the beauty and crispiness of a real OVF.
* Battery life: The OMD EM5 has decent battery life, but it just doesn't come even close to the 5D. I could shoot for days, hundreds and hundreds of pictures with the 5D and not have to charge. But this is a completely unfair comparison given that the 5D had lots of electro-mechanical parts, where as the EM5 are purely electronic (thus more battery hungry), in addition of course to the OLED touch screen and the EVF that probably suck quite a bit of juice.
This camera shouldn't exist. If it did it shouldn't be this good. But ... it does exist and, yes, it is that good. Unless you are a professional photographer making a living off your camera(s), there really is no good reason to own a bulky, clunky DSLR anymore. If you are looking or planning to take the jump to the mirrorless camera world, you simply cannot go wrong with this camera.
After more thorough and real world testing, I have couple of caveats to add to this review.
Noise: while at first it seemed as if this camera delivered noise levels on par with the 5DMkII up to ISO 800 (see above), on real usage noise is definitely an issue above ISO 400, specially on low light. I have to run NR software on every other picture I've shot above ISO 400. That used not to be the case for the 5D until ISOs above 1600. So now I can really see the difference.
Navigation/Menu UX: in short a horrible mess. An intricate labyrinthine set of menus with a cornucopia of options and settings for even the most obscure of use cases that will make your head spin and you will not find the setting you are actually looking for. Oh, and heavens forbid you reset your custom settings, you aren't getting those back any time soon. A big, big swing-and-miss on Olympus part.
I considered lowering the rating to 3 from the original 4, but decided against it because all in all the camera is worth its salt and doesn't deserve a low 3-star rating.