I auditioned an EM5. These are my experiences.

Started Sep 9, 2012 | Discussions thread
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gasdockd
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I auditioned an EM5. These are my experiences.
Sep 9, 2012

For a recent trip to Sonoma County in Northern California, I rented a OM-D EM-5 along with 12-50mm and 45mm lenses. I left at home my E5 and entire collection of 4/3rds lenses. My intent was to figure out once and for all whether I could make the transition to m4/3rds, or if I was doomed to some day be forced out of 4/3rds altogether as the 12MP sensor in my E5 falls farther and farther behind current sensors. So I rented the equipment, read the manual, took some test shots at home on an agreeable subject whose model release forms I can sign myself, and off I went on the trip with my mission in mind.

A few words on my style: I'm just an interested amateur. I don't make money on my photos, I don't pixel peep, and I don't do side by side comparisons between cameras. I don't lend much credence to the idea that a photograph represents "truth" in any absolute sense. I thus feel that the data coming out of the camera is simply a starting point for what I can do once I get it into a computer. I shoot RAW+JPEG. I don't use photoshop, just Aperture and Photomatix. I make photos at which I enjoy looking. Whichever camera I have in my hand is just a tool, and I compare cameras the way that I would compare two hammers: how do they feel in my hands? I know that the proverbial nail is going to get hit; all modern cameras are capable of making great pictures. However, some tools are more fun to use than others.

Thoughts and results:

First, Sonoma is gorgeous! If you ever have the opportunity to attend a wedding in wine country, do it! And, don't get so wrapped up in making photographs that you forget to take in that very special landscape.

Second, the OMD EM5 can make beautiful pictures. Please look at a representative collection at the end of this post.

Third: I'm NOT buying an OMD EM5. The sensor is great. The low light performance seems at least a generation ahead of my E5 and at least one or two generations behind a 1D Mark IV or a 5D Mark III (both of which I've rented and tried out in a similar fashion). The portability of the OMD EM5 cannot be understated. The lenses seem of good quality (without pixel peeping, mind you). HOWEVER, I don't know who could compare the ergonomics of that tiny little camera and its Apple-like aversion to physical buttons, to an E5, and conclude that the OMD EM5 is easier to use. Too many controls are buried within menus. The ability to select settings off the "super" control panel is essential, but the directional control buttons were too small to be used quickly by me. I despise the idea of using a touch screen to control essential functions of the camera. It's just too damn small! Compared to my E5 it seems to take too long to boot up from a cold-start, or to wake from sleep (granted I did not time it, but subjectively it felt like I was always waiting on it to be ready). Again subjectively compared to my E5, I feel there is a longer delay between the time that I press the shutter button, and the photograph is taken. It would be a legitimate criticism of my experiment to point out that I've spent over 18 months with my E5 and made tens of thousands of photographs with it… of course it seems like and extension of my mind. Maybe if I spent the same amount of time with an OMD EM5, I'd have the same warm feelings towards it… But, I doubt it.

So where does that leave me? I've invested a fair amount of money into lenses. In good light, my E5 yields way more straight out of camera "keepers" than any other camera I've tried. I'm going to keep it until it falls apart or until Olympus puts that sensor from the OMD EM5 into a real SLR body. I give kudos to Olympus for refining the mirrorless interchangeable lens concept to the degree they have done; In terms of image quality the OMD EM5 is in my opinion a legitimate alternative to a traditional SLR. But, it sacrifices the ease of use that comes with the increased real estate available for direct-access buttons and for gripping the body without touching anything that affects the functioning of the camera.

Thanks for reading, and BRING ON THE E7!

KD
Houston, TX USA

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Olympus E-5 Olympus OM-D E-M5
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