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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review

April 2012 | By Richard Butler
Buy on Amazon.com From $599.00


Review based on a production E-M5 running firmware v1.1

With the launch of the E-M5, Olympus harks back to one of its most fondly-remembered camera systems - the Olympus OM range of 35mm SLRs. The E-M5 is the first camera in an OM-Digital lineup that will run alongside the PEN series and, according to the company, its Four Thirds models. For reasons of clarity, it should be stated that this isn't a continuation of the old OM line - the OM-D models won't be SLRs and are based around Micro Four Thirds, not OM lens mounts. However, they do embody the spirit of the much-loved camera line - a small, well-built camera designed for enthusiasts. And, particularly in silver and black form, the E-M5 is one of best looking cameras we've encountered in some time.

It would be easy to dismiss the E-M5 as simply an upgraded E-P3 with a built-in viewfinder, but that would rather miss the point. Looked at another way, the E-M5 appears to be a synthesis of the best bits of recent Olympus cameras. It offers greater capability than the company's range-topping E-5 DSLR in a compact body with the classic styling of the OM range. It also echoes of the E-620 - the small, photographer-focused camera that, to us, made most sense of the Four Thirds concept. Its magnesium alloy body also manages to incorporate the same extensive weather sealing that the E-5 offered - complementing the similarly-sealed M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 EZ lens the company announced in December 2011.

And it is small - actually slightly smaller than the diminutive OM-4Ti whose looks it apes. But, like that camera, it has plenty of external controls. Twin dials protrude from the front and rear of the narrow top-plate, giving direct access to the major shooting functions in a way that we always hoped the top-of-the-line PENs would. The early push by manufacturers to create beginner-friendly mirrorless cameras means it's still rare to find cameras that offer two good control dials when your hand is in a shooting grip.

The camera is built around a 16MP Four Thirds sensor, which all our testing suggests may well be the same one seen in Panasonic's DMC-G3. This can only be seen as a welcome step forward, as it's a much newer and more capable sensor. The sensor is combined with the company's latest, TruePic VI processor, which appears to bring the usual Olympus magic to the JPEGs. The company claims improved dynamic range and, with an newer sensor and better processing, it's reasonable to expect better performance in terms of noise. And, since dynamic range is the range between highlights and a specified noise level, this would be considered a boost in dynamic range.

The company has also totally reworked its built-in image stabilization system. The new design is described as 5-axis (translational movement vertically and horizontally, and rotational movement around 3 axes - shown below), in contrast to the previous system that only corrected for up/down and left/right rotation. If it works, the ability to correct for rotation around the lens axis caused by pressing the shutter button offers a clear advantage over in-lens stabilization systems. Meanwhile, correction for translational movements promises more effective stabilization for macro photography at high magnifications (like Canon's 'Hybrid IS'). The system continues to work in video. Although none of these systems is inherently original, this is the first camera we've seen to incorporate them all at once, we look at its effect on the performance page of this review.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 specification highlights:

  • 16MP MOS Four Thirds format sensor
  • Weather-sealed body
  • Twin control dials
  • New, '5-axis' image stabilization
  • Shoot at up to ISO 25,600
  • Up to 9fps shooting (4.2 fps with continuous AF)
  • 800x600 pixel (1.44M dot) LCD electronic viewfinder
  • VGA-equivalent 3" OLED touchscreen display - tilts 80° upwards and 50° downwards
  • Latest TruePic VI processor
  • Improved C-AF autofocus with 3D tracking
  • Flash sync speed up to 1/250th sec

Hands-on Preview video*

*Note that this video was prepared as part of our original preview content of the E-M5


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 8
larryr

It is the only one listed in the camera feature search with a viewfinder as waterproof,but it appears to be only weather resistant, ie don't dunk it in water(or clipped to your life jacket while whitewater kayaking).

0 upvotes
saradindubose

OLUMPUS OMDE5 appears to be an interesting camera - I am specially attracted to its weathersealed body and lens ( which I think is very essential in a country like I NDIA) - that was the reason why I had purchased PENTAX K10D years ago. One thing which is bothering me is its made in China tag. I am an architect and basically interested in landscape and nature photography - I travel a lot . Can I am have some inputs from those who are using OLYMPUS OMD E5?

Comment edited 34 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Vaqas

As a hobbyist, I have been using OMD EM5 for more than an year now and I love it. Here are some of my clicks. There are mostly landscapes and outdoors sports shots.
https://www.facebook.com/VaqasPhoto
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaqasmalik/

4 upvotes
Liberator

I recently got E-M5 and very happy with it. By no means I'm pro photographer but with my new 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens is great combat and have been talking great picture. I use Toshiba Flash Air to use with my iPhone/ipad too. I mostly to landscape photos and it has not let me down.

1 upvote
photohounds

It is an excellent little shooter.
THe EVF is quite good and KILLS OVFs in low light. THese were taken with one ..

http://http://photohounds.smugmug.com/Performing-arts

The CaNIKSon shooters told me that they got VERY few 'keeper' pics with their FF sensors. I get a few 'looks' while shooting, but they soon shut up when RESULTS are compared.

Anywhere it's really dark, you'll appreciate being able to SEE.

I also own the EM-1 and have yet to put it through its DIM light paces.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Chad Hogan

I'm on the hunt for a new camera and weighing up my options just now.. I'm fairly new to the game though and a bit naive in all honesty! Is the EM5 much better than the Canon EOS 7D as this comparison...

http://versus.com/en/olympus-om-d-e-m5-vs-canon-eos-7d

suggests? What features make this camera great and what one would you go for?

Thanks, Chad

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
1 upvote
TheRabbit

Hi, I didn't see any answer yet, so I asume nobody saw your post yet. I'll try to help you (maybe you didn't choose yet). This comparison isn't very good in my opinion (for example, it compares 9 fps vs 8, but you have to take in account that is with fixed focus. With continuous focus is much slower and less accurate...). I had a 60 D (same sensor, and image quality as the 7D with different features) and I have now the EM-5. I can tell you it has some advantages (if you think smaller and cheaper very good lenses are important advantages; for me, it is essential), but you will have to sacrifice some speed and easyness of handling. The best way is to read the full review of both cameras and to determine what are YOUR priorities. Don't forget to look at the sample images, as the two cameras have different outputs and it's important if you don't like to spend time in post processing. You will find very nice and helpfull reviews on this site (in my opinion, one of the best). Good luck!

3 upvotes
coroander

I sold my 7D and lots of expensive L glass after buying the E-M5. The E-M5 is much smaller, it's images are sharper (no anti-aliasing filter), while the 7D has a very strong anti-aliasing filter (much stronger than any of the other Canon cameras with 18MP sensors) and the E-M5 has more dynamic range. It's also not nearly as prone to banding as the 7D is when pulling details from shadows. The 7D is a bit more ergonomic, but it's much larger, and it's lenses are significantly larger. And the reason i sold it is because it's so heavy. The E-M5 is very fast focusing, but for indoor sports (subjects moving towards or away from the camera) the 7D wins. Both cameras are metal bodied and weather sealed. Both have 4 channel, 3 group remote flash triggering. The E-M5 also has tilt screen and touch screen (touch point to focus and take image.)

1 upvote
Total comments: 8