Hands-on with the Olympus OM-D E-M5
1 Hands-on with the Olympus OM-D E-M5
Olympus as a company may have had widely-publicized problems recently, with its very future threatened by financial scandal, but this doesn't seem to have adversely affected its camera designers at all. After the classically-styled PEN series, they've again looked to the company's film camera heritage, in the form of one of its most fondly-remembered lines: the OM series of 35mm SLRs. The result is the OM-D E-M5 - a camera that looks like an old-fashioned manual focus SLR but which is as modern as it gets, under-the-skin.
The OM-D is still a Micro Four Thirds camera, but Olympus says the line is distinguished from the existing PEN range by the type of user expected to buy it; being aimed more towards the enthusiast who wishes to engage with manual control. In practice, the E-M5 differs from the E-P3 by having an inbuilt electronic viewfinder and tilting rear screen, plus weatherproof construction, upgraded 5-axis image stabilization and an improved 16MP sensor. The cameras are still built around very similar features and controls, though. Olympus says that the OM-D line is likely to be expanded to multiple models, with higher- or lower-spec (and price) versions equally possible dependent upon the E-M5's market acceptance. Despite its high-end features such as weather-sealing, the company is not calling the E-M5 a pro-level camera.
The E-M5's firmware isn't quite finished, and the camera is still a few months away from being available in the shops, but Olympus invited groups of European journalists to try it out at a series of press events in Amsterdam last week. The cameras we used were essentially finished in terms of hardware, but running non-final firmware (v0.95) and offering not-quite-finalized image quality. Sadly this means we can't bring you a gallery of full-size sample images as we'd have liked, but can only show downsized samples. Instead, I'm going to offer some thoughts in how it handles, and a few subjective thoughts on speed and image quality.
For our previously published in-depth hands-on preview of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 click here
Design and Handling
The E-M5 is a small camera - probably smaller than you think from looking at pictures. It may look like an OM-4, but it's noticeably smaller, and that camera was one of the most compact manual focus SLRs. Despite this its magnesium alloy shell offers a good heft in your hand and its metal top-plate dials which offer satisfyingly positive click-stops as they rotate. But because the camera is small, its buttons are tiny too. Thankfully they have a long and positive travel, which means they're more usable in practice than they look when you first pick the camera up. Users with large hands might still find them fiddly, though.
The camera is notably well-set up for eye-level shooting, indeed its ergonomics are comparable to high-end DSLRs such as the Pentax K-5. The two overlapping top-plate dials offer quick access to the main exposure controls - shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation - and can be customized to work exactly as you'd like. The four-way buttons on the rear are used directly to move the AF point around the frame - a notably quicker solution than on other mirrorless cameras with EVFs such as the Sony NEX-7 or the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 (at least in its default setup). Notably there's no direct ISO button, but you can customize a button to access this if you wish.
The E-M5 is comfortable to hold even without the accessory grip - the rear thumb 'hook' offering a solid grasp - but you'll want the added security of a wrist strap at least. As a left-eyed shooter I found the rear dial to be a little awkward to reach with my thumb, but sufficiently close to the shutter button to be easily operable with my forefinger. The add-on grip changes things slightly - it certainly provides a much more positive hold, but in doing so moves your hand away from the Fn2 and REC buttons, making them distinctly less-easy to reach.
Olympus's excellent on-screen 'Super Control Panel' is still available, with the added bonus that you can now use the touchscreen to select the parameter you want to change (although you still have to spin a dial to set it). Oddly though it's not enabled by default, which we'd have thought would make sense on a model at this level - you have to delve into Olympus's labyrinthine and not-especially-intuitive menu system to turn it on. This won't faze existing Olympus owners, but new users may well find it bewildering; the E-M5 has one of the longest menus we've ever seen.
Viewfinder and screen
The E-M5's electronic viewfinder has the same spec as the add-on VF-2 for the PEN models, which means it's very good indeed, if perhaps no longer absolutely class-leading. Its central positioning makes for a very SLR-like handling experience, particularly compared to the offset EVF of the Sony NEX-7.
The rear screen is the same excellent bright, highly visible OLED touch-sensitive unit as the E-P3, but now it also tilts up and down for waist-level or overhead shooting. Because it doesn't swivel, it doesn't work so well when you turn the camera to portrait format, but in practice its wide viewing angle makes this less of a problem than you might expect. The touchscreen has the same tricks as the E-P3, most notably the ability to position your focus point by touch.
In amongst the excitement about the E-M5's 5-axis IS system, one other feature has generally gone unremarked - the ability to activate IS with a half-press of the shutter button, which allows you to see the effect in the viewfinder just like working with a stabilized lens. It's a really helpful feature, and one we hope will be helpful for manually-focusing adapted lenses where magnifying live view exaggerates hand-shake.
With the E-M5, Olympus is reclaiming the title of 'world's fastest autofocus', from the likes of the Panasonic DMC-GX1 and Nikon 1 cameras which surpassed the E-P3. But this is notably only for static subjects - not for tracking moving objects. With fast internal-focus lenses such as the matched M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit zoom or the lovely M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.8 portrait lens, the E-M5's autofocus is impressively quick (although to be honest these cameras have reached a point that it's very difficult to tell a difference any more).
The E-M5 can shoot at an equally impressive 9 frames per second. In this mode focus and metering are fixed, and there's understandably no live view view between frames (although the screen doesn't black out completely, but instead plays back your recently-captured frames to help keep track of what's happening). The rollover below, which covers 1 second of action, illustrates how this can work in practice.
If you drop the continuous shooting speed to a still-pretty-rapid 4.2fps the camera will attempt to track focus during shooting, and maintains a live view feed between frames in the process: the first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera to do so. In principle this should help track your subject when panning.
May 30, 2014
Feb 19, 2015
Dec 4, 2014
Nov 15, 2014
|Sophisticated construction by the nature by Orchideon|
|After the Rain by Flor Tempra|
from Macro - Something Pink
|Asilah by Limburg|
from Cozy Corners
It started with a great idea and a slick promotional video, and ended with the company headquarters being raided by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. Wired reports on Lily, the selfie-drone maker that never got off the ground.
With card readers disappearing from MacBooks, USB-C card readers are now a necessity. Macworld's helpful guide compares five models and decodes the current mess of card speeds and certifications.
A Sony a7S II mounted on the outside of the ISS' Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO) for the last seven months has sent back some impressive 4K video and stills.
A Federal judge has refused to throw out a copyright case against controversial artist Richard Prince, who used an image by photographer Donald Graham in an exhibition.
Sony has teased its customers with news of an upcoming announcement: it will soon take the wraps off a new CineAlta motion picture camera, one sporting a 36x24mm sensor.
QuikStories is integrated into the latest version of the GoPro app and automatically creates 'stories' using the video clips you've shot during a day.
Journalists photographing a protest in the US Capitol building claim they were told by Capitol Police to delete photos and videos of arrests.
The Meizu Pro 7 Plus secondary display can be used for music playback, date and weather-related information, or as viewfinder when taking selfies with the rear cameras.
Nikon is marking its 100th anniversary in many ways, including the creation of a new scholarship program for 'future visual creators' in the USA and Canada.
Take one Digital ELPH (or IXUS), rotate it vertically, add a fully articulating LCD and a lens with a camcorder-like focal length, and what do you get? Why, the Canon PowerShot TX1, of course. In this week's Throwback Thursday we revisit Canon's one-of-a-kind hybrid stills/video camera.
Just in case there was any doubt in your mind, here's the definitive video proof that yes, a $50,000 cinema camera beats the pants off a $50 camcorder in a side-by-side test.
Photographers who fly frequently in the US may want to finally invest in that TSA Pre-check status: in standard security lines, cameras and all other electronics larger than a smartphone will need to be placed in a separate bin for screening.
Images have appeared which claim to show Nikon's forthcoming D850 DSLR, the development of which was announced this week. If genuine, the pictures indicate that the D850 will offer illuminated controls and a tilting LCD screen, but no built-in flash.
To celebrate the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 lens' successful Kickstarter campaign, Lomography has announced a chrome-plated version of the lens in Nikon and Canon DSLR mounts.
Nikon just released four new firmware updates, adding features and fixing bugs in the D600, D610, D750 and the KeyMission 80.
It probably hasn't made your landscape photography bucket list just yet, but there's a good reason to visit Idaho. Here are 9 must-visit locations in this beautiful state.
Oops... Adobe accidentally leaked their unfinished Lightroom-powered cloud-based photo editor 'Project Nimbus' to some Creative Cloud users yesterday.
Storm chaser and award-winning photographer Mike Oblinski just released his latest time-lapse, and it is absolutely stunning.
Looking to level up your video capture capabilities without buying a whole new camera? Blackmagic's Video Assist 4K is well worth considering, despite a few flaws and its lack of 4K/60p support.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's fast-growing GFX system, and the GF 110mm F2 lens is no exception. Positioned as the system's classic portrait lens, its optics are just as impressive with non-human subjects as well.
Nikon turns 100 years old today, and the company is celebrating with a wacky music video, some tributes to its history, and a new vision presented by president Kazuo Ushida.
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.