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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 File

February 8, 2012 — Published by

olympus om d e m5 The Olympus OM D E M5 File

Olympus OM-D E-M5 | www.olympus.com

Awesome design, amazing technology: Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds lineup finally got a worthy flagship after a series of half-hearted updates and minor innovations. The OM-D E-M5 (specs) raises the bar — just to mention that totally reworked, 5-axis built-in image stabilization system. Well Olympus marketing is known for talking big when launching new cameras. Is praise deserved this time around? Read our definitive, continuously updated Olympus OM-D E-M5 Reference File bringing you all the relevant hands-on reviews and field reports that matter (latest update on top).

+++ You can order the OM-D E-M5 from Amazon, B&H or Adorama.

Finally, the Olympus gets DxOMarked. What a winner, best Micro Four Thirds sensor ever:

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 sensor is an important contribution that brings Micro Four Thirds cameras roaring back into the game. During Photokina 2012, Olympus unveiled two new cameras in the Pen line, the Pen E-PL5 and Pen E-PM2, both of which are equipped with the same sensor as the OM-D E-M5. These Olympus high-end compact hybrids achieve scores that approximate those of their APS-C rivals (such as the Sony NEX). Simply put, the OM-D E-M5 is equipped with the best sensor we have ever analyzed for a micro 4:3, and to date the closest to that of the Sony NEX.

Imaging Resource‘s Scott Bourne raises the bar by asking: “Pro Review: Is the Olympus OM-D the perfect digital camera?” He has a few complaints but highly recommends it:

The OM-D is not a perfect camera, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the best Micro Four Thirds camera money can buy. The fact that it’s on back-order at most of the usual places is proof of its popularity. It’s not for everyone, and that may be the point. If you want something that is capable and different, this is your camera.

Shooting with the OM-D is very satisfying. Even though there are limitations inherent with a small sensor, I have no doubt that for everything but fast-action sports, I could use this camera day-in and day-out and make a comfortable living with it. I didn’t get to try the new 75mm lens on the OM-D but I can’t wait to. This is a serious camera that can accomplish serious work. Don’t let the small size fool you — it’s the real deal.

Mirrorless cameras are nearly half the market in Asia and I believe they are the future. There’s no doubting that in image quality they are catching up to the APS-C sensor-based cameras. They’re also catching up on better low light performance (thanks to heavy engineering on the chip/processor side) and they are catching up on value as well. They are ahead of the game when it comes to weight, quiet operation and affordable, fast lenses. Will they ever take the place of a Nikon or a Canon? Only time will tell. The Olympus company has had lots of business struggles lately, but they aren’t struggling when it comes to camera making. They nailed it with the OM-D.

There’s something very appealing about the OM-D, despite its quirky nature. In the hands of the right person this is a powerful image-making tool. It’s a genuine step up from the E-P3 and similar cameras both in quality, features and price. I think it’s well worth it.

EOSHD‘s Andrew Reid updates the OM-D E-M5′s video review. Enjoy:

Digital Photography School feels a rush of OM-passion. A trend-setter is born:

Quality: very satisfying color rendition; pin sharp!

Why you’d buy the OM-D EM-5: you long for the old days! You want to shoot RAW.

Why you wouldn’t: you may hanker for a full frame DSLR!

Overall, I found the camera to be very simple to use with very few confusing features and easy to follow external controls. The finder menu is more complex, but with some foreknowledge the camera is useable by all.

A very appealing camera. Could set a trend!

Lloyd Chambers not only likes the Olympus’ promising black-and-white output. So what’s the OM-D E-M5 like?

It’s timely (new) and it represents what I think is an exceptionally well done camera of its type, perhaps the best of breed so far. No, it doesn’t make a terrible photographer into a good one (…)

  • Olympus has done a stellar job of avoiding the shortcomings found on cameras like the Leica X2; the OM-D E-M5 is just so much more usable as a camera. Smartly done.
  • The 12mm f/2 lens (24mm equivalent) is a gem. Results at F2 are already impressive and stopping down slightly makes razor-sharp images.
  • Focus is super fast, as claimed.
  • Sensor noise is a challenge. ISO 200 makes nice images, but are not noise free. For my taste, ISO 800 is already on the margin. Presumably this is the result of cramming 16MP in a tiny Micro Four Thirds sensor. Though the pixel density is only a tiny bit higher than the Sony NEX-7, the “sensor” is really the sensor + electronics — a lot can be done there.
  • Black and white results look very promising.

Here’s our very own OM-D E-M5 video test:

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 certainly doesn’t replace a more professional video camera.

But shot under controlled conditions your files will deliver good enough and surprisingly clean, detailed movie quality for anyone to enjoy.

Digital Photography School spots a trend-setter:

Quality: yery satisfying color rendition; pin sharp!

Why you’d buy the OM-D EM-5: you long for the old days! You want to shoot RAW.

Why you wouldn’t: you may hanker for a full-frame DSLR!

Overall, I found the camera to be very simple to use with very few confusing features and easy to follow external controls. The finder menu is more complex, but with some foreknowledge the camera is useable by all.

A very appealing camera. Could set a trend!

Luminous Landscape‘s OM-D E-M5 field report is in. Simply the “best Micro Four Thirds camera yet,” even competing with might Nikon full-frame:

The inevitable question will be — “Which is better, the NEX-7 or the OM-D E-M5″? I used the Sony NEX-7 for five months while I was in Mexico last winter, and shot some 6,000 frames with it, so I’m pretty familiar with both its strengths and weakness. I’m still very much familiarizing myself with the new Oly. But after a few weeks and some hundreds of frames I have a pretty good sense of what it can and can’t do well, and the “can’t” list is very short indeed.

At this point I’d judge there to be little to choose between them in terms of image quality. At 24MP and with an APS-C sized sensor the Sony has an edge in terms of file size, resolution and shallow depth of field. But unless strong cropping or very large prints are the order of the day this isn’t an overwhelming advantage. When it comes to overall image quality the OM-D offers very good dynamic range and highly accurate color. I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison, but based on experience, when it comes to high ISO noise performance these two cameras are very close.

In the end choosing one camera over the other should come down to an individual’s personal preferences, and the availability of needed lenses. Right now the Micro Four Thirds camp does have more high quality fast primes than does Sony, something that I value. And, if you add the Olympus Four Thirds lens line, there’s no contest in terms of range and quality (…)

Simply put, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a winner, and has now become my preferred camera for travel and urban walk-around shooting. The Nikon D800/E is still my main squeeze — an awesome camera in almost every respect – but, for its price and size it’s hard to top the new OM-D.

THEME‘s own Olympus OM-D E-M5 review concludes:

Well I wouldn’t mind a faster start-up time and way better battery life, but if you’re new to the mirrorless world or are considering upgrading, give this camera a very serious look. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a convincing all-rounder. Not too big, not too small, perfect for street photography and people shots. Convenient enough to be taken along wherever you go, be it to the office, school or a night out. Size and weight don’t bother, the package even looks chic. But more importantly the insides of Olympus’ most convincing Micro Four Thirds camera are totally capable of satisfying the concerned photographer.

True, if you come from traditional DSLR gear the small package forces you to think outside of the box. How can an OM-D E-M5 combo possibly deliver, you’ll think. If it’s not your first Micro Four Thirds or compact system camera you may have lingering doubts about autofocus, low light and overall sensor performance. Don’t doubt any longer. Olympus really got their stuff together with this most matured Micro Four Thirds camera yet.

Together with the latest high-end glass a camera such as the OM-D points toward Micro Four Thirds beginning to target the more advanced user segment of the marketplace.

Small sensor? Yes, cropping is more limited compared to larger sensors. The only area where the OM-D E-M5 and all Micro Four Thirds cameras can’t keep up with larger sensors is their restricted ability to create shallow depth of field images, particularly as compared to full-frame. But there is much more than depth of field to an image. This veryMicro Four Thirds sensor may offer a win-win situation. The package is powerful and light, and you can mount nearly any camera lens you can think of.

Just ask yourself what you want, what your priorities and shooting style are. Cameras are always a compromise. Larger sensors require big and more expensive lenses. Yes, they’re nice for easy bokeh. But seriously, photography’s real challenge is not the isolation of the subject/object. It’s its embedment. For me good Micro Four Thirds glass offers more than enough bokeh.

Low light, speed, compactness – where’s a problem? It’s a camera you can grow together with. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 acts as a fine extension of your own abilities. The camera doesn’t get in the way of you and your subjects/objects. It rather paves the way for capturing what you intend to capture by bringing fun, cutting-edge technology, classic design and reliability back into photography.

Olympus pioneered Four Thirds, Micro Four Thirds, a dust reduction system and now a new 5-axis stabilization system. With the OM-D E-M5 Olympus once again lives up to its name as a pioneer in the world of photography.

No doubt there will be better cameras in the future. The OM-D E-M5 though will allow you to skip the next upgrade cycle. That camera’s here to stay for a while. Pair it with the best glass available — good glass lasts a lifetime — and you can happily ignore what camera makers come up with for quite some time.

ShutterLeaf has a wedding photographer’s mini OM-D E-M5 review with nice samples:

The OM-D has all the right controls in all the right places. The benefits of weight cannot be overlooked and the image quality is on par with what I’ve had before. The control over exposure, using the electronic viewfinder is incredible. Focusing with manual assist — so welcome.

It still has room for improvement. No dual slot and although the flip out display is good, it cannot be rotated 360 degrees. A feature I’ve found useful in my DSLRs. But these are by no means showstoppers and pale into insignificance when compared to the benefits. Ultimately, it’s a tool. A tool, like nothing I’ve used before, is the best at allowing me to do my job as a photographer.

CNET lets the OM-D fight a full-frame camera. Admittedly, it’s not entirely fair to pit a smaller sensor with a completely different design and lens configuration against a full-frame SLR. Or is it?

Ming Thein posts an extensive, excellent OM-D E-M5 review. Take your time for it. In a nutshell:

With the arrival of the OM-D, it finally feels like Micro Four Thirds has come of age. The original promise of ‘smaller, same quality’ which was made with Four Thirds I felt was never fulfilled with earlier cameras; they weren’t small enough, or able to deliver the same image quality. Although Micro Four Thirds went a long way to fulfilling the smaller part of the equation, image quality, speed and usability were lagging behind until the last generation; only now has the promise been met. I don’t look at the OM-D’s files and think ‘wow, this isn’t bad for such a small sensor!’; instead, I look at the files and am satisfied enough to not think about the sensor size. It’s hugely liberating to be able to carry a pro grade body and three lens fast-prime kit – 24, 40 and 90 equivalents – whose total weight is around 600g, and without feeling like I’m compromising anything (at least not for what I shoot; if it were sport, it’d probably be a different case). That’s the weight of one lens for the D800, or the M9-P body only. That’s hugely appealing for travel. Even two bodies wouldn’t weight that much.

In conclusion: it’s an exciting time to be a photographer. For the vast majority of my work, this is more than enough camera; I just need a solid macro option (there’s a 60mm 1:1 on the way) and a good wireless flash system, and I’d be seriously tempted to switch over.

Photographer Jonathan Hrovath‘s bottom line:

The OM-D E-M5 feels like a high-end DSLR in speed and function. Considering how small it is, this is quite the feat. I am loving this camera and haven’t been this excited to get out and shoot since I got my Nikon D700 back in 2009. It just makes you want to immerse yourself in the camera and make some art.

Photography Blog has this to say:

The OM-D E-M5 is the best Olympus compact system camera to date, and also a strong contender for best compact system camera, full stop. It delivers a compelling mix of classic looks, excellent image quality, an extensive feature set and immediate responsiveness, with the camera so well designed that it rarely gets in the way of the creative process. The E-M5 may hark back to a bygone era, but it’s definitely bang-up-to-date in all the places that count.

Autofocus speed is one key area where the E-M5 promises to excel, and in practice it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of the quickest cameras that we’ve ever used in this regard, and importantly very accurate too, so if you’ve always longed for a camera that can keep up with all but the fastest moving subjects, this is the one for you. The E-M5 is also very responsive in terms of image processing times, never leaving you waiting around, and the continuous burst rates are fast enough for most situations, with or without focusing locked to the first frame.

Image quality is where Micro Four Thirds cameras have traditionally lagged behind their APS-C sensor rivals, but the OM-D E-M5 is the first MFT model to equal the results from leading cameras like the Sony NEX-7. Noise doesn’t rear its ugly head until ISO 3,200 for JPEGs and even the faster settings prove eminently usable, although the E-M5 does apply some pretty aggressive noise reduction to keep the files clean as shown by the much noisier raw images. We never longed for a camera with a bigger sensor, and you’d have to step up to a full-frame DSLR to see an appreciable leap in image quality.

DigitalRev has this X-Pro1 vs. Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs. Sony NEX-7 comparison:

Even over at EOSHD they like what they see:

Aside from the video codec, Olympus have really got their stuff together here.

The philosophy of going with in-body stabilization rather than optical in the lens was a masterstroke by Olympus, relative to Panasonic. When your stated aim of a system is to get the size down, especially of the lenses, why Panasonic chose to bulk up their lenses with OIS is a mystery. The Olympus stabilization technology is far better and as a result their 12-50mm kit lens is affordable, light and very compact. Though Panasonic did a great job of miniaturising the 14-42mm PZ pancake zoom, the Olympus lens is wider, longer and has less compromises optically. It also has the better stabilization when used with the EM-5.

Styling wise, the Olympus camera (and lenses) look more like serious photographic tools than the futuristic styling of Lumix line (along with all that plastic Panasonic’s 1980′s vision of the future seems to entail).

The Olympus approach to video on the other hand is the opposite of masterstroke. If this camera was hacked to support high bitrate 24p it would be a GH2 beater. Given the shear responsiveness of the camera, the speed of the AF, the fast scan of the sensor for minimal rolling shutter and the high resolving power in video mode – it clearly packs some powerful hardware under the hood and a very capable sensor. It is just a shame we yet again don’t see the best of it in video mode because of decisions made in firmware.

The Phoblographer says sure thing this camera deserves awards:

When the Olympus OMD EM5 was originally announced, I wasn’t very impressed. In fact, I still firmly believe that what I saw in that room wasn’t near the level of amazingness that I spent a good two weeks testing. Yes, the Olympus E-M5 was really quite wonderful and was able to stand up to quite a bit (…)

So does the Olympus EM5 deserve any awards? It absolutely does. Olympus took what many have said about them and their sensors for years and threw it upside down on its head. The new sensor is terrific and renders images with low noise at higher ISOs. But to be honest, all of their fast primes allow you to not need to shoot at such volcanic ISO settings.

The RAW file quality is just like film… ‘Nuff said.

The build quality stood up to some serious weather issues and the camera lived to tell another tale?

In the end, the EM5 wins my absolute top recommendations if you’re an advanced user, but to once again take full advantage, purchase the faster and more expensive glass.

Two CNET user reviews say “best general purpose” and “best mirrorless ILC” camera – have a look.

BTW, Admiring Light serves a OM-D battery grip review. They’re excited:

At $299, the HLD-6 isn’t the cheapest accessory on the market. You will certainly need to weigh its advantages against the larger size and cost of the grip. However, if you want a more comfortable and secure grip, longer battery life and the ability to shoot verticals in a more natural position, the HLD-6 is a very well made product, with a wonderful two piece construction that allows you to choose how you want the camera to handle. The well thought out control placement and solid build make it worth the price in my opinion. While it’s a shame the horizontal grip blocks the battery door, it’s a tradeoff I’m glad to make for the two piece construction. The HLD-6 is the first OEM accessory grip for a Micro Four Thirds camera, and Olympus did a wonderful job with the design and execution. Well done!

Even Macworld gives the OM-D E-M5 a try. Their buying advice, a simple one liner, says it all:

Olympus has been a leader in the compact system camera revolution, and the OM-D E-M5 will solidify that position.

DC Resource‘s conclusion:

    Pros

  • Very good photo quality (though best results are achieved by shooting RAW)
  • Well-built, weather-sealed metal body with a retro flair
  • Five-axis, sensor-shift image stabilization system
  • Beautiful 3-inch articulating touchscreen OLED display with 610,000 pixels, plus a large and sharp EVF
  • Full manual controls, with lots of white balance options, five kinds of bracketing, real-time tone curve adjustment, custom functions, and RAW support
  • Lots of custom buttons, especially if you have the battery grip
  • iAuto mode picks a scene mode for you, finds and tracks faces, and enhances colors
  • Super-fast autofocus, shot-to-shot speeds
  • Continuous shooting as fast as 9 frames per second
  • Live Guide, menu help system and shooting tips make camera accessible to beginners
  • Fun Art Filters, which can be fine-tuned and combined
  • Handy two-axis electronic level
  • Full HD video recording with stereo sound, continuous AF, use of IS system, and manual controls; cool new “echo” effect
  • Lots of optional accessories, including highly recommended two-part battery grip, Bluetooth transmitter, Macro Arm Light and underwater case
  • Cons

  • Occasional underexposure and highlight clipping
  • Tiny, cluttered button layout makes it way too easy to accidentally press the wrong one
  • OLED display difficult to see outdoors
  • AF system tends to “hunt” when recording movies
  • “Hiss” from IS system may bother some folks
  • No built-in flash (though included external flash is pretty good)
  • Movies cannot be edited in-camera
  • Full manual on CD-ROM

Imaging Resource, eager to get their review out, have a pre-review and talk affinity:

Affinity. The word Love has already been used by too many other reviewers in reference to the Olympus E-M5, understandably so. I choose other words, not just to be different, but to be more specific. Indeed, I’ve demonstrated my affinity to the E-M5 for weeks now, through my refusal to turn the sweet little camera over to the lab for testing. But in order to finish this review, I’ll have to let it go for a time. Watch for test images and crops, as well as our final analysis soon.

Until then, I know enough to say that the Olympus E-M5 is a very fine camera, one that serves my love of photography with form and features that are addictive. It fits my need to photograph very well, so my affinity for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 seems quite natural. Olympus’ established and growing array of lenses are not just small, but of excellent quality, meaning a superb photography kit can be small and easy to bring along, not a back-breaking burden. Olympus has realized the goal of a quality interchangeable camera system that’s small, and capable of great things, just like the original and enduring OM system of the last century.

DP Review posts a nice user guide, telling you how to get the most out of the OM-D E-M5. Lots to discover in this three page manual. Really useful, well done DP Review. Instead of reading an excerpt here go read the whole thing.

Steve Huff‘s long-awaited review says Micro Four Thirds finally matures… for real. Sensor’s good, he loves the 5-axis image stabilization and wow high ISO performance — and Micro Four Thirds has the glass going for it:

No, it will not give you full-frame quality. You will not get that Leica look nor will you have the capabilities of a Nikon D800. BUT if you want a small little well made powerhouse that does almost no wrong, the E-M5 is one of my top picks right now in the smaller camera/larger sensor market.

If you want a small system that offers fast AF, great metering and offers just about everything you could ask for including super HD video, the best IS system of any mirror less camera to date and well, a camera that just plain works, then take a long hard look at the E-M5.

To all of those who feared Micro Four Thirds in the past, fear no more. The E-M5 is versatile, capable, fun, serious, well built and offers everything we can ask for in a take anywhere camera. Bravo Olympus! I highly recommend this one guys as I can not imagine anyone not liking it (as long as you have at least one good lens). Yes, Olympus has paid tribute to the original OM series with the E-M5 and they did it well.

BTW, Olympus Europe posts a cool video highlighting the E-M5′s live bulb function in action:

Pocket-lint gives the camera four out of five stars:

Sleek, stylish and a classy performer — there’s not much to dislike about the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

It’s not problem-free though: the battery life is, as per all existing compact system cameras, poor. Continuous autofocus won’t beat a DSLR and in dim conditions will struggle or fail entirely; an electronic viewfinder won’t suit all tastes; there’s no pop-up flash; and, let’s face it, the price tag is serious money.

But you do get a lot for the cash: the innovative image stabilization system is excellent, autofocus is fast, the body is rugged and splash-proof and image quality is decent considering the sensor size.

We like it, we like it a lot. But with a taller asking price than the Nikon D7000 there’s a lot to consider.

Damian McGillicudy’s E-M5 does it again and again. He asks if he ever needs an assistant again:

I can’t tell you just how liberating my kit is at the moment. I have my OM-D, three lenses (…) Bottom line is this, the swing over to the magnificent OM-D has made things slimmer, trimmer and more maneuverable without compromising quality in the real world. I’m not interested in test charts, I’m interested in how the cameras perform the tasks I give them… I’m genuinely stunned by the results and can’t see why I wouldn’t use this camera… Like I’ve said before, evolution and revolution!

Search Damian McGillicudy‘s. He loves the E-M5 and can make any camera wet your appetite.

The Verge asks, “Do the 1970s have something to teach 2012 about cameras?”, and calls the E-M5 the “belle of the Micro Four Thirds ball”:

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 does nearly everything right: it’s fast, gorgeous, and takes great images and video. Its biggest setback is its price: at $1,099.99, you’re definitely paying a premium for the E-M5′s gestalt, even over Olympus’s own PEN line of very good Micro Four Thirds cameras. At that price this camera is competing with shooters that have larger sensors, too, and if there’s one rule of thumb worth following it’s that larger sensors mean better pictures. At this level, though, we’re only talking varying levels of greatness — the E-M5 is the best and most enjoyable Micro Four Thirds camera I’ve used yet. It’s a much more novice-friendly camera than a DSLR or even the NEX-7 thanks to its size and control scheme, though NEX cameras and DSLRs will serve you more capably once you’ve gotten used to them. It also plugs into a large and ever-growing ecosystem of lenses, which is another advantage over Sony’s NEX cameras. If you’re willing to make a couple of very minor tradeoffs in image quality and manual control, most buyers will be very happy with the OM-D E-M5.

Over at Engadget they’re flabbergasted:

Simply put, it’s beautiful. If you’ve ever wistfully eyed a mid-twentieth century 35mm SLR, hoping that manufacturers would once again adopt the elegant designs of yesteryear, you can stop dreaming. The E-M5 invokes a crafted feel unique to that model, that’s reminiscent of select über-pricey rangefinders (…) We love the E-M5. It’s a solid shooter — literally, thanks to its “splash-proof body” — with excellent image quality throughout the ISO range and a slick, versatile lens. That 5-axis stabilization is innovative as well, as is the incredibly fast focusing system. While powerful, that focusing system isn’t perfect, often slipping with low-contrast sand and snow scenes. Still, that issue is arguably minor, considering that this camera isn’t designed for sports-shooting pros, and, like the battery meter, it may be corrected with a firmware update. The $1,300 kit price will be a tad too much to swallow for some, but with a solid body and a diverse collection of lenses, there hasn’t been a better time to hop aboard Micro Four Thirds.

DP Review, well, honorable DP Review gives the OM-D E-M5 a gold award (happens not too often!) and says it’s the best mirrorless camera ever:

The Olympus E-M5 is Olympus’ eighth Micro Four Thirds camera and by far its most competitive. It combines the company’s pleasing JPEG engine with a more modern sensor to create a photographic tool that lives up to the capabilities implied by its evocation of the fondly-remembered “OM” name.

Its retro design means it has a pleasantly traditional control layout which will be immediately familiar to most SLR and DSLR shooters. The E-M5 is also an extremely configurable camera, which means it can be tailored to your own preferred shooting style.

The consequence of this customization is that its custom menus can get a little daunting. For the most part they’re well arranged, meaning you can usually find the setting you’re after. Sadly, some of the most useful features (such as the ability to stabilize a magnified preview for manual focusing lenses) are hidden behind combinations of settings that are sometimes obscurely-named. Like most interchangeable lens cameras from Olympus, the EM-5 is worth studying if you want to get the most out of it.

(…)

The E-M5 is, without question, the most accomplished Micro Four Thirds camera we’ve yet seen and, given how well established the system has become, it vies for the title of most capable mirrorless option yet. It’s not entirely without flaws and, predictably, most of those relate to continuous autofocus. But, for the most part, the E-M5 is simply an awful lot of camera in a compact and attractive body. It’s a nice camera to use and the images it takes are just as enjoyable. Without any reservations whatsoever, it deserves our Gold Award.

PC Magazine loves the little stunner:

Pros

Compact body. Fully weather sealed. Crisp LCD EVF. Articulating rear display. Sharp kit lens. Impressive high ISO performance. Fast autofocus. Shoots at 9 frames per second. In-body stabilization. Large native lens library. Optional grip available.

Cons
External flash. Lacks a standard mic input.

Bottom Line
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is the best Micro Four Thirds camera we’ve tested. It’s got a top-notch stabilization system, is fully weather sealed, can shoot in all types of light, and ships with a sharp and versatile kit lens. Add it all up, and you have our new Editors’ Choice for high-end compact interchangeable lens cameras.

ePHOTOzine praises the OM-D E-M5 as a stylish weather-sealed camera with exceptional performance. They observe that 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 — and it’s the first Micro Four Thirds offering from Olympus with a built-in viewfinder:

For anyone doubting the ability of mirrorless / compact system cameras, this is the camera that should answer a lot of concerns. It has a weather-sealed compact body, an excellent range of lenses and most importantly excellent image quality — that is significantly improved over previous Olympus PEN cameras. The noise performance and detail in images is very good even at high ISO settings, comparable to cameras with APS-C sized sensors, despite the Micro Four Thirds sensor being smaller. The built-in sensor based image stabilization is excellent and works extremely well on photos and videos. Focus speed, shutter response and continuous shooting are all excellent with the camera shooting at a fast 9 fps — the quickest of any Micro Four Thirds camera, only bettered by the Sony NEX-7 and NEX-5N with 10 fps shooting.

Steve Huff has a very first look at the beauty – he’s quite ecstatic, not only for aesthetic reasons:

Hardware Zone gives the E-M5 a 9/10. The somewhat poetic conclusion:

There’s just something about the Olympus OM-D E-M5. We could list its specs: 16MP image sensor, 5-axis image stabilization, weather-resistant body. We could tell you how well the camera handles with the twin control dials, quick AF speed and easy AF point selection. We could wax lyrical about its gorgeous, retro-inspired look. We could look at its images’ beautiful colors and remarkable high ISO performance.

But it’s when these elements are brought together that something altogether new is born: Charm. Any photographer would be hard-pressed not to have fun shooting with the E-M5. The mostly well-placed controls let you give it swift commands which are promptly obeyed. Its quick and accurate autofocus, together with the excellent image stabilization and image quality at higher ISO speeds, conspire to help you catch the most fleeting of moments.

The E-M5 is not perfect, of course. The D-pad is cramped, the Play and Function 1 buttons are impossibly small and the camera strap lugs are placed in the most obstructive way possible. Even though ISO settings can go up to previously unseen levels with little noise showing, we would have also liked to see clearer results at lower ISO ranges around ISO 800. But the camera is also light, compact, responsive, easy to use and delivers very good images. In the end, this is a capable camera you can trust, and that makes all the difference.

Kai at DigitalRev is his usual self with his kind of forced and lacking enthusiasm. Nevertheless he likes the wonderful shooting experience with a healthy megapixel count, not to mention the classic silhouette:

Interesting guest post by Robert Falconer on Steve Huff‘s titled “Progress and the Olympus OM-D” — that’s right, going down memory lane:

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a digital tribute, then, to much of what made the original OM cameras so desirable: high performance and system capability in a small, lightweight package. Welding that ethos to the established 4/3 format actually makes perfect sense for the company, further solidifying the configuration’s foothold in the marketplace and elevating it into prosumer territory. All while introducing the OM moniker to a new generation of fans.

CNET calls the moniker “Olympus’ best shot yet.” Final verdict pending this is the interim impression:

Overall, I enjoy shooting with the E-M5. Like the NEX-7, it’s a good size — neither too large nor too small — and comfortable to grip, and all the lenses are small enough to stash in a roomy jacket pocket if necessary. The retro look deservedly attracted quite a bit of attention, and several accidental drops attested to the camera’s sturdy build.

TechRadar‘s findings that the Olympus E-M5′s dynamic range beats the Sony NEX-7 and Fuji X-Pro1 set off a firestorm in forums:

Our analysis shows that the Olympus OM-D’s RAW files (after conversion to TIFF) produce impressive results that beat all the comparison cameras and compare well against models with larger APS-C and full-frame sensors. When it comes to dynamic range, the RAW file (after conversion to TIFF) results show it produces the highest result so far gained by any compact system camera.

German site digitalkamera.de tests the E-M5 using the DxO Analyzer software. Their conclusion is a mixed bag, calling Olympus a “master in the JPEG image processing.” According to the DxO analysis the E-M5′s ISO 200 is equivalent to ISO 120, maxing out at ISO 14,200. Resolution of the 12-50mm kit lens seems good but chromatic aberration is a problem, especially wide open. ISO 1,600 is the “magic” threshold with noise levels good up to ISO 3,200 and some loss of detail at ISO 6,400.

Imaging Resource‘s reviewer, a true OM aficionado, is left wanting more:

In the interests of full disclosure, I have always been an OM fan, and have enjoyed long relationships with several OM cameras over the years. I still own an OM-1, though I haven’t loaded film into it for a decade. I was sad when the OM line finally ceased in 2002. They were solid, reliable little SLRs with great optics and a refined personality. The return of the name, if not the mount, is enough to stir a complex of positive and negative emotions in any former fan (…) Overall, the Olympus E-M5 left me wanting more time. More time to go on assignment. I could see spending years to get to know a camera like this, much like I have with the Pens, much like I did with my old OM cameras, which I carried with me everywhere. I think Manual is more accessible on the E-M5 like it used to be on the OM cameras, and that’s a very good change.

Robin Wong puts the E-M5 to the street-style test — with the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm F2 and 45mm F1.8, showing off great bokeh and DOF control. He posts a lot of sample shots, loving the retro E-M5 as a true “street photography weapon”:

On the streets, it is not about capturing nice colours or aesthetically pleasing shots all the time. It is about capturing emotions, expressions of people passing by in that small trace of time, and moments that happen so briefly that you capture that one frame to tell a wonderful story. Being able to capture the decisive moment (as popularized by Henri Cartier Bresson, and no I am not a fan of his) will demand a lot from the camera, when it comes to autofocus. Having very fast, accurate and reliable autofocus in the E-M5 allowed me to nail my shots at that precise moment I wanted the shutter to click. I know many people rely on zone-focusing (lets hope this statement wont spark a whole new firestorm elsewhere), personally I prefer NOT to use zone focusing because I want bokeh and I use high shutter speed on the streets, hence good autofocus is a necessity for me. Of course you may devise your own shooting style that fits you, but you have to admit that being able to focus and freeze the moment instantaneously is crucial in street photography. Any lag or pause will surely cause you to miss precious moments, and those moments will not repeat itself. Olympus has advanced their autofocus mechanism so well that if I miss any shots, it was due to my own fault for not pressing the shutter button fast enough.

I find myself enjoying shooting the street tremendously with the E-M5. In comparison to the E-P3, I welcome the better handling due to the beefier added horizontal hand grip, the tiltable OLED screen and also the much quieter shutter sound. Indeed, the Olympus E-M5 is well suited as a street photography weapon.

Here’s the man himself together with street photographer Eric Kim:

Robin Wong, by the way, has more comparison shots here concluding even at ISO 6,400 images are very clean with almost no trace of chroma noise at all, and the luminance noise looks very fine.

And yet again Robin here testing the effectiveness of the 5-Axis image stabilization and continuous autofocus with 3D tracking with the 75-300mm lens (and boy don’t you love those colors):

As I have anticipated, shooting experience with the “IS live preview” through the Electronic Viewfinder (I shot all images through the EVF this time) was God-sent. After half-pressing the shutter button, the effect of the image being stabilized is seen, and the IS worked so well to minimize, if not completely mitigated any “shaking or jumping” I have reported this when I was shooting extreme magnification with my 50mm F2 macro lens. I am very happy to find that the IS works just as well on the long lenses, even at 300mm end (600mm equivalent focal length on 35mm format). This surely improved composition flexibility as well, as your image will not accidentally “jumped away” from where you intended it to be due to extreme shaking at longest tele-photo end of zoom.

Photographer Gabrielle Motola likes the EM-5, among many reasons, for it’s stealth factor:

I was astonished at how much closer I could get to my subjects (random people on the street) and how long I could spend photographing them before they realised. This camera was definitely a stealth operator, smaller and faster than any digital camera I’ve ever used. This is one of the reasons I do not use my D700 on the street. It’s just too big and too loud. In fact it’s the reason I gravitated towards rangefinders early on. Additionally, for a tiny quiet camera it boasts 16MP and is highly low light capable. The dynamic range is also fantastic. If I had been shooting RAW files I’d have relatively little work to do for inside/outside shots. What I was use to seeing blown out on my other cameras was actually coming up with a generous amount of detail.

DP Review has some first impressions, test samples from a production-standard E-M5 and the hands-on preview saying “the E-M5 is one of best looking cameras we’ve encountered in some time. From the first impressions:

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.

Official Olympus site:

A new era in Micro Four Thirds technology is about to begin. The new, revolutionary mirrorless camera, the OM-D E-M5, has an exceptionally light and compact body. Its Electronic View Finder enables photographers to check exposure levels, white balance and preview Art Filter effects in real-time. When shooting, the photographer can instantly “create” a truly unique world and preserve it in exceptional quality. The “world” will be transformed from something you see to something you “take part” in.

+++ You can order the OM-D E-M5 from Amazon, B&H or Adorama.

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