The Olympus E-M5 is the first member of the new micro-43 OM-D series of Olympus cameras, in addition to the successful Olympus PEN cameras.The OlympusE-M5 is a retro camera whose design resembles the Olympus OM SLR series from the past, as you can see here. Olympus considers the E-M5 not a professional camera,but in terms of features, performance and to a lesser extent in terms of price, it begins to resemble a semi-professional camera. A big difference of the OM-D series with the PEN series is the built-in viewfinder of the OlympusE-M5. The Olympus E-M5 could be a nice camera for advanced amateurs, or those that soon would be.
Construction, ergonomics and ease of use
The camera body of the Olympus E-M5 may look like a full grown SLR. However, the Olympus E-M5 is almost as small as a mirrorless camera without a viewfinder. The dust and splash water proof aluminum camera body weighs 425 grams only.
The camera looks square, but you will not notice that when you hold it, thanks to the little hand grip at the front and a thumb rest at the backside of the camera.
The first thing you notice when you bring the Olympus E-M5 camera to your face, is a constant hissing sound the camera makes. It makes no difference whether the image stabilization is switched on or off. The volume of the sound is not too loud, think of the sound you’ll hear as you put a shell to your ear, but it is annoying. (Olympus solved this phenomenon with a firmware update) The shutter sound is pleasant and very quiet.Right on top of the camera are two dials, which let you choose shutter speed and aperture separately. That is a pleasant and proven concept, which is also used in the professional Nikon and Canon SLR s. Additionally, the Olympus E-M5 offers the choice whether you want to use the front dial for selecting the shutter speed and the rear dial for the aperture, or vice versa. All buttons are easy to operate, with one exception:on the right side at the back of the body, located between the eyepiece and the thumb rest, there are two small buttons: fn1& Play. They are very difficult to operate. If Olympus had confined itself here to just one, larger play button, it would be a much more user-friendly solution.
The 16megapixelsensor in the Olympus E-M5 is similar in specifications to the 16megapixelsensor of thePanasonicGX1. Yet in practice there are (small) differences, as you will soon read. Measurements for this Olympus E-M5 review have been carried out with the aid of Imatest. The measurement results are shown in the OlympusOM-DE-M5 review measurements report. For the test method and explanation of terms, see FAQ.
Olympus E-M5 versus Olympus PEN series
- The Olympus E-M5 is the first Olympus micro-43 camera with a built in viewfinder
- The Olympus E-M5 has a more modern sensor with 16 (in stead of 12) megapixels
- The Olympus E-M5 has more advanced image stabilization than the PEN cameras.
- Camera’s of the PEN series are cheaper
Olympus E-M5 versus Panasonic G3, Panasonic GX1 en Sony NEX 7
- The Panasonic G3 has an articulated screen. The Olympus E-M5 and Panasonic GX1 don’t have that. The LCD screen of the Olympus E-M5 can be tilted. The LCD screen of the Panasonic GX1 is fixed.
- The Olympus E-M5 has an advanced built in image stabilization. Both the Panasonic GX1 and the Panasonic G3 don’t have that.
- The Sony NEX 7 has a larger APS-C sized sensor and a higher amount of megapixels (24 mp) than the other camera’s (16 mp)
- The Olympus E-M5 is the only camera to offer “autobulb”: see your image emerge during long exposures!
Viewfinder, screen and menu
The viewfinder is very bright and you will not notice any ‘smearing’ when the viewfinder is moved fast. The refresh rate of the viewfinder can even be boosted from 60Hzto 120 Hz, which makes looking through the electronic viewfinder at bright light even more comfortable. Since the AF makes use of the same sensor signal, it is to be expected that increasing the refresh rate of the viewfinder, also leads to an even higher AF speed. The AF of the Olympus E-M5 is so fast at 60 Hz already that we could not accurately measure the difference.
The viewfinder accuracy is, obviously,100%. The viewfinder magnification is 1.15-when the viewfinder shows text over your image (mode 1) – and a crop factor of 2leads to a total magnification of 0,575. This is comparable to the viewfinder magnification of the Canon 60D. When the text is shown in the viewfinder beneath the image (mode 2 and 3), the total viewfinder magnification is 0.46. This is comparable with the viewfinder magnification of the Canon1100D. The bright LCD screen of the Olympus E-M5 can be tilted upwards and downwards, as shown in this image.
Overexposure and underexposure warning
On a traditional SLR you can sometimes show a histogram on your display to determine whether the exposure of your image was good. Another common feature of traditional SLRs is that overexposed highlights flicker on the LCD screen. Modern system cameras offer a histogram in the viewfinder. This is practical because it is before a shot is made in stead of after the picture had been taken. This prevents over-exposed images and you do not have to make a second shot, if that were possible.
The OlympusE-M5 offers a histogram, but further includes the option for an adjustable warning in the viewfinder for overexposed highlights or underexposed shadows.
In the viewfinder, potentially overexposed highlights are shown in orange. And potentially underexposed shadows are shown in blue. Move your mouse over the image above for a simulation. This principle is analogous to the warning given in Lightroom. Even more attractive is the ability to set the thresholds in which the warning message is visible.
The OlympusE-M5 is, given the large number of features the camera offers, easy to operate. However, it takes some time for you to know all options available. Tip for every (potential) Olympus E-M5 user: Read the User Guide: Getting the most out of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 @ Dpreview.
Super control panel: a very handy menu
During a shoot you want to minimize your time searching and scrolling in camera menus in order to find the desired menu option. Olympus is offering, what’s in a name, the “Super Control Panel” which gives you direct access to all major functions. Really handy!
The sharpness of this camera is very high.The Olympus E-M5 delivers at low ISO values and with a good lens like the Olympus 45 mm 1.8 or the Sigma19 mm EX-DN, both standard jpg and in Lightroom developed RAW files with a resolution of almost 2500 LW/PH.
The dynamic range of the OlympusE-M5 is so large that in practice you will almost never encounter simultaneous overexposure and underexposure. In the image to the right, the sun shines through the clouds straight into the lens. Yet there is no clipping of highlights or shadows. A very good performance.
In terms of dynamic range, the performance of the Olympus E-M5 is better than other micro-43 cameras, like the Panasonic G3 or the Panasonic GX1, and equivalent to the dynamic range of cameras with an APS-C sensor like the Canon 1100D or Canon60D.
Would you like to print jpg images without further editing, it is wise to stay under the ISO 1600. There is already noise visible on the screen, but that is not disturbing in the prints.The test results for the Imatest measurements are in the Olympus E-M5 review.
Here you see a 640 ISO sample image, made with the Olympus E-M5 in combination with the Olympus75-300 mm lens.
In terms of color reproduction in daylight, the Olympus E-M5 is one ofthe best cameras out there now.That goes for both RAW and JPG images with Picture Style: natural. Because we can not show you images of people or buildings besides an image made with the Olympus E-M5, we show you a color test chart. Comparison of the reference colors and the colors reproduced by the Olympus E-M5 says it all.
When tungsten light is used, a visible light-orange hue is visible in the images. Shooting in RAW and adjusting the white balance afterwards, significantly improved the color accuracy compared to the automatic white balance. See the Olympus E-M5 testreport for more information about the color accuracy.
Conclusion Olympus OM-D E-M5 review
Built in image stabilization
Most brands have image stabilization built into the lens. Disadvantage of that choice is that it makes a lens more expensive and you do not have image stabilization available to you when using lenses without built-in image stabilization. We tested the image stabilization of the Olympus E-M5 using a Olympus 45 mm 1.8 lens. The effectiveness of the Olympus image stabilization is impressive. The Imatest measurement results can be found in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 test report.
Below is a100%crop of the image shown to the right. With a focal length of 200 mm (= 400mm @ full frame) you can even with a shutter speed of 1/8 second, obtain a usable image. These are 5 stops difference! The difference in depth of field of the two pictures is much more apparent than the difference in sharpness.
The Olympus E-M5 has no built-in flash light, but a nice little flash is included. We haven’t tested the flash yet.
The autofocus of the Olympus E-M5 is very fast and reliable. It’s only in the dark you will notice that the autofocus slows down, just as you would have noticed using a regular SLR camera. The autofocus uses the sensor signal to focus. Therefore this camera has no front- or back focus.
Traditional SLR camera’s have a relatively small area where all AF sensors are located. The Olympus E-M5 offers 35 AF points, which cover a very large part of the total sensor area.
Using the touch screen, you can choose AF point, focus and take a picture by only one tap on the LCD screen.
We tested continuous autofocus of the Olympus E-M5 in combination with the Olympus 45 mm 1.8 lens. A series of images made of a car with a speed of approximately 60 km/hr heading towards the camera, will yield sharp images only when you apply continuous autofocus. You have to keep the camera aimed towards the subject.
When you set the camera on autofocus tracking, the Olympus E-M5 tries to follow the subject by itself. You don’t have to aim the camera as exactly as you did during continuous autofocus. In your viewfinder you will see a green square trying to keep up with the car. The chance the camera looses the car, is large. This is not unique for Olympus. We had similar experiences with autofocus tracking of other brands.
- Natural colors at daylight
- High resolution
- Dynamic range equal to camera’s with an APS-C sensor
- Very effective image stabilization
- Fast AF, clear viewfinder and silent shutter
- More a photo camera than a video camera
- Less video camera than photo camera
- Play button difficult to use
- Constant noise, even when IS is turned off (solved with latest firmware)
- Relative high price
The Olympus-E-M5 is a very nice camera to work with. In many details you will find that Olympus has done it’s best to incorporate all the functionality a real enthusiast photographer wishes for. Buttons and dials are in general well situated, easy to use and also configurable via the menu. The super control panel very effectively minimizes the time you loose searching in camera menus for a specific function. The adjustable warning for underexposure and overexposure is much more intuitively to work with than a histogram. If your copy of this camera makes a constant noise, you should install the latest firmware to eliminate that. The play button is hard to reach.
Image stabilization, autofocus and color accuracy are of top quality, no matter whether you compare the Olympus E-M5 with another micro-43 camera or a camera with a larger sensor (full frame camera, APS-C). Resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio are very good and are on the same level as camera’s with an APS-C sized sensor.