OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 Review - Part 1

OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 12mm f/2 lens


Image Quality

Just to start with a few brief thoughts about the image quality. Olympus haven't come up with a magic formula that makes this camera produce results that look substantially different from other m4/3 cameras. Certainly everything I've seen so far indicates that the OM-D creates files very similar to those from the other 16MP (Panasonic) cameras. m4/3 is what it is. Those who already use it will know that in terms of high ISO and dynamic range, there are alternatives, i.e. APS-C cameras that will give better results.

I shot a few images at ISO 6400 last night and they are pretty nasty. The jpgs. are "smudged" and the raw files are full of colour and luminance noise. ISO 1600 seems OK, but any higher than that and things aren't great. The Fuji X-Pro 1 it isn't!

However, thats not really the point of m4/3 for me. Plus I doubt there is anyone who buys into the m4/3 system to work exclusively in low light. However if that is a consideration, then there are possibilities for getting it done. See immediately below.

The Image Stabilisation system

This is good. In fact this is very good indeed.

OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 45mm f/1.8 lens

Much has been made of the new IS system in the camera, with its every which way compensation, and from my impressions yesterday, it works just fine. 

OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 45mm f/1.8 lens

1/15th. sec. with the 45mm lens strikes me as pretty impressive. I even tried to take these test shots without my customary "breathe in and hold very very steady" approach. This shot was taken with me bending forward and I wasn't particularly stable. However as you can see its produced a sharp, camera shake free result.

Some more examples.

OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 45mm f/1.8 lens

OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 45mm f/1.8 lens

OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 45mm f/1.8 lens

So, obviously not that useful if you are shooting sports in a dimly lit arena, but it is an excellent system that enables pretty slow shutter speeds.


I've noticed several things that are an improvement on previous Olympus m4/3 cameras.

As I mentioned yesterday, the shutter release is much better. There is a much faster and more positive response than on the other Pens I've used, though I must say the E-PL3 was getting there. With the fast AF and this shutter, shooting is pretty much instantaneous. In fact the whole camera feels as if its been given a few amphetamines!! It could just be that I'm coming from the X-PRO 1, but the OM-D feels pretty nippy to me. The AF is also top class, even in low light.

The built-in viewfinder is really nice. I've said in the past I don't mind add-on EVF's, but I might just be changing my mind. The pentaprism sited viewfinder is very good indeed. Easily on a par, if not better, than anything Panasonic have produced and very close indeed to what Sony have come up with.

Finally in an Olympus m4/3 camera, using manual focus lenses becomes as easy as it should be. I set up the function button next to the shutter to bring up a 14x magnification screen in the viewfinder. This is fine for focusing with, even in low light. The great improvement and one I've been clamouring for, is that now by pressing the shutter button the whole view comes back. No more having to press the button that brought up the magnification again. So this camera now moves up to second place in my list of cameras to use MF on. The Sonys with focus peaking still win, but this is MUCH better.

So a few things I've noticed so far that are improved.

Today is apparently going to be very wet outdoors, so I'll take the opportunity to do an ISO test and compare it with the GX1. This will get that out of the way, so I can concentrate on what I see as the real advantages of this camera, which is the handling.

Hopefully I can post this later today.

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