Olympus OM-D E-M5 First Impressions Review

This past weekend I was able to spend time with some folks from Olympus to pick up an OM-D E-M5 for review. I get to play with a lot of cameras due to my job running Photo.net, and that’s something I appreciate. But there are cameras and there are “cameras!” and I will admit that the E-M5 was one of the ones I had been looking forward to trying out. I had been favorably impressed with the pre-production sample I had seen at CES in January. But the proof would be in the pudding.

When they first started popping up, the mirrorless systems in general were mostly aimed at the “bridge” user who is between a p&s camera and a full-blown SLR. While there are a few exceptions (the Ricoh GXR and the Fuji ProX1 to name two), this has remained true into the present day. But there have always been a market segment of those of us who longed for something like a digital version of the old Contax G2. Another way to say is was that we were looking for the “digital” version of what the rangefinder gave us back in the film days. Many of us are advanced users who have either long ago made the switch to digital and found the results good but the user experiencing lacking, or are still film users who won’t change to digital until we find a camera that suits us. Here we had systems with compact sizes and high image quality. But they were crippled by the slow zooms and square body styles that the “bridge” user seemed to demand.

But then here was Olympus at CES 2012 telling me that the company had polled some of its most serious and advanced users in Japan as to what they would want to see out of a high-end micro four-thirds camera. Features like a built in viewfinder, weatherproofing, grip options, and so on were listed. Olympus listened and created a new OM-D line in their micro four-thirds world with the E-M5 as the first body in that line. Was this just a neat package with nothing inside? Or would it live up to its promise of being a micro four-thirds camera that performed and handled at a level that satisfied the “advanced photographer” market that it was aimed at? While I am working on a longer full review, here are my “first impression” thoughts after using the camera for a few days.

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EDIT: This turned out to ramble on longer than I had thought. My apologies to anyone who was hoping for a USA Today type 250 word article.

Image Quality

My initial experiences with the E-M5’s image quality is very good. As with last year’s PEN E-P3, the LIVE MOS sensor and TruePic IV image processor perform admirably. However, I’ve done more shooting and playing with the camera than I have looking at the files it has produced. So this “first impressions” article is heavily weighted in the “experience” rather than the “results” direction.

Appearance & Style

We’ve all seen the photos, some of us even got to handle the camera at CES or another press event prior to launch. That having been said, now that I’ve been around the camera for a few days and seen it sitting on the bar at the pub or hanging off my shoulder or being pulled out of the bag, I have to admit that I’m just as smitten with its styling. Maybe I’m just the right age to have had an OM series camera be the first “serious” camera in my life (mine was an OM-10 of my father’s). Still, given that the OM series was produced from the early 1970’s to the early 2000’s, that spread of 30 years makes for a lot of photographers who might have the same feelings as I do about the E-M5’s styling.

I just think it’s a neat looking camera. For too long, the photographic world was stuck in a morass of rectangular chunky boxes. That’s not to say that these cameras didn’t make good images, because they did. But I think a lot of us appreciate the idea that a product could be both functional and stylish. The silver has the most “retro” vibe to it, since black paint cameras always seemed to be more rare. However, I personally think that the black version is the perfect blend of retro and modern. Still, the Olympus people tell me that the silver version is outselling the black based on initial orders. Go figure. Of course, as with all styling, some will love it and some will not. But I find myself firmly in the “love it” camp.

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EVF and LCD

I’m not one of those photographers who requires a viewfinder. I’ve spent too much time with p&s cameras, iPhones, and various video recording devices to be too critical of using an LCD for image making. Still, the fact remains that putting your eye up to a viewfinder has many advantages for a lot of us. Glare can be a serious problem for rear LCDs as can external distractions. Holding a camera out at arms length is inherently a less stable platform than with elbows tucked in to your sides and an eye to the viewfinder. With these and other facts in mind, a viewfinder is a big plus for most people. So how does the E-M5’s viewfinder perform? Very well in my opinion. I think many of us have memories seared into my head of the early generations of EVFs. These were, in a word, terrible. And while we aren’t to the point yet where the best current EVFs are like watching a small window to reality, they have progressed to a point where they are very VERY usable. The E-M5’s EVF did not give me any eye strain, the shooting info was easy to read, and the resolution was high enough for me to manually focus should I want to. Though it should be noted that, like all Olympus micro four-thirds cameras, the E-M5 does not have a ‘focus peaking’ feature to assist in manual focus.

In short, I used the E-M5 EVF as if I was using any of my SLR viewfinders. I never found myself annoyed that I was using an EVF. I will say that the light sensor that activates the EVF when you bring the camera up to your eye is a bit more sensitive than I require. I found it to activate inadvertently a few times when I was using my left hand across the camera to press buttons, most often when I was using the HLD-6 vertical grip.. But this was, at worst, a minor annoyance and I could solve it by turning the auto-sensing feature off. I find the auto sensing feature to be useful, so I will live with a few shadow caused mistakes.

One neat feature is that the E-M5 allows you to choose to have the info in the EVF displayed in the common LCD style, with the settings and icons superimposed over the image. But it also allows you to choose to display the info in a bar underneath the image in a style much more akin to a DSLR. I personally have gotten used to the superimposed style, and have no real reason to change it. But I know that some folks will really appreciate the ability to change to the other type of display.

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As I said, I am not at all militant about viewfinder use. LCDs, particularly articulated ones like on the E-M5 are just too useful. Just today I was out shooting a waterfall photo and had the camera down at a low level on the tripod. Rather than lying on the ground or bending over and craning my neck at an ungodly angle, I just tilted the LCD up and used it to compose and make adjustments. Thus, obviously, I’m pleased with the E-M5’s articulated LCD. The LCD itself is as good as anything else out there in current generation cameras. In addition, as with the previous PEN E-P3, the touch LCD is a bonus in my mind. The focus by tap feature is really neat. It may not lead to the most solid shooting grip on the camera, but it’s still going to come in handy. However, the coolness of the touch screen is balanced by the annoyance that you really can’t do all that much with it. Focus, scroll through playback, and a few other things. But you can’t make changes to settings or even tap icons to change white balance. Yes, the icons on screen are small, but so are the on-screen keyboard buttons on an iPhone. I love the touch LCD, I just don’t know why it can’t do more.

Grip System & Handling

The handling of the E-M5 alone is, in general, as good as anything in the mirrorless segment. It has a few real pluses such as the rubberized “thumb hook” on the back for your right hand, which gives a very solid grip on the body. But it also has a few minuses such as the location of the play button, sadly small and blocked a bit by the corner of the LCD. But neither are game changers or deal breakers. Suffice to say that while there will, of course, be some who don’t like the way this camera feels or handles in real-world use, I think for the most part people will be very satisfied. I know that I am.

Where the E-M5 really shines is the excellently designed two-part HLD-6 grip system. It really allows you to have a couple different options as far as size vs features. Essentially, you have one piece that adds a much more positive feeling right hand grip and shutter button/dial while only adding a little bit of height to the camera. This is very much in the style of the old OM film camera motordrive/grips. Then you have a second piece that adds a more contemporary styled vertical grip (and extra battery) with a vertical shutter button and two additional Fn (custom function) buttons. The second piece does add more bulk and weight to the camera. But it also gives the camera the same sort of handling that many of us are used to when using a “pro” level camera. And the best part is that you can choose to use one, both, or none of them depending on how light you are looking to travel. I have found myself leaving the smaller of the two grips on virtually all of the time. While I wouldn’t hesitate to take it off if I needed to get my kit as small/light as possible, I do appreciate the better grip that I get on the camera when it is mounted. And I would say that 40% of the time I add on the second grip. The extra battery really adds to how long you can use the camera (though the second battery it isn’t required to use the grip) and I love the vertical shutter and Fn buttons. I have gotten away from vertical grips and “pro” sized cameras for my personal SLRs in recent years. But using this grip reminds me just how much I enjoy having that option.

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While the $300 list price isn’t a giveaway by any means, I would highly suggest that anyone buying the E-M5 budget that money into their purchasing cash. The HLD-6 is a real strength of this camera and is an accessory that I think everyone should consider buying.

Controls

As I touch on above, there are a few real winners and a few losers as far as the camera’s controls are concerned. But overall, I’m pleased with them. Olympus continues its recent path of letting the user customize many of the cameras buttons and controls. Though this does fall down oddly in a few areas. By default, the four-way toggle buttons are set up like a higher end DSLR to control focus point. Okay, but I don’t need that. So I switch the setting to “direct function” which the camera describes as “Each arrow pad button can be assigned a direct function when they are pressed while shooting”. Great. But the camera only displays options to allow me to assign functions to the right and down buttons. The left button appears to be hard wired to bring up the AF point selection, which is okay since that is one of the things I would want to assign. And the up button seems to bring up the option to use the arrow buttons for over/under exposure and program-shift, which is fine, but those two things are already controlled by the two command dials on the top of the camera. I’m not going to tell you that I was really bothered by this, I just found it odd. Thankfully, it’s one of those things that can and probably will be fixed with a firmware update.

Speaking of the two command dials, those are great. I love having them available. Particularly in manual mode, nothing makes a camera feel like a “pro” model like having two control dials so you can chance shutter speed and aperture without having to press a button and turn a dial at the same time. I think it was a very good decision to include them. Something that isn’t as great is the playback button that I mention above. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unusable. But I would have rather seen it be switched with the “trash/delete” button. This would have made the play button easier to hit and the trash button more difficult, something I think most of us would appreciate.

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In general, the controls on the E-M5 are at a minimum “good” and some are “very good”. Perhaps a bit cramped as far as spacing, but no more so than many cameras in this class. You just don’t have that much real estate on a camera body this size and balancing how many controls to include with how much room you have is always going to be a zero-sum game at some point. Suffice to say, I like the controls on the E-M5 as much as I have liked those on any camera of this size, and I like them significantly more than the controls on many of those cameras. In short, the E-M5 is the first mirrorless camera that I feel handles like a “real” camera. There have been others that have come close (the Panasonic GH2 comes to mind), but this is the first one that I lived up to that statement for me.

Battery Life

My experience has been that the battery life on the E-M5 is quite good. Now, these are brand new batteries. But even with liberal LCD usage, I haven’t felt like I was running them down quickly. They are on par with most battery performance out there today. One thing that is odd is that, if you are using the HLD-6 with a low battery, there seems to be something that makes the camera want to tell you that fact even if you have a fresh battery in the camera itself. But if you have a fresh battery in the HLD-6 and a low battery in the camera, the camera tells you that you’ve got plenty of battery. Now, it’s not really lying to you in either case. It’s just an odd choice of information to pass on. You can tell the camera to use up the battery in the HLD-6 first or the battery in the camera first (a neat feature), so that may dictate which battery level the camera displays. In any case, I’ve got a question into the Olympus tech people to see if I am misunderstanding something.

Something else to keep in mind is that, due mostly to changing safety laws in Japan, the E-M5 does not use the same battery as any previous micro four-thirds cameras. This actually caused a few laughs among the Olympus crew when I was talking about how well I thought the battery life on the E-M5 was doing and pointed out that I had tossed a PEN E-P3 battery into my bag and hadn’t even needed it. The joke of course being that I hadn’t realized that the E-P3 battery wouldn’t fit in the E-M5 and that I should really try to be better at reading spec sheets. Such is life though, sometimes you miss the trees because you are trying to pay attention to the whole forest.

No ACR…Yet

Ah, such a small thing in the grand scheme, since we know it’s coming eventually. But it still annoys me to be using Bridge or Lightroom and see the little icon that tells me Adobe Camera Raw doesn’t support a file. Grrrrrrr…..be more faster Adobe. Don’t make me drive down to Seattle and shake my fist at your office building.

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Lack of Flash

There has been some amount of grousing on the internets about how the E-M5 doesn’t have a built-in flash. I personally think that there couldn’t be a more overblown bone of contention. Are these same people grousing that high end DSLRs don’t have built-in flashes? I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a built-in flash being included on a camera, a few of my DSLRs have them and I’ve even used them once or twice. But for the target market of a camera like the E-M5, a built in flash shouldn’t be a “make or break” feature. This is a camera aimed at advanced photographers. Most advanced photographers I know avoid built-in flashes like the plague. They are underpowered, harsh, and can’t be used for bouncing. If one has to use a flash, it should at the very least be a larger more powerful hotshoe version such as the Olympus FL-300. At best, a built-in camera flash falls into the “better than nothing in an emergency” category for me. Given the choice between a built-in flash and a smaller or better body design, I’ll toss the built-in flash every time.

Speaking of flash, yes, Olympus does give you a little camera-powered hotshoe flash with the E-M5. It pretty much is just a hotshoe version of a built-in flash. It works, it’s light/small enough to carry most all the time, and I would use it in a pinch. But any serious E-M5 owner who has a need for a flash should look into a real shoe mount flash like the FL-300.

Default Settings and Other Nitpicking

The E-M5’s biggest problems come from the fact that Olympus has stepped up to the plate and has created a camera that is aimed squarely at the advanced photographer. As such, their target market is much more likely to have some strong opinions about how a camera should operate than a less experienced or knowledgable market might be. So you are going to hear some amount of complaining about various things that could or should have been done differently. For example, why isn’t “superfine” compression enabled by default? Why is “fine” compression the highest choice out of the box? Don’t you figure that most of the target users are going to want to use superfine? Yes, you can assign WB or ISO to any of a number of buttons. But why aren’t there default WB and ISO buttons to begin with? Aren’t WB and ISO two of the most accessed settings for advanced photographers? But stuff like this is almost a marketing decision rather than an engineering one. Sure, we can argue about it if we like, and more power to you if you enjoy doing so. It’s like baseball sabermetric stats, some people just like to debate that kind of stuff. But for me, the fact that superfine compression exists is enough. As long as I know I can go in and turn it on, then what do I care if Olympus set “fine” as the default or if the buttons don’t have ISO or WB printed next to them? I’m an intelligent guy who knows how I want to use my camera. And smart experienced people like me are the E-M5’s target market. So while I understand why people would bring it up, I personally don’t put a lot of value in the kvetching about this kind of stuff.

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The Funny Noise

Something that is worth mentioning is the fact that the E-M5 makes a very slight hum noise when it is on. In fact, “hum” probably isn’t even the right work. It sounds like a very quiet cooling fan of some sort. It is quiet enough that I didn’t notice it at all when I was with the Olympus crew, nor when I was out shooting. It wasn’t until after I had gotten home and had sat down this evening in the quiet house (kids in bed) to write this article that I actually noticed it. The sound isn’t a fan and actually comes from the camera’s IS system. This is the way the camera is supposed to operate and if you are hearing it, you do not have a defective camera. Here is the official explanation from Olympus:

The sound being produced by the camera is caused by the 5-Axis Image Stabilization which is active even when IS is turned off to insure that the sensor stays in the center of the image circle.

I will admit, it’s odd that a camera makes a noise like this. Yes, it’s going to weird some people out. But for the rest of us, it’s just going to fade into the background. I literally can’t hear it even with your eye to the camera if you are in a room with a normal amount of little background noise. And after just a short while, you start to think of it like the small noises from many other devices in your life. It wouldn’t cause me to not buy the camera and it wouldn’t stop me from highly recommending it to others. But it is something that buyers should be aware of before they place their money on the table.

Overall

My overall initial impressions are very positive. I really enjoy using this camera. It is the first mirrorless camera that has made me say “Hmmm, do I really need my APS-C DSLR any more?”. No, it’s not going to make me personally get rid of my full frame DSLR and bag of high end f/2.8 zoom lenses. But it sure could become my “family/friends/travel/serious-photography-where-I-don’t-want-to-haul-a-huge-kit-around-but-still-need-a-good-camera” camera, and for me, that’s saying something. Every other mirrorless camera that I have liked so far has been a "I’ll add it to the bag because it will be useful for ________ " situation. However, none had yet been able to threaten to become a “replacement” for existing gear. The E-M5 has a chance to be the kind of camera that replaces gear I currently use, and I think that’s kind of a big deal.

More Sample Images

There are more OM-D E-M5 images in this gallery here.

Where to Buy

olympus_om-d-e-m5. From the Olympus website: Evoking the classic design of the original OM Series introduced 40 years ago, and transforming it for the modern age, the Olympus OM-D Series is a new and entirely unique Micro Four Thirds camera system. It combines outstanding features found in the Olympus E-System DSLR line with those of the compact Olympus PEN Series to meet the requirements of discerning photographers who demand more performance and portability from their interchangeable-lens cameras.

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    • Nice hands on story. I see Photoshop CS6 is going to be coming out on April 23, which means both versions of ACR (Photoshop and Lightroom) will now be at the same development point, and Adobe almost always introduces updates for both programs at the same time to keep them on an equal footing in terms of cameras supported. I figured there was no way the E-M5 would be supported in either Lightroom 3 or Photoshop CS5. The next ACR update for CS6 and LR4 will almost certainly include the E-M5.

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    • Thanks for the review, Josh. The E-M5 is 95% of everything I've ever wanted in a digital camera (read: a D7000 in the body of an EM or FG). I hope they arrive in my local camera shop soon so I can see one in person.

       

      Does the E-M5 have focus peaking?

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    • Does the E-M5 have focus peaking?

      It does not. Which is a shame as I think focus peaking is really nifty (speaking as someone who has difficulty with manual lenses on digital bodies).

       

      I had meant to make note of the lack of focus peaking in the article. Perhaps I will add that in.

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    • I would love to get one of these, but they aren't available. Perhaps Olympus seriously underestimated the demand? That being said, I have two huge concerns.

       

      First, a 16mp sensor when many entry-level DSLRs have more. Nikon just upped their entry level DSLR to 24mp. I know higher mp != better image quality, but boy, it sure helps with cropping.

       

      Second, the price. For me the best option is the nice 12-50mm lens kit. $1300. That's a lot of cabbage for something I've never even held, let alone shot with. Thank the gods for liberal online return policies!

       

      Nobody seems to report on manual focusing with these cameras through the EVF. I bought my first m4/3 camera to use with some old FD glass and it's a pain, especially in bright outdoor light, unless you use an EVF. My ancient Nikon D3000 has a darn nice focus indicator green light when focus is achieved. Does the OM-D have anything similar?

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    • Sounds like a neat little camera. I must admit that your description of the controls had my head spinning a bit (perhaps a picture of the controls would have helped.)

      I still pine for a digital camera with controls laid out the same as on the old AE-1: Shutter dial on the top right, ISO dial on the top left, and Aperture control on the lens.  From what I can tell from your description, I'm going to have to keep pining.

       

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    • I must admit that your description of the controls had my head spinning a bit (perhaps a picture of the controls would have helped.)

      I can see how that might happen.

       

      I have dropped in a photo of the back of the camera to try and assist anyone who is not familiar with the overall layout.

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    • Thank you for the early review and impressions. I certainly agree with your opening paragraphs. The OM-D E-M5 is what has gotten me to switch to digital. It was a very visceral reaction when I first saw it. I think my though process was, "Oh God. They made a digital back for my OM-1 like I have always been hoping! Oh wait, no...it is a brand new digital...OM! YES! Oh, micro 4/3rds...well that might not be so bad, lets see what micro 4/3rds has to offer for lenses and price."

      I spent about a week investigating lens line ups, saw the various 3rd party lens makers recently started announcing that they'd support micro 4/3rds, tried to figure out a realistic budget and what part of my film kit I could sell to help out (and what would be redundant). After that, I decided it was time to switch based on early previews. Then a month later after a bunch more previews, pre-release reviews and some soul searching and number crunching (and begining to sell some stuff off) I went in on a pre-order and I am very, very excited now.

      Film just wasn't making sense for me with 3 children under 5. Scanning just sucks up too much time and the cost of film wasn't helping (even though I didn't have the time to shoot a lot anymore). So I really needed to switch. However, if it wasn't for the asthetics of the OM-D E-M5 looking so much like the OM film line of cameras, I don't honestly know if I would have had such a reaction, been so excited and decided to switch. I had been holding off on getting a used 5d or 5d Mkii at some point for full frame and legacy lenses being the right size with adapters.

      The OM-D looks got me excited and interested and then the logical side of me was able to backup the emotional response. No emotional response and I probably never would have had logic win me over.

      Now if my silver body only pre-order would just show up...sigh.

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    • Thanks for the follow-up comment, Josh. Is focus peaking patented by any chance? It seems like the only cameras to have it are either Sony cameras or cameras with Sony sensors (e.g., Pentax K-01, Ricoh GXR M module). Just wondering how easy or difficult it would be for Olympus to add this feature (or a feature that was functionally similar), aside from simply licensing the technology from Sony.

       

      P.S. This post is simply a follow-up question and is not in any way intended to "stuff the ballot box" for the t-shirt giveaway. :-)

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    • I've been watching this closely.  I absolutely loved my E-330 and lenses.  I may be switching back to m4/3s soon. I have Pentax kit right now, and may be selling it all soon. Decisions, decisions...

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    • Nice article. I pre-ordered an OM-D a few weeks ago, but I'm sure there are a few months' worth of people ahead of me, so it will be a little while before it arrives.

       

      The constant IS noise is an oddity, but probably a tolerable one.

       

      Re support in ACR and similar programs: Definitely an issue, but no doubt one that will be addressed soon. In the meantime, since I've heard so much about the excellent JPEGs that Olympus cameras are supposed to produce, I'll be interested to try just letting it produce them, maybe even in full program mode, just to see what happens. My DSLR experience has mostly been with Canon, and I don't trust Canon cameras to produce acceptable JPEGs. It will be interesting to see if Olympus lives up to what I've heard about them in this regard.

       

      Lastly, I'm just so glad to be able to order a high-quality interchangeable-lens digital camera that doesn't look like a half-melted blob of black plastic...

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    • Thanks Josh for this review but I was wondering about low light with it?

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    • Thanks Josh for this review but I was wondering about low light with it?

      I realize that you can only tell so much through anecdotal experience (and web resolution). But this was ISO 12800:

      http://www.photo.net/photo/15565212&size=lg

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    • Nice review Josh...I have been an Olympus user for 30 years now and still use a collection of OM gear regularly, along with my E-1 and a recently purchased Leica X1. Naturally, I was very interested when the OMD was announced and went along to the Focus on Imaging show (in the UK) to handle one.

       

      As much as I like the camera, I doubt I will purchase it at it's current price point. I was also hoping for something more photographically 'pure', without some of the 'all singing all dancing' funtionality that has come to be expected of modern cameras.

       

      Additionally, I was really hoping to see was the adoption of the excellent multi spot metering that I use on my OM3/4Ti's - all in all, I think I was expecting a digital version on the OM's of old, which this clearly isn't.

       

      A year or so ago, my search for a digital camera that was just a picture taking machine (no modes, movies etc) led me to Leica's X1, which I have been using for several months now. I am enjoying its spartan approach to controls and menu items very much. I recall, back in the film days, Olympus promoting the 4Ti with a "Less is more" slogan, and this is certainly true of the X1, and I was hoping it would be true of the OMD.

       

      For me, this approach works as there is less distraction which allows me to get on with taking pictures.

       

      Having said that, if the price drops sufficiently in a couple of years time, I may take another look, as that 12mm F2 Zuiko is very sweet indeed, and reminds me so much of my 21mm F2 Zuiko, which I dearly love.  

           

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    • To me the whole reason I have a flash on the camera is to trigger off-camera flash. Mostly I don't want the cost and size of the FL-300 just to trigger another FL-300. That is why the in box tiny flash is perfect. The only downside is you can't use it to trigger an external while using something in the accessory shoe. This was a bigger problems on the PENs because you couldn't use flash and a viewfinder at once, but still with the E-M5 you can't use flash with the Bluetooth adapter, external mic adapter, etc.

      Does it at least have a PC sync port?

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    • Good Stuff Josh; I've been following your lead since your opening opus on Rolleiflex 6008 (wanna buy my 6003?;-)  I have a couple of concerns about my OM-D which was supposed to be here this morning...

      1) I HATE EVFs, and sold my Leica Ms because of diminishing vision.  I can't see my E-P3 screen in direct sunlight, and am underwhelmed by the VF-2.  I hope this is an improvement.

      2) Does this whirring (gyroscopic mechanism?) have any impact on battery life?

      3) Your test setup kit is identical to mine; I hope I can get a spare battery, because, like your faith in Oly, the last time they changed battery "safety" configurations, they ran out of stock and I waited a couple of months.  Does the grip come with an added battery or do I run the risk of "backorder" as I head out for a Horizon Workshop Montana Adventure in 2 weeks?

      I'm hanging on to my E-3.

      Thx,

      Ray Hull, Albany, NY

      PS: What's with Oly and their vascilating nomenclature?  OM-D or E-M5--Decide and stick with it....IF it's logical.  And E-M5 is not; but then, nor was Camedia. 

       

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    • If I may jump in: I believe OM-D is the overall product line and E-M5 is the model name. They've used this type of naming convention before. For example, EVOLT E-420 (EVOLT = product line, E-420 = model name), Stylus Epic (Stylus = product line, Epic = model name), PEN E-PL1 (PEN = product line, E-PL1 = model name), etc. Hope this helps. :-)

       

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    • Definitely a camera to consider although personally don't have much experience with micro 3/4 cameras.

      Originally digitals tend to have a viewer that can be turned off the save battery power.

      Find the viewer on the Nikon D-90 awkward. When you're using AF, every time the focus is adjusted, you get a time lag for the viewer to update. Gets very annoying. The other thing the viewer is good for checking your image sharpness. The D-90 is not very clear. Some of the time have to rely on the computer download before finding the photo is slightly off focus or shake.

      High-end users don't normally think portability is an issue even if the camera is as big as a suitcase vs. getting the most Mpix available in the market. The P&S people prefer cameras you can put in your pocket so many would not be buying an SLR unless the lens is retractable.

      The 3 sensors available: full-frame, APS-C & micro 3/4. Comparing results have to see if you can get poster or larger sizes for gallery displays. An 8x10 or 8x12 most cameras do well. Best to have 3 cameras with different sensors side-by in an actual test. The other consideration is lens availability and quality. You're buying a specific body with specific brand of lens (not just the generic Sigma, Tamron & Tokina). Otherwise tend to think of Nikon as overpriced. 

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    • I too, have been waiting for a camera just like this. I just hope that Olympus starts offering it's line of amazing lenses in m4/3 soon. That would be a fabulous prelude to the introduction of a pro body.

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    • Have wanted on since I first saw it.  I got my first Olympus camera in 72.  The looks of this camera just seem right after all the years of owning Olympus. 

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    • Excellent and very thoughtful review.  Josh, since you are chief guy here and write reviews, you should be aware that the possessive its (ie: its metering system, or similar phrase) does not have an apostrophe.  It's a nice day, for example, does have an apostrophe, when it's is short for it is.

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    • Josh, since you are chief guy here and write reviews, you should be aware that the possessive its (ie: its metering system, or similar phrase) does not have an apostrophe.

      Oh, I'm well aware of that fact, it's just that my fingers forget from time to time.

      Fixed the two incorrect instances in the article.

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    • Hi Josh, thanks for the great review! I am just curious as to the lens you used? Was it the 12-50mm or? I too am very interested in the OM-D. Also an Olympus user since the 80's, I have the OM10, and the E520. I was looking to change/up grade for a swivel LCD and greater range in ISO. Apparently you can use 4/3rd lenses on m4/3rd with an adaptor. I am primarily interested in the 12-50mm lens that comes with the OM-D as I already have a good range of coverage otherwise.

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    • I will admit to being slow to get on the M4/3 bandwagon.  However, I recently became unhappy with my Canon G11 after it got a dust speck in front of the sensor.  A dust speck on that size sensor looks like a small black hole.  So, it became my opportunity to acquire an Oly  E-PL1 - and I am hooked.    Step back to 2004, and I had a Fuji S-7000 EVF camera that I really liked, and of course, the EVF then is nothing like now.  But I saw there are advantages to some creative work with an EVF camera.  Now, your review of the OM-D E-M5 shows the practicality of the M4/3 system when used with this type of body.   I doubt that I will dump all my Nikon SLR gear to go that way, but your review certainly has me envious.  The styling is right there for us OM-lovers, and way to go, Olympus.

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    • After a lousy rainy indoor day, I have put a few frames on mine and will note these newby concerns:

      1. No instruction (or even website explanation) of how the 12-50 lens works.  Beware picking the kit up by the lens barrel, the lens locking mechanism is the f=length collar that moves back and forth...And explains why I could get the lens to operate at first.

      Still unsure of how the Macro function works or kicks in.  Then, the jumping around of the Auto-focus point annoys me, even though I thought I set it to center.

      2. I am impressed with the EVF after being wary of it.  I especially like it detecting my approaching nose...or whatever for its impending use.

      3. The buttons seem awfully small and I have long thin hands/fingers.  I'm hoping the grip/battery housing will improve that. I'm wearing it on my E-3's SunSniper.com across-chest-to-hip strap and it is good.  The added weight and bulk of the battery grip will help smooth the stiff Sniper collar. 

      4. I find that right-off-the-card is the best rendition of color; no fiddling in PS seems to be needed unless you have a specific goal in mind.

      5. My alleged Macros are not; when I pulled up the data Macro was not engaged.  But, I don't know if that means the "Scene" macro was off, or the lens was off (I thought it was on...but couldn't tell in the diminishing evening light and gusty winds.)  For hand held @1600 1/6 sec, it looks decent:  15598452-md.jpg

      6. I like the spring-loaded card door as much as I dislike having to open the back screen to access the thumb groove to get the opposite side USB cover open.

      7. The FL-300 R is a nice little package but I haven't played with it yet, other than discovering that the lower battery goes in + down and the upper is vice versa. 

       

      In sum, so far so good except for the 12-50 lens puzzlement.

       

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    • 1. No instruction (or even website explanation) of how the 12-50 lens works. Beware picking the kit up by the lens barrel, the lens locking mechanism is the f=length collar that moves back and forth...And explains why I could get the lens to operate at first.
      Still unsure of how the Macro function works or kicks in.

      ......


      5. My alleged Macros are not; when I pulled up the data Macro was not engaged. But, I don't know if that means the "Scene" macro was off, or the lens was off

      I have a solution for your problem!

       

      So the way this works (and I was confused at first as well) is that the button on the lens lebeled "macro" is actually just an unlock button. Press it and while doing so, slide the zoom ring all the way forward so that "macro" shows through the little window.

       

      I have been meaning to write something up on the kit lens itself, I just haven't had time. Your post reminds me that I should find time.

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    • Josh, thanks for the review. Can you say anything about the speed and accuracy of the autofocus? Especially on moving subjects. 

      Jerry

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    • I decided to update my response to this review after trying the EM-5 for a couple of weeks. I had the chance to play with it. Short version: It's a great little camera! Long version: The EM-5's image quality is very good up to ISO800. If needed I use ISO1600 but that's the limit for me. With a good lens the detail is amazing. Contrast and dynamic range are great too, especially considering the small sensor size. The RAW images are sharp and punchy straight out of the camera and need little work. The EM-5's software and hardware are extremely configurable. The HLD-6 grip really makes a difference. It enhances the grip (obviously) and the fact that the battery compartment can be separated is very practical. The camera is small and lightweight, but it feels sturdy and not too light. The buttons are small and mushy, but I find that only a minor problem. Autofocus with a recent lens is very fast. It becomes a little slower in very dim light. Overall it's fast enough for me. Continuous autofocus is not very impressive. I never use it, so it's not a problem for me. The tilting screen is very nice. It's sharp and bright, as is the electronic viewfinder. And then there's the 5-axis image stabilization. Really a great help in low light or i.e. while holding the camera above your head or when you're in a moving vehicle. The soft humming noise of the image stabilization is almost gone with firmware update 1.5, excellent! The camera body is weather sealed, so it can take some rain and dust. All in all the EM-5 is an excellent little camera and I think it's more then enough for most photographers. I really recommend it.

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    • I've been using the 12-50 Zuiko on my E-P3, and the AF speed is incredible. I can only imagine how it performs on the E-M5. Faster autofocusing than any other Micro Zuiko I own, including the 12mm f2. I also think the AF speed is faster than either the 12-60 or 50-200 Zuikos from the four-thirds system. You just touch the shutter release and you are in focus almost at once. It's in a totally different class of AF speed compared to prior Micro Zuikos, and the current ones are already very fast focusing.

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    • Thanks for the review. My OMD arrived 2 days ago along with continuous rain, so purchasing a weather-resistant camera has seemed wise.....

      First impressions are very favourable - feel, size, built-in grip etc. At last (nearly!) a digital FM3a. I agree with Oculus's points 1 and 3 - the buttons are tiny, and the placing of the review button is poor, will be very hard to do with gloves on and haven't found a way of 'moving' it by customising. Major functions - aperture, exp compensation - are easily done and ISO, IS etc readily accessible. Would have preferred the tripod socket centred under the lens axis. The EVF works very well. Haven't yet found how to go from a zoomed-in review to full frame review with the press of a button. With the 20/1.7 Lumix it's very compact and well balanced. Am less enamoured thus far with the 12-50; it's quite big with a hood on; the focal length in use is not visible on the lens (!). However it's clealry not as bad optically as some comments on the web suggest though I've not yet tested it rigorously. But for a do-it-all weather sealed lens, I'm prepared to accept a little loss in IQ. Gives a light and robust kit for long mountain trips.

      Camera IQ - rain is not the ideal weather for testing (except for the weather sealing) but so far I'm impressed. With a pixel density equivalent to 54 MB on FX, was worried about noise and DR. However, DR seems significanly better than my EP1: light skies against gloomy mountain, white waterfall against dark rocks, seem much better handled (unless the 12-50 is low contrast). Further, bringing up shadows in post seems to give less noise than the EP1, but more testing is needed. So far, it's looking good.

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    • Is ISO 1600 the new 100?  I had my E-M5 out for its first chore yesterday and switching the modes dial from !AUTO to Program I discovered why the view in darkish areas/shadows are so much brighter when AUTO is selected: the ISO/ASA is bumped to 1600!

       

      This low-light sensitivity/brightness was confirmed when I used for the first time the FL-300R, flash, which tested fine, but didn't want to fire into the gloom.  So I pulled out my old FL50R and it too wasn't firing on call.  I was pressed for time and was just shooting a used van a friend was putting up on ePrey; but on a gray day, I fully expected to NEED flash for interior shots.  Finally, it fired but only when I was aiming at black objects inside the darkened interior.  Thus, 90% of the time, the flash never went off, and the results were perfectly acceptable.   http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=330723467235  scroll through.  

       

      Also, I was impressed with the IS system while leaning over from the passenger seat to shoot close-up the trailer braking system pod that is mounted low on the driver's-side dashboard.  I was fully stretched out across the center console, viewing the back screen and the results were great. Similarly, while hand-holding contortionist MACRO shots, the OM-D never skipped a beat. (see the red-lighted switches)

       

       

      Thinking back about the high ISO, I guess Oly has conquered the noise factor for day-in/day-out high-ISO usage.  This also minimizes flash use, although I'm going to research how to force-flash the 300 just so I can say that it works.

       

      Other than inadvertently hitting the menu button (can't wait for my grip) my only operational gripe is the shifting focus point; even though I keep placing it in the middle or slightly above, it jumps around for the next shot.  On the other hand, don't be surprised when you touch-point on the screen where you want it to focus and BAM, it focuses there AND takes the picture!  Maybe this thing is too fast for me....I'm still catching up!

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    • To John and Oculus, 

      Just curious how much time it was to receive the camera after you had put in an order for it. I just put one on order yesterday from B&H. 

      To Anyone:

      Can you use any micro 4/3 lens on this camera regardless of maker?

      Jerry

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    • Jerry - the good news, I've had my Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7 on the OM D and it's fine (going on wonderful) and expect no trouble with legacy lenses via an adapter (will try after this post and say if and only if there's a problem); the bad news - I pre-ordered in February (in the UK).

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    • To confirm - an ancient Pentax manual lens on a cheap Chinese adapter works just fine BUT I cannot find out how to magnify the image on the screen to assist critical focus; it was easy on the EP1, and easy on the OM D with electronically coupled lenses. Anyone solved this?

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    • Jerry, I pre-ordered mine through my pals at W.B. Hunt, Melrose, MA (outside Boston) www.huntsphotoandvideo.com about the 16th and it shipped the 19th--or as soon as one came in.    I had been on an "interested" list since 2/22, but phoned in a commitment on the 16th and it arrived here (150 miles west) 4/23.  I am still waiting on my grip, battery (and 45mm lens) and the Oly website still has the battery grip marked "pre-order."  I have tried to prod them along on the grip, as I leave for my Montana  www.HorizonWorkshops.com next Friday, and would like that extra fire power.

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    • I said it before, but I will say it again. Anyone buying this camera owes it to themself to budget for the grip as well. It is a serious strength of the E-M5. IMO, you are going to love it.

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    • Well, I phoned B&H today and they said they had just received an shipment on the 15th of April and those had all been shipped out, so it looks like I'm in between shipments. Could be a while, but that's okay, it will allow me some time to save up some money for the grip or extra lenses!

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    • Thank you for the very nice review. I am one of those users quoted at the beginning: I am still (but not only) shooting film, and (but not only) with a Contax G2.

      A very quick question, and apologies if it has been covered somewhere else here: I know I can use my Zeiss lenses with an adaptor on the E-M5, but will they autofocus properly on the EVF?

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    • Bruto - no, I don't think they will. Only Olympus 4/3 lenses with the appropriate Olympus adapter keep electrical contact and AF. However manual focus is easy and you can magnify the image on screen or in the evf to get it precise.

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    • John, thank you. Is it the case for Zeiss (Contax G) lenses with all the other mirrorless brands and models? No autofocus with any adapter, just manual focus?

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    • Bruto, permit me to amplify the above limitation: I have seen NO adapters for MICRO 4:3, only regular "original" 4:3 mounts.   Indeed, I am contemplating one 4:3 for my Rolleiflex 3003 lenses onto my E-3.  

       

      I do have an Oly 4:3 to Micro 4:3 adapter already, but I'm unsure of pancaking these, especially with heavy German brass and glass.  I have been considering those offered by Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest:  http://cameraquest.com/adaptnew.htm  but you'll notice the MANUAL OPERATION limitations he warns of in his prologue.

       


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    • BRUTO:  I stand corrected!  M 4:3 fitment for Contax.

      http://checkout.cameraquest.com/catalog/product/4bbe8a6d948140fda8116c6b48fd092a

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    • Thank you Oculus, it is all very clear.

      Being close to the middle-age, with connected sight problems, having just manual focusing does not really help any decision on the purchase..

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    • Okay, so I'm still a little confused. Can one use a Panasonic or other manufacture micro four-thirds lens on the Olympus without an adaptor? Or does one need to acquire an adaptor to use a different manufacture micro four-thirds lens?

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    • Jerry: yes, a Micro Four Thirds lens is a Micro Four Thirds lens regardless of who made it. This is no different than using a Sigma F-mount lens on a Nikon camera, using a Tamron EOS-mount lens on a Canon camera, using a Tokina K-mount lens on a Pentax camera, etc. It's the mount that matters, not who made it.

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    • To confirm - an ancient Pentax manual lens on a cheap Chinese adapter works just fine BUT I cannot find out how to magnify the image on the screen to assist critical focus; it was easy on the EP1, and easy on the OM D with electronically coupled lenses. Anyone solved this?

      John, I asked My Oly contacts about this, here's the reply:

       Essentially, it can be done, but at a price.  You need to make one of the function buttons into the magnify option.  I'd set the FN1 to the manual magnify option.

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    • Battery Grips Available May 23

      Unfortunately, I leave for my Montana Horizon Workshop on Friday May 4.  Oly store just confirmed that ship date.  No word on the discrete battery which is also on Pre-Order.  Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery (BLN-1)

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    • Josh - thanks for that; I'd eventually worked it out, and with magnify set on the Fn2 button, and MF on the 'red dot' video button, taking control of focus falls nicely to hand. Now if I could just work out a one-button way of returning a magnified replayed image to normal size....

      It's a great little camera, easy to use once you've played with it a while. For the price, a printed full manual and hood for the kit lens wouldn't go amiss.

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