Hailed as the digital incarnation of the classic OM film SLR series, will the Olympus OM-D EM-5 be favoured as highly as its ancestors once were?
Over the past year there has been an influx of retro-styled cameras making their way onto the market; now it’s the turn of Olympus to enter the ring with the film SLR-inspired Olympus OM-D E-M5. On paper the OM-D makes for an exciting proposition, claiming to have the world’s fastest AF system alongside a host of other advanced features. And it’s for this reason that we were eager to get our hands on the OM-D to really put it through its paces and see whether there was more to it than just its good looks and famous heritage.
Features & Build
There’s no disputing the OM-D looks fantastic, successfully combining the classic OM film SLR aesthetic with modern, curved dials and a slick, matte black finish. Inside, the solid magnesium alloy body houses a Micro FourThirds 16.1Mp Live MOS sensor – the highest resolution chip seen on an Olympus CSC – that’s powered by a TruePic VI processor, enabling shooting up to a rate of 9fps when set to burst mode. On the back, the glossy 3in, 610k dot OLED touch screen dominates the rear of the camera, with a built-in 1.440k dot EVF sitting directly above it – another first for an Olympus CSC.
Kitted with our OM-D test sample came the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens. This rather unique piece of glass features a zoom ring that once pushed forward activates the Electromagnetic Zoom (E-Zoom) function, allowing for smooth automated zooming – great for minimalising jerking movements during video capture. There’s also a Macro function that can be accessed by holding the Macro button on the lens barrel and sliding the ring forward another click. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s a fairly lengthy lens, though, and with a fixed length of 83mm, when attached to the OM-D it gave a total depth of 135mm, making the camera not much smaller than an entry-level D-SLR.
Performance & Handling
The OM-D sits comfortably in the hand thanks to the protruding rubberised thumb-rest on the back, offering plenty of purchase. Two well-placed metal command dials sit on the top- plate, making it easy to adjust both the shutter speed and aperture using a thumb and index finger. In contrast, however, we were slightly disappointed to find that the other buttons were constructed of a lower quality plastic that felt spongy and often made it hard to determine if they had been fully depressed. We also found that the Playback and Fn1 buttons were awkwardly placed above the thumb rest, and their small size made them incredibly fiddly to access.
One area where the OM-D really shone was with its AF system. The lightning-fast focus was able to lock on to targets in a fraction of a second, with no signs of hunting. In low light it also performed well, though with a marginally slower response as it waited for the AF assist lamp to aid its efforts. Processor speed was equally impressive, and shooting at 9fps continuous, we were able to capture 15 RAWs, or 21 Large Fine JPEGs before the buffer slowed.
The large 3in touch screen resolved a sharp image with vibrant colour and crisp clarity, and activating Touch AF mode meant we could quickly set the active AF point by tapping where we wanted to set the focus. Pressing the Playback button to review our shots, we were able to browse through the results by simply swiping the screen with a finger – though using the D-pad proved a much faster method.
Value for money
The OM-D comes priced at £1149 when bundled with the 12-50mm lens, or £999 body-only. Looking at the same price bracket within the CSC market, it’s also worth considering the Sony NEX-7, which for £999 (with 18-55mm lens) has a larger APS-C sized 24.3Mp chip, and offers both a higher resolution 921k dot screen and 2.4M dot OLED EVF. That said, the OM-D does manage to level the playing field with its lightning-fast AF speed, touch screen and larger range of lenses.
With super-speedy AF and impressive 9fps shooting, the Olympus OM-D certainly lives up to its claims. But with a price tag overstepping the £1000 mark, we would have liked to have seen improved button quality and a pop-up flash. Having said that, it’s a solid performer, and if you’re in the market for a responsive and attractive interchangeable lens camera, the OM-D is certainly one to consider.
- Street price: Discontinued
- Resolution: 16.1Mp (4608x3456px)
- Sensor: FourThirds (17.3x13mm)
- Lens mount: Micro FourThirds
- Autofocus system: Contrast detect
- Focusing modes: Manual focus, Single AF, Continuous AF, Single AF + MF, AF Tracking
- Metering: ESP light metering, Spot metering, Centre-weighted metering, Highlight, Shadow
- Burst rate: 9fps ISO range: 200-25,600
- Shutter range: 60-1/4000sec and Bulb
- Viewfinder: EVF (1.44M dot)
- Flash: Yes (but not built-in) Hotshoe: Yes
- Monitor: 3in tiltable OLED touch 610k dot
- Video: Full HD (1920x1080 @ 30fps)
- Write Speed: 1.57secs RAW, 0.78secs JPEG
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC/UHS-I
- Dimensions: 121.0x89.6x41.9mm (WxHxD)
- Visit: www.olympus.co.uk
This review was first published in the August 2012 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.