Olympus OMD EM5 Review

Olympus OMD EM5 Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 as first splash-proof system camera 

With the OMD EM5 Olympus introduces the first splash-proof system camera. At the same time, after the Pen series, which has the same Micro-Four-Thirds lens mount as the OM-D, the Japanese manufacturer is reviving its own camera history for a second time and is now reviving the OM series digitally. Unlike Pen, the name “OM” is still in the minds of both retailers and many customers. The E-M5 features a retro design, an electronic viewfinder, the fastest autofocus in the world and a new 5-axis image stabilization of the 16-megapixel sensor.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • High-resolution, brilliant electronic viewfinder with folding screen as a supplement
  • High degree of customizability of the operation
  • Super image quality with crisp JPEGs, but can be further enhanced with a better lens
  • Excellently processed, splash-proof housing in a stylish retro design

Cons

  • Screen in 3:2 format provides for mourning borders with the 4:3 MFT standard format
  • Image stabilizer ensures constant background noise (especially annoying during video recording)
  • No integrated flash (mini attachment flash included)
  • Tripod thread outside the optical axis

 

With its robust, splash-proof housing in a retro design, which at the same time incorporates modern elements such as a high-resolution electronic viewfinder, handles, screen and many operating elements, it promises to represent the new top class of mirrorless system cameras with dignity. The rapid autofocus and high sensor resolution are also expected to play their part.

Almost exactly 50 years ago Olympus announced the first camera of the then analogue OM series. With this the manufacturer celebrates a small anniversary. The E-M5 is a good deal of what customers have been missing from Olympus digital system cameras up to now: a camera with built-in viewfinder and robust housing for sophisticated requirements – but it is still not a “professional Pen”. On the contrary, an Olympus manager revealed in an interview that a successor model to the E-5 is currently being developed. But let’s get back to the new OM-D we are talking about today: its housing is made of a magnesium-aluminium alloy and is protected against splash water. This also applies to the set lens M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50 mm 1:3.5-5.6 EZ, which was already announced last December. Just like the E-5, the OM-D E-M5 can withstand splash water, which means you can pour a bucket of water over it without damaging the camera or attached lens.

The heart of the camera is a high-speed live MOS sensor with 16 megapixel resolution. Together with the TruePic VI signal processor, it is so powerful that the E-M5 with the new 12-50 millimetre set lens has the fastest autofocus of all digital interchangeable lens cameras. We could already convince ourselves of this with a little hands-on, the OM-D really focuses fast. The sensor achieves a sensitivity of ISO 100 to 25,600. The TruePic VI image processor has two independently operating cores, so the camera is ready for operation even faster after shooting. While one processor core is still storing images, the other can already take care of the live image. In continuous shooting mode, a maximum of 9 frames per second is achieved, with autofocus tracking, the maximum is 4.2 frames per second.

Also new is the five-axis image stabilization. So far only two axes have been compensated: Rotates the camera around the horizontal and vertical axis. In addition, there are now horizontal and vertical shifts (already known from some Canon lenses as Macro IS) and rotations as a fifth axis. So far only Pentax in the K-5 was able to compensate for this, optical image stabilizers are powerless in the fifth axis. Olympus thus combines the latest capabilities of two manufacturers in one sensor-based system. For the first time ever, Olympus is using the sensor-based image stabiliser in film shooting, where the electronic image stabiliser was previously used. The video function with MPEG-4 storage brings it up to FullHD resolution with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, the frame rate can be set between 30, 25 and 24 frames per second. In addition to the integrated stereo microphone, it is also possible to connect an external microphone via a jack socket. The OM-D E-M5 also offers an HDMI connection.

An electronic viewfinder with 1.44 million pixels resolution is built into the camera. Phenomenal is the high refresh rate of 120 Hz, which enables a particularly fluid viewfinder image with minimal delays. The eye relief is 18 millimetres, so that even spectacle wearers can easily see the viewfinder. It is quite large with a magnification of 1.15 times. An eye sensor automatically switches between viewfinder and monitor. The rear screen of the OM-D can be folded 80° upwards and 50° downwards. It is a three-inch OLED with a capacitive touch screen and 610,000 pixel resolution.

The E-M5 also has a few interesting functions and innovations to offer: Creative Control allows the tonal value curve to be displayed in the viewfinder, allowing the shadow and highlight brightness to be adjusted directly. There is also a new art filter “Painting” that turns a shot into an illustration. The strength of the effect can be adjusted in two variations. A second variant has also been added to the “Dramatic” art filter: It can now be set to monochrome, which looks different from the “Grainy Film” filter. If you can’t decide on an art filter before, simply activate the art filter bracketing and then choose the most beautiful photo from the shots or keep all of them. The most unusual and innovative new function is Live Bulb: Here you can see a real-time display of the current exposure during a bulb long time exposure, so the image on the monitor becomes brighter and brighter starting from black. As with a development, you can watch the image being created bit by bit and stop the exposure just when you like the picture impression.

 

Since April 2012, the OM-D E-M5 is available in silver and black at a price of EUR 1,100. The set with the 12-50 millimeter lens is said to cost 1,300 EUR. The camera is supplied with the FL-LM2 splash-proof and dustproof attachable flash. Optionally there is the underwater housing PT-EP08, which allows diving to a depth of 45 meters. It should be available from July/August. In addition, the camera is optionally available with a matching battery handle, which is also dust and splash-proof. The HLD-6 consists of two parts: The first expansion stage provides a reasonable grip on the camera, but does not take an additional battery and makes the camera only slightly higher. The second expansion stage then also offers a portrait format shutter release including handle and a second battery slot. This increases the number of possible shots to 650 according to the CIPA standard, whereby the photographer can choose which of the two batteries is emptied first: The one in the camera or the one in the handle.

To match the new OM-D – but also all other Micro-Four-Thirds cameras – Olympus announces a number of accessory products. Two fixed focal length lenses are currently being developed and are scheduled to be launched on the market in the course of the year. The M.Zuiko Digital ED 75 mm 1:1.8 is said to be a fast telephoto lens (the focal length corresponds to a 35 mm lens of 150 mm) for portraits and indoor sports photography. The M-Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm 1:2.8 is Olympus’ first macro lens in the Micro-Four-Thirds standard and offers splash protection to match the newly introduced camera. The minimum recording distance is 19 centimetres, which results in an image scale of 1:1. Also new and suitable for the E-M5 is the splash-proof Four-Thirds adapter MMF-3, which is particularly suitable for the likewise splash-proof E-System lenses of the Pro and Top Pro series.

Olympus is renewing its flash system with the FL600R, the successor model to the FL360R. At ISO 100, it has a guide number of 36, can be controlled wirelessly and achieves an improved flash repetition time. The AF auxiliary light now consists of a white LED, because the classic AF auxiliary light of flash units is not suitable for contrast autofocus. The LED can also be used as a video light.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

The retro look of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 may not appeal to everyone, but it is still very successful. The camera is nicely compact and the housing, which is mostly made of metal, is excellently finished. At first you may not believe that the OM-D is also protected against splash water, but when you press the buttons or open the flaps you can still feel and see the seals. So it is no problem to use the camera in the pouring rain or in the spray during water sports as long as the camera is not submerged under water – for this purpose there is a suitable diving housing available as an accessory.

Despite its compact dimensions, the OM-D E-M5 fits surprisingly well in the hand. This is mainly due to the pronounced thumb cavity on the back. Olympus cleverly solves the grip problem for those who like to hold more in their hands. The accessories include a two-part handle. One consists of only a base plate with an additional grip reinforcement, which altogether offers a pleasant plus in grip safety without enlarging the camera too much. The second expansion stage then offers an additional portrait handle and a second battery. Especially the latter is not wrong, as it increases the endurance from 330 to about 650 shots according to CIPA standard. The five-pin lithium-ion battery, which by the way is not compatible with the pen cameras, is removed at the bottom of the camera. This is also no problem on the tripod, as the metal tripod thread is far enough away from the battery compartment. However, the tripod thread is outside the optical axis, which means, for example, a little more effort for panorama heads.

The SDHC and SDXC compatible SD memory card slot is located on the right side of the case on the handle for easy access. On the left side of the case you will find an HDMI as well as a combined USB-AV remote release connector. However, opening the rubber flap requires the screen to be folded down slightly – a somewhat unfortunate solution. Unfortunately, one looks in vain for a power supply connection. The rear monitor has a reasonably fine resolution of 610,000 pixels and offers a very bright and brilliant image thanks to OLED technology. Due to the fact that the screen has an aspect ratio of 3:2, but the camera natively records in 4:3, one has to live with small mourning borders at the left and right. With 16:9, on the other hand, which is used for example in video recording, the black borders are found at the top and bottom. In this respect 3:2 may be a good compromise between 4:3 and 16:9. The folding mechanism of the screen appears robust and practical at the same time. This means that you can shoot perfectly close to the ground and also over heads, while the screen is also practically independent of the viewing angle. That he is also touch-sensitive is not noticeable at first. This allows some functions to be activated directly on the screen as an alternative to using the keys. The focus point can be set and magnified at the touch of a fingertip for focus control, but releasing the camera in iPhone style is also no problem.

The OM-D E-M5 is also a camera for classic thinking users, but with its mirrorless concept they are open to modernity. The Olympus offers a true-to-life viewfinder, but it works electronically. With 1.44 million pixels, it has a very fine resolution, which means a detailed and sharp picture. In addition, the viewfinder is sufficiently bright, high-contrast and large, making manual focusing fun. In the viewfinder, a spirit level or a grid pattern can be superimposed, you can see a live histogram, an exposure preview in manual mode, the white balance and you can even adjust the tone curve in the viewfinder. The mechanical image stabilizer redesigned by Olympus makes the viewfinder image look nailed on and practically doesn’t shake at all, but the stabilizer provides a constant background noise that you can hear well with your ear close to the camera. The only drawback of the viewfinder is the slight delay in the viewfinder image, which is extremely small on the E-M5 and can be reduced even further in the action menu – although the image quality in the viewfinder drops slightly, which is not disturbing in action situations.

Olympus remains true to its maxims when it comes to operation. Although the menu looks modernized for die-hard Olympus users, it is divided up as usual and the settings go into great depth for some functions. However, the whole concept is rather confusing, you have to spend some time on it if you want to adjust the camera in every detail. Even some control buttons can be individually assigned, so that the most important functions can be conveniently accessed. The individual knobs offer a high key travel, which may seem a bit spongy and unusual at first. The arrangement of the control wheels on the upper side of the camera is also unusual, but very practical, as the thumbwheel can alternatively also be operated with the index finger. Due to the overlapping arrangement and different heights, confusion with the camera viewfinder at the eye is almost impossible when operating blindly. Of course the function of the wheels can also be adjusted in the menu.

Equipment

Even if the OM-D E-M5 gives the impression that it is only suitable for ambitious users, it offers all the automatic features that a “snap” needs. If desired, the camera will adjust everything itself, recognize faces, the subject situation, increase sensitivity, etc. However, the subject program can also be preset if desired, with the photographer having the choice of numerous situations. There is also a panorama mode, but this only ensures that the recording parameters remain constant, there is no alignment aid and certainly no practical panorama, as it is already common practice with many other manufacturers. But the E-M5 can shine with other effects: High-key or low-key images can be correctly exposed directly with a scene mode program and the camera smoothes the skin of the face if desired for a flawless appearance. Also of interest are the Art filters, of which Olympus now offers eleven. This can be used to achieve effects worth seeing, such as that of an old photo, a painting effect, a dramatic image impression with emphasized clouds or a miniature effect, to name but a few. Even after the picture is taken, it is still possible to edit photos in the camera. This includes in particular the option to develop RAW images with various adjustable parameters into JPEG photos.

In spite of all the automatic features, the camera cannot hide the fact that it has been developed primarily for ambitious photographers. It offers manual settings for all recording parameters, which can also be combined with automatic settings. Even in manual exposure mode, ISO auto can be activated so that, at a given aperture and exposure time, the image brightness is automatically adjusted within limits via ISO sensitivity. The E-M5 can take around eight photos per second, but only lasts for about two seconds or 15 shots. After that, the continuous frame rate breaks down to the storage speed, which is only 1.5 frames per second with JPEG or one frame per second with RAW, which corresponds to a storage speed of about 10-14 megabytes per second and thus does not at all take advantage of the more than 20 MB/s of the SDHC memory card. Also, the photographer must wait for the entire save operation to complete before viewing the images with the playback function; however, photography can continue at any time.

The OM-D E-M5 records videos in FullHD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) at a maximum rate of 30 full frames per second and stores them in MPEG4 compressed MOV format. Alternatively, it can also be switched to Motion-JPEG compression in AVI format, but in this case the maximum filming resolution is HD (1,280 x 720 pixels). The quick menu allows you to choose whether to manually control aperture, exposure time and sensitivity when shooting. The white balance and focus are also adjustable, but the autofocus is also permanently active if desired and constantly adjusts the focus. What is missing, however, is a manual sound control, and you need a special adapter to connect an external microphone, but the camera also has an internal stereo microphone. Somewhat annoying is the constant quiet whirring of the image stabilizer, which can also be heard when it is switched off. This is due to the new, similar to Pentax magnetically controlled image stabilizer, which requires the sensor to be held in the idle state. However, here it is positive to note how effective the stabilizer works, even wobble-free pans are possible without any problems. One almost has the impression of filming from a tripod or camera crane.

A special and highly innovative function of the E-M5 seems rather unspectacular at first: Live Bulb. For the first time, it is possible during a long exposure to view the increasingly brighter image already during the exposure, and then to end the exposure as desired. The camera has the B mode, where you have to keep the shutter button pressed, and the T mode, where you press the shutter button once to start the exposure and press it again to stop the exposure. Especially for creative photography like light painting Live-Bulb is very suitable. But even with long time exposures, where you don’t know the exposure time beforehand, you can stop exactly when the image appears bright enough.

Lens

Olympus has developed the splash-proof set lens M.Zuiko Digital 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ especially for the splash-proof camera, which has also been optimised for video recording. The double focal length extension factor (strictly speaking, only the angle of view is halved) results in a small image equivalent focal length of 24 to 100 millimetres, so that this set lens offers an unusually wide angle for a system camera. However, with a speed of F3.5 to F6.3, it is not exactly one of the faster lenses, which is a bit of a shame considering the size, the lens is about eight centimeters long.

The special zoom mechanism meets the needs of videographers who require particularly smooth and jerk-free zooms. The motor zoom does this perfectly, especially since you can control the zoom speed very sensitively via the zoom ring. If this rocking of the zoom ring bothers you, simply pull it back and you can rotate the zoom manually as usual. However, this does not feel and sound very good, because now the transmission suddenly becomes unpleasantly audible. Practically speaking, the length of the lens does not change during zooming or focusing. Another special feature is the macro button: If you press this button and move the zoom ring all the way forward, the lens groups in the lens are arranged differently and thus allow a lower close-up limit. This increases the reproduction scale to at least 1:2.78, which is already very good for a set lens, but cannot replace a real macro lens, which should be able to achieve a reproduction scale of 1:1. By the way, a viewing window on the lens indicates whether you are in macro mode, manual zoom mode or electronic zoom mode.

However, the distance setting is not displayed, even on the screen, when focusing manually. After all, there is a focus magnifier that can be switched on and that magnifies up to 14 times. The electronic focus ring on the lens allows both rapid and sensitive manual focusing, although this is even better with the viewfinder, as it resolves much more finely than the screen. Which area is enlarged can be freely determined, by the way. Those who use the autofocus will be amazed at its speed. No 0.2 seconds after the shutter release button is pressed, is already focused and and the picture is in the box. In the telephoto position, focusing and shutter release takes slightly longer (0.26 seconds) than in the wide angle. Such speeds cannot be achieved with comparable DSLR set lenses, especially when using the contrast autofocus. Olympus even claims to have the world’s fastest contrast autofocus, and our measurements show that Panasonic is on a par. Even in low light, the autofocus still responds well and is supported by an LED auxiliary light (which can be switched off) if necessary, but which naturally has a limited range of a few metres.

Speaking of Panasonic: Olympus and Panasonic work together in the Micro-Four-Thirds system, which means that the lenses are compatible with each other. This gives you the choice of twelve Olympus lenses and even thirteen from Panasonic. Another advantage for owners of an Olympus: Since Panasonic installs the image stabilizer in some lenses, but Olympus installs it in the camera, even unstabilized Panasonic lenses on an Olympus camera are image stabilized. The F1.7 20 millimetre from Panasonic, for example, is a popular choice, turning the Olympus into a light giant. The OM-D’s image stabiliser works extremely effectively, so that blurring caused by the subject rather than camera shake is more of a problem for the photographer. Also those who want to adapt other lenses are not wrong with Micro Four Thirds, as there are adapters for nearly every interesting lens mount. With Four-Thirds lenses even with support for autofocus and aperture setting, all others have to be used manually, such as Leica-M lenses or those with Pentax-K connection.

Image quality of the Olympus OMD EM5

In addition to a built-in electronic viewfinder and an optional battery handle, the camera features a dust- and splash-proof body and lens. For the first time, an Olympus system camera also has 16 megapixels of resolution, and even with a maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600, the OM-D E-M5 can impress.

 

The Olympus 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ lens shows a mixed performance on the OM-D E-M5, which in some cases differs significantly from that of the Pen E-P3. The distortion of the lens is quite low. In wide angle it is about 1.2 percent barrel shape, in medium and long focal length it is insignificant. The edge dimming is also well corrected, it is still most pronounced in the wide angle at an open aperture of F3.5 with about 0.7 f-stops, but it decreases as expected when stopping down. Interesting is the much higher resolution that the lens on the E-M5 shows in comparison to the E-P3. Here, the higher sensor resolution has a consistently positive effect, as the resolution increases by up to 30 percent both in the center and at the edge of the image. In wide angle almost 50 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) are achieved. Even up to aperture F8 the resolution is over 40 lp/mm at any focal length. Only then the diffraction becomes noticeable, but at f-stop 11 the resolution still remains on a good level. The marginal drop in resolution is a good 35 percent at wide angle with an open aperture and less than 20 percent at medium focal length. For a set lens and a quadruple zoom with a focal length of 24 millimetres corresponding to 35 mm in wide angle, the values are quite respectable. In comparison with other manufacturers, it can be seen that a slightly higher quality set lens has a noticeably positive effect on image sharpness and, above all, its uniformity.

However, the Olympus 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ has an Achilles heel: Chromatic aberrations are particularly pronounced in wide angle. Especially the maximum deflections are very unattractive in the wide angle with a width of four to five pixels. But even in comparison on a print of about A4 size, the color fringes are stronger than with another copy of this lens on the Pen E-P3. But even on this one, the 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ did not exactly stain itself with glory regarding the color fringes. As is often the case, it turns out that different parameters have to be taken into account in lens design, so that lenses always represent a compromise between the correction of various image errors and the price.

As mentioned at the beginning, the OM-D E-M5 offers a high sensitivity of up to ISO 25,600, but laboratory measurements have shown that sensitivities starting at ISO 200 are consistently 1 2/3 stops lower than set. In real life, the camera starts at around ISO 120 and ends at ISO 14.200. This also means that the camera as a whole exposes rather carefully and eroded highlights are not a common occurrence. The signal-to-noise ratio can only be described as satisfactory. At best at ISO 200, the E-M5 scratches at the good range, which starts at 40 dB. Up to ISO 1,600, on the other hand, it is at a sufficient level of over 35 dB, above which the image and noise signal no longer differ clearly enough. Also, the noise reduction is only able to keep the image reasonably noise-free up to ISO 1.600, above that the brightness noise increases more and more and becomes visible, above ISO 12.800 even strongly. Olympus has better control over colour noise, which only appears at over ISO 12,800, where you can’t expect no noise from a camera with a sensor in Four Thirds format, even APS-C cameras can’t do that.

 

The input dynamics also show that ISO 1.600 is a “magic” threshold. Up to this point, a high dynamic range of over eleven f-stops is achieved, above which it drops rapidly: Ten f-stops at ISO 3.200, nine f-stops at ISO 12.800 and a poor eight f-stops at ISO 25.600. Looking at how the noise reduction handles details, it is surprisingly good up to and including ISO 3.200. Only at ISO 6.400 do the laboratory measurement values show a significant loss of detail. All in all, you can be quite surprised by the noise performance of the E-M5, the Olympus easily beats the Samsung NX200, for example. This applies equally to noise, detail at high sensitivity and the lens quality and sharpness or resolution – even though the Samsung has the larger and also slightly higher resolution sensor with more and larger pixels.

 

However, Olympus is also a champion in JPEG image processing in which the measurements are made. For example, Olympus uses an offensive processing of the images, which is especially true for sharpness and tonal values. The sharpness (but with corresponding artifacts) and the steep tone curve flatter the eye and provide a subjectively crisp image impression, so that the photos can be printed without further processing. But those who want to process the images on the PC should fall back to the RAW-format, as here, they do not have to struggle with these artefacts and other “image falsifications”. The Olympus, on the other hand, reproduces colours rather reservedly. The colour tones are amazingly accurate, but the warm tones are a little more saturated, which in turn leaves a subjectively rather pleasant impression.

When it comes to autofocus, Olympus claims to have the fastest camera currently available according to Olympus test conditions. This applies not only to system cameras, but also includes professional DSLRs. The autofocus was indeed fast in our test: 0.17 seconds in wide angle and 0.26 seconds in telephoto. This means that the telescopic position, although still raging fast, is more than 50 percent slower than the wide-angle position. However, there was a camera that was faster in our lab than the OM-D E-M5: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 needed only 0.16 seconds in wide angle and 0.2 seconds in telephoto to focus. In any case, the system cameras have thus arrived at speed ranges that the buyers of a DSLR with a standard lens can only dream of. The OM-D E-M5 is faster than the Panasonic with the shutter release delay measured without automatic focusing, which is between 0.04 and 0.05 seconds.

 

Unfortunately, the lens shows a rather mediocre performance on the OM-D E-M5, which somewhat clouds the overall picture quality result. Even better overall results could be achieved with high-quality fixed focal lengths such as the aforementioned F1.7 20 millimetre from Panasonic or the outstanding F1.8 45 millimetre from Olympus. At least the distortion of the 12-50 is quite small. In wide angle it is about 1.2 percent barrel shape, in medium and long focal length it is insignificant. The edge dimming is also well corrected, it is still most pronounced in the wide angle at an open aperture of F3.5 with about 0.7 f-stops, but it decreases as expected when stopping down. The resolution is interesting, in wide angle almost 50 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) are achieved. Even up to aperture F8 the resolution is over 40 lp/mm at any focal length. Only then the diffraction becomes noticeable, but at f-stop 11 the resolution still remains on a good level. The marginal drop in resolution is a good 35 percent at wide angle with an open aperture and less than 20 percent at medium focal length. For a set lens and a quadruple zoom with a focal length of 24 millimetres corresponding to 35 mm in wide angle, the values are quite respectable. In comparison with other manufacturers, it can be seen that a slightly higher quality set lens has a noticeably positive effect on image sharpness and, above all, its uniformity. However, the Olympus 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ has an Achilles heel: Chromatic aberrations are particularly pronounced in wide angle. Especially the maximum deflections are very unattractive in the wide angle with a width of four to five pixels.

The OM-D E-M5 offers a high sensitivity of up to ISO 25,600, but laboratory measurements have shown that sensitivities starting at ISO 200 are consistently 1 2/3 stops lower than set. According to the measurement, the camera starts at about ISO 120 and ends at ISO 14.200. This also means that the camera as a whole exposes rather carefully and eroded lights are not part of the daily routine. The signal-to-noise ratio can only be described as satisfactory. At best at ISO 200, the E-M5 scratches at the good range, which starts at 40 dB. Up to ISO 1,600, on the other hand, it is at a sufficient level of over 35 dB, above which the image and noise signal no longer differ clearly enough. Also, the noise reduction is only able to keep the image reasonably noise-free up to ISO 1.600, above that the brightness noise increases more and more and becomes visible, above ISO 12.800 even strongly. Olympus has better control over colour noise, which only appears at over ISO 12,800, where you can’t expect no noise from a camera with a sensor in Four Thirds format, even APS-C cameras can’t do that.


The input dynamics also show that ISO 1,600 is a magic threshold. Up to this point, a high dynamic range of over eleven f-stops is achieved, above which it drops rapidly: Ten f-stops at ISO 3.200, nine f-stops at ISO 12.800 and a poor eight f-stops at ISO 25.600. Looking at how the noise reduction handles details, it is surprisingly good up to and including ISO 3.200. Only at ISO 6.400 do the laboratory measurements show a significant loss of detail. All in all, you can be quite surprised by the noise performance of the E-M5, the Olympus easily beats the Samsung NX200, for example. This applies equally to noise, detail at high sensitivity and thelens quality and sharpness or resolution – even though the Samsung has the larger and also slightly higher resolution sensor with more and larger pixels.

However, Olympus is also a champion in JPEG image processing in which the measurements are made. For example, Olympus uses an aggressive processing of the images, which applies above all to sharpness and tonal values. The sharpness (but with corresponding artifacts) and the steep tone curve flatter the eye and provide a subjectively crisp image impression, so that the photos can be printed without further processing. But those who want to process the images on the PC should fall back to the RAW-format, as here, they do not have to struggle with these artefacts and other image falsifications. The Olympus, on the other hand, reproduces colours rather reservedly. The colour tones are amazingly accurate, only the warm tones are a little more saturated, which in turn leaves a subjectively rather pleasant impression.

Conclusion

With the OM-D E-M5, Olympus has created a big hit for ambitious amateur photographers. The mirrorless system camera is convincing in terms of both workmanship and technical features, especially since it was the only splash-proof system camera on the market by early 2013 after it was launched. The handling is typical for Olympus, especially in the menus, a little confusing. But if you take a closer look at the camera, you will find a wide range of setting and individualisation options that leave hardly anything to be desired. There is also hardly anything to complain about in the image quality. The E-M5 is extremely crisply tuned in JPEG, delivering vibrant photos straight from the camera. The RAW format, on the other hand, offers all the usual editing possibilities, even in the camera with the built-in converter. The 12-50 millimeter set lens is basically a success, but could be a little bit brighter. Its image quality is also not perfect, so that you can get even more out of the camera with a fixed focal length. You will hardly regret slaughtering your piggy bank to buy the OM-D E-M5, even if you are not an ambitious photographer, but above all value good design, high quality workmanship and good image quality, because the OM-D also knows how to convince with its automatic and creative art filters.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Olympus
Model OM-D E-M5
Price approx. 1300 ** at market launch
Sensor Resolution 16.1 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.608 x 3.456
(aspect ratio) (4:3)
Lens 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ
Filter thread 52 mm
Viewfinder electronically
Field of view 100 %
Enlargement 1,15 (0,58 compare with KB)
Resolution 1.440.000
Dioptre compensation -4 to +1 dpt.
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 610.000
rotatable
swiveling yes
as viewfinder yes
Video output AV and HDMI (each PAL/NTSC)
as viewfinder yes
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes (B and T mode)
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/baby yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
Additional scene modes 13 other scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, center-weighted Integral, Spot, Highkey, Lowkey
Flash yes (attachable)
Guide number 6.4 (measurement)
Flash connection Standard system flash shoe
Remote release Cable
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format MOV or AVI
Codec H.264/AVC or Motion-JPEG
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
Frame rate (max.) 30p
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 200-25.600 (upper limit adjustable)
manually ISO 200-25,600
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, flash, underwater, manual color temperature selection
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 35
AF auxiliary light orange
Speed approx. 0.17-0.26 s
Languages English
further 33
Switch-on time 1,0 s
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Weight
(Ready for operation)
approx. 420 g (housing only
)approx. 620 g (with lens**)
Continuous shooting function*
Number of serial images 15 (JPEG
)15 (RAW)
Frequency (frames/s) 8.3 (JPEG) 8.0 (RAW)
Continuous run
(images/s)
1.5 (JPEG
)1.0 (RAW)
with flash yes
Zoom
Zoom adjustment at the lens
Zoom levels infinitely variable
Time WW to Tele 1,7 s
Memory speeds*
JPEG 1.0 s (6.9 MByte)
RAW 1.4 s (13.8 MByte)
Trip during saving possible. yes
Battery life approx. 330 pictures (according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable
“* with Panasonic 4 GByte “Gold” Class 10 SDHC memory card**
with lens Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ

Brief assessment

Pros

  • High-resolution, brilliant electronic viewfinder with folding screen as a supplement
  • High degree of customizability of the operation
  • Super image quality with crisp JPEGs, but can be further enhanced with a better lens
  • Excellently processed, splash-proof housing in a stylish retro design

Cons

  • Screen in 3:2 format provides for mourning borders with the 4:3 MFT standard format
  • Image stabilizer ensures constant background noise (especially annoying during video recording)
  • No integrated flash (mini attachment flash included)
  • Tripod thread outside the optical axis

Firmware update 1.9 for the Olympus OM-D E-M5: corrections

Olympus has released new firmware version 1.9 for the OM-D E-M5 mirrorless system camera. This modifies the brightness and shadow control function so that the exposure is set correctly even at ISO 2,000 and higher. In addition, a bug is fixed that occasionally caused the camera to stop responding during long exposures. The update is done as usual with Olympus using the “Digital Camera Updater” software, which loads the firmware from the Internet and transfers it to the camera via USB. If you are unsure about this procedure, you should ask your dealer or Olympus support for assistance.

Olympus OMD EM5 Pro Kit and Firmware Update 2.0 for the OMD EM5: Product Maintenance

Besides the new OM-D E-M10, Olympus is also doing something for the first OM-D model, the E-M5. These are now available in black in a Pro Kit together with the splash-proof black M.Zuiko Digital 12-40 mm 1:2.8 ED at a price of almost 1,500 EUR. The 12-40 mm is the first lens of the M.Zuiko Digital Pro series, which is said to excel with its particularly high image quality as well as its splash water protection. More lenses of this category will follow. But Olympus also maintains the firmware of the OM-D E-M5 and extends it with two useful functions.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is now also available with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40 mm 1:2.8 Pro in a set called “Pro Kit”. [Photo: Olympus]

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 M.Zuiko Pro Kit including M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40 mm 1:2.8 Pro is only available in black, it is said to cost just under 1,500 EUR. [Photo: Olympus]

Olympus is also providing new firmware 2.0 for the OM-D E-M5, which brings ISO Low/100 and a smaller AF target area. [Photo: Olympus]

On the one hand, the AF target field can be further reduced to allow even more precise focusing on a subject detail. On the other hand, the firmware version 2.0 offers ISO 100 or ISO Low, which allows the high speed of lenses in bright environments to be used even better. The OM-D E-M5 Pro Kit already has the new firmware installed. Owners of an OM-D E-M5 can easily update their firmware themselves. All that is required is to download and install the Digital Camera Updater from the Olympus support website. Then you connect the camera and computer via USB and start the software that recognizes the camera and downloads the firmware from the Internet and uploads it to the camera. It is important to fully charge the battery and not to disconnect the camera from the computer during the update process. The exact procedure is described on the Olympus website and if you are not sure about the update, you can also contact the camera service or your dealer.

Manufacturer Olympus
Model 12-40 mm 2.8 ED (EZ-M1240)
Price (EIA) 999,00 EUR
Bayonet Micro Four Thirds
Focal length range 12-40 mm
Luminous intensity (maximum aperture) F2.8 (continuous)
Smallest aperture F22
Lens system 14 lenses in 9 group incl.
ED and aspherical lenses
KB full format irrelevant
Number of aperture blades 7
Close-up limit 200mm
Image stabilizer available no
Autofocus available yes
Water/dust protection yes
Filter thread 62 mm
Dimensions (diameter x length) 70 x 84 mm
Lens weight 382 g

Olympus OMD EM5 data sheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0
)17.2 megapixels (physical) and 16.1 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 3.7 µm
Photo resolution
4.608 x 3.456 pixels (4:3)
4.608 x 3.072 pixels (3:2)
4.608 x 2.592 pixels (16:9)
3.456 x 3.456 pixels (1:1)
3.216 x 2.144 pixels (3:2)
3.200 x 2.400 pixels (4:3)
2.400 x 2.400 pixels (1:1)
1.296 x 864 pixels (3:2)
1.280 x 960 pixels (4:3)
1.280 x 720 pixels (16:9)
960 x 960 pixels (1:1)
Panorama Stitch panorama assistant (for external stitching)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 30 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 30 p
Maximum recording time 29 min 59 sec
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)
AVI (Codec Motion JPEG)

Lens

Lens mount
Micro Four Thirds

Focus

Autofocus mode Contrast autofocus with 35 measuring fields
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Tracking AF, Manual, AFL function, AF assist light (LED), Focus magnifier (14x)
Sharpness control Live view

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 3.0″ (7.6 cm) OLED monitor with 610,000 pixels, non-reflective, brightness adjustable, color adjustable, tilts 90° up and 45° down, with touchscreen
Video finder Video viewfinder (100 % field coverage) with 1,440,000 pixels, 1.15x magnification factor, dioptre compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 324 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 60 s (automatic
) bulb with maximum 1,800 s exposure time
Exposure control Fully automatic, Program automatic (with program shift), Shutter automatic, Aperture automatic, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 7 shots, 1/3 to 1 EV increments, HDR function
Exposure Compensation -3.0 to +3.0 EV with step size from 1/3 to 1/1 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 200 to ISO 25,600 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 25,600 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release
, remote control from computer: no
Scene modes Automatic, Documents, Fireworks, Children, Landscape, Macro, Night scene, Night portrait, Portrait, Sunset, Sports, Beach/Snow, 12 more scene modes
Picture effects Cross-processing, Fisheye, Pinhole camera, Miniature effect, Blur, Cross process, Dramatic sound and nine other effects, Grainy film, Pop art, 6 other image effects
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, White balance bracket, Fine tuning, Shadow, Flash, Underwater, Fluorescent, Tungsten light, from 2,000 to 14,000 K, Manual 2 memories
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 9.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 70 stored images, For JPG images 9 fps at maximum resolution until the memory card is full
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Timer Timer/interval recording, start time adjustable
Recording functions Mirror lock-up, AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash no built-in flash availableHot shoe
: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contactSmall
attachable flash FL-LM2 included
Flash range Flash sync speed 1/250 s
Flash code Guide number 10 (ISO 200)
(Supplied with attachable flash)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, high-speed sync, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, manual flash output (4 levels), red-eye reduction by pre-flash, master function (4 channels and 4 groups), flash exposure correction from -3.0 EV to +3.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Olympus BLN-1 (lithium-ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 1,220 mAh
)330 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Image cropping, image rotation, image protection, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier with 14.0x magnification, image index
Face recognition Face recognition
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, color saturation, noise reduction
Special functions Electronic spirit level, Grid fade-in, Pixel mapping, Orientation sensor, Live View, User profiles with 4 user profiles
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods DPOF, PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″ not in optical axis
Housing Splash water protection, frost-proof up to -10 °C
Special features and miscellaneous Sensor cleaning systemEye sensor
for switching from monitor to viewfinder modeArt filter
Exposure bracket800
selectable AF points when viewfinder magnifier function is activatedVideo effect
echo and multi-echoLive Bulb function

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 121 x 90 x 42 mm
Weight 425 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Olympus BC-2 (case cover
)Olympus BCN-1 Special battery chargerOlympus
BLN-1 Special batteryOlympus
CB-AVC3 Audio / Video cableOlympus
CB-USB6 USB cableOlympus
FL-LM2 Other Flash UnitôtCharger
BCM-1USB connection cableAV cableStrap strapImage editing softwareOlympus Viewer Software for Windows and Macintosh
additional accessories Olympus AC-1 AC adapterOlympus
BLN-1 special batteryOlympus
FC-WR (radio control unit) Flash accessoriesOlympus
FL-700WR attachable flash with swivel reflectorPanasonic
Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25 mm 1.7 (H-X1025) zoom lensSD
memory cardsEye cup
EP-11, flash units FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-300R, FL600R
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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.