EVF. (Don’t be fooled by the DSLR-like “pentaprism” on
the top of the camera, which houses the EVF.)
I’ve grown accustomed to EVFs but will take an SLR-style optical viewfinder over them any day. I also find
the split second it takes for the E-M5’s infrared sensor
to detect that I’ve put my eye in the eyecup to be a drag.
The camera’s 3-inch, tilting OLED rear display, however,
is wonderful for viewing images and videos in playback
or for composing over-the-head and down-low shots.
The aforementioned 5-axis image stabilizer is great
for keeping your shots steady but since it’s constantly
moving as it adjusts, it makes the camera give off a
white-noise type sound that, while not noticeable to
anyone aside from the photographer, was distracting
to me. (Others might not be bothered by it.) Thankfully,
the sound is hushed during video recording—the E-M5
records at full 1080i HD—so it’s not picked up by the
In terms of image quality, the E-M5 is one of the best
Micro Four Thirds-based cameras I’ve ever shot with.
There was an excellent tonal quality to the JPEGs I shot
with this camera and Olympus has clearly worked on the
“special sauce” to get the most out of this 16.1-megapix-
el sensor. Dynamic range was lovely and film-like. RAW
images were noisier but very manageable, even at up
to ISO 1600, making the E-M5 one of the best high-ISO/
low-light shooting Micro Four Thirds cameras I’ve tried.
While I quite liked the sharp 12-50mm kit lens (which is
helped, no doubt, by the camera’s 5-axis stabilizer), I just
couldn’t get used to its zoom function. If you slide the
zoom ring forward, the lens offers you a slow, smooth
zooming feature, which, I suppose, is designed for shooting video. Pull the zoom ring back, and it becomes a
somewhat rough mechanical zoom. Again, some photographers will have no problem adapting to this and
actually might like it but it never felt comfortable to me.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 resembles a shrunken SLR but it’s
actually a mirrorless, compact system camera.
in high school. (OK, maybe that was just me.)
But the E-M5 also reminds me a bit of that wacky
Eighties comedy movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
except with the E-M5, it’s more like “Honey, I Shrunk the
Camera.” And some users—including yours truly—will
find this mirrorless, Micro Four Thirds, compact system
camera’s cuteness to also be its biggest liability.
Take, for instance, holding the camera for long periods of time. If you have large hands, you’ll find having
two fingers dangling off the side of the E-M5’s small,
rubber textured grip will cause wrist strain. It’s sort of
like holding a teacup full of Earl Grey for an hour.
The buttons on the E-M5 are also tiny, hard to press
and, in some cases, strangely configured. For instance,
why are the miniscule Playback and Function 1 (Fn1)
buttons placed side by side, at an angle, making them
appear to be a zoom toggle? Why does pressing the
shutter button also cause you to put pressure on the
Function 2 (Fn2) button? But most of all, why is everything so dang small?
There are many people who will say, “But that’s
the point of the E-M5!” And they do have a point. The
camera is designed small to make it more discreet and
portable and it’s both of those things. Even with the
longish 12-50mm ( 24-100 equivalent) f/3. 5-6. 3 kit lens
attached, the E-M5 fit easily into my laptop bag. While
its dust- and splash-proof magnesium alloy body is solidly built and fully weather-sealed, the camera weighs
only 15 ounces with the battery inserted.
THE BOT TOM LINE
Maybe, in the end, that’s the best thing I can say about
the Olympus OM-D E-M5. It’s a cute-looking, retro-style
camera that’s capable of taking some fantastic quality
images and HD video but like its awkward-sounding
model name, it just never felt comfortable to me.
Olympus OM-D E-M5
PrOs: A cute little camera that’s packed with
features and offers excellent image quality
COns: Just never felt comfortable shooting
PriCE: $999 (body only, in black or silver);
$1,299 (black or silver body with black M. ZUIKO
Digital ED 12-50 mm f3. 5-6. 3 EZ lens)
RISKS AND SOME REWARDS
If you remember to turn the annoying beep off, the EM- 5
is a quiet customer and it’s quick contrast, detection-base autofocus system (dubbed FAST for “Frequency
Acceleration Sensor Technology”) combined with its
rock-solid 5-axis image stabilizer, made it a nimble performer for on-the-fly candids and street photography.
You’ve got to admire Olympus for taking risks. The
company was the pioneer of many features that are
now ubiquitous on digital SLRs including Live View;
flip-out, articulating vari-angle screens; and dust reduction. And in some ways, the E-M5 is another risk.
Many photographers will be charmed by this camera, which looks like a shrunken film SLR but is not an
SLR at all. Others will find some of the digital extras distracting, such as the electronic viewfinder (EVF), which
is sharp and offers lots of detail ( 1.44-million dots of
resolution) and 100 percent field of view, but is still an
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Photography © Shawn G. Henry
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