Review: Olympus OMD EM5

When I was given the Olympus OMD EM5 to review, on my recent trip to Scotland, I was pretty excited.

In reality, the more I used it in the unpredictable weather conditions in Scotland, the more I loved it.

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Yes the level of amazingness steadily grew, as I spent a good two weeks, testing the camera out.

The Olympus EM5 (E-M5 or EM-5) OMD is basically a rugged camera that can take a beating especially in rough weather. It is tough on the outside yet zippy and responsive on the inside. And to be honest, the exterior is pretty cool with its sleek retro look.

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The top of the camera is characterized by a couple of key dials. On the right of the camera above the small grip are two dials: one controls aperture while the other controls shutter speed on manual mode. Otherwise, one will control one setting while the other does exposure compensation. To the right of is a function button used to program the ISO setting. Behind that is a video record button.

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To the left of all this is Olympus’s hot shoe that doubles as a proprietary accessory port. To the left of all that is the mode dial.

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The back of the camera sports a large viewing screen but the delightful feature is that it has a view finder so you can choose to take a photo via looking at the screen, or looking through the view finder. On the top right is the playback button and another function button. Below this is a handy thumb grip that fits nicely into even smaller (female) hands.

Below all that are your typical run of the mill direction buttons, menu, info, and delete button. All the directional buttons are customizable.

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Oh, and the brilliant feature for tight spots, is the additional plus point, that the screen flips up.

Footnote: I took the photos above with my EP3. The rest of the shots were taken with the Olympus OMD EM5 in the unpredictable weather in Scotland, with sometimes some rather heavy rain coming our way.

Auto focus

This has got to be one of the fastest most responsive cameras I have used. The auto-focusing is very quick and even faster with touchscreen option. This all applies to tracking focus, continuous focus and single AF. When it comes to manually focusing, you are best off using the viewfinder.

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Image Quality

I found the image quality to be the best of all the other Olympus models, even without post production work or tweaking However, the Olympus EM5 raw files are extremely versatile and can be turned into some absolutely stunning images using Lightroom 4.

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To get the best results out of it, you’ll need to take advantage of the fast aperture prime lenses or the fix lens, and this works well for food photography as well. On this trip to Scotland, for landscapes and scenery, I used the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens and it did brilliantly to capture rolling landscapes and changing terrain.

Rib eye steak with red peppercorns

great for food photography – fine dining at Rocca Grill, Rusacks hotel, St Andrews

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takes good portraits – even of unsteady or moving subjects, like a baby in a train!

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scenic shots – St Andrews

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close up food photography – The Glass house, St Andrews

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candid shots – Morag’s Lodge, Lochness

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 Lens is a super-wide-angle lens compatible with Micro Four Thirds System cameras. It offers a 100 percent angle of view, and overturns the rule that super wide-angle zooms have to be big and heavy. With a length of just 1.9″ (49.5mm) and a weight of just 5.5 oz (155 g), it is less than half the size and 60% of the weight of the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6. With its wide angle of view, it makes it easy to include background scenery in group photos, and can be used to create unique images with a sense of dynamically exaggerated perspective.

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wide angle lens -perfect for photography in the Isle of Skye, Scotland

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Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

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The rare chance of catching sun breaking over the rolling plains of Scotland

Creative Freedom

What Olympus says: The Olympus E-M5 features a 3.0″ tilting OLED touch-screen to enable photographers to get up high or down low for any shot. The touchscreen interface offers intuitive focus and release of the shutter and review and enlargement of images in playback with the touch of a finger. The Live Bulb feature updates the Live View image on the OLED screen at pre-set intervals during long exposures and enables the user to preview continually unfolding action such as fireworks or waterfalls and adjust the exposure time accordingly while capturing the image at the desired moment. I managed to capture some stunning fireworks at the Hogmanay celebrations on New Year’s eve in Edinburgh. Also managed to get some lower perspectives of the Torchlight Procession at Hogmanay Edinburgh.

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managed to sneak in a low angle shot here, at the Hogmanay Torchlight procession

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High ISOs

The ISO function is well implemented. The camera will increase ISO up to the preset maximum to ensure the shutter speed does not fall into camera shake territory. I had so opportunity to test out evening and night scenes and in these, I think the camera did rather well. The photo of Forth Bridge below is shot in ISO1600.

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Flash

I was not supplied with a flash but it comes as a detachable unit. I have read elsewhere that the EM5 has sophisticated off camera flash capabilities but I have not tested this aspect of performance.

Weatherproofing

Well Scotland is known for its liquid sunshine and rather erratic weather. I think the EM5 took the hard rain like a champ. It was able to focus swiftly, didn’t suffer from any major problems in terms of functionality and even still was able to produce excellent images.

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Glencoe – the famous site for the filming of the Bond Movie, Skyfall – challenging conditions – low light, rain and wind, but still managed an excellent shot

If you are one of those people who love adventure sports and to hike and take photos in all sorts of rough weather, then this is the camera for you. Not only do you get a super tough camera body but you also get access to loads of excellent lenses and many more accessories that are in the pipeline. In fact, Micro Four Thirds should be making all of their prime lenses weatherproof, e.g. the 12mm f2, 45mm f1.8 and 75mm f1.8 otherwise it would be a shame to pair fragile lenses with such a tough and sturdy camera body as the EM5.

Battery Life

Well with extensive usage, I had to charge my battery once in two days. This is a good improvement over the Olympus Pen batteries. However, I was a little unhappy with the fact that I cannot share chargers and batteries with my other PENs. That’s right – the EM5 has a new battery altogether which makes it inconvenient for PEN owners as you need two different chargers now.

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Conclusion

The Olympus OMD EM5 is a fantastic camera that will take the same beatings as you, the adventurous cameraman! The new sensor is terrific and renders images with low noise at higher ISOs. It is zippy and responsive and you will almost regard it as your intuitive travel companion, not just a camera.

 

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Thanks for the FB love!

 

Comments

  1. You got some nice shots with that one.

  2. wargh, the OMD + 9-18 is a great combination, I’d love to have that. My current favorite lens is the 45mm 1.8, you should check that out too. :D

  3. Nice review! My Olympus E-PM1 just recently died (damn you, humidity in Belize!), so I’ll be looking to replace it soon. Sounds like an upgrade to another Olympus camera like this one is worth considering!

  4. I would say the camera is a success. I enjoyed the photos here and also on instagram.

  5. Great photos especially the amazing nite and fireworks shots. I like the retro chic design of the camera too.

    • Thanks! that’s part of the reason why I like it so much too – it’s got a terrific body and fits into my handbag easily. DSLRs are not for me!

  6. Hi Ciki, I presume that you usually shoot with A settings. I find that when I use the A setting, my pictures have a shallower colour than when I use the iAuto setting. The iAuto setting actually does a better job capturing the original colours of my objects. I’ve tried using Vivid, Enhance etc. in the settings, but still, it seems that Olympus did something to the iAuto settings to make the colours like the original. Do you experience the same issues and also, may I know what your A settings are? Many thanks.

    • Yes same here, but I prefer the cooler colors shooting in Aperture priority. I find Auto priority too vivid for me.. the colors too intense. I guess it is just a matter of taste and preference;)

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