Geartalk: First Impressions Olympus OM-D EM-5

A lot of ink has been dedicated to the Olympus OM-D EM-5. It comes from a rich history, the OM series of cameras. A stroke of marketing genius to bring it back, add the -D, and push it as the climax of everything the Micro Four Thirds (M43) consortium has learned over the last couple of years. Does the end product match the hype? 

I must admit, i’m a fan of the M43 system. Small, powerful and versatile, it let me take a camera to places, and take photographs from angles and perspectives that a large full bodied DSLR can’t. Many of my most interesting photos in my Flickr-stream were taken with the Olympus Pen Mini, the smallest full featured M43 camera in the market. So you can imagine when the OM-D was announced several months ago, i was particularly excited to see what it could do, especially as it was claimed it resolved some of the weaknesses of M43 cameras that came before — poor high ISO performance, lack of EVF, lack of image stabilization. Would the OM-D deliver?

Edit: Small sensor issues such as as lack of DOF and subject separation have been handled by the M43 consortium by putting out some amazing lenses. The Panasonic Leica 25/1.4, the Olympus 12/2, the Olympus 45/1.8 and the highly anticipated upcoming Olympus 75/1.8 all produce amazing bokeh and gives the photographer substantial control over the DOF.

After shooting with the camera for a couple of days, i’ve got to say i’m impressed with it. Low light performance? Very good, much better than my Canon 5D Mark II – which isn’t saying too much; but saying it’s on par within a usable range with the 5D Mark III would be saying lots about how good it is. AF speed? Super fast, blink and you’ll miss it. The much-discussed 5-axis Image Stabilization? Awesome, shooting handheld never felt so “safe”. IQ (image quality) and IR (image rendering)? Amazing, much better with the same lenses than the smaller brother, the Olympus Pen Mini. 

Is it perfect? Nothing is, but i think the issues i have with the camera are probably an issue of personal taste, some will agree, some won’t, to either a lesser or greater degree either way. For example, i’m really not digging the rear buttons, they seem to be getting in the way for a comfortable hold of the camera at rest. Battery life isn’t great either, and after 4-5 solid hours of shooting, it’s down to the last 1/3 bar of juice (in comparison, a Canon 5D MarkII can go on an on for a full day and still have 75% power remaining). AF accuracy while generally solid, fast and snappy, does seem to miss a little more than i’m used to; when it nails it, it’s tack sharp. But when it misses, i could i sworn i had it in the EVF, so that’s throwing me off a bit. 

On the balance of things, i feel i have a lot more to be excited about. Most importantly, i’m having fun snapping away with it, and enjoying the experience. Bottom line, that’s what counts the most.

The following photos have are from a walkabout in KLCC; all have been processed using my standard Lightroom workflow. Doing this allows me to compare output with the rest of my photos that i process the same way, thus giving me a truer indication of what i’m able to expect when i use this camera. 

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Shot with the excellent Olympus 45mm f1.8. Notice the dynamic range, despite the strong highlights in the background, the foreground detail is faithfully captured. 

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Notice the IQ rendering. The detail retained is stunning.

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Heavy mixed light sources and WB. Colour saturation is near perfect, only requiring minor adjustment. Despite the difficult lighting conditions, exposure metering didn’t fail.

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Another example of excellent control given difficult high contrast scenario under very bright sunlight.

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Outdoors, direct light conditions are a piece of cake for the OM-D (as expected considering it gets the tough ones right). But just checking. In particular, notice the colour saturation in the green. No colour adjustments in this file required.

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Outdoors, mixed contrast scenario — no problem in the shadow highlights. 

More review shots will be added to this dedicated Flickr photoset. I’ve also had a chance to test the OM-D under EXTREME low-light conditions, will post those findings up next.

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