Olympus may be reeling from one of the largest

Yokohama ? Olympus may be reeling from one of the largest scandals in Japanese corporate history but its latest camera, the OM-D E-M5, appears to be already winning over photographers in Japan. Damien Demolder reports from the CP+ Camera & Photo Imaging Show.

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While the Nikon and Canon stands at CP+ were mobbed by photographers eager to touch and try the new D800 and EOS-1D X, the camera that seemed to have caught the attention of the public ? as well as other manufacturers ? was the Olympus OM-D.

I suspected the OM series had a place in the hearts of most of those present, with everyone curious, and pleased, to see the old flame reignited.

I picked my time very carefully and queued for only half an hour to get to the demonstrating counter, but some others spent well over an hour waiting at more popular periods of the day. I hadn?t got to see it in the flesh at the CES show, as the news editor and technical editor had attended the press briefing, so this was my first experience of the camera in the hand.

Olympus OM-D

My queuing companion, Iraj from Iran ? now living in Japan ? had already made his mind up before he even got to the counter. He said he was buying an OM-D because he already had the lenses from his Olympus Pen E-P3 and loved the look of the new model. His only concern was that it doesn?t have a built-in flash, but it does come with a compact hotshoe model in the box. Listening to him, and looking at his portfolio on his iPad while we waited, he couldn?t have been more excited had he been visiting Santa.

At the desk, all the impressions were the right ones. The camera is more angular than the original OM models, with its slightly sharp ?prism? head, but it still looks very good. It feels good too, and in that hall filled with the latest and most modern, it stands out for its heritage design. It is solid enough, but light, and the hinge-bracket LCD somehow does not look out of place.

I tried the camera with its accessory battery grip (HLD-6) and enjoyed the echoed controls it provides when shooting upright, and the mechanical feel of the principle and secondary shutter releases. The dials turn with a delightful click and it all feels like cameras I used to love.

I didn?t get to use the kit flash, but did attach the more manly FL-600R (GN36m@ISO 100) and it felt perfectly balanced and still not heavy. It is actually quite hard to remember that this is a micro four thirds camera.

I?d been to the Epson stand earlier to inspect the range of high-resolution EVF chips the company offers under the Ultimicron brand name. But here, in the OM-D, was the product in use.

The display really is first rate. It?s bright, clear and the refresh rate is such that you don?t feel you are being restricted ? in the conditions of the exhibition stand at least. Epson says the chip can display 92% of the colours you?d expect from the sRGB colour space, and the native contrast ratio is 280:1, while the brightness level measures 460cd/m² and the display is made up of 1.44 million dots. Quite how Olympus has tuned this viewfinder I don?t know, but it certainly is very impressive on first viewing.

The rear screen is also excellent. Olympus has used a 3in OLED model that is bright, clear and sharp. It flips out 80° upwards and 50° downwards, and has touch controls.

Olympus OM-D

I was also very impressed with the power zoom controls of the 12-50mm lens that was fitted to the camera. The lens features a zoom ring that needs turning only slightly to get a smooth zoom action going.

It?s easy to determine the speed of the zooming via pressure, so you can make a slow action for a movie, or quickly get to the focal length you want in stills mode. The ?all-the-way-round? ring design works much better than other power zoom models that use a switch, as the switch position is not always easy to access in all orientations of the camera.

I didn?t attempt to assess image quality of the OM-D at this stage, as ? at the time of writing ? the camera still had a month before its release and there might be many changes before final production models are ready.

However, having seen the queue to try it out, and the excited looks on the faces of those at the front of the line, I suspect many people, like my new friend Iraj, will be buying it without waiting for a review.

Picture credits: Damien Demolder

[Editing by Chris Cheesman]

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Olympus OM-DOlympus OM-D

  • Martin

    I want one, just seen both silver and black bodied examples in a shop in my town, it looks a lot smaller than I imagined, certianly smaller than the EOS450D I just got rid off (hated that camara…) I have a E-PL1 and love it to bits and a 2005 vintage FujiFinePix S7000 again a great camera. Eventually I’ll have a OM-D in my collection…