The OM-D E-M5 is Olympus’s most highly specified four thirds camera to date, and its most attractive, but is its performance good enough to provide a lasting legacy?
The main appeal of the OM-D E-M5 is its stylish body, but there is much to talk about regarding what is going on inside the camera. Olympus has opted to use the existing four thirds-sized (17.3x13mm) sensor found in its digital Pen models and E-series DSLRs. Employing the existing micro four thirds-system lens mount means there is a wide choice of lenses already available for the E-M5.
Olympus also announced 75mm f/1.8 and 60mm f/2.8 macro optics at a similar time to the camera, bringing the total number of lenses in the Olympus range to 11. Add to this Panasonic micro four thirds lenses and third-party models, three Olympus lens converters, adapters for four thirds to micro four thirds and OM to micro four thirds, and the system is a large one.
There is a good debate to be had for four thirds versus larger formats such as APS-C or full frame, but for many photographers and situations the four thirds format is perfectly capable of producing excellent images. It also comes with several benefits over larger-format systems, namely a more compact size (especially when it comes to lenses) and a 2x focal-length magnification, which is great for users of telephoto lenses, as well as for increased depth of field when compared to a larger format.
Considering the 35mm styling of the E-M5, however, many would have loved to see it feature a full-frame sensor. Judging from past four thirds models, the sensor could be a sticking point for those desiring the utmost in image quality, low-light performance and control over depth of field. That said, image quality and performance improve with every generation and, as the latest model, the E-M5 may well do enough.
A major step forward is the camera’s 16.1-million-effective-pixel sensor, which is the highest resolution in any Olympus four thirds model and matches that of the flagship Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3. The 4608×3456-pixel output produces 15.3×11.5in prints at 300ppi, compared to the 13.6×10.2in prints of the previous 12-million-pixel (4032×3024-pixel) models, such as the Olympus Pen E-P3.
Unlike any other Olympus micro four thirds model, the E-M5 includes an electronic viewfinder. It has the same 1.44-million-dot resolution as the company’s VF-2 external viewfinder, which costs around £230 and is compatible with models such as the Olympus Pen E-P3.
The 3in, 610,000-dot LCD screen can be tilted for low- and high-angle landscape-format shooting, and features touch control. Touch shutter, metering and AF cover the large central portion of the frame, which is very useful for accurate focusing, exposure and quick control.
In what is a world first, Olympus claims its image stabilisation system works on a five-axis basis, which includes vertical and horizontal axes like many other systems, and a further three axes around rotational movement such as that caused by pressing the shutter release button. I have tested the effectiveness of this stabilisation, and my report can be found in the Build and handling section.
The drive mode includes a high 9fps burst for up to 11 frames, and a 4.2fps burst with continuous AF. The high-speed burst can be changed to lower rates, all the way down to 5fps, for a more extended burst. For example, a 22-frame capture is possible at 5fps.
The company also tells us that the E-M5’s AF system is the world’s fastest, with continuous AF employed so that the AF point is rarely far off before the shutter button is depressed. As in the current micro four thirds models, the E-M5 uses a 35-point AF system, which covers most of the frame.
In common with other Pen models, there are a number of art filters on offer, including dramatic tone, cross process, grainy film and a new key line for graphic-style effects. Added to the five colour modes, monotone and custom, this makes 18 colour modes.
There is the option to buy the camera with the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 ED kit lens, which has manual and electronic zoom, and macro settings.
The macro mode is set to a 43mm focal length and gives a close-focusing distance of approximately 6.5cm. There are a host of lenses in the system, and I also used the camera with the M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 (90mm equivalent) optic. For the test I had the HLD-6 grip and battery pack to use with the camera. For more information on these two items, see Features in use on page 46 .