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?
Build and handling
For quite a few photographers, the body of the OM-D E-M5 will be enough to justify a purchase, without even considering its capabilities. Even those who don’t ordinarily use Olympus equipment may feel a little tempted. It is truly a well-crafted camera. As with the E-5 DSLR, Olympus claims that the magnesium-alloy body of the OM-D E-M5 is weatherproofed to withstand water splashes and dust. I was caught in a rain shower during a morning out with the camera, and the droplets pretty much ran off the body and sealed joints.
True to the styling of the Olympus OM film SLRs, the body of the E-M5 is small, with a defined and angular viewfinder box and textured front panels. I predict the black and silver version will be the most popular, although the all-black version still looks slick. Without the grip or battery pack, the camera measures 121×89.6×41.9mm. Placed next to an OM10 film SLR, the E-M5 is virtually identical in height and depth, but not as wide. With an OM lens attached to the camera via the micro four thirds to OM adapter, the feel and aesthetics of the OM series are even more apparent. Handily, OM lenses still benefit from aperture control.
One must rely on the well-defined thumb rest for a good grip when holding the camera with one hand. Brought to the eye and looking through the viewfinder, the E-M5 feels like a ‘proper’ camera. As with the OM film models, a handgrip is available separately for the E-M5. With the grip and battery pack in place, the handling of the camera is transformed, and I opted to keep them on for most of the test.
The LCD screen on the rear of the body gives away the fact that the E-M5 is a digital camera. Despite offering touch control, I mostly used the actual buttons to control the camera, which is a testament to the level of control on the body rather than a criticism of the screen, which is bright and clear. The on/off switch is true to the styling of the film OMs. Handily, there are twin dials for exposure adjustments.
I found myself visiting the viewfinder more than I referred to the screen. By offering both, images can be viewed and composed easily in any conditions. Manual-focus assist gives up to a 10x magnification on screen or through the viewfinder to ease critical focusing, and there are a few features to help achieve accurate AF, which I will go into later.
The effectiveness of image stabilisation differs depending on the focal length of the lens and just how much movement there is during handheld shooting. With IS set to auto, I found that with a steady hand I could achieve sharp, blur-free results from shutter speeds as slow as 1/10sec.