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 ‘world’s fastest AF’ is a bold claim, and it’s one we’ve heard before. The clause to this statement from Olympus is that continuous AF must be active.
Certainly, in good light the system is near instant for static and moving subjects. Any one of 35 AF points in the large central portion of the frame can be individually selected, which is handy for precise focusing. In fact, like the metering, it is quicker to select the focus point by touching the relevant area of the frame on the touchscreen rather than using the arrows on the D-pad. This feature, which is also present in the latest Panasonic Lumix G-series models, makes critical focusing instantly achievable and is a real plus point.
Contrast-detection AF systems will always be compromised in low-contrast light, so this was one area where I was keen to test the camera. By and large I am pleased with its performance. A powerful AF assist lamp activates below a certain brightness and aids AF in low light no end. Successful focus is slower in low-contrast light, but in one slow movement rather than hunting back and forth on either side of the focus point. Careful selection of the AF mode helps in low light – spot AF over the subject, for example.
As well as manual focus, single AF and continuous AF, face priority is included. This ensures that a subject’s face is in focus. Interestingly, there is also face and eye priority, face and right eye priority, and face and left eye priority.
For portraits where the subject is not square on, the latter two modes are indeed useful. It is possible, for example, to ensure that the eye closest to the camera is the area in focus, and not the other eye, or, more commonly, the eyebrow. Focus tracking now works on a 3D basis and can be combined with face priority, which is a greathelp when the tracked subject is a person.
Images: Face and left-eye priority mode ensured that the closest eye is the point of focus