The Day in Pictures a photoblog by Gabrielle

Olympus OMD EM-5 – In Brief

Last week I was given an Olympus OMD EM-5 to test out. I only had a couple of hours with it, believe me as soon as it went into my hands, I knew was going to be too little. But as there are only 2 of these in the country I couldn’t really protest its departure. The EM-5 was lighter and smaller than I thought it would be but it had a good weight to it and I’d say the perfect size given my hands. I didn’t have the 2 part grip on at the time I photographed but I tried that later on and both variations make the camera exceptionally easier to handle.

I wanted to see essentially how this camera compared to my usual arsenal of film rangefinder cameras like the Bessa T and the Leica M6 could hold up on the street. Both are obviously heavier and are manual focus and exposure. And they take film. What? Film. You know. That celluloid stuff photographers use to be made of? I am a traditionalist, but not a Luddite. I own and frequently operate Nikon D700s D3s and D3x as well as Canon 5D Mark II, 7D and the Mark IV. My previous experience of point and shoot digital cameras started with Sony Cybershots and has gradually climbed to the Panasonic GF1 (with which I shot most of the material on this blog) which I bought when it was first released. I have also played enviously with my friend’s Olympus EP-3. Until now.

To go with the ‘snapshot’ analogy: I am use to shooting rifles. So what could I do with a camera which is the equivalent of a fully automatic weapon? Say a Kalashnikov? What I noticed immediately was the focusing speed and pressure response of the trigger button, the clarity of the viewfinder, the relative silence, and the rapid fire speed.  And yes, I did use the tilting screen and touch focus. Brilliant. Nothing in my opinion beats optical viewing, but when that is not possible, the build in Olympus EVF will definitely do. The menus were easy to operate and access and the settings on the camera were simple to adjust. I didn’t have  a lot of time with a manual or any instructions before I got the camera so I had to figure out how to use it on the go. And that was not a problem.

I was astonished at how much closer I could get to my subjects (random people on the street) and how long I could spend photographing them before they realised. This camera was definitely a stealth operator, smaller and faster than any digital camera I’ve ever used. This is one of the reasons I do not use my D700 on the street. It’s just too big and too loud. In fact it’s the reason I gravitated towards rangefinders early on. Additionally, for a tiny quiet camera it boasts 16MP and is highly low light capable. The dynamic range is also fantastic. If I had been shooting RAW files I’d have relatively little work to do for inside/outside shots. What I was use to seeing blown out on my other cameras was actually coming up with a generous amount of detail.

In short I’ll be pre-ordering one of these this week. With grip. And the 45mm lens because in addition to stepping back and observing scenes, I like to get close up too as you’ll see if you visit my regular site.

All these images are straight out of the camera JPEGS with no manipulation.  See all the images here.

13 Responses to Olympus OMD EM-5 – In Brief

  1. Thanks for posting your findings with your short handson experience Gabrielle. Your sentiments are exactly why i’ll be buying an E-M5 with grip. Really interested to know how you found the 5-axis stabilisation and the AF focus speed too?

    • I was running around on the street at 1/125 when I should have been at 1/250 and I had no problems. I would attribute 1/2 of that success to the stabilisation. I didn’t test it specifically beyond that. But the data on the web would suggest that it is extremely effective. The AF speed was astounding. Faster than anything I’ve used so far. It killed my Nikon D700. Thanks for writing. I hope you enjoy your EM-5 when it arrives!

  2. Pingback: Micro Four Thirds Camera Blog – A short brief article on Olympus OM-D E-M5 - Micro Four Thirds Camera Blog

  3. Vlad says:

    “All these images are straight out of the camera JPEGS with no manipulation”.

    How about the third and the last pictures? Because they dont really look natural. Bokeh in the 3rd pic is like one of those iphone effect, and the vignette in the last pict is so unnatural that shows a rough transition from dark to bright.

    The 2nd picture however, will seal the deal. AMazing sharpness and ultra high DR,skin tone is awesome, and take a look at the top building onto the left side. See the sharpness and details. Simply awesome.. :P

  4. Pingback: The Day in Pictures » Olympus OM-D EM-5 UK Test

  5. dali dimmer says:

    There is noticeably a bundle to understand about this. I suppose you have made certain good points in functions also.

  6. Alex says:

    How would you compare the E-M5 to the GF1?

    My understanding is that most pictures in this blog are taken with the GF1. To me they look sharper/better than the sample pictures from the E-M5 above.

    Of course you have only a few hours and it’s a new camera. Also with what lens where you shooting?


    • Hi Alex, I wouldn’t compare them too much. They are different machines a generation apart. The EM-5 is faster at focusing, has a better EVF, faster at shooting, and has far more options if you’re into ‘looks’ in camera. That’s just the tip. The GF1 is small light and simple. It does the job. It is also 10MP where the EM5 is 16. The photos on here taken with the GF1 were taken with the 20mm 1.7 panasonic lens (which is wonderfully sharp). That same lens could be used on the EM5. The photos taken with the EM5 were with the 12-50 kit lens. Weatherproof but no where near as optically sharp as the say 12mm or 45mm Olympus (or indeed the 20mm Panasonic). So again it’s apples and oranges but I am trading up my GF1 for an EM5. I’ll keep the 20mm lens though.

  7. Magdelyn Choo says:

    Hi Gabrielle,

    I am Magdelyn from Olympus Malaysia Marketing Department. Can we host this blog entry in our OM-D Malaysia site

    Looking forward to your favourable reply. Thanks!

  8. Pingback: The Comprehensive, Continuously Updated Olympus OM-D EM-5 Reference File | THEME

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