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.