Olympus OM-D review

Review Date : Wed, 28 Mar 2012

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 takes its design cues from Olympus’ much-loved 35mm OM SLR range and is the first of a new line of Micro Four Thirds OM-D series cameras. Find out if the E-M5 is a natural successor to this line of classic cameras in the What Digital Camera Olympus OM-D E-M5 review.

Pros: Lovely design, premium build, solid performance and great images
Cons: Base ISO of 100 would be welcome

With the PEN range of Compact System Cameras, Olympus looked to its rich heritage for inspiration, and they've done the same with their new OM-D line, of which the E-M5 is the first model.

The original OM series is fondly remembered amongst photo-enthusiasts who loved these, small, high-quality and well-featured 35mm SLRs. The new E-M5 takes its design cues from classic OM series SLRs of old, and while it may be quite a different beast underneath from its film camera siblings, the philosophy remains the same - to be a compact, high-performance, quality camera for enthusiast photographers.


Is the OM-D E-M5 a natural successor to this classic line of cameras? Let's find out in the What Digital Camera Olympus OM-D E-M5 review.

Olympus OM-D review - Features

While the design may reference film SLRs, the OM-D E-M5 is actually based around the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds system, just like the still-current Olympus PEN series. But the OM-D E-M5 is more than just a restyled PEN with an electronic viewfinder.

Rather than sticking with the 12MP resolution of the current PEN range, the new E-M5 sports a new 16.1MP sensor - the highest resolution of any Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera or DSLR to date. On top of that, the ISO range is also very impressive, running from 200-25600 - the highest seen on a MFT camera, though a baseline ISO of 100 would have been nice to see and would probably be more versatile for most shooting situations.

With the mirror removed, this means there's no optical viewfinder. Instead, there's a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a coverage of 100% and a resolution of 1.44m-dots - similar in spec to the optional VF2 viewfinder for the PEN range. While the resolution is strong, its not quite a match for the EVF found on some rivals such as the Sony NEX-7, which features a resolution of 2.4m-dots. As well as the EVF, there's also a 3in wide, 610k-dot tiltable OLED touch panel screen at the rear of the OM-D E-M5. OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode technology, delivering better white and blacks and also consumes less power as well.

Olympus has also developed a new built-in anti-shake system for the OM-D E-M5. This 5-axis image stabilisation is designed to counter for pitch, yaw, vertical and horizontal motion. On top of this, it can also compensate for rolling movements as well, which can occur when the shutter button is pressed.

The OM-D E-M5, like all Compact System Cameras, uses a contrast-detect AF system, rather than the more traditional phase-detect system in a DSLR. Olympus has improved the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF system first seen in the Olympus PEN E-P3. While there's been an overall improvement in AF speed acquisition, the most notable changes are when it comes to continuous AF and tracking. In conjunction with the new 16MP chip, the OM-D E-M5 has a refresh rate of 240fps that results in a 2x speed increase in continuous AF over the PEN E-P3. There's also a new 3D tracking AF system that follows the subject through the X, Y, and Z axes to improve focus on moving subjects.

The burst mode is also impressive, with the OM-D E-M5 capable of shooting up to 9fps (frames per second) in Speed H mode, though if you want to shoot with continuous AF, Speed L is required, with the frame rate dropping to a still respectable 4.2fps (3.5fps with IS switched off).

The body itself doesn't feature a built-in flash, but the OM-D E-M5 is bundled with the FL-LM2 flash that attaches to the hotshoe of the camera. A nice addition is the inclusion of remote flash control, so you can trigger flashguns positioned off-camera for more creative lighting. 

The range of Art Filters on offer has also grown - there's now twelve filters on offer, with a new Key Line filter that enhances the edge lines of the image, while Cross Process II and Dramatic Tone II offer new variations on popular filters. If you're undecided which filter to apply, you can now bracket your filters - fire the shutter once and a series of shots will be recorded, each one with a different filter applied.

Along with the OM-D E-M5, there's also the new 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens that's bundled with the camera. This offers a 35mm focal length equivalent of 24-100mm, and rather than your traditional manual twist zoom, this new lens sports an electronic zoom mechanism for a smooth transition through the lens range, making it suited to video recording.

Sticking with the MFT system does mean that the OM-D has access to a pretty impressive lens range, with optics available not only from Olympus, but also Panasonic and now Sigma as well. This makes it easily the largest lens range out of all the Compact System Cameras on the market. Not only that, but for potential buyers who already have a set of OM lenses and haven't been tempted by the PEN range, there's the MF-2 lens adapter to connect OM lens to Micro Four Thirds cameras. 

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Price as reviewed

with 12-50mm kit lens


Features 18/20
Design 19/20
Image Quality 18/20
Performance 18/20
Value 17/20
Overall Score 90%

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