Olympus OM-D E-M5 – Mini Review

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Goodbye Nikon (APS-C)? Hello Olympus O-MD E-M5 (Micro Four Thirds 4/3)? Will the E-M5 convince me to switch to mirrorless cameras? With such a cool camera, it probably would! 🙂


The Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens


Hi everyone! Here is my mini review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5  with the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens (Limited Edition Elite Pro Kit). Christmas came early for me this year; as I managed to painstakingly save up some cash to buy this new gem. I must admit I haven’t been so excited about a new camera since my previous Nikon D200 DSLR. I was practically jumping for joy like a kid getting his first new bicycle! 🙂  I love the cool retro look that reminisce the old Olympus OM-1 film cameras from the seventies.

With this camera, I am moving forward to some new directions on my photography, namely travel & street photography and perhaps some light hiking too! FYI this is not a newly released camera but was released in 2012. Ever since its release, this camera has been one of the most reviewed and talked about camera in the internet. It’s hugely popular among camera enthusiasts and still a firm favourite.

I have been following the advancement of the micro 4/3 format since 2010 and I believe that with the E-M5, it has finally come of age. I have been previously unsure about its image quality when comparing with APS-C sensor sized camera, but with my new experience with the E-M5, I am blown away with the great pics I am getting! Besides, since it’s a two year old camera released in 2012, I got a great deal for a brand new kit that comes with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 kit lens!!


View of the E-M5 with the flip screen

View of the E-M5 with the flip screen

I won’t go into much details about the specification and deep technical stuffs here. Basically the E-M5 is a 16 megapixel micro 4/3 format mirrorless camera. Shown in this pic, the E-M5 has a cool tiltable screen which is also touch-senstive. Besides being a really cool retro looking camera, here are some of the reasons why I chosed the Olympus O-MD E-M5.

  1. Built-in EVF (electronic viewfinder) – I have been wanting to go lighter and smaller by trying out mirrorless cameras in the past such as with Sony NEX C3, F3 and Olympus Pen E-PL3, but I found it difficult to view the LCD screen in outdoor and bright sunny days. I also feel that I can get sharper images at times in low light with the EVF. The E-M5′s EVF is not huge like the new E-M1, but it’s good enough for me (marginally bigger view than OVF in the Nikon D5100 and Canon 550D which I have used)
  2. Lighter and Smaller – The E-M5 is a mirrorless camera; and m4/3 cameras and lenses tend to be much smaller, also thanks to the removal of the traditional mirror box for the optical viewfinder. I have mentioned before that I am bit tired of lugging around the conventional DSLR and lenses. The E-M5 with some lenses will weigh much less on my backpack and I can now do more walkabouts without feeling much strain on my back and shoulders. Hurray!
  3. Weather Sealed – The E-M5 has a weather sealed body, which is splash-proof and dust-proof. The last weather sealed camera I had was the Nikon D200 but I didn’t have a weather sealed lens back then. Now with the E-M5 along with the weather sealed 12-40mm f2.8 lens, I can worry less about moisture, dust and light rain when I go out to shoot.
  4. Very Fast Auto Focus – For a contrast detect auto focus, the E-M5 has very fast auto focus ability in good light using S-AF (single autofocus). Of course it may struggle a bit more in low light. I can switch to using the EVF to manual focus too with ease.
  5. ’5-Axis’ Image Stabilisation – E-M5′s IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) is one of the best around. Its ’5 Axis’ Image Stabilisation will help get sharper pics in low light and thus able to use lower ISO at times.
  6. Good ISO and Dynamic Range – Although the E-M5 has a 2X crop sensor (vs 1.5 or 1.6 APSC cropped sensor cameras), I find that it produces comparably good high ISO pics (up to ISO 3200, 6400 in a pinch) and reasonably good dynamic range, better than the previous generation of 12 MP m4/3 cameras.
  7. Tiltable and Touch-senstive Screen – The E-M5 has a cool option where you can touch the screen to focus and take the shot! I have tried it and the auto focus is blazing fast (in good light). This option is great as I can do some stealthy street photography by tilting the screen upwards, switch off the focus beep and touch the screen to take pics. Another plus is the ability to use the SCP (Super Control Panel) with the touch feature to adjust camera settings via the LCD screen!
  8. Soft Shutter sound – I really like the shutter sound on the E-M5. It has a muted clack instead of a loud click, much quieter than the conventional mirror DSLR. Great for street and candid shots or at quiet places like temples and churches.
  9. Art Filters – Like the other recent Olympus m4/3 cameras, The E-M5 also features Art Filters, which adds artistic effects on the pics. My favourites are ‘Dramatic Tone’, ‘Gentle Sepia’ and ‘Pin Hole’ effects. Some may say that it’s a compact camera gimmick, but for me it’s a cool function to have when you need it.


Top view of Olympus E-M5 with the 12-40 f2.8 Pro  lens

Top view of Olympus E-M5 with the 12-40 f2.8 Pro lens

The E-M5 kit that I got is a limited edition Japan version called ‘Olympus E-M5 Elite Black Pro Kit’. It comes with a gorgeous looking lens…the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro, which is a first Pro grade lens from Olympus.  With the camera’s new updated firmware 2.0, it also adds updates for the ‘Small AF target’ and ‘ISO LOW (100)’ setting. With this lens, both the body and lens is now weather sealed, a first for me. Another plus is a really close minimum focusing distance of 20 cm from the sensor plane…which is roughly about 5 cm from the lens! I haven’t tried the ‘L-FN’ function button yet, which I  can assign a frequently used camera function. I love this lens sharpness. Since it’s for a smaller 2X crop sensor, I can get really good sharpness level even at  f2.8 across the zoom range!


Olympus E-M5′s top view

Olympus E-M5′s top view

Another great feature I really dig is the twin dials (with the smaller dial around the shutter button) which enables me to quickly set the exposure parameters such as aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation (depending on which PASM mode I’m in). Both dials are big enough and nice to use; much better than my previous Nikon D5100 (btw has only one dial). There is also the standard dial on the left of the camera to select the usual PASM, Auto, Scene and Art Filter modes. The ‘Rec button’ (with the red dot) functions as a start and stop for video recording (in auto rec mode) and can be assign to other functions as well. There’s also the Fn2 button which is currently default to change the highlight and shadow tone while shooting.


Size of the E-M5 with the 12-40mm f2.8 lens

Size of the E-M5 with the 12-40mm f2.8 lens

Here is a pic me holding up my Olympus E-M5 with the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens. As you can see it is really small for a pro lens set up! Imagine using the E-M5 with a small prime lens like the Olympus 17mm f1.8 or the Panasonic 20mm f1.7… it will be much much smaller and still does not sacrifice on image quality. In fact, with a fast prime, you can use a lower ISO in low light too.


Rear View of the Olympus E-M5

Rear View of the Olympus E-M5

Here is a rear view of the E-M5. I prefer this 3 inch OLED LCD 3:2 shape, which is much better viewing space for pics than the 3 inch 16:9 format from my previous Sony NEX C3, F3 and Olympus E-PL3. Well no camera is 100% perfect. Every camera has its pros and cons. Here aresome drawbacks (albeit minor ones) which I noticed so far…

  1. ‘Play’ and ‘Fn1′button – The ‘Play’ and ‘Fn1′ button is squishy and sometimes need to be pressed harder to activate.
  2. No built-in flash and cumbersome flash clip covers – The E-M5 does not have a built in flash but it comes with a clip on flash instead. With that, I gotta keep removing the cumbersome flash clip and hot-shoe covers when I need to use the flash.
  3. Crammed buttons layout – For a DSLR user moving to a mirrorless camera, I have to get to used to the crammed buttons layout. It may take a while but I rather have the small buttons than a carrying heavy DLSR and lenses.
  4. Confusing Menus system (albeit extensive customisation) – Many previous users are afraid of the confusing Olympus’ menus. As for me, yes it may take time to learn the Menus but I believe it’s worth it because of its extensive customisation with the camera settings.
  5. Continuous Auto Focus – Yes, the E-M5′s contrast detect auto focus for fast moving objects (i.e. sports, birds in flight) is known to be poor. If you mainly shoot fast action shots, a typical DSLR with phase detect auto focus is much better. I don’t shoot much sports or fast moving objects. So I’m cool with this drawback.
  6. Front heavy with big lenses – Yes the 12-40mm f2.8 is a heavy lens (for a m4/3) and with the E-M5, it’s quite front heavy. A minor gripe as I plan to get the JB design grip soon.


Initial test shots is promising and I really like the out of camera jpeg output. If I choose to stay with the m4/3, my next wish list will be the the Olympus FL600 Flash and the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 maco lens; which I can get back to photographing close ups, flowers and bugs again! 🙂


If you’re residing in Malaysia, please do check out www.lelong.com.my/merchant/asiagadget.htm for some great camera deals. Thanks and cheers! 🙂

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