Featuring a dust & weather-sealed design, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 can stand out from the rest of the interchangeable-lens crowd, plus it can also provide one of the best performances in its segment. The quality of the photos is very good and superior in comparison to most of the point-and-shoot digital cameras, but we would have hoped for even better since it has an upgraded sensor and a revised imaging engine. We do appreciate the color reproduction which is extremely accurate and providing consistent exposures.
We do have to warn you though that the camera has the tendency to oversharpen the shots, especially in those circumstances where there shouldn’t be any oversharpening at all. You will like the high level of details captured but keep in mind that at ISO 400 there’s a noticeable amount of noise suppression while in some areas of the photos the details are a bit on the blurry side. For this reason, many experts in the domain recommend that you should avoid taking JPEGs at an ISO above 800, and even at that level it considerably depends on the scene’s contents. This is an issue quite common among cameras in this segment, but what’s also worrying is the lack of dynamic range as far as shadows are concerned. As a consequence, it can be really tricky to get nice results from the raw files at ISO 1600 (or higher), since the level of details is quite low while the noise level is high.
As far as the quality of the video recorded by the Olympus OM-D E-M5, it is more than fine for shooting casual videos on your vacation, but it won’t be satisfying for those that are real video shooters. When recording a clip in good light, you will notice edge aliasing, while in low light you’ll see some mushiness due to the noise reduction.
On the flip side, the camera is remarkably fast, making it probably the quickest model in this segment. It takes about a second to power the camera, focus and take a picture. When in good light it focuses in 0.3 seconds while capturing two sequential shots will take half a second for JPEG and 0.1 seconds more for RAW. It is so fast that on many occasions you will probably skip prefocusing and just take the photo right away. The autofocus system works as advertized, with a center-spot AF that is great while the face-detection AF can be quite useful on some occasions. As for the full-time AF, this has the tendency of pulsing a bit too often when recording a clip.
The size of the body of this Olympus OM-D E-M5 is on the average side, but we do have to mention that is manufactured from a magnesium alloy, just like the E-5 dSLR. This body is dust and weather-sealed and it is also weather resistant, capable of working between the temperatures of -4 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. We think that it has a good size as it isn’t too big or too small so shooting pictures and recording videos will be a pleasant thing to do. It is quite comfortable to grip while its lenses are small enough for keeping them in the pocket of your jacket. It also has that retro look that many photographers enjoy, regardless of the type of the camera.
The tilting touchscreen OLED display manages to be bright enough for you to use the camera on a sunny day, but if exposed to direct sunlight it gets quite tricky to understand what’s on that screen. The buttons that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 has are a bit too small and they feel quite mushy. In addition, you are not able to lock the front dial that adjusts the exposure compensation without having to modify its function entirely.
It has been fitted with a 16.1 megapixel Live MOS 12 bit sensor with 17.3 mm x 13mm and a 2.0x focal-length multiplier. The level of sensitivity varies from ISO 200 up to ISO 25,600 while continuous shooting is done at 9 fps 17 JPEG/11 raw. It has a 35-area contrast AF and a metering sensitivity of 0 – 20 EV. Video recording can be done at up to 1080/60i while the OLED measures three inches and has 614,000 dots. The camera measures 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 inches (W x H x D) and weighs 15.1 ounces.
One of the most interesting features that this model comes with would have to be the possibility of displaying and adjusting the highlight and shadow areas of the tone curve straight from the camera’s viewfinder. The idea might be great but to use is in real life scenario is a bit difficult since there is a lot of pressing & fiddling with the small controls involved, plus you will depend a lot on the viewfinder. It would have been better if the user had the possibility of saving the presets to use them later on without having to go through the entire process all over again.
Priced at about $1,000, this rugged Olympus OM-D E-M5 digital camera gives you the chance of adjusting a long list of parameters, like programming an exposure shift for each the main three options. In addition, you can choose the minimum and maximum values of the histogram or you can choose a warmer tone in the automatic white balance. The display can also be customized in a lot of ways, with the possibility of seeing only the options that you want and need. Even though this is not one of those cameras to provide a full touchscreen user interface, this is a type of touchscreen that gives you the ability of performing the operations you would expect a touchscreen to make: touch shutter, touch focus with magnification, as well as swiping navigation during the playback. We do have to mention that touch spot metering is absent. In addition, it doesn’t come with built-in Wi-Fi but at least this is optional through the PenPal Bluetooth adapter.
All things considered, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is one of the best models in its class that costs around $1,000. It might not provide the best photo quality in its class but it certainly at the top of the list, plus it’s also very fast.