All relationships start out with a honeymoon period where you can easily, and often unconsciously, forgive all those annoyances: not squeezing the toothpaste from the end of the tube, not putting the toilet seat down or the eye cup constantly falling off… That’s right. Now my honeymoon period with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is over I wanted to give another review with a bit more of a harsh and honest light being shone on this camera.
The initial review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was posted back in February 2014. That ‘review’ was a first impressions type post about my immediate thoughts having used the camera for a few weeks. Naturally I was excited to have my hands on a new camera. In general I was very impressed with the E-M5. In fact, that’s an understatement: I went out and bought my own after only a few weeks of having the loan camera from OlympusUK. At the time of that review there were a few quirks that sort of bothered me and upon reflection my initial excitement may have paved over those quirks a little. So I’m not going to hold back in this review. I’ll tell you about the good, the bad and the ugly. No holes barred.
One thing I would like to say before I begin though is that most of the issues are physical things, some of them practical things, but almost none of the issues I’m about to point out with the E-M5 are related to picture quality or the ability of the camera to produce photographs. Let me be clear in that respect: the E-M5 is a stunning camera. I talk more about the picture-making ability of the camera more towards the end of the post, but for now, here are my updated thoughts on the E-M5. The review starts off as a bit of a rant, but becomes more positive, so stick with me until the bitter end:
The Eye Cup (Olympus EP-10)
The first issue with the OM-D E-M5 is the eye cup. The reason I point this out first is because it was the first thing to go wrong. In fact there are two issue with the eye cup:
It doesn’t offer enough shade to the EVF and it isn’t comfortable enough when pressed up against your face.
It always falls off the camera when you take it out of the bag or even if you’re just carrying it over your shoulder. I’ll admit it took about 3 months for it to fall off for the first time, but once it was off there was no stopping it. The little piece of rubber spent more time in the bottom of my bag than it did on my camera!
So, the first of the two issues is that the eyecup just isn’t sufficient in terms of offering you shade enough to comfortably look into the viewfinder, particularly in strong light. It’s acceptable in most conditions, but in London on a sunny day I found myself having to sometimes use my left hand to actually provide additional shade. A baseball cap would have also done the trick, however I don’t look good in hats!
Secondly, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve put the camera up to my eye only to realise that the eyecup is nowhere to be found! Most of the time it had fallen off into my bag and was recovered, but on one occasion I was shooting a birthday party for a client and after packing my gear away I had to go back to search for it in the last place I remember seeing it. I found it, thankfully.
Now this may not seem like such a big deal to many, but the fact that the official replacements retail at around £25 from most places seems absurd to me. (this is for an EP-11 replacement. I’ll come to that in a minute). The fact also that it comes off of the camera so easily is crazy! You only have to look in the Olympus groups on Facebook to know that Olympus users are purchasing cheaper alternatives from Ebay in packs of 3 or 5 and using them as some sort of consumable.
Call me a fool but I’m not one to purchase cheap alternatives for a camera that I’ve spent good money on, so I personally took the plunge and purchased the EP-11 from Park Cameras. Part of the reasoning for this was that I was leading a photowalk in London on a sunny Saturday and the eye cup that comes with the E-M5 came off again but this time it broke (one of the parts that helps the eye cup clip (poorly) onto the E-M5 snapped). I used the E-M5 for much of that day without an eye cup. When we were near to Park Cameras I popped in and picked one up.
What I would say about the EP-11 that I bought though is that it’s solid, doesn’t come off and offers all the shade the factory eyecup should have offered. My advice here would be to start shipping the E-M5 with the much improved EP-11 and discontinue the EP-10. It’s problematic. You’ll have to go into a store to see why, or have a look on Google Image Search for the EP-11 to see the difference. I’ve included some shots of the EP-11 on the E-M5 right here:
(Click to enlarge)
The price of the replacement eyecup conveniently brings me to my next gripe:
The Lack Of Lens Hoods
Okay, so this issue isn’t actually an issue with the E-M5 as such, but it deserves a mention as I’ve spent a fair amount of money on lens hoods already, when really, given that the flange distance between the sensor and the rear element of the lens is much shorter than a DSLR, the E-M5 is quite susceptible to sun flare if you’re shooting towards the sun. The official Olympus LH-40B Lens hood for the 45mm f/1.8 for example costs £29.99! (it’s only a 7th of the price of the 45mm lens itself!) Again, like a fool in need I did actually purchase that official Olympus lens hood on the same day I picked up the replacement eyecup from Park Cameras.
(Click to enlarge)
For my 17mm f/1.8 however I picked up a lens hood from Amazon from popular cheap replica camera accessory maker JJC. I was a little reluctant as I genuinely didn’t want to ruin the actual aesthetics of the E-M5. Call me vein, but it is a marvellous looking camera and I didn’t want to put something nasty and tacky on the end of the lens. However, I was pleasantly surprised: the JJC lens hood that I purchased for a grand total of £6 is actually all-metal and has a brilliant screw mechanism that you hand tighten onto the end of the 17mm f/1.8. It actually looks better than the official Olympus lens hood. It’s superb!
My plea here to Olympus would be to suggest that lens hoods are either included with the lenses (given that on an MFT camera they actually are more necessary than on most other cameras) or, alternatively at very least make them reasonably priced thus encouraging us to at least purchase a genuine Olympus Hood instead of looking to other companies. Lowering the price of the lens hoods may actually make Olympus more money.
I understand that the Pro lenses coming out (following the splendid 12-40 f/2.8 Pro) will have lens hoods included. Smart move Olympus, but please extend the same courtesy to the rest of the M.Zuiko lenses!
Button Size, Feel and Position
Generally speaking I’m happy with the number of buttons, their positioning and the quality of them, however, a couple of the buttons could have been more intelligently thought about to make them easier to use.
I’ve turned off the review photograph option meaning that I don’t get to see the photograph I just made automatically appear on the back of the LCD for a few seconds just after I’ve pressed the shutter. It stops me chimping and lets me continue shooting (it also saves battery). However, when I’m leading a photo walk of 5 – 15 people at one time it’s often handy to press that play button to then show others the back of my camera to demonstrate what I have just photographed. However, I find the pressing of the play button to be an adventure all in itself. It’s in the correct position – I’m happy with that – but actually pushing the button can be a challenge as the screen and the play button are so close together and the button is in a sort of crease if you like, meaning you really have to give the button a poke to get it to work. I am often found pressing it a few times before my photographs actually appear on screen.
Looking at the new EM-10 that Olympus released this year it looks as though Olympus have spotted this (or received feedback from their groups) and made amends with the release of their entry-level OM-D offering. That’s a good thing. A great thing in fact! But it would be nice for the play button to easier to press on the EM-5. It’s not a deal breaker, just a minor inconvenience. I would imagine it would be a nightmare when wearing thick gloves!
The next buttons I would pick fault with on the E-M5 are the directional buttons. Again, for me personally their positioning is fine. However, they’re a bit spongy. A bit soft. Rather than ‘clicky’ buttons they seem too soft under the finger to me. I’m being very pedantic here and I’ll be honest the only reason I realised I was harbouring a little frustration with these buttons was after using an E-M1 for a short while on a photo shoot. Which I’ll talk about shortly. I’m sometimes not sure if I’ve pressed it as I don’t get a reassuring click when I press it. Again, I’m being very, very picky here.
The mode dial does not feature a dial lock, meaning it’s easily knocked from Manual to Bulb or something different. This has been a frustration for me. The E-M1 fixes this. The E-M5 should have it too. Lets lock that mode dial into Manual mode!
The Battery Life
A problem not just with the EM-5, but with mirrorless cameras from other brands too. The battery life is like that of an iPhone: if you don’t use it it’s not awful. However, like me if you’re out all day making photographs you’re going to need some spare batteries. A few weeks back I was in London for the day only for the camera to flash the horrid ‘Camera Low On Battery’ warning sign after about 450 frames. (again, pretty much not looking at the screen). Having used DSLR’s for so long the low battery indicator is something I’ve only really ever seen a handful of times in the past few years! However, because mirrorless cameras have the EVF you need to remember that it is effectively a tiny LCD screen, so with a DSLR you’re looking through a mirror, which requires no power. This is not the case with the E-M5 and other mirrorless cameras.
One of the things I’ve done to preserve battery even more is to have the EVF auto-switch off and the live-view LCD off at all times, meaning my LCD doesn’t display anything at all unless I press play, an option button or go into a menu. The EVF is also switched off until the moment I bring the camera up to my eye. The EVF is responsive enough so that by the time it’s up at my eye it’s on and showing me the screen (I love that about the E-M5). The idea with all of this is that unless I have the camera up to my face to make a photograph it’s not doing anything.
In summary the battery life is just not good enough yet. Again, Olympus batteries are expensive, but unlike with the lens hood and the eyecup I have gone elsewhere in the market to source my spares. With the Olympus official battery being in the region of £50 and other brands being £10 it made sense to me to go for something else, particularly seeing how often I would need to change batteries.
I would reiterate though that other manufacturers mirrorless offerings are also failing on this as well. DSLR’s solved their battery issues a long time ago: I can make 1,500 shots on my Canon before needing to change batteries.
Also, the more you use the camera the better you’ll get at preserving battery: you’ll spend less time in the menus and reviewing photographs and more time shooting.
The Electronic Viewfinder
The EVF is wonderful. There is no doubt. It’s refresh rate is sublime so you simply do not get any of that lag that you had with some of the earlier mirrorless cameras from other manufacturers. What I particularly love about the viewfinder is the information overlay you can have – the live histogram, live shadow and highlight clipping and more. And of course the what you see is what you get feel. It just makes sense. Going back to a DSLR pentaprism viewfinder now feels odd to me! But, again, having seen the viewfinder in the X-T1 from Fuji and the Olympus EM-1 I am left with EVFE – Electronic View Finder Envy! I do love the EVF on the EM-5, it’s excellent, but compared to the E-M1 I feel very much like that’s how it should be. It’s perhaps a little unfair of me to say that I prefer the EVF of another camera and mention that in this review, but the reason I have to mention this is because the EVF in the E-M5 just isn’t quite as good as those others. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, in fact it’s excellent. But this is reason I am going against what I said in my initial review of the E-M5 and will be upgrading to the E-M1 in a few weeks time from now. (Again, we’ll come to the E-M1 in the summary)
The In-Body 5-axis Stabilisation
The stabilisation in the Olympus was what sealed the deal for me. It pushed me from ‘Mmmmm’ to ‘Oh Wow’. Nothing has changed. The stabilisation in this camera is immense. You may have heard others mentioning the stabilisation before, but you have to feel it and see it to believe it.
DSLR manufacturers have in the past tried to implement in-body stabilisation, but without any great degree of success. Olympus have however worked their magic and put together a stabilisation system that doesn’t just work, I’d say it’s as effective as the IS in my Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM II (£1,600 worth of lens!).
But the benefits of in-body stabilisation don’t stop there. Of course, having this feature built into the body, rather than into the lens, means that the lenses themselves need only contain glass and any focussing motors. Which means they can be tiny (really tiny!) light weight and left to do just one job: let light through the glass with as little distortion and refraction as possible. Olympus lenses win here time and time again. Thanks largely in part to the stabilisation. I can’t fault Olympus at all when it comes to lenses for the O-MD’s. Wonderful.
Lack of Focus Peaking
Again, another feature that I wish the E-M5 had is focus peaking. It may seem odd to some to need focus peaking with auto focussing lenses (that also happen to focus rocket-fast!) But, there are so many incredible lenses available for Micro Four Thirds and not all of them from Panasonic or Olympus. You can also use a wonderful series of mounts and adaptors, but as is often the case with these things you can often lose the auto focus feature. With a DSLR and someone not so seasoned in auto focussing this may be an issue, but if there was focus peaking on the EM-5 you would be able to attach a stellar piece of glass and use manual focus to ensure perfect, tac-sharp crispness.
I spent some time with Neil Buchan-Grant in early June and Neil uses a selection of older lenses (including some amazing Leica lenses) that do not feature auto focus. With focus peaking on his E-M1 that just isn’t an issue though. In fact, it revolutionises manual focus entirely! It’s a shame it doesn’t feature on the E-M5.
I’m very hopeful it will be delivered in a Firmware update.
Focus tracking is average at best, but fine in good light. As I mentioned in my initial review the E-M5 contains only contrast detect, not phase detect, meaning it looks for the contrast in a scene. Maybe I’m asking for too much from this little camera, but I would love it if the focus tracking were just that little bit better, whether that means the inclusion of phase detect I don’t know, but it would certainly go someway to plugging that now awkward gap between the E-M10 and E-M5. The E-M10 seems a capable camera, featuring many things the E-M5 does not, almost diminishing the value of the E-M5 somewhat. Then again, the E-M5 features some things that a photographer such as myself is more concerned about (weather resistance, 5 axis stabilisation). The 3 models of camera do sit nicely in a podium formation (1st: E-M1. 2nd E-M5 and 3rd: EM-10) but there are some blurring of the lines between the three cameras.
Enough of the negatives
Okay, so I’ve been pretty harsh on Olympus and the E-M5 so far, but don’t get me wrong I still adore this camera. It’s still my go to camera for most of what I shoot. That’s probably why I’ve been so critical of it. I want it to be better.
As you may have realised I haven’t really said much about the ability of the camera to make photographs in terms of the quality it’s capable of producing, but that’s mainly because I can’t fault it. Sure, the ISO is fine up to 3200 and beyond that it’s a bit of a stretch in low light conditions, but really, the files I am getting out of my E-M5 are wonderful. It’s often why I prefer to pick it up instead of the Canon. When it comes to post-processing at the end of a shoot I enjoy looking at the Olympus files much more!
Let’s talk about the technical side of things in more detail:
With my Canon DSLR it was pretty decent at picking the correct white balance if set to auto. It’s something I did occasionally. However, if I was shooting a wedding or a portrait the AWB on the Canon 7D would sometimes be a little off the mark and choose a balance that would make the scene either rather blue or a little too warm. Whilst this isn’t really a massive issue as it can ‘Just be fixed in Photoshop’ as people like to say; it all adds time to the post processing work flow. With the E-M5 I’ve only had it off of Auto White Balance a a couple of times. It really does nail white balance 99% of the time. I don’t know what voodoo Olympus have done here, but it works better than any other system I’ve used. If you’re thinking of picking up an E-M5 rest assured white balance issues are basically a thing of the past.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t know what it is about the files that come out of the Olympus Cameras, but they’re superb! I’ve found that they can really take a beating in Lightroom. Not that I over-process (I don’t think) but the files don’t suffer from halo’s, they can take the highlights being reduced dramatically and the shadows being given a little boost without much or any damage to the pixels at all. It seems to me that Olympus truly have found a balance between the quality of the pixels and the number of pixels with their MFT sensors.
Sharp As Hell
One thing I’ve also realised with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is that I’m able to produce photographs sharper than I ever have from a DSLR. I know this is as much to do with the lenses, but with the 45mm and the 17mm (both f/1.8) they’re incredibly sharp
Again, something I was a bit concerned about when people started talking seriously about mirrorless cameras for the first time a couple of years back was how that you were forced to slow down with your shooting. With some of the Fuji’s in particular. With the Olympus it’s not a problem. The dials all spin and rotate to infinity (they’ll keep spinning and spinning) and the auto focus is incredible. I don’t feel limited, restricted or let down by how fast this camera responds at all. Now, that said slowing down can be a valuable reminder of what you’re doing, but for me I’m more concerned about missing a shot.
The only negative to speak of here is that I have found if you’re going from one extreme to the other, such as reducing shutter speed from 1/2000th to 1/80th (perhaps you’ve gone from outside to inside); rapidly rolling the dials is perfectly possible, but the on-screen reading of shutter speed is a step behind it seems. This sounds odd, so I’ll try to explain: with a Canon DSLR you can spin the wheels and dials in any direction to change the settings: aperture, ISO & shutter etc. The moment that wheel or dial rotates and clicks into the next position the corresponding setting in the Viewfinder has changed – further more no matter how fast you change settings you can see them changing instantly.
With the Olympus, if you scroll quickly you’ll find that you can go from 1/2000th to 1/500th and not see the shutter speeds in between as the camera doesn’t seem to update as quickly.
This is a minor thing, but I would just like these settings to change a bit more promptly, in-time with the clicks of the dials I’m spinning. This is me being hyper critical.
Something I was really impressed with first time round when I first wrote a review of this camera was the build quality. Part of me worries a little that something may eventually start to wear or tear, but so far, after heavy use in different conditions I can honestly say it is still built incredibly well.
If you’ve read my first review, or even part of it, you’ll notice that the first thing I mentioned was the build quality and that was because I was so impressed with it. Olympus have done a marvellous job of making the E-M5 feel solid and well built.
Even today, after extensive use the camera doesn’t feel like something is about to fall off and non of the colour is wearing from any part of the camera. To give you an idea of the use I’m getting from the E-M5: I take it everywhere with me: every day to work in my bag everywhere at weekends in the camera bag or in the kids changing bag, 2 trips to Boston and back, and a number of times on the beach – sometimes hot, sometimes cold, wet and windy.
The build quality scores a full 10 out of 10. Well done Olymus.
Black and Whites
One thing I’d like to give a special mention to is the black and white photographs I’m producing with the E-M5. I’ve already spoken about how tolerant the files are in post processing, but the files go to a whole new level in black and white. This somewhat is a repeat of the comment about the tolerance of the files, but I find the range between the blacks and the whites to be greater than what I have been used to with the Canon DSLR’s. LightRoom in particular really allows me to push and pull the files to the extremes of the blacks and whites without the subtle shades and tones in between suffering. ‘Silky’ is probably the most appropriate word that comes to mind to describe the black and whites you can produce from the E-M5.
Low Light Focussing
This has been an absolutely amazing surprise for me. Since owning the E-M5 I’ve had it with me at each and every wedding I’ve photographed. At first I would only pick it up for the odd shot here and there, but as I realised more and more just how capable a camera it was, it started filling in for the Canon at certain parts of the day. For example I find it far better for the preparation shots: it’s quieter, less intimidating and fast auto focus isn’t always required. Further more, balancing the internal ambient room lighting with bright and natural window light is all done as it happens through the Electronic Viewfinder. I find I have a higher keeper rate but more importantly I am am able to achieve the look I want quicker. However, I wouldn’t say at the moment that it is a contender for the church, owing to the fact I may have to stand far back, shoot in awkward and changing light conditions: the constant aperture tele focal lenses (constant f/2.8 for example) just aren’t here yet. Long story short the E-M5 and Canon DSLR formed a wonderful tag team. One of the things it excels at and beats the Canon DSLR at is achieving focus in low and awkward light conditions, specifically during the first dance; if the couple have booked a DJ with strobes and coloured lights, or the venue is very poorly lit, I found that the E-M5 was somehow able to achieve focus more promptly than the Canon. I used the 17mm and the 45mm f/1.8 primes, so there was no hunting back and forth at all, unlike with the Canon.
Again, the prep shots in the morning in good light – that was something I truly expected the E-M5 to excel at. I knew what it was all about in those conditions, but to find it actually solved a long-standing problem (for me anyway) with focussing when the guests were throwing their shapes was a real bonus.
Finally, I can’t review the E-M5 without talking about it as a street photography camera, after all that’s what i do mostly. Again it scores full marks here. It’s not intimidating, it’s not obvious and I don’t look like a photographer. So, when it comes to making street portraits I genuinely believe there are shots and situations I can capture that perhaps I wouldn’t if I were carrying a DSLR around with me.
Having said that, Mirrorless cameras like this haven’t always been the order of the day among street photographers. It’s not to suggest that a DSLR is not capable of street photography, because clearly it is. It’s all about preference really.
Secondly though, the practical element is of course the size and weight. I’m still carrying around a big bag (the Think Tank Retrospective 30) filled with all sort of stuff, but really the E-M5 and Lenses take up hardly any of that space.
I’m still loving the E-M5. As I said at the top of this blog I love it more now I’ve had it for some time. I’ve become very used to it. It’s so customisable that it really isn’t much different from what I was used to with Canon DSLR’s in terms of button and dial layout etc. Sure, it has it’s limitations: It’s not amazing at tracking moving subjects, but is an improvement on a DSLR when used in low and challenging light conditions because it achieves focus faster and more accurately.
One of the biggest advantages though that the E-M5 and the Olympus range of cameras has though is two-fold: the in-body image stabilisation is simply amazing. It means that any lens you mount to the E-M5 is stabilised, which is a feature not to be overlooked.
In addition, because of the stabilisation being built into the body of the camera it removes the need to have all those motors and complex bearings inside the lenses themselves, meaning they truly can be tiny. So when people talk about moving over to Mirrorless, or picking up a mirrorless as their travel and lightweight option, really Olympus is the brand to go for on that front. There are other Mirrorless cameras available of course from the likes of Fuji, Sony and Panasonic, but the lenses for those cameras are huge, (comparatively) so it really does undermine the idea that they are tiny little cameras. The Olympus wins on size for sure.
I hear it so often that the Olympus is a ‘Solid Little Camera’. Whilst that is 100% true, that phrase makes you think it’s not a serious camera, because it’s ‘Little’. Well, I’ll tell you right now that the Olympus is most definitely serious. It isn’t small, it’s tidy, neat and compact. The technology of this camera and it’s ability to make amazing still photographs totally defies it’s size.
For now, I still have my Canon DSLR and as Tony Northrup has recently talked about, the only reason I can’t really drop it at the moment is because of my beloved 70-200mm f/2.8 II IS USM. But that’s more about the lens than the camera body. The DSLR still wins for action and wildlife or subjects of a fast moving nature. But, Olympus have (at the time of writing this) just released the long-awaited 40-150 f/2.8 (effectively an 80-300mm). If that’s as good as it’s supposed to be then an E-M1 and one of those bad boys may well be on the Christmas list as a replacement for the DSLR. I have written to Olympus and asked for that combination of camera and lens on loan. We’ll see what happens.
The only question then would be “What to do with all these CF cards?“
After moving my office into it’s new home (again) I’m back with Episode 17 – an Interview with the one and only Steve Saporito.
I don’t want to say too much about this episode here, because I honestly won’t do it justice. All I can say is that as someone who gives a lot of thought to photography and the business of photography, I thought I was pretty well placed to offer guidance and support to others – Steve showed me how big a gap in my own knowledge and thinking there actually is.
In this episode we cover the idea that common sense in not common. If you don’t want to sell a certain product, don’t display it! If you care more, you’ll be successful. Don’t write people off (like I do, all too often). We also touch on the subject of pricing too, which is a real eye opener!
Notepads to hand! Open your minds and let Steve Saporito on in to help you out!
Sit back and enjoy this episode of Ready, Steady Pro! Click the link below to listen / download the podcast.
Today on the blog, Ready Steady Pro Host Michael Rammell shares his thoughts on Olympus’ OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Camera. This isn’t an in-depth technical review, but more a ‘thoughts so far’ review on the camera itself.
It’s been two weeks now since I took receipt of the OM-D E-M5 from Olympus. Initially, the E-M5 I had was on loan from Olympus UK who were kind enough to send me a camera so that I could review it for the Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast and Blog, which I will be doing in due course. But I’m not going to write a full review and release my video review until late March. At that point I’ll have had the camera for 5 or 6 weeks and I’ll have had ample opportunity to to put it through it’s paces fully: I’ll be playing with it at the Photography Show in early March, I’ll be out in Boston in the US in mid-March and I’ve got a day of Street Photography In London too between all that, so plenty of opportunity to really see what it can do.
Now, before I go any further and tell you about the camera itself I just want to let you know that I was personally quite skeptical about the mirrorless movement in general. Sure, the lightness and size of these cameras appealed to me, but I had serious doubts about their performance and ability and credentials before I decided whether or not I should jump on the bandwagon. My view was that they were an expensive fad almost, appealing to those people who shot film and were lured by the retro styling of cameras such as the OMD range from Olympus as the Fuji’s.
However, I’ll be clear and tell you now that I have fallen in love with the OMD in particular. At the time of writing I do still have the E-M5 on loan from Olympus UK, but it only took a week of using the loan camera before I put down the cash and bought my own, along with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8. The pull for me, as well as the performance, as I talk about below, was also a great deal that Olympus are currently running whereby if you buy the kit E-M5 (Body + 12-50mm lens) you get afree 45mm f/1.8 and 2-stage HLD-6 Battery Grip. Those retail at a combined price of over £430 and Olympus were offering them for free. So, I jumped at the chance. (check out the deal and all the details on the Ready Steady Pro Blog)
So, today I want to give a first impressions style review. My thoughts so far on this extremely tidy package and to give you a real honest opinion of what the camera can do, what it can’t do and ultimately a conclusion.
The Build Quality
The reason I want to start by talking about the build quality is because it truly was the first thing that blew me away when I took the lease camera out of the box: It’s weighty, it’s very sturdy and it’s all-metal body gives for an amazingly solid build. It is nothing short of impressive and that goes a long way to making this feel like a very serious camera, rather than just a little compact point and shoot with an EVF, which some people have often mistaken it for.
As someone who is used to shooting with a Canon 7d, which you may know also has an all-metal weather-sealed body and is built incredibly well by Canon, I was pretty much expecting something mostly plastic when I got the E-M5 out of the box. I was however pleasantly surprised to find that it feels as solid as any high-end DSLR when it’s in your hands. The only thing I can add to this – and this sounds odd, I know – is that the E-M5 doesn’t feel hollow. It feels very much like every millimeter of space inside the camera is packed with technology and that it all holds together very well.
Being a weather-resistant body though, I should have guessed that it would be well built. I guess I just didn’t know what to expect seeing as it was the first time I’d held an Olympus camera.
To be honest it’s not worth me saying too much more about the build quality because you genuinely do have to feel it to believe it, so to speak. If you’re at your local camera store or a trade show be sure to pick one of these things up. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I am.
Ergonomics – How does the E-M5 feel in your hands?
Now, this will be subjective depending on who is holding the camera. I know that for sure. Personally for me though, it feels superb. That solid mass in your gripped hand feels great. It’s heavy enough that you feel the quality and that weight gives it a sense of balance. So far I’ve only tried the kit 12-50mm and the ultra-lightweight (yet, all metal) 17mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko lens. This prime has hardly come off the E-M5 since I got it. When I talk about balance though I’m referring to the way the camera feels when you’re walking around with it, when you’re holding up to your face to shoot with it. For example when I’m out and about with the Canon 7d and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS USM II the camera feels extremely front heavy for obvious reasons. Add an extender to that and the feeling is amplified. Now, I know that’s not comparing apples for apples: One is a micro-four-thirds system with a compact prime and the other other is a Large DSLR with an L Class telefocal lens mounted to it, but it illustrates the point I’m trying to make. Albeit in an exaggerated manner. At the end of the day what I am saying is that it feels great.
Some may say that it’s too small and that you don’t have enough grip or body to get a decent and comfortable purchase on the camera when it’s in your hands, however you do have the optional 2-stage battery grip for the E-M5, the HLD-6. The beauty of this grip is that the 2-stage setup means if you can screw in the first part of the grip to add the desired ‘bulk’ to the front of the camera so that you have something more substantial under your finger tips. The bonus however, and I’ll admit I’m yet to experience this first hand as my grip is still in the post from Olympus, is that the second part of the grip is the dual-battery part with portrait-oriented controls. Effectively, this makes the E-M5 much closer to the feel of a DSLR. I think I may be right in saying that no other compact system has this (Fuji, Panasonic, Sony etc?)
I’m used to using my 7d with a grip because I honestly believe that it doesn’t feel quite right without it, so for me this option ticked a huge box. Although, I will probably only use the first stage of the grip for street photography. I’m going for incognito. Not obvious. I certainly will have te battery/portrait grip on it at all other times.
This is another part of the reason I’ll be doing a more full, in-depth review in the middle of March; by that time I’ll also have my 45mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko and Battery Grip to talk about.
In summary though – for me the E-M5 is a masterpiece of manufacturing from Olympus and it feels great in your hands, grip or no grip. It doesn’t bother me either way. A one word summary would be “Quality.
Pictures of the Olympus OM-D E-M5
The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
Honestly, the EVF and the Focusing were the only two things that were making me nervous about the E-M5 before receiving it from Olympus (we’ll come to focusing in a minute). But I’ll tell you now that the EVF is a dream to use. I find that there is hardly any lag at all, to the point where it isn’t noticeable and doesn’t have any negative impact whatsoever. It’s absolutely fine. I don’t have any other EVF experience to compare it to, again, if you’re coming from the world of DSLR’s, like myself, I think this EVF does a great job of making it easy to adjust to.
There is no doubt though that the EVF is different if you’re used to using a mirror, but that isn’t an issue with the OMD, that’s just a trait of EVF’s in general – they are different to mirrors: after all you’re effectively looking at a tiny magnified screen, rather than a reflection.
If you’re unsure about Electronic Viewfinders and what they are and what they do – don’t worry. They’re pretty much a digital viewfinder. Think of them that way. The fact it is showing you a digital representation of what the sensor is seeing though, does offer some very distinct advantages over their mirrored cousins. For example: What you see in an Electronic Viewfinder is the end result once you’ve pressed the shutter. That’s right, when you press that shutter button what you’re seeing in the EVF is the picture you’ll end up with. It’s really cool.
Further more, with the EVF being an actual screen inside an eye cup (if you will) means manufacturers can actually overlay information on the picture and show effects in real time. For example, you can have an in-EVF histogram and you can see everything in black & white whilst you shoot. There are more features and benefits, but for me personally these are the only things I’m interested in as bonus features of using the EVF.
Focusing Speed & Accuracy
This was another one of those elephants in the room that was stopping me from pulling out my wallet and diving into the world of mirrorless: focusing was rumored to be slow on mirrorless cameras, but this was a reported issue with Fuji’s, Sony’s and Panasonic’s too. It wasn’t an OMD-Specific report. However, having been fortunate enough to have a unit on loan from Olympus for the sake of this review, it meant that I didn’t have to open my own wallet to find out what the camera was like.
Quite simply: this is not an issue with the E-M5 at all.
Olympus claim that the E-M5 has the fastest auto focusing in the world. Whilst that is a bold claim, what I wouldn’t refute is that the focusing is darn fast and very accurate, despite only having contrast auto detect. (You’ll find that most DSLR’s also have phase auto detect). Whatever Olympus have packed inside this thing to make it focus so quickly is simply wonderful.
With regards to the focus accuracy so far when I’ve used full auto focus (allowing the camera to select the focus point) it’s hit the nail on the head 9 times out of 10. I’d say that it’s no more or less accurate than a larger DSLR with both phase and contrast auto detect. It’s odd, but I can certifiably say “It just works”.
What I find though is that I’ve setup my E-M5 to be as close as possible in terms of it’s function button and control dial layouts as possible to my 7d. I haven’t the time to re-learn an entire system and I’m not keen on the idea of missing a shot and it being the fault of any camera. As a result, I also use the E-M5 in the same way I use my 7D: Single point, manually selected Auto focus point. This means I use the directional buttons to pick a point to focus on. This may be bad practice as they Olympus seems to snap-on to the correct focus point most of the time, however it’s just me and the way I like to work. In a busy scene with a lot going on or when shooting a close-up potrait, I haven’t the time or the inclination to risk having the camera focus on the tip of a nose instead of an eye.
But, this does speak to another amazing feature of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 – the customisation options are amazing. I’ll talk a little more about customisation shortly, but you’ll be pleased to know that the OM-D captures focus extremely well each and every time. This is a total non-issue.
More and more cameras today are coming packed with touch screens, in fact everything today comes with a touch screen. My daughter, who is two years old always tries to select her favourite programs on Apple TV by touching the TV screen. Oh how the world has changed.
The touch screen on the Olympus is simply fine. You can scroll through the photographs using an Apple-esque swipe motion, but it doesn’t feature a pinch to zoom gesture.
One way that Olympus have utilized the touch screen to full effect though is by implementing a touch screen focus and shutter function: You touch the area on the screen where you want the camera to focus and it quickly snaps into focus and then fires off a shot. I can’t see myself using this a great deal, at least I haven’t done so far, but my wife however loves this feature.
We went to Paris a few years back with a Sony NEX-3 and she loved it. Broke her heart when I sold it. Now she’s back in love with the Olympus because she doesn’t have to feel like a photographer and use the EVF. The quality of the display is such that it is perfectly feasible to obtain focus, compose your scene and make a photograph. So, the Touch screen gets a huge thumbs up from me personally and from my wife also.
I can see myself using the tilt feature of the screen when on the Tube in London. Looking down at the screen whilst it sits on my lap, then pressing the screen to make a photograph. I can see some benefits if truth be told. I’ll have to talk more about this when I do the full review.
But, in summary the screen is lovely and bright, refreshes incredibly quickly, is packed with detail and all sorts of customization options. Of course it also titles up and down too, which is a nice feature. It’s a great screen. Well done to Olympus!
Note: if the touch screen bothers you simply disable it in the menu.
Dials, Controls & Customisation
After only a few weeks of using the Olympus I’m at the point now where I’m very familiar with the button and dial layout. As I mentioned I use single focus points which I manually select. I’ve become accustomed to this in the same way I did on the 7d meaning I don’t have to pull away from the EVF to figure out which buttons to press, which for me is very important as I don’t want to miss a shot.
When I first received my own Olympus the aperture and shutter speed dials were already allocated as I wanted (you can swap them so that the front dial surrounding the shutter button can be aperture or shutter speed and the dial at the rear can be changed too). So, no matter what DSLR system you’re coming from you can set the dials up to be closer to what you’ve become used to on those systems.
You can also adjust the direction of the dials. Rotating clockwise will increase the shutter or aperture if you like, or, change that setting so that anti-clockwise increases them, or vice-versa.
The E-M5 also features two Function buttons (fn.1 & fn.2) and a record button for instant video. You can also re-assign the functions that these buttons activate and deactivate. I personally have ISO set to the top function button, meaning when pressed I can then quickly change my ISO using one of the dials or the directional buttons. I then have the back function button set as my White Balance button. I have left the record button as the video button.
With these settings in place I can now really quickly change all of the settings I need in order to achieve the shot I want. Just like I can with my Canon 7d.
The dials themselves seem relatively well placed and are very solid, continuing the theme of the great build quality. If you add the body grip you get an additional dial and shutter button, but this is simply a duplicate of those that are already on the body of the camera. This is a nice addition as the shutter button and the shutter speed dial (as I have mine set) are then further out on the front of the camera under your index finger. It’s a great addition. Furthermore add the second stage grip and you’ve got the same again, this time on the vertical axis.
Perhaps I should have touched on the image quality earlier on in this review. After all it doesn’t matter how much of a masterpiece the camera body is if it doesn’t make great photographs, right?
Well I’m personally extremely impressed with the files I’m getting out of the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I actually let Neil Graham borrow the camera for a day and he made the same observation as me – and that is that the files seem to be very forgiving in post-processing. You can really push them.
I’m personally a sucker for a black and white photograph, as you may be able to tell and to be honest the files are lovely and silky in Black and White, you can really push the blacks and the whites for a lovely high contrast monochrome finish.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing this post there are no camera profiles in LightRoom 5 for any Olympus lenses. That doesn’t matter too much as you can still take the RAW’s into LightRoom and do what you want with them, but it just means you can’t use the profile options. But, until I see a before and after with a profile enabled, I’m non-the-wiser as to what imperfections there are with the Olympus MFT lenses. I love them!
OM-D E-M5 Sample Photographs
High ISO Performance
Before making my own purchase I watched a few hours worth of YouTube videos to see what the OM-D was all about in terms of it’s ISO performance. I’d not really heard too many bad things, and the bad things I had heard were in my opinion flawed arguments as most of the time people were comparing the Olympus to top of the range DSLR’s such as the 1Dx and D4. Fine, they’re all cameras, but the bodies of the Nikon and Canon alone are upwards of £5,000. That’s like comparing a Ferrari to a tuned-track car. Sure, the Ferrari isn’t cheap and is a very capable car, but those track cars are designed specifically for what they do. As i said above when I was referring to balance (7d with 70-200 vs E-M5 with 17mm) it’s not comparing apples for apples. Why would anything that costs 8 times as much be a fair comparison?
Analogy and rant over I’ll tell you in my own words about the ISO performance: suffice to say I don’t want to talk technical and I haven’t done a side by side lab test, but from a practical perspective – I mean actually going out with the camera and shooting at high ISO’s of 3200 plus, I can say that I am extremely impressed yet again. The Micro Four Thirds sensor packed with 16megapixels. I found at ISO 3200 I still have very clean pictures. Add a little hint noise reduction in Lightroom and they come out even better. I can honestly say that coupled with a good technique, such as Exposing to the right the results are very clean.
The Price Point
I’m even more impressed with the price of the E-M5 now that I know the camera better: The outstanding build quality, the impressive customisation, the superb selection of lenses and ultimately the superb quality of files that you get as a result of all that. It’s a camera that has come down in price quite a bit since it’s launch. You can pick up a body only for a little over £500, but as I eluded to at the start of this post right now Olympus are running an offer giving you over £430 of accessories (a 45mm f/1.8 lens and the 2-stage battery grip) for free. This was a hugely deciding factor for me.
The E-M5 can only be described, in my mind, as amazingly capable, fantastically solid and great fun as well as being a perfectly feasible tool for ‘proper’ work (Portraiture, weddings etc). So, given all that it can do I’d say that the £899 I paid for it with the 12-50mm kit lense from Park Cameras was decent value. (I will say I chose to purchase from an authorized UK stockist for warranty reasons and so that I could make use of Olympus’ fully loaded deal). You can pick up an E-M5 Body only for £749 from Park, and I’ve seen it for around £650 elsewhere.
The amazing thing is that the E-M5 does pack in many of the features, but not all of them, that the E-M1 contains, yet the E-M1, body alone will set you back £1299 from Park.
So, as far as I can see if you’re looking for a extremely capable, interchangeable lens, compact camera with EVF the Olympus represents superb value. As do the lenses available. But I’ll review lenses separately to this post.
Just for fun: E-M5 shutter in slow motion
E-M5 or E-M1?
Okay, I’ll start this off by listing the things that the E-M1 has that the E-M5 does not:
Phase Auto Detection
TruePic VII sensor (E-M5 packs a TruePic VI)
ISO Starts at 100 instead of 200 on the E-M5, but the next firmware release for the E-M5 is supposed to give the E-M5 access to ISO 100 as well
81 Focus Points instead of 35
A higher resolution with over 1,000,000 dots instead of the 600,000 that the E-M5 has
Now that I’ve listed it, it does seem as though the E-M1 packs a lot that the E-M5 does not. However, note that really the only actually features it has in addition to the E-M5 are the Wi-Fi and Mic Input. Sure, I mean the auto detect is phase as well and it has focus peeking and more focus points, but to be honest, from what I can gather and from what many other blogs have said, the resulting picture quality is only marginal.
Now consider that you’re going to have to spend out an additional £550 to get all these things that the E-M1 offers, I’m of the opinion that we arrive at the point of diminishing returns. DPReview themselves give the E-M1 an impressive 84% score. That’s Great. But the E-M5 scores an impressive 80%. Both achieved ‘Gold Awards’
4% difference between the two cameras for £550? Diminishing returns indeed if you ask me.
Furthermore if you’re convincing yourself you need the built-in Wifi – Go and buy an Eye-Fi SD card instead for the cost of £32. I don’t know about you but I can’t see the need for Wireless shooting 90% of the time, perhaps only in a studio location. For this thought the Eye-Fi is perfect and represents actual value for money.
At the end of the day if my clone and I went out to do some street photography or were at a wedding and one of us had the E-M1 and the other the E-M5 – I’m not convinced the photographs on the E-M1 would be £550 worth of better, if much better all.
This is not to say that the E-M1 is rubbish, but more a nod to how amazing the E-M5 actually is.
My verdict is that if you’re a photographer coming from the world of DSLR’s and you’re looking to dip your toes into the mirrorless waters then the E-M5 represents a great value choice. But don’t let the word value trick you into thinking ‘it’s decent for the price’, I mean value as in you’re getting a hell of a camera for the price. My inclination was to spend the £550 difference on lenses and accessories. After all you’re going to need additional batteries and if you’re used to shooting to Compact Flash you may need to go and buy a few quality SD cards too now.
That’s it. That’s my First Impressions and thoughts on the E-M5. In the coming weeks I’ll be talking much more about this camera on the blog including why having a smaller camera encourages greater creativity, how having a smaller camera enables me to shoot more than ever, I’ll have lens reviews of the 17mm and the 45mm lenses (both f1.8 M.Zuiko Micro Four Thirds lenses from Olympus. I’ll also be reviewing the HLD-6; the battery grip and then there will be a full, in-depth video review of the E-M5 too.I’m so looking to get an E-M1 from Olympus once in send back the lease E-M5 and I’ve also agreed to take a look at the PEN E-P5, which looks quite cool as well.So I hope you found this review useful, keep an ear to the ground for more E-M5 updates and be sure to subscribe to the blog for future updates too!
It’s no secret: I’ve well and truly fallen in love with the OM-D EM-5 from Olympus. small, lightweight (yet incredibly well built) camera with great interchangeable lenses and excellent focusing. Add to that the beautiful retro look too: You’ve got yourself an amazing camera. A full review will be up here on the blog in the next week or so.
Fully Loaded Promotion from Olympus
I took an EM-5 on loan from Olympus UK over a week ago. It only took about 4 days though before I had placed an order for my own along with the 12-50mm kit lens and the ultra sharp 17mm f.18 lens. One of the reasons I opted for the EM-5 over the EM-1 though was because Olympus currently have a truly irresistible offer running:
When you buy an Olympus OM-D EM-5 with the 12-50mm kit lens (for £899) from a UK reseller holding stock purchased from Olympus, you can then claim a FREE Battery Grip (HLD-6) and the 45mm M.Zuiko f/1.8 Kit lens for free. These items retail at over £430! (I’ve listed some UK Resellers below)
I’ve had my Canon EOS M for a couple of days now, so I thought I’d write a quick review of my first impressions for the readers of Ready Steady Pro.
Before we start, there is something we need to sort out. This small camera comes with a massive elephant in the room. As soon as the EOS M was launched it was heavily criticised for a poor focussing system – described as something between slow to hopeless and everything in between. As a result many have written off this camera. Canon has since addressed this with a major firmware update last year (my camera even came with the latest firmware). Right, elephant gone, we will continue.
Chase Jarvis once said that “The best camera you have is the one that’s with you”. How true this is – especially when we all now have a camera in our pocket with our smartphones. As photographers though, we miss our beloved SLRs, lenses and big sensors. Quality.
I would love to carry my SLR around with me all the time – but it just isn’t practical. We all have had those moments where we see a shot and kick ourselves that we don’t have a camera. Reluctantly we take out our iPhone or compact – but it’s just not the same. At family outings I was accompanied by a half a tonne of equipment (a slight exaggeration) much to the exasperation of Mrs L.
I decided that I wanted something more compact – but I still wanted the quality. I wanted to shoot RAW, a decent size sensor, and interchangeable lenses. Let’s face it I wanted an SLR. So when Canon announced the EOS M it caught my eye immediately – but so did the price, £650.
But that was nearly two years ago, and that elephant has caused a lot of damage since then. The EOS M has been described as ‘dead on arrival’ ‘a non starter’ and Canon has also been criticised for being ‘late to the mirror less party’, launching way after Fuji, Sony and Olympus in this class. The street price of the EOS M has dropped dramatically as a result. You can now pick up the camera, external flash, 18-55 lens and the EF mount for about £350 – add to this the £50 cashback Canon are offering (sadly now finished) and you have yourself a bit of a bargain.
So for £300 what exactly are you getting? The sensor in the EOS M is the same as the 650d and it also shares the same processor. The build quality of the camera is excellent, and this carries through to the metal construction of the lenses. My first impression of the camera was that it is quite heavy – but that’s not surprising really as Canon seem to have packed a full size SLR into a compact body.
Unlike many compact cameras the EOSM’s 3” touch sensitive screen is very responsive – it has to be, as most of the camera’s controls are on there. If you already shoot with Canon many of the menus are familiar and they are quick and easy to navigate. Canon hasn’t totally dispensed with buttons though – there’s the usual joypad and jogwheel, which is also used whilst shooting for aperture and shutter speed.
To focus simply press the point on the screen you want to focus on, half press the shutter and the camera will focus. Alternatively you can also quickly set the camera to take the shot when you select the focus point. I actually found the focus with the new firmware very responsive. It’s never going to be as fast as an SLR – the EOS M will never be a sports photographer’s camera. Having said that it doesn’t have anywhere near the shutter lag I’ve had with many compacts.
The lack of a viewfinder takes a bit of getting used to and is still a legitimate mark against the camera. Also as the screen is used for most functions the camera only manages around 200 shots per battery – carrying spares is going to be necessary.
The ability to attach (with the adapter) the full range of Canon lenses is a massive plus for this tiny camera – even if it looks slightly odd attached to the 70-200! (Think Corgi and Great Dane). The supplied 18-55-kit lens is excellent – it’s actually a bit and injustice calling it a kit lens as it is far better, both optically and in construction, to the Canon SLR kit lenses.
I haven’t filmed any video yet but its getting rave reviews – and is comparable many of its big brother SLRs. The camera can record full 1080p resolution at 24fps and 30fps and also 50fps at 720p. The ‘kit’ lenses are STM (stepper motors) and are very quiet in operation.
To conclude, if you chase all the elephants out of the room and dismiss some very undeserved criticism what exactly to be have with the Canon EOSM? Basically you have a Canon 650 in a compact body. The system is really portable – especially if you go for the 22mm F2 lens (equivalent to 35mm). OK, it’s not going to perform like a full feature SLR – but how many times have we taken our SLR out and thought it was a bit overkill?
Will I be using it for weddings?… perhaps. Obviously not for the main camera, but maybe for getting a few quick detail shots with a 50mm lens. Or perhaps at the back of a church with a wide-angle lens. The EOS M is a very discreet little camera so it also has its uses where a SLR and large lens could be a bit intimidating. Let’s see where this goes.
Almost a EOS SLR compacted into a small portable camera (albeit without a viewfinder)
Excellent build quality.
Responsive touch screen
A camera that can take all your EOS lenses
A decent size APS-C sensor (identical to the 650d).
An excellent video camera.
Short battery life (and the status shows as bars not percentage).
No remote shutter socket (although you can fire with infrared) making timelapse photography difficult.
We love discounts here at Ready Steady Pro – anything to help emerging professional photographers reduce the cost of doing business is surely a good thing!
Well, 5DayDeal.com have put together a totally amazing bundle of eBooks, Discounts, Presets, Actions, Video’s, Courses and more worth over $1,200 and are offering this for a limited time for the quite absurd price of $89…This is easily the biggest set of discounts we’ve mentioned here on ReadySteadyPro.co.uk!
What’s the catch?
There is just 1 catch to this: the deal is only lasting for 5 days! Sale dates are between January 5, 2014 at noon EST till January 10,2014 at noon EST. There will be no late sales and a sale with this combination of products will not happen again. So jump in and get yours now!
My little highlights here are worth just under $400 by themselves!!
How did you know about this bundle?
It was Martin Bailey who bought this to my attention over on Google+. Martin has actually been kind enough to contribute his own Fine Art Print Border Script, which is usually available on it’s own for the price of $12. (If you’re reading this after January 10th you can purchase that here).