Back in the mid-1970s, I became intrigued with photography and my roommate at the time had a 35mm Minolta SLR he was gracious enough to lend me to explore this newfound interest. Once I was hooked, I started examining the market for a camera of my own, and two other friends were kind enough to let me play with their cameras - a Nikon F and Olympus OM-1, respectively. The size difference could not have been more profound between the big Nikon and diminutive Olympus. Canon got into the mix as well, but when the dust settled, I went with Nikon and never looked back. Approaching 40 years later, we're all shooting digital; my Nikon D3S is still big and Olympus is still making diminutive cameras.
The OM-D E-M5 is the latest addition to the Olympus fleet, a micro four thirds system standard interchangeable lens mirrorless digital that Olympus has chosen to differentiate from its PEN system cameras by the designation OM-D system. This differentiation is more than just a marketing exercise as the E-M5 features a built-in electronic viewfinder and overall body shape much more reminiscent of the OM-1 than its PEN brethren - Olympus views the OM-D system as a fusion of PEN and DSLR technology and features. Beyond that, the E-M5 features a new live MOS sensor with 16 megapixel resolution along with a newly-developed TruePic VI processor, dust and splash proof weather sealing, and five-axis image stabilization. Olympus claims the camera has the world's fastest AF system among cameras with interchangeable lenses (albeit when using the kit lens only), and the camera offers an up to 9 frame per second (fps) continuous shooting rate.
There are automatic, scene and art filter still shooting modes, along with manual controls and, in a nod to the compact digital market, face and eye detection autofocus technology. The monitor may be enabled as a touchscreen in playback or shooting modes to provide the following features: shutter release, image enlargement, live guide, AF area selection, AF area enlargement, frame advance/backward, enlargement playback and the touch Super Control Panel offering access to a variety of shooting settings.
The 3.0-inch monitor articulates and the camera can shoot in five different aspect ratios. Full 1080 HD video is onboard with one touch video capture and the option to have manual control over exposure. The camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC and Eye-Fi memory media and features a native ISO sensitivity range from 200 to 25600 in 1/3 EV increments. RAW and JPEG formats are available. There is no built-in flash, but Olympus includes a small flash head that attaches to the accessory port atop the body. The camera will be offered as a body only version for $1000, or in kit form along with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens for $1300. A second kit offering includes the Olympus 14-42mm zoom instead for $1100. Our review model is the 12-50mm kit and here's a look at both ends of that focal range.
Olympus includes a lithium-ion battery and charger, camera strap, USB and A/V cables, printed basic user's manual, the aforementioned flash head and CD-ROM software with each camera. Originally scheduled to reach the market in late March, the E-M5 began trickling out in some markets in April but is still hard to find here in the U.S. - the camera is currently in pre-order status on both the Olympus website and the big Internet vendors Adorama and B&H photo as this review is being written in early May.
The OM-D E-M5 is a mouthful to pronounce, but this latest mirrorless offering from Olympus has a nice feature set built into that compact body. Let's get into the field and put it through its paces.
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