Olympus E-M5 First Look Review: OM My!

by Reads (358)

Behold, the OM series revived in Micro Four Thirds glory – the Olympus OM-D E-M5. We’ve got hands-on photos, impressions and video with the new system camera. Read on for all of the retro-tastic details.

Olympus E-M5

One important note here – we didn’t get to actually turn the camera on. Our pre-production test unit was shipped, intentionally, with no battery. Rest assured we man-handled it plenty and did lots of pretend shooting with this little retro gem. And for bonus points, we shot our first look video using an E-PL3 and new Zuiko 12-50mm lens.

But let’s start by breaking down that name, shall we? OM-D adds “D for Digital” to the classic OM designation, and E-M5 makes it the latest in the OM family, picking up where the OM-4 left off in the 80’s. It’s Olympus’ first Micro Four Thirds model without the Pen name, and it represents a whole new product line.

Olympus E-M5

Olympus didn’t just nod to the OM series with this new digital incarnation, it flat-out reproduced its original film camera in digital form. This design is carried out so far as to include a large housing for a non-existant pentaprism. Since it only contains an EVF and an accessory port for the hot shoe, we can assume this was for styling purposes rather than function. Looking at the E-M5 from the front you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a much older camera.

On the backside? That’s a different story. The articulating. 3.0-inch OLED monitor is a dead giveaway, as are an array of modern buttons and a bright red video start/stop button on the top panel. A deeply sculpted thumb rest on the back panel offers some stability in the hand, and the grip surface of the camera is very comfortable. That’s a good thing, because the E-M5 is solidly built and plenty heavy. A good grip surface makes it easier to keep steady in the hand. The leather-esque panels on the front of the camera look and feel luxurious.

Olympus E-M5

I might have liked the EVF offset a bit. I have to smoosh my nose against the glossy OLED to get my eye right up to the EVF. And as mentioned previously, we didn’t get to actually use the EVF because we didn’t have a battery for the camera. Aside from that detail, there’s a nice rubberized eye cup and a diopter adjustment for comfortable use by all. The EVF’s specs are certainly promising – it offers a nice 1.44 million-dot resolution.

Buttons have a slightly “mushy” feel – they don’t click when they’re fully depressed like the buttons on a PEN or a point-and-shoot. They have a nice feel though, and the command dials on the top deck click into place as they’re turned. The shutter button has a nice half-press stop, not at all soft like the other buttons.

Olympus E-M5

Olympus promises that the E-M5 is dust and splash-proof, and we see no reason to argue with them. Construction is top-notch, seams are all tight. Buttons on the back panel and dials on the top don’t appear to be particularly weatherproof, and they might be weak points in the E-M5 armor. We wouldn’t suggest that you go ahead and dunk your new E-M5 in the country club pool, but it looks and feels ready to weather a sudden storm or a little extra dust. The SD card slot is accessible through the side panel, making it easy to change out memory media while the camera is mounted on a tripod.

Olympus E-M5

A camera like the E-M5 is very hard to resist. Even without actually turning it on, it was very popular at the office while we had our hands on it. But the playing field is filling up fast with contenders like the Sony NEX-7. When the PEN was re-introduced in digital form, there was basically nothing like it. It’s a different story now. It’s safe to say though, that Olympus nailed the copycat OM styling, and if camera performance is as good as the E-M5 looks, well, the NEX-7 might be in trouble. For now, click through below to our gallery for even more OM-D E-M5 images.

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