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Olympus OM-D EM-5 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 1,149
inc VAT

One of the best compact system cameras to date, but there are some weaker areas that we'd struggle to accept at this price

Specifications

17.3x13mm 16.0-megapixel sensor, 4.2x zoom (24-100mm equivalent), 636g

http://www.jessops.com

Olympus and Panasonic jointly developed the Micro Four Thirds system that kick-started the compact system camera (CSC) movement, but Olympus’s early PEN cameras were overshadowed by the sprightlier performance of Panasonic’s G series and, later, the higher image quality of Sony’s NEX range. The third generation of PEN cameras put Olympus back in the race with improved autofocus and much lower noise. The E-M5 raises the bar yet again.

Olympus OM-D EM-5

Olympus has dropped the PEN brand with this model in favour of OM-D – an explicit reference to Olympus’s OM film cameras. They’re clearly the inspiration for the E-M5’s retro appearance, but there’s little else that’s retro about this camera with its 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, 1.44 million dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) and articulated OLED touchscreen. It’s the first CSC to be fully weather sealed – you can’t take it swimming but its magnesium alloy body can cope with splashes and dust, as can the new 20-50mm lens. This lens also benefits from a dual zooming mechanism, with motorised movement for smooth zooms while shooting video plus a direct mechanical control to jump quickly to the desired focal length when taking photos.

Olympus OM-D EM-5

The upmarket features continue with an optional battery grip (Olympus HLD-6, £230 inc VAT), which comes in two parts. The first simply provides a more substantial handgrip, while the second (which screws into the first) holds a second battery and provides additional controls for more comfortable portrait-orientation shooting. As with the PEN cameras, optical stabilisation is built into the sensor, but this one is considerably more sophisticated, compensating for movement in five axes. It fared well in our tests but wasn’t in a different league to more conventional designs.

Olympus OM-D EM-5

Not all of the E-M5’s features are so positive. Battery life without the grip is short at 330 shots, and may not be enough for a day’s shooting. There’s a detachable flash unit included in the box, but it sits quite far back on the accessory shoe and gets in the way of the viewfinder a little. There’s a sensor to switch automatically from the screen to the viewfinder when the camera is raised to the eye but it takes half a second to react and even longer when switching the other way. The video mode produced some beautiful footage and the lens focused and zoomed smoothly, but it’s not possible to move the autofocus point while recording. Priority and manual exposure modes are available for videos but exposure controls can’t be adjusted while recording either.

Our biggest grievances are regarding the controls. The buttons have a vague, spongy feel and there are no single-function buttons for direct access to photographic controls, unless you count the shutter release. There’s a pair of assignable Function buttons and it’s possible to reassign the navigation pad away from focus point duties to gain another two configurable controls plus exposure compensation. No functions are labelled, though, and there aren’t quite enough buttons to go around. Having assigned ISO speed, white balance and drive mode, we had to choose between AE lock, depth-of-field preview, manual focus and a digital magnify function (to help with focus) for the remaining button.

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Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 16.0 megapixels
CCD size 17.3x13mm
Viewfinder electronic (1,440,000 pixels)
Viewfinder magnification, coverage 1.15x, 100%
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 610,000 pixels
Articulated screen Yes
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 4.2x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 24-100mm
Image stabilisation optical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution 4,608×3,456
File formats JPEG, RAW; QuickTime (AVC), AVI (M-JPEG)

Physical

Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 330 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, micro HDMI
Body material magnesium alloy
Lens mount Micro Four Thirds
Focal length multiplier 2.0x
Kit lens model name M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 EZ
Accessories USB and AV cables
Weight 636g
Size 90x122x131mm

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £1,149
Supplier http://www.jessops.com
Details www.olympus.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 60 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture range f/3.5-22 (wide), f/6.3-22 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 200 to 25600
Exposure compensation +/-3 EV
White balance auto, 7 presets with fine tuning, 2 manual, Kelvin
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness, graduation, noise reduction, colour space, shading compensation
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 20cm
Auto-focus modes multi, flexible spot, face detect
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, ISO bracket, multiple exposure

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