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Olympus OM-D EM-5 Digital DSLR Camera Review

olympus20120522aa.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Keith Parsons


Much hype has been placed on the Olympus OM-D EM-5 since its announcement back in February of this year and it comes feature packed with claims of the world fastest autofocus and a revolutionary 5 axis image stabilisation system.

Aimed at the top level enthusiast and professional photographers alike the OM-D EM-5 faces some stiff competition in todays swollen photographic market although with the addition of some stylish good looks and access to the Olympus 9 lens M.Zuiko micro four thirds lens range it will be sure to give a strong contest to any competitors..


Appearance & Functionality


Camera manufacturers seem to be currently attempting to revitalise their legacies by re-creating digital versions of traditionally styled cameras and the Olympus falls into this area. Essentially styled from the incredibly popular 35mm film OM SLR range the OM-D EM-5 is however not an SLR and does not accept the still sought after OM lens range despite mimicking its looks.

Available in either a grey/black mix or straight black colour scheme the OM-D EM-5 feels good in your hands with a solidly built magnesium body, although it appears to have shed some weight compared to the OM10 film SLR currently sitting on my desk which is certainly not a bad thing! This is also despite having to add the swag of componentry seen in digital cameras these days. The most notable difference on the body is the addition of a moulded hand grip, an underestimated feature that radically reduces hand fatigue. A cleverly placed thumb pad increase the natural feel of the camera in your hand even further.


Shooting in wet conditions is also possible as the Olympus boasts to be “the first weather-sealed compact system camera in the world”. Though in reading some finer print this is only possible if using the 12-50mm lens.

The back panel features an array of buttons including the navigational pad and power switch, oddly placed in the bottom right hand corner. The top panel follows the emerging pattern of similarity between the film SLR, although where the film winder once sat is now a digital function dial. I found overall the buttons to be slightly small for my hands though this is really due to the incredibly large OLED screen taking up a large portion of the rear.

The OM-D EM-5 delivers a very quick power up time (around 1 sec) from when the button is switched to 'on' until a shot can be fired. The home screen features an arrangement of information although is neatly organised to maximise the image size available. Menus are easily navigable and well set out with an array of headings down a left hand column and more options underneath each than most would know what to do with.

There are 8 main shooting modes directly selectable from the function dial (located on the top panel). Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie, Scene and Art Filter. The inclusion of a shutter priority and aperture priority mode is key for a camera in this range and is often overlooked.

olympus20120522ad.jpgA number of “art” filters have been included on the OM-D EM-5 and for my money this is not really a major selling point of a top end camera though they can be fun to just have in the background for occasional use. The two that would perhaps get the most use are the “grainy film” filter and the “cross process” filter. The grainy film filter adds a high contrast black and white film look to the image and the cross process filter stems from film days where negative film was processed as a positive and vice versa, sometimes to successful effect, sometimes not.

A flash is included (FL-LM2) although its a little peculiar to use at first as you have to remove a cap from the body of the camera and a cap from the flash before connecting it to the hotshoe and can be a time consuming procedure if you have to do this constantly. It feels a little underpowered as well although Olympus has some upgradeable flash options available so this is not really a problem.

A major selling point on the OM-D EM-5 is the revolutionary image stabilisation that is offered on 5 different axis's. The camera combats pitch, yaw, roll, horizontal and vertical movements and offers up to 5 stops of stabilisation. That sort of stabilisation is incredible for a camera in this class and even many of the super telephoto lenses for DSLRs that cost mega dollars do not feature this much stabilisation range. I am really impressed with this feature and it allows for great low light stabilisation and basically rules out the majority of camera shake!

Thanks to the improved Truepic VI image processor the OM-D EM-5 is capable of shooting at 9 fps, which is lightning quick. In RAW you can fire up to 15 frames continuously and in JPEG up to 19 frames though this is dependant upon a fast memory card.


olympus20120522ac.jpgImage Quality

The OM-D EM-5 contains a micro 4/3 16.1 megapixel liveMOS sensor, which is quite a formidable sensor at this price range. Whilst it is all fine to promise shooting ability to 25,600 ISO (many camera manufacturers like to highlight these high ISO ranges) realisticly the camera will not produce quality files beyond about 4000 ISO and noise becomes apparent in shadow detail at around 1600 which is to be expected.

Resolution is quite high on the Olympus and maximum res tops out at 4608x3456 pixels which is adequate for quite large print outputs. RAW shooting (12 bit lossless files) is possible and another big plus for the Olympus allowing for maximum editing potential in post.


Lens Quality

olympus20120522ah.jpgI'll mention the incredible autofocus on the OM-D EM-5 as Olympus has outdone themselves on this one by creating an even faster autofocus system than their previous “worlds fastest” Pen range. The autofocus method utilises a 35 point system that also provides tracking via 3D technology. I have to admit the autofocus is lightening quick even on the LCD screen and puts most DSLRs live view focusing to absolute shame.

The OM-D EM-5 accepts a range of lenses from the micro four thirds olympus range and on test we had a 12-50mm 3.5-6.3. The lens build quality is strong though feels a little plasticy and lacked a little aperture range for my liking. Though the lens offers a number of zooming options including the ability to switch between Manual zoom, Electronic zoom and Macro all with a flick of the zoom barrel. I certainly cannot fault the lens in terms of sharpness as it delivers incredibly sharp images. Olympus has a proud history of lens construction and many of the prime lenses originally made for film SLRs fetch incredibly hefty prices on eBay still. The beauty of the OM-D EM-5 is that it can benefit from lens technology that has been around for a number of years with the Olympus Pen range. 


olympus20120522af.jpgLCD Screen / Viewfinder

The OMD utilises a swing arm set up for its  3” OLED touchscreen and this can be incredibly handy if trying to use the camera above your head or simply trying to shade the screen from direct sunlight. The screen is actually a touchscreen and I have to admit I didn’t seem to utilise this function a whole lot though again it can be handy for those who prefer to just touch and shoot.

The EVF is impressive and touts a 1.44 million dots of resolution as well as offering 100% coverage of the scene. The fact that the viewfinder is electronic means you are seeing effects and exposure live in the viewfinder not just a plain rendering. A viewfinder is probably the most sorely missed item from most compact cameras and you will find the EVF on the  OM-D EM-5 is about the best option around.



Video Quality of the OM-D EM-5 is the now standard 1920x1080p Full HD although there are some great features like the image stabilisation that take video recording to the extra level. Many of the functions associated with still images are also accessible in the video mode like a number of the art filters as well as face recognition focussing.

Though the two standout video features are the continuos auto focus feature which allows the camera to just follow a subject rather than needing the user to constantly adjust the focus which can be a downfall when shooting video on many stills cameras. The second outstanding feature is the image stabilisation which can be used in three modes; auto, vertical or horizontal. The image stabilisation is so successful the video looks like it has been shot with the aid of a steadicam!

The only downfall on the video side is a lack of frame rate selection and no option for an external microphone (other than the via an olympus branded connector) despite the quite reasonable built in stereo mic.






There's quite a lot to like about the OM-D EM-5. If I had to mention something negative, it would be the small buttons although they do allow for a larger screen so it's really more of a positive trade off than a minor gripe. The flash is is a little fiddly too, though as mentioned it can be upgraded to a more powerful sturdier built one for more serious situations.

The positives by far outweigh the negatives here and the fact that it's a 'system camera' means there is a complete swag of accessories available ranging from lenses to a specific OMD battery grip! You can also be fairly certain that the OMD will be here to stay with more models likely... possibly and OMD EM-6 around the corner... who knows? So you can keep your lenses and upgrade bodies as the years go on.

The unquestionable highlights were the fast auto focusing, revolutionary image stabiliser and traditional OM design features. I highly doubt any consumer would be disappointed with the purchase of an OM-D EM-5 especially at a street price of $1200 AUD (single lens kit).


Accessories Used During Testing:

Tamrac Rally 4 / 3444 Camera Bag 

SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s SD Card 


Recommended Retailer:

View / Buy The Olympus OM-D EM-5  



Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Video quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
4 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
4 stars
Value for money 4.5 star
Street Price Body only $1,200.00
Body & Lens 14-42mm $1,299.00
Body & Two Lenses 14-42mm & 40-150mm $1,499.00
Effective Pixels 16 Mega pixels
Sensor Type
1/2.3" CCD sensor
Image Sizes 9 sizes / 2 ratios
Lens 25mm - 300mm, Wide(W) F3.0; Tele(T) F6.9
Lens Mount
Resolution Settings: Stills 16M  4608 x 3456
8M    3264 x 2448
5M    2560 x 1920
3M    2048 x 1536
2M    1600 x 1200
1M    1280 x 960
VGA   640 x 480
16:9  4608 x 2592
        1920 x 1080
Resolution Settings: Video 1080 60P Recording time: 29min.
720P Recording time: 29min.
720P / 60fps Recording time: Up to card capacity
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority No
Shutter Priority
Shutter Speeds 1/4 - 1/1700 s / < 4 s (Night scene)
ISO AUTO / High AUTO ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
LCD Monitor Resolution: 920000 dots
Monitor size: 7.6 cm / 3.0 '' (3:2)
Monitor type: LCD - Touch Panel
Frame assistance: Yes
Brightness adjustment: +/- 2 levels
Protection panel: Yes
Viewfinder -
Flash Modes: AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off
Working range (wide): 0.1 - 13.2 m (ISO 3200)
Working range (tele):  0.4 - 5.7 m (ISO 3200)
Hot Shoe No
White Balance AUTO WB system: Yes
Preset values: Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Flourescent 1
One-touch white balance: 1 custom settings can be registered
Self Timer 2 / 12 s Pet auto shutter
Stills Format/s
Video Format/s MPEG-4 AVC/H.2.64
Video Recording Time/s 29 Minutes / 4GB
Storage Type - External SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I class supported)
Storage Type - Internal
Connectivity USB 2.0 High Speed
HDMI (CB-HD1 Type D)
AV cable (CB-AVC3)
Power Source In-camera via USB, optional LI-50C external charger
Battery Options LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery
Battery Life -
Dimensions 106.3 mm (W) x 69.2mm (H) x 39.7mm (D)
Weight 244g (including battery and memory card)




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About Olympus


In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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