Olympus EM-D E-M5 Review

 Olympus EM-D E-M5 Review

The 16-megapixel OM-D E-M5 takes its design cues from cameras that were part of the company's classic OM film SLR line, which were renowned for their small size when they were introduced back in 1972. The E-M5 also manages to live up to their legend. It's a modern camera with an excellent EVF, lightning-fast autofocus, great handling, a very sharp and versatile kit lens, and full weather sealing. As such, it earns our Editors' Choice award for high-end compact interchangeable lens cameras.

Design and Features

The E-M5 is a bit larger than the smallest mirrorless compacts, but still not as big as a D-SLR. It measures 3.5 by 4.8 by 1.6 inches (HWD) and weighs about 15 ounces without a lens.The E-M5 has a modest handgrip, but I found it most comfortable to use along with the OM-D HLD-6 Battery Grip.

You've got two options for framing images. The first is an eye-level electronic viewfinder. It's housed just where it would be on a D-SLR, adding a characteristic angular hump to the top of the E-M5. Packed with 1.44 million dots, the LCD EVF is sharp and crisp, although with less contrast than the OLED EVF built into the Sony Alpha NEX-7. The camera's rear 3-inch touch screen display is OLED, and even though its resolution is just 610k dots, it is extremely bright and crisp. The rear panel is hinged, so you can frame shots from above or below. There's no built-in flash, but Olympus includes a pop-up flash that slides into the hot shoe. If you need a more powerful strobe, Olympus offers a few options that are compatible with the E-M5, including models that support bounce and swivel.

Physical controls are plentiful here. There are two control wheels, a mode dial, two programmable function buttons, a video recording button, and a four-way controller. The camera's menu system is pretty intense—there are pages and pages of options that you can customize—but once you've got the camera configured to suit your shooting style you won't have to spend a ton of time paging through it. I programmed the Fn2 button to activate its integrated digital zoom. If you're shooting in JPG or Raw+JPG, it effectively doubles your focal length. I was quite impressed with the quality of the digitally zoomed JPGs—they were only slightly softer than non-zoomed files, and retained the full 16-megapixel resolution. I also used the function as a manual focusing aid when shooting with legacy lenses. Tapping the button toggles between the two views, and even if you do find yourself firing a shot off when zoomed unintentionally in Raw+JPG mode, the Raw file retains the full field of view—it is only the JPG version that is cropped in-camera.

One of the advantages of Olympus Micro Four Thirds bodies over Panasonic cameras with the same lens mount and sensor size like the Lumix DMC-GX1 is in-body image stabilization. This adds stabilization to any lens that you mount on the camera. The system implemented in the E-M5 features a 5-axis stabilizer, which does a great job keeping shots sharp. I was able to shoot crisp photos at slower shutter speeds without issue. The system also helps to keep your video footage steady.

The E-M5's body is fully weather sealed, and if you opt to buy the kit we reviewed, which includes the sealed M.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 ED lens , you've got a camera that you can take outdoors in almost any type of weather and shoot without worry. There aren't a lot of interchangeable lens cameras on the market that offer sealed body and sealed lens options.

Performance and Conclusions

Early Micro Four Thirds models were nowhere near as fast as competing D-SLRs, and that stigma has followed the cameras around—even though they are, generally speaking, no longer guilty. The E-M5 isn't going to outperform a pro camera like our Editors Choice full-frame D-SLR, the Nikon D4 , but it does feature autofocus that is, in all but the dimmest light, nearly instantaneous. The camera does hunt a for focus a bit in very low light, but includes a built-in autofocus assist beam to help make the process bearable.

The E-M5 can start up and grab a photo in 1.5 seconds, rattles off shots at 9 frames per second, and records an extremely short 0.09 second shutter lag. When using a SanDisk 95MBps memory card, the camera can keep up the fast shooting pace for about 18 JPG shots, 16 Raw shots, or 16 Raw+JPG shots before slowing down. Recovery time also varies based on the format—all of the JPG shots are written to the camera in about 5.1 seconds, while you'll have to wait 11.8 seconds for the Raw buffer to clear, and 14.4 seconds for the Raw+JPG files to be stored on the card. The Nikon J1 , a mirrorless camera with a smaller sensor, offers a shorter 0.04 second shutter lag, but takes about 1.8 seconds to start and shoot and can only manage about 4.2 frames per second.

The included 12-50mm (24-100mm equivalent) is a 4x zoom design with three operational modes. You can opt to use it as an electronic power zoom, which is very quiet, or as a traditional manual zoom. The third mode is Macro—which sets the lens to the 43mm focal length (96mm equivalent) and makes it possible to focus on objects that are very close to the lens. I used Imatest to test its sharpness at 12mm, 25mm, and 50mm. It impressed at each of these focal lengths—notching 2,129 lines at its widest, 2,521 lines in the middle, and 2,477 lines at its longest. All of these figures are well in excess of the 1,800 lines required for a sharp image—a number that kit lenses sometimes struggle to hit. I considered the 18-55mm (27-82.5mm equivalent) zoom that is bundled with the NEX-7 to be better than most, and that lens only managed to hit an average of 1,720 lines through its zoom range.

I also tested the noise present in out-of-camera JPGs using Imatest's Colorcheck module. When an image is composed of more than 1.5 percent noise it starts to look overly grainy. The E-M5 was able to keep noise under this level through ISO 3200. This is one stop better than the NEX-7, which only made it to ISO 1600. More impressive is that the Olympus was able to keep the noise low without relying on overzealous digital noise reduction—which helps to keep noise low, but also washes away detail in photos. To my eye, JPG files were excellent in terms of detail through ISO 3200, and still very usable at ISO 6400. Setting the camera any higher than that can get dicey when working with JPGs, but if you are willing to put the extra time in and shoot in the camera's Raw format, you can probably push it to ISO 12800. It's a bit hard to tell for sure at this point as Lightroom 4 has not yet been updated to support the E-M5's Raw format, and the noise reduction algorithms in the included Olympus Viewer 2 are not as robust as those offered by Adobe Camera Raw.

The camera records QuickTime video at 1080p30 or 720p30 format with continuous autofocus. The quality is excellent, and the camera's stabilization system helps to keep your handheld footage from looking as if it was shot on a boat. Serious videographers are going to be left wanting in terms of audio, since there's no microphone input. Olympus does sell the SEMA-1 Microphone Adapter ($89.99), which includes a tiny stereo mic and an adapter that turns the hot shoe into a microphone input jack. The E-M5 has a micro HDMI port to connect to an HDTV and a proprietary USB interface to connect to a computer. It can record data to SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.

This is the shooter Micro Four Thirds aficionados have been waiting for. While there have been good cameras available to mount the ever-growing library of native lenses, it's been hard to find one that can be described as truly excellent. The E-M5 fills that void—it can shoot as fast as an SLR, delivers quick and accurate focus, and does a good job at high ISOs. Traditional shooters may be turned off by the lack of an optical finder, but this is the case with all mirrorless cameras. The only way to get around it is to opt for a rangefinder like the Leica M9 , but that design precludes through-the-lens viewing—and it costs a bundle.

The OM-D E-M5 earns our Editors' Choice for high-end compact interchangeable lens cameras, edging out the Sony Alpha NEX-7. The NEX has a bigger sensor, and is only $50 more, but the E-M5's performance, ergonomics, weather sealing, and impressive kit lens help it prevail. The NEX's big advantage is a larger image sensor, but its native lens selection, while constantly improving, cannot match that of Micro Four Thirds. If you've already bought into the Micro Four Thirds system and are considering an upgrade, look no further: The E-M5 is simply the finest camera you'll find.

Source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403406,00.asp

Title Post: Olympus EM-D E-M5 Review
Rating: 100% based on 99998 ratings. 5 user reviews.
Author: hadhie s

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