First of all I want to state that I do not take any scientific tests on sharpness or ISO comparisons with other cameras. I just evaluate the pure shooting experience by going out taking photos.
In 2012, after thinking a long time about whether getting a Panasonic GH3, which would be convenient since I started shooting with a Lumix G2 and am familiar to Panasonic, or an Olympus OM-D EM-5. I evaluated the pros and cons of each camera, but could not really made up mind. I searched the internet for help and came across multiple pages who had nothing but high praise for the little Olympus camera. So I went to a local camera store to try it our myself.
I loved the look of this little thing. Olympus went the right way by imitating the look of their old legendary OM cameras and gave it a cool new facelift, which is appealing to older generations, who grew up using the old OM cameras and the younger generations like me. Unfortunately, I was not totally convinced by the feel of the buttons on that camera. I know that the weathersealing may be the cause for the mushy feeling, but do the buttons really have to be so cramped?
Olympus easily could have made the top of the camera a little bit higher. Not the hump for the EVF, but the height difference between it and the top plate. If they lowered it, that would leave more room for the buttons on the back. Especially the FN1 and Playback-Button are small and really hard to press lying right next to the big (but beautiful) screen.
In the following days I thought if these things are enough to keep me from getting this camera. But I was convinced that I could work around those little issues I had with it at first try and went for and bought it. I ordered the camera body-only so I cannot comment on the quality of the kit lens. But I bought the grip to eliminate some of the handling issue I had due to the small size.
I loved the camera when I got it out of the box. It was mine. It has a wonderful finish to it and the material feels so good the hands. I was surprised how heavy it is. But this weight, mainly caused by the Aluminum-Alloy body, helps convincing you of the value of the camera. It really is a little tank.Coupled with the grip the camera handles very well and the few extra customizable buttons are a welcome addition. But I understand the criticism of some that the camera is to fiddly without the grip and the price of it too high. But I like that you can have a very small camera which is able to produce stunning results without packing too much weight but if you want you can equip it with the grip and have even more a tank of a camera providing you with comfort when shooting.
I also like that the grip is split into two pieces so you can leave the lower part at home when you just want a more comfortable grip on the camera but want to leave a lot of bulk at home. I find myself using the camera with the whole grip including the battery part if I need more battery power for a long day or when just walking around and take occasional photos the camera itself without any grip.
You have very good control in personalizing the camera to your liking. It offers two function buttons which can be set to operate as AEL/AFL control or DOF preview. And if you need more specialization you can even reassign the record button with extra functions, leaving you with three customizable buttons. If you use the grip you can add two new function buttons to the existing three.
In addition you can change the behavior of the four-way-control-buttons on the back. By default you use the buttons to change the position of the AF point, but you can use them to serve functions like ISO or White Balance control. A good list about all the possible functions possible can be found here DPReview - Olympus OM-D EM-5 (Controls).
I own the camera for a little over 4 months now and have taken many, many photos with it and my love for it grows every time I pick it up. It is such a joy to shoot with and the Images it delivers are astounding. Where higher ISO sensitivities of 800 and above resulted in noisy pictures with limited dynamic range with my old G2, the EM-5 provides you with enough detail even at higher ISO. I do not have any concerns taking pictures at ISO 4000 or even 6400. This idea was ridiculous with my old camera and it opens so many great opportunities to shoot in low-light conditions. Coupled with the new fast lenses available for Micro Four Thirds I almost have no need to complain. Olympus did a fantastic job by using one of the best sensors Sony has to offer.
However you do not have to raise the sensitivity this far on many occasions because of the stroke of genius Olympus' engineers had with their new 5-Axis-Image-Stabilization-System. Olympus decided, in contrast to Panasonic, to go with In-Body-IS when they developed their mFT-cameras. They save cost by leavin IS-Systems out of their lenses and make them smaller and lighter simultaneously.
And their new IBIS works like a charm. It works so good that you can get sharp pictures down to a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second with a focal lenght of 150mm on medium format. It is really that great and in my opinion one of the most important arguments for that camera. All in all this camera is amazing and I am happy that I went for it. It’s a ton of fun using it and the results are amazing when coupled with the fine glas Olympus offers. Thank you Olympus for releasing this camera.
- - great design
- - customizable
- - outstanding image quality
- - good in low-light
- - Breathtaking In-Body-Image-Stabilization
- - fast and reliable autofocus for static subjects
- - good EVF and great display
- - nice shutter sound ;)
- - weatherproof
- - lots of dials and buttons to provide enough manual control
- - buttons mushy and cramped
- - battery life could be better (ca 350-400 shots)
- - EVF could have higher-res
- - video functions very limited (but not a concern for me since I do not take videos at all)
- - autofocus could be better for moving objects