Olympus OM-D E-M5 Preview
The back of the screen features a large touch-screen LCD. The touch element will hopefully be improved because it was far from perfect on the pre-production sample. Terada explained that it improves on the previous menu system because it's quicker to navigate and execute options but to get the touch-screen to work, you have to press the OK button. Once the option has been chosen, you have to press the OK button again. It's a lot of shifting around the back of the OM-D EM-5. Conveniently, the menu design remains the same as the other E-series cameras.
Other than those bugbears which can quite easily be overcome with a decent firmware update, the OM-D EM-5 handles very well. It looks like a mini film SLR which brought on pangs of nostalgia when we saw it for the first time. The camera takes SD/SDHC cards in a small compartment on the side while the battery is located in the bottom. An empty 8Gb SDHC card gave us around 280 pictures recording in JPEG fine and RAW. A large fine JPEG has a size of around 6.5Mb, sometimes larger. A RAW file is around 15Mb.
Throughout the day we got to test the E-M5 in various conditions. During the test, we tried out the 5 axis sensor that's been fitted to the OM-D. It adds a new dimension to the current in-camera stabilisation systems that will compensate left, right, up and down. The new sensor shift also compensates for rotating the camera, apparently something that happens a lot. What we wanted to see was a sensor that compensated forwards and backwards. That would add an extremely dynamic dimension to picture taking. We've all rocked unsteadily between focusing and shooting, so a system like that could help. Still, maybe that's something to look forward to in the future? The sensor is essentially floating between two magnets to ensure compensation. One of our stops was at a photography studio where we got the chance to take a few pictures of some models. Despite the large amount of light, we had to switch to auto ISO because the ISO 200 setting couldn't cope and neither could the sensor shift system.
There are a number of Art filters on the OM-D which Olympus first introduced with the PEN series. The filter that Olympus are keen to push is the KeyLine filter. It's designed to look like a cartoon with black lines separating colours or contrasts and the colours in the sections getting puddled out to look like they've been painted. Olympus say they got the inspiration from Manga cartoons for this filter. We were obsessed with the Dramatic Tone mode though. It seems to boost saturation, increase sharpening and also gives the same effect that applies when pushing the Clarity slider to the top when using Adobe Camera RAW. It's a great filter, darkens skies, gives huge halos around buildings and people and brings out every line and wrinkle in a face.
There's also an Art bracket mode. This will take a picture and save a copy using every filter. If you find that there are filters you simply don't use, you can switch them off in the main menu so that the camera only records the filters you want them to.
LiveTime is one of the big player modes in the OM-D. It's located at the far end of the shutter speed scale after Bulb. It's a shame because we suspect that putting it there will mean it'll get forgotten and under-used. It works by taking photographs one after the other and stacking them on top of each other to create a long exposure image. The great bit is that it shows you what's happening on the screen. So when you're ready to end, simply press the shutter release button and it will stop.
Focusing on the OM-D EM-5 is super fast thanks to an improved system and we found that the metering worked very well in all conditions, although it didn't have a particularly challenging day with the grey cloud covering us.
We can't show you any video samples because of the restrictions of the pre-production samples that we were using. When we looked back at the video we shot, it was a little jerky but we figured that was because of the camera. We fully expect final sample cameras to work properly when the OM-D EM-5 ships next month.
It's a difficult call to make because the EM-5 harks back to the glory days of film and that nostalgic feeling gets in the way. Not only that but we can't say how well the camera performs because the firmware is pre-production and any kinds of changes could be made between now and the actual release.
What we did find was that in the noise test pictures that we took with this early model, the noise did actually look pretty good. During the test we mainly had to use higher ISO speeds because of the dull weather or simply because the lens we were using wasn't bright enough for the conditions.
We think that in a controlled environment, the noise will look pretty good. Colours appear to record realistically and the camera displays a decent dynamic range.
We can't wait to test the finalised Olympus OM-D EM-5 to see exactly what those extra pixels can do.