Olympus OM-D E-M5 Preview

February 20, 2012 | Matt Grayson | Compact System Camera | 14 Comments | |
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Preview Image

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.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 Preview

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.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 Preview

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.

Entry Tags

compact system camera, 16 megapixel, preview, mirrorless, cmos, retro, hands-on, hands on, e-m5, omd, handson, live mos, em5, Olympus OM-D E-M5, om-d, olmpus

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14 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Manchester wedding photographer

Looks amazing.  I had an OM1 and an OM10 as a student.  I might get one of these purely for nostalgia.

4:08 pm - Monday, February 20, 2012

#2 Dannie Polley

Please explain what you mean by this statement “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.”

8:03 pm - Monday, February 20, 2012

#3 Dannie Polley

Please explain your statement “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.”

8:04 pm - Monday, February 20, 2012

#4 d3xmeister

I don’t see the three dials you are talking about. I only see two.

8:54 pm - Monday, February 20, 2012

#5 Photographers in Manchester

Looks a great camera and olympus used to be a popular choice.  I would have high expectations to be worth what you would pay for it.

9:25 pm - Monday, February 20, 2012

#6 Neal

Looks good??

9:07 am - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#7 cw

The third dial is around the shutter button.

9:56 am - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#8 Philip Charles Photography

I love the look of this camera, takes me straight back to my early days in photography.

Cant wait to see one at focus on imaging.

11:44 am - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#9 Hans Benndorf

Maybe a nice amateur camera but ugly as hell.

12:02 pm - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#10 Victor

Why isn’t the om-d considered a semi-pro camera? It’s got great auto focus, image quality seems great, good burst speed, great lens selection, weather sealing, metal build, nice oled lcd screen, decent range of flash guns. It’s right up there with the 60D and D7000 in most areas in my eyes!

10:17 pm - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#11 cynic

@Hans Benndorf
You have made an objective statement about a subjective subject.

“Maybe a nice amateur camera but in my opinion ugly as hell.”

1:19 am - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#12 mattgrayson

Dannie, in controlled light I’d expect to shoot at ISO 200 (the lowest setting) or at the least I’d expect the image stabiliser to compensate but it couldn’t and I had to put it into auto ISO which pumped it up to an unnecessarily high setting I felt.
Sure it’s a lens issue but they’re lenses that will be used on the camera anyway. Maybe I should have made that clearer.
I felt that some of the pictures were too noisy because of this issue.

11:12 am - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#13 jl

Referring to your reply on post #12, maybe you can shed more light on the questions below, so we may know more about the ability of the camera:
1. When you put it into auto iso, what iso value did it pump up to that causes the photo to be noisy?
2. When you said the IS was unable to compensate, what shutter speed were you trying to shoot at?
3. Is there a limitation on the firmware to manually set the iso to say.. iso800 instead of just set it to auto?

BTW, does its video has the EP3 jello problem?

11:59 am - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#14 sunwayfoto

Francis Bacon once said (and I paraphrase) that if you could explain a thing in words there was no sense in painting it.

5:50 am - Tuesday, March 27, 2012