Olympus OM-D E-M5 Preview

February 20, 2012 | Matt Grayson | Compact System Camera | Comment |

To coin a term already used by the film industry, the Olympus OM-D EM-5 is a reboot of a previous model. OM-D is the range of cameras - the same way they have the PEN series - and the E-M5 is the first model in the range. Styled on the previous OM cameras from back in the days of film, the camera is a haunting reflection of the Japanese company's glory days.

That comment may seem a little harsh because Olympus are still doing well. They're just not doing as well as in the past. Hopefully, the E-M5 will help to see their fortunes change the same way that the PEN series brought them back into the limelight. The only major obstacle we can see so far is that the body only has a suggested RRP of £999.99. That's breaking into semi-pro ground and this camera isn't a semi-pro model, which Olympus admitted in their press conference before the testing began.

The OM-D extends the current E-series and in particular the mirrorless system. It adopts the MicroFourThirds lens mount and the FourThirds LiveMOS sensor. For anyone new to the system or photography in general, LiveMOS is a hybrid sensor type used by Panasonic and Olympus who jointly developed the FourThirds system. The companies claim it has the sharpness of a CCD with the efficiency of a CMOS. FourThirds simply describes the aspect ratio of the sensor. Since its conception, more companies have joined this “open source” format, including the lens makers Tamron and Sigma.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 Preview

Dimensionally, the OM-D is smaller than the PEN cameras, certainly smaller than the E-5 DSLR and also slightly smaller than the original OM4 film camera. The smaller lens mount and sensor means that the camera isn't as deep either. Original Zuiko lenses can be fitted to the OM-D EM-5 but you need a MFT to OM adapter which pushes the rear element further away from the film plane to compensate.

The OM-D EM-5 has an in-built electronic viewfinder (EVF) housed inside a pentaprism chamber. The resolution of the viewfinder is 1.44 million dots. Generally, that means that the resolution in pixels is a third of that number but Olympus also referred to the resolution as 1.44 million pixels.

The Live MOS sensor that we touched on earlier is 16 megapixels. We wanted to know why the resolution had been raised when they had admitted in previous interviews and press releases that 12 megapixels was the optimum resolution for the FourThirds sensor. Digital SLR Planning Manager Toshi Terada said: “The reason why we choose this one, is not only for the higher resolution, this one has a really nice performance of the noise.” So the new 16 megapixel sensor was chosen for its noise capability, not the higher resolution.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 Preview

To the right of what would be the prism housing, there are several buttons for operation of the OM-D EM-5. The shutter release sits on a dial and two more dials join it. One controls shutter speed, one aperture and the third covers exposure compensation.

The live-view display button is only small and secreted away behind the rubber eye cup on the prism. When using the live-view to shoot, the resulting picture will display on the back. If you shoot through the viewfinder, it shows in the viewfinder. We had a tough time dealing with that because the natural response these days is to look at the back of the camera.

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