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June 07, 2012


Fantastic camera for the money . .

I did semi-professional work with film --and I'm old. My girlfriend gave me a pen PL-1 for my birthday and that was a great, eye-opening gift. I have since acquired the EM-5 and could not be more pleased with it to this point. It is a joy to use, and the creative possibilities it places in your hands, seem, well, almost to simple to be legal. All in all, the camera creates such good photos with so many easy manipulations that it's difficult to not take multiple shots of subjects. And the size of the body and dedicated lenses (especially the 75mm-300mm lense) are a definite plus when hiking outdoors. Unless you have large, clumsy hands, you'll never regret getting them on the EM-5 . . . and as many lenses as you can afford. Highly recommend.

June 06, 2012

Does More Than 99% of What I Need/Want!

Awesome Package With Awesome Features

I have been waiting and waiting for a special camera. At first I waited around for other's announcements but nothing quite fit the bill. I needed a truly well thought-out system camera.

Shortly there after, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was announced! I only heard bits and pieces but when it was confirmed by Olympus and the specs released, I felt strongly that I had found my camera.

After reviewing the specifications, I couldn't wait to see how close to true the claims actually are, and I am not disappointed! I wanted a camera that was small, tough (the weather sealing and moisture sealing is a BIG deal to me) and versatile.

By versatile, I mean it needed a view finder, I wanted the most manual and external controls (this camera has a really good mix of all those things) I wanted a tilt screen!!!

I feel like I have more on this camera than I thought any company would offer. I love the touch screen for quick focus and shooting! It works amazingly fast.

The view finder is quite nice, too. I have never used an EVF before, but I am very satisfied. I use the EVF 90% of the time. I have only just begun to fiddle with the video features, but I am satisfied with those early results, too.

I have been using the Olympus 45mm f1.8 prime almost all the time and absolutely love that lens.
Bokeh is no problem with that lens -- period.

I am still learning the ins and outs of this baby, but I am enjoying every minute of it. Another feature I had to have was the ability to make long exposures. This OM-D has a Bulb setting on it! Yay!

Some people say the rear buttons are a bit small... well maybe, but I have no problem messing with them. I am so pleased with this camera, I also am so happy I was patient for once and did not buy anything else! This is my camera-home for a long time.

I sound like a freak, I am sure, but coming from the kind of camera I came from, this is so liberating, to have all this control and feature list in one awesome, easy-to-carry-and-pack, package!

Also, one other note, I splurged and bought a 64Gig high-end memory card with the fastest transfer rate. I am very happy with shot-to-shot performance.

June 06, 2012


It's the camera I've always wanted.

The EM-5 is the most configurable camera I've ever owned. Assigning shooting functions to buttons is easy and makes using this camera a joy. The conversion from LCD usage to EVF usage and back is seamless. There are so many features built into this camera that are discovered only after spending time using the camera. It would have been helpful if Olympus included a paper user manual that explained all of these features.

My first full day of shooting with the camera was at Yankee Stadium, where I shot a five image panorama, which I've included with this review.

June 05, 2012


Micro Four-Thirds Goes Pro?

I've read some user reviews of the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 that seem dismayed at its operating noise, described as a fan-like sound. Once I'd fully charged its battery and switched my E-M5 on for the first time, yes, I did notice the slight whirring noise it makes. With my face pressed up against the camera and my eye in the viewfinder, it sounds a bit like the hum of a filter pump in a little fish tank -- right away, it reminded me of some lenses I've used with image stabilization built into them that sounded very similar.

And I grinned. I figured Olympus put more serious image stabilization into the sensor (although that's not to knock the IS systems they've put into the PEN series cameras, which work very well).

I was right. The image stabilization in the E-M5 is excellent, and in use seems to be about a stop or sometimes even two stops more effective than the IS in my E-P2.

I'm not worried about the low humming/whirring noise the camera makes when switched on; it's just part of how the camera functions and doesn't get in the way. No one notices it, and neither will you after a short time. It's really only audible when you're right up next to it, and you can't hear it even a foot or more away hanging around your neck. I have now shot two professional gigs with the camera that had moments of absolute silence, and that sound was completely unnoticeable.

More significantly, I'll move on to a sound the camera makes that I find quite perfect: its shutter. The shutter noise is a tidy little "plunk" sound that's very quiet and sounds muffled and refined, not at all like many cameras I've used or shot next to that have a metallic, cacophonous clacking noise that can be extremely disruptive. The shutter is also extremely fast and smooth -- its high-speed burst, if that's your thing, is impressive and lightning-fast at about 10 frames per second with the right memory card, far more than you'll need for about 99% of real-world shooting. Since the shutter noise is so low and understated, even a burst of shots is minimally obtrusive.

Let me say this: This little camera takes the Micro 4/3 package to professional grade (or at least it can be used effectively that way -- I do), and in only a short few weeks of use it's grown on me quite a bit and become my preference. I was a very early adopter of the E-P2 when it came out two and a half years ago, and I was amazed with what that little unit could do in the right hands. I still am. Yet, when the E-P3 came out, I hesitated and stayed on the fence. It seemed like an upgrade, but not enough of one to warrant rushing out to purchase.

Now, along comes the E-M5, which Olympus has billed as "The beginning of the new." And it might just be worth that very lofty introduction -- I feel like nearly every complaint I had with the E-P2 has been addressed, though there really weren't all that many.

You have good weather sealing, making the camera more "pro" and protected against rain, the occasional splashes that can happen in various situations, dust, etc. You have the option of an excellent battery grip, which for me greatly improves the handling and ergonomics of the camera while providing a second battery that will let you shoot all day long for an extended engagement. You have a great viewfinder that doesn't occupy the use of the hotshoe/accessory port, so you're free to pop on a flash, the stereo microphone (great for shooting movies, by the way), and other accessories. Among the most useful additions are the multiple dials on the top right portion of the camera, which among other things can allow you to spin exposure compensation up or down three stops easily and quickly to adjust for various situations (heavy backlight with no fill flash is one example). And since it's an electronic viewfinder, you can see the final exposure before you even snap the shot, which is a major advantage over a mirror-and-prism optical viewfinder on a DSLR. The flip-up LCD screen can be very handy for overhead or waist-level shooting.

But I think the one most noticeable change from my E-P2 to the E-M5 is high ISO performance. People often test different ISO settings in good light, but the true test for high ISOs is in rendering dark areas and shadows in low or next-to-no light. That was the limit of my venerable little E-P2: I can shoot it with very fast lenses and no flash in pubs and bar rooms, poorly-lit indoor situations, and so on, but I can really only push it to about ISO 800 before the shadow and dark areas start getting too noisy. With a fast enough lens, that will get you pretty far, but if there's much motion/fast movement, you still won't have enough shutter speed to stop it without blur unless you use a flash (not an option in many situations, and not my preference if possible).

I just shot the E-M5 hand-held well after sunset at ISO 6400 with a very fast lens -- there was almost no light at all, since it was in a wooded and already shaded area. And the photos I got out of it straight up blew me away. This thing's results at ISO 3200 and 6400 shot hand-held in near-total darkness look like it's not nightfall at all but afternoon; I was even able to shoot people blur-free and actually BETTER than the E-P2 can do at ISO 800 in terms of noise visible in shadow and dark/black areas.

Yes indeed, this sweet little unit is a keeper.

One quick note: I purchased the E-M5 with the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens, simply because of its splash-proof design to match the camera and I expected that the equivalent of a 24-100mm lens in 35mm format would be a handy lens. The lens balances well on the camera, is nearly completely silent in zooming/focusing and sports a handy additional button you can assign a function to, and yes, it looks to be extremely sharp -- but then it *had better be* sharp by apertures as slow as f6.3 on the long end. I've found it's a useful lens for movie shooting and situations like when it's drizzling out or you're shooting people splashing around in a pool in daylight, for example, or shooting with a flash, but for me it's really too slow to use in many situations and will only be used occasionally.

Another quick note: I just tried out the 12-50mm's macro function, which I hadn't accessed. It requires you to hold down the "Macro" button on the side of the lens and push the zoom ring toward the front of the lens. This might just be this lens' true calling! It seems very competent as a macro, even though it's available only at the 43mm setting in Micro 4/3 terms (86mm equivalent field of view in 35mm format) and at apertures of f6.3 and smaller. With the lens' increased ruggedness due to weather sealing and very quiet operation, I'll have to play around with this one some more -- things just might get interesting!

So that's my experience, having thrown myself like an idiot into a few very high-pressure, must-do situations with minimal time to adapt to using the camera. It has performed admirably. I'm finding a lot of smart customizable functions, too, digging through the menus and assigning functions I use most to the additional buttons. I haven't yet gotten the FL-600R flash, which is smaller and made to balance better on the E-M5, and the FL-50R feels a bit too heavy and large to mount on the hotshoe. But I did use the FL-50R on a bracket with the camera, and the results from that setup were stunning.

I've noticed a few things that could use improvement. First, the battery life is very good so far in my experience, but there are only three indicator bars displayed: Full (3 bars), two-thirds (2 bars), and one-third (flashing red at you). That could benefit from, say, four or five indicator bars to provide a finer, more accurate readout. Also, I'm one of the people who will probably always use this camera with the full HLD-6 battery grip for improved handling (especially with larger lenses) and extended shooting capability, but the padded, soft rubber areas on the grip mark and scuff up easily. No big deal, but at some point I could see having to (i.e., wanting to) replace them. I also don't like the rubber "bend away" cover for the HDMI/USB ports on the left of the camera -- it feels like it could get loose after a lot of use, so I prefer the hard plastic cover over the SD card and almost always just remove the card to transfer files. It's also something of a nuisance that the E-M5 battery is larger and different than that of the PEN series cameras, just because I had to buy a new round of batteries (gripe, moan. I'll live).

That's about all I can say for now! I've grown accustomed to this camera much faster than it usually takes to get used to a completely new unit, and I'm very impressed with what it can do, even after just a short time. While I still love the feel and overall simplicity of my E-P2 and prefer it for certain situations, the E-M5 in many ways is a substantial leap in performance and has very quickly become my new standard, go-to camera. (I'm already pressing some wrong buttons on the E-P2 when switching between the two cameras because of some more intuitive control placements on the E-M5.)

I'm only surprised the E-M5 price point is really as affordable as it is -- I think it offers extraordinary "bang for the buck" when you see what it can do. It's the first time in quite a while where I actually feel like a new camera alone has added substantially to my creative "firepower."

Is this little thing truly "the beginning of the new?" Well, for this user, yep... it sure feels that way.

June 02, 2012


Wonderful camera

I am most impressed by how well it handles with the optional grip, especially for such a small camera. I was afraid it would be too little for my hands, but with the grip, it feels great.

June 01, 2012


The DSLR Killer

Yes that is a bold statement to make. I'll stand by it as well. I didn't take this purchase lightly as I've been a paid professional wedding and event photographer as well as portrait work and landscape work with digital cameras over the past 15 years. I was so taken back but the utter competency of this product when I got my chance to have a hands on with it, that I sold off ALL of my DSLR equipment as well as a competing small camera system. The focus speed and accuracy of this camera is utterly intoxicating. You'll shake your head wondering how it is possible. Even in a dimly lit building the focusing doesn't falter, making it still ideal for challenging shooting situations. The build is like a fine piece of jewelry. Some of the buttons have a softer touch than one might be used to but that is due to the completely weathersealed body design, a plus I think. The extensive customization menu allows one to tailor this camera to anyone's specific requirements, and once dialed in requires no special accessing of menus any further. The OLED screen is a joy to view, bright and color accurate. The viewfinder is the best yet. Superb fast refresh rates to the point you'll forget about optical viewfnders. Some of the many features allow for one to quickly assess the proper exposures needed (adjustable highlight and shadow adjustment). The dynamic range on this camera is very close to the large DSLR's out there but make NO mistake this body while solid as can be is a fraction of the weight you'd have to carry around with one of those. Battery life is quite good but the responsiveness is what will hook you for sure. The camera simply never gets in your way. It responds to every commend in a moment with no waiting. The video was a complete surprise as it appears better in many regards than all of what is available in a "hybrid" camera these days. The kit 12-50 is such a sweet and well thought out lens to pair with this camera. I highly recommend this as the initial combo. All in all a very well thought out product with design execution beyond anything out there. Olympus really hit a home run on this which is obvious considering the wait to get one. Be patient as this camera is worth it like NO other.

May 31, 2012


I love the size and weight of camera, which in turn leads me to use it more than a traditional DSLR. That is the most important part - that I can now take it with me and use it!

May 31, 2012


A firmware update and it will be best in class

As the other writers have said - this is a remarkable camera from its unbeatable auto focus to the image quality and H264 quicktime movies for video and size. It only falls down with its video recording options, only offering 30fps yet it has a PAL video output? NTSC is 30fps, PAL is 25fps. It really needs to have 25fps along with 30fps and to be true to HD it needs 24fps to keep all users happy.

May 30, 2012

Old Pro

A good start.

I grew up with OM's--1 through 4ti. The E-M5 is a good start in recreating the feel and feeling of those great cameras, but some work is still needed. I've only had mine for about 2 weeks, so it really is too early to make a judgment. I hope that these remarks are viewed by Olympus designers as well as prospective users, because I want to encourage them to continue.

I might add that I've used a 620 for years, and so far, I like the layout and concept of the older camera much better.

1. The printed manual is almost useless. It looks like it was translated from Japanese to Ukrainian, then to Mandarin, then to English.
2. In an effort to make the camera maximally customizeable, they have made it needlessly complex to use. For example, on the 620, if you want to set the ISO, something experienced photographers will want to do, you just push a button, the appropriate screen appears, and you set it. On the Em-5. you have to wade through menus.
3. I still have not figured out how to produce the super control panel every time. It was easy on the 620. Now it seems to depend on what state the camera is already in.
4. The viewfinder is not bad, but it is a LONG way from an optical viewfinder. Just for fun, I dug out my OM-4t. What a difference!
5. One of the things I was hoping to do was use my collection of OM lenses. It works-sort of, but it was easier to set up on the 620. Also, I'm not sure that I'm getting image stabilization--I followed the instructions, such as they are, but the same lens produced a better image on the 620 at slower shutter speeds.
6. I really like the grip. Without it, it would be very challenging to use, especilly with the tiny buttons.
7. I got the feeling that the engineers sat around and said "Wouldn't it be cool if you could----." without actually checking with photographers to see if they really would use the feature. Early computer programs were exactly like that. In the early OS's, a big deal was that you could customize the shape and color of your cursor. What the ----? I'd like to see Olympus have a focus group of the kind of photographer who is actually going to use the camera. The more "features" there are, the harder it is to learn and to use. There are only three variables a camera needs to consider to produce an image: ISO, aperture, shutter speed. Those three things need to be absolutely easy to access and intuitive. I like, and frequently use A and S, never P, and sometimes automatic if I'm lazy.
8 The build quality is great. Feels like a real camera. I don't like the tiny squishy buttons, but that ought to be easy and cheap to fix.

May 27, 2012


Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a absolute Jewel

I'm pleased to offer the first owner review here for this excellent camera.

The OM-D EM-5 has become my new and ideal everyday 'companion' camera. It offers outstanding usability and control for serious photographers with its quick reflexes, dual control dials, built-in EFV and tilt touch screen all packaged in a solid and handsome body that doesn't sacrifice extreme portability. I've had my OM-D for over a month now and honestly I can find no shortcomings to this camera. Upon initial unwrapping I happily found the camera's size and proportions to be exactly as I hoped (smaller than it appeared online). In use the camera is highly user configurable, image quality from new sensor is superb, tilt screen with touch/focus/shutter option awesome for shooting from the hip, IS excellent and last but not least it's just plain fun, a pleasure to use and behold. In short, this is the quintessential compact system camera I've longed for.

If you've been considering this camera, I suggest buying it now and adding one of the excellent M.Zuiko primes like the 12mm f2 or 45 f1.8. You will not be disappointed.

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