Olympus OM-D E-M5 Digital Camera Review
It hasn't taken Olympus long to speed into our hearts with their retro-inspired compact system camera lineup. The Micro Four Thirds PEN series was well-received not only for its style, but its image quality and usability. Seeing a gap at the top of their product line, Olympus now has the OM-D E-M5, answering the question: what would happen if you stuffed modern digital guts in a 1970s compact SLR body?
The E-M5 is the first camera in Olympus' new OM-D line, a direct descendant of their OM line of compact SLR film cameras. It features many of the same components and controls as their PEN E-P3, but with a great electronic viewfinder, mostly magnesium alloy body, and weather sealing that can stand up to rain, wind, and dust.
While we've panned Olympus for relying on too-old image sensor technology in the PEN E-P3 (though it was still our favorite mirrorless camera last year), the E-M5 also features a brand-new 16-megapixel CMOS sensor. According to our testing that sensor provides dramatically improved image quality at high ISOs—a serious performance issue with the older 12-megapixel PEN cameras.
The sensor's noise floor is a bit high, but the camera controls highlights well, offering dynamic range and low light shooting that can keep up with most sub-$1000 DSLRs. While the E-M5 certainly isn't setting any new bars in a category filled with larger APS-C image sensors, it's no longer such an issue that we'd warn you off the camera entirely.
That's especially true given the astonishing speed available in the E-M5. In our speed tests it averaged a little over 8.5FPS, with its best shot-to-shot time touching 10.5FPS territory at full resolution. Also, the E-M5 is able to focus incredibly fast, even in limited light, so you spend less time frustrated at out of focus shots. While the Sony NEX-7 was able to best it for pure speed, we actually found the E-M5 was a better shooter for action because of the focus performance.
It's that responsiveness that gives the E-M5 a fighting chance in an incredibly crowded compact system camera market, with heavy hitters like the NEX-7 and Fuji X-Pro1 hovering just above it in price. If you're looking for a retro-inspired interchangeable lens camera that, like cameras of old, can take some abuse and some great photos at the same time, then the E-M5 is an attractive option at its $1000 body-only price.