Olympus OM-D E-M5 Digital Camera Review
Kit Lens & Mount
The kit lens that we tested our OM-D E-M5 with is the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens, with a powered zoom, lens-function button, and on-lens macro button. This lens has a large zoom ring with a very small travel, activating a motor that powers the zoom from wide to telephoto and back again. The standard 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds kit lens is also available, currently priced at $1099.99 with the body. The 12-50mm EZ lens kit is currently priced at $1299.99 with body and lens.
We like the feel of the Olympus lenses, with their sturdy metal construction, ridged focus and zoom rings, and solid weight. The lenses fit the design of the E-M5 very well, so those looking for a camera that is as pleasing to look at as it is to hold will certainly find the lenses appealing. We're not a huge fan of the powered zoom lenses for still photography (the same zoom motion would easily move from 12-50mm in a shorter time span), but for video that ability provides a much more reliable, smooth transition. We should also note that attaching most Micro Four Thirds lenses will not yield a splash- or dust-proof seal as is found on the rest of the camera, so be careful if you're buying the camera for its durability when using alternative lenses.
The E-M5's Micro Four Thirds mount gives it a number of advantages over competing mirrorless systems. First, Micro Four Thirds has seen perhaps the highest adoption rate of any of the mirrorless families, giving it a larger lens library to choose from. Second, the E-M5's weather sealing can be complemented by the use of standard Four Thirds lenses, many of which have that same feature. By opting for the weather sealed Four Thirds lens adapter (which Olympus is offering as a pre-order bonus as of this writing), then you can utilize these older, sealed lenses and not have to worry about getting caught in the rain.
The sensor on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a new Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor, with an effective resolution of 16.1 megapixels. As a Micro Four Thirds sensor, it's smaller than your typical APS-C sensor found in similarly-priced DSLRs, but slightly larger than those found in mirrorless cameras like the Pentax Q and Nikon 1-series.
Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared
The electronic viewfinder on the E-M5 features a resolution of approximately 1.44 million dots. It offers around 100% coverage and an approxiamtely 18mm eyepoint. It's pleasing to use—among the better ones that we've seen on a compact system camera—but it still doesn't quite match up to an optical viewfinder. The benefits of it being electronic, though, are the ability to see shots in playback through the finder, as well as see the relative brightness of your shot before you take it.
Compared to the camera's likely direct competition, the E-M5's viewfinder is more pleasing to use than the finder on the Sony NEX-7. It's a different animal to the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder on the Fuji X100 and X-Pro1, but both are useful in their own right.
As we saw with the similar screen on the Olympus E-P3, the responsiveness of the touchscreen is great, while the OLED renders crisp text and makes colors really pop. The screen sits on an articulating arm that extends outward from the body, with a hinge allowing it to be tilted either upward or down. The only way you can't tilt this display is toward your subject, something the side-hinged displays can do. Unlike those displays, however, the actual LCD housing feels nice and sturdy, with the metal hinge keeping everything steady.
One thing that we found odd is the implementation of the touchscreen controls on the camera. Even with something with large, easy-to-touch tiles like the camera's super control panel, touching settings doesn't necessarily activate that setting. With a screen this sensitive, it would be nice to have more sliders and things that take advantage of it. Still, as we've seen with most touchscreen cameras, the functionality is best seen in playback, moving between photos as you would on a smartphone or table. Either way, the camera is set up in such a way that you can entirely ignore the touch functionality and not miss out on anything, which is preferred for a camera of this level.
The Olympus E-M5 does not include a built-in flash, instead relying on a small bundled flash that comes with some iterations of the camera's kit. The bundled flash has a guide number of 10 meters, at ISO 200, with a flash sync speed of 1/180th of a second and slower. The bundled flash can also control wireless flashes, with 4 channels and 4 groups possible (3 groups and the bundled flash).
If you wish to use a larger external flash, the camera does support select Olympus strobes. If you pick up the Exept FL-50R then the flash sync jumps to 1/200th of a second normally, or up to 1/4000th of a second in the reduced power Super FP pulse mode.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 has both USB and mini-HDMI ports behind a plastic door on the left side of the body. The door can be a little tough to lift, with the catch sitting behind the tilting rear OLED screen. We imagine this helps reduce the likelihood of accidentally leaving the door loose, which would hinder the camera's ability to stay protected from moisture.
Additionally, the E-M5 has a full hot shoe on the top of the body, a standard tripod collar, and an electronic pin setup used for attaching the HLD-6 external (water-resistant) battery grip and holder. This gives you a vertical grip, as well as some extra power for your camera.