*OM-D E-M5, thoughts, pros and cons.

Like many other camera geeks and micro 4/3 system fans out there lately, I’ve been reading up on anything that I can find on Oly’s new flagship micro 4/3 camera. It touts some pretty impressive specs, but how does it come across in function? I pulled the trigger, and while happy that I did, I do find that there are some things about the camera that seem to have been overlooked or neglected. There are many articles outlining the spec sheet and testing the features, this is my own personal feel coming from someone who uses this camera as a daily tool and has been doing so for the last couple weeks.

First, I must admit that the throwback design didn’t initially catch my eye, and still to this day having handled the camera isn’t one of the features that I’d count as being instrumental in me choosing to spend a pretty penny on this camera. This is my very first Olympus camera of any type having bought into the micro 4/3 system as a Panasonic user. I purchased the OM-D with 12-50mm lens kit mainly because A) it was available, and B) because I was wanting to have a weather resistant lens to mate to the body if and when I choose to get out into the elements with this camera. I am not a fanboy of or for any company. I am a fan of certain companies and their products, but until someone pays me a large sum of money to speak on their behalf, all my opinions will be just that, my opinions. With these disclaimers out of the way, here are my personal pros and cons on the Olympus OM-D E-M5

I’ll break this into a couple categories. First, design and interface and then camera performance.

Design and Interface:

Like I’d mentioned above, the ‘retro’ throwback design wasn’t a huge deal to me. If you’ve read my blog before, you may have seen that I recently traded my GF1 in for a G3, largely due to a boost in performance and the fact that the GX1 was gouging (in my opinion) a bit when it had the same sensor as the G3 and required a $250 add on EVF, putting it over $1000 when the G3 kit was just about half that price. (Being that the G3 is a bit of an ugly duckling in its own right, only really gaining “pretty girl” status when sat directly next to a Pentax K-01) you can say that physical looks aren’t exactly my biggest priority when buying a camera. I prefer to purchase based more on the interaction with and performance of a camera over how cool it will look on my wrist or around my neck. Not that I don’t appreciate great design, or like cool looking cameras, I just tend to put that in the back seat. I’ve come to find that an EVF is important to me when using these compact system cameras as I tend to really enjoy using various lenses from other manufacturers via adapters. The OM-D’s EVF is great. Still not up to a quality OVF in low light, but it’s as good or better than anything I’ve used as far as electronic finders are concerned. Even with the pronounced viewfinder hump the fact that I can still fit this camera into a coat pocket with a lens attached is pretty awesome.

Okay, the design CONS in my opinion:

  • One big gripe I’ve heard, and read much about, is the cramped button layout. Yes, it’s cramped, and the camera is much smaller than I’d anticipated, but I knew the buttons were going to be crammed into a tight space. No issue for me that I didn’t anticipate. If you hate buttons close together, maybe a compact system camera isn’t for you. There is a pretty minimal amount of physical space on these cameras, and you can’t have overall size reduction AND keep a 3″ LCD screen AND have a bunch of real estate for buttons. The alternative is the Sony NEX approach, and I for one vastly prefer cramped buttons over soft buttons that require 7-10 button pushes to get to a menu that allows me to alter the drive mode, or change my ISO. Trade offs. Not really a “CON” but a potential drawback for those who go into this unaware.
  • The thumb rest on the OM-D is superior to that of the G3 as is the physical design of buttons directly below said thumb rest, even though these two cameras feel almost identical in the hand, size wise. That said, I greatly prefer the front grip on the G3 to the OM-D E-M5. I know a lot of folks disliked the Panasonic finger hump, but for me, a person with much larger than average hands, I loved the ability to curl my middle finger over that hump properly and effectively securing the G3 in my hand, but then came the less than great thumb rest which had me constantly, inadvertently changing my ISO setting, so again, not quite a “CON” but chalk this one up to realistic tradeoffs. (If any Panoly designers happen to be reading, PLEASE look to integrate a lock button/toggle that could effectively disable buttons on the rear of the camera when shooting or in a bag/pocket… it would easily solve a huge chunk of the “cramped” button problem by disallowing noses or thumbs to accidentally press and change settings inadvertently.)
  • Being that this is my first Olympus camera, I must say, their menus are crazy to someone that doesn’t speak Oly, or at least they are for me. I get what they’re trying to do, I can normally find what I’m looking for, and I do appreciate the amount of customization, but sometimes a direct function button or a streamlined menu cache makes a world of difference. Not to compare, but I never needed to open a manual for the G3. Direct access buttons and a simple menu system had me up and running within an hour of getting the camera home with all my customization nailed down. Granted, the OM-D offers much more function packed under it’s hood, but I’ll get to that next. It’s great that I have 4 buttons that I’m able to link to a specific function on the OM-D, but what about the other stuff that I would like to access regularly without having to assign another custom function button kicking another feature out (White balance, ISO, drive mode, Flash control, AEL/AFL, MF assist, IBIS on/off, etc?) Aside from the obvious omission of IBIS, the G3 has a single, direct button for each of these features, or can be customized. I’m getting used to it, but I wish I didn’t have to.
  • The fact that camera companies seem to feel that a printed manual is now surplus to need is ridiculous. I don’t want to have to sit at my computer, scrolling through a 130+ page (very poorly defined) PDF to try and find how the wireless flash control functions (which isn’t completely defined or outlined in the manual, or the flash manual either…?), or produce a magnified zoom to aid in manually focusing legacy optics, et al. For those who say “Then print it out…” I say, no. I paid over a thousand dollars, the least Oly could do is provide instructions (no matter how poorly outlined they are) to those wanting to pay good money for their cameras who want to properly learn to utilize its high performance functions. Why should I have to pay to print out instructions? I shouldn’t, and while a small thing, it is one of a few small things that seem to be becoming a commonplace in certain sectors and that is a shame. Same goes for most manufacturers now so this isn’t a shot directly at Oly, but a larger gripe I hoped I wouldn’t have to express when buying a high spec/”pro” level body. Give us a printed manual.
  • Has anyone seen the on screen histogram when reviewing information via playback on this thing? Olympus, 1984 called and said it’s suing for defamation of image and character. Seriously, the histogram (luminance and color channels) in playback makes Q-bert look like a James Cameron 3D box office smash hit. If you aren’t old enough to know what Q-bert is, you should be more pissed off than I am. Photographers use this and as is, it’s nearly unusable (at the very least, unreliable). Fix it.

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  • The off lens axis tripod mount is a pain for situations where you need to be on axis.
  • Maybe for shooters who are used to Oly cameras, the menus and interface offer a different experience, but I’ve been frustrated setting the camera up and consistently remembering where certain functions are buried if and when I need to change them. In fact, maybe someone can help me with this… I’ve not figured out how to produce a zoom assist in the electronic viewfinder when manually focusing using a legacy lens (without having to change to the LCD, zoom in by touch, and then change back to the EVF which then disappears and I lose the benefit if handholding. I admit, I may have missed something, but I’ve been through every millimeter of the custom menus for both AF/MF functions and EVF/LCD along with all the custom button assignable functions, and the MF zoom/Magnifying glass function which is what I’m assuming is what I need. It will not work with third party lenses as far as I can tell. Panasonic has “Shoot without Lens ON/OFF” in their menus which is what enables the use of non proprietary lenses, and it works with that one toggle. Please help me, I’m going nuts trying to figure this out and will gladly retract this grumpiness once I get this resolved. ***UPDATE*** Okay, so, feeling a bit like an idiot, I will admit that after a gracious, and patient group of flickr friends (join the OM-D User Group Here) has helped resolve this issue (particular thanks to AOI-Alt for the help, to whom I now owe two beers). When set up as listed below, first, I had no problems with the Focus Assist function when using my micro 4/3 lenses, worked like a charm. When I’d mount a non m4/3 lens (my FD, EF, Contax, etc) I couldn’t get the MF/Magnify Assist to work, until it did randomly and seems to be somewhat consistently doing so. For anyone potentially coming across this same problem, make sure these custom functions are set as follows:
  • Cust Fn A – AF Mode – MF (or S-AF + MF if you’d like to use AF with lenses that enable this)
  • Cust Fn A – MF Assist – ON
  • Cust Fn B – Button Function – Fn2 assigned – Magnify (I have also successfully assigned to Fn1 as well)
  • Cust Fn J – Built in EVF style – Style 3 (not sure if this is necessary, but it seemed to help me)
  • Now, you need to quickly/lightly press or almost tap (this is the key as a full/harder press will not work) the custom function button (Fn1 or Fn2, whichever you’ve assigned to Magnify) to see the “green box” which indicates the area that will be magnified, quickly/lightly press the Fn1/2 button again and you should zoom in. Press the Fn1/2 button again to zoom back out, or merely a half press on the shutter button will bring you back to full screen view.
  • After trying this exact set up multiple times (going back and forth between settings, custom functions, etc) it did not work for me. I couldn’t get the green box to show up. I pressed the Fn2 button, I held the Fn2 button, I pressed the Fn2 button multiple times in succession and still, no workey. I cycled through the different “Info” settings on screen to see if that somehow adjusted things, nope. I tried again and randomly it worked, so, just stick with it. Apparently the camera is much smarter than we give it credit for and really likes to eff with it’s human user. Whether it is entirely down to user error (me) or a deeper problem with my Fn2 button, I don’t currently know, but I’ll be sure to update if anything further presets itself. (see the “quickly/lightly press” explanation above)
  • ***UPDATE to the UPDATE*** – I’ve now switched the Magnify function to the Fn1 button and it works as well, enabling me to keep the Fn2 button for my ISO adjustments (why ISO isn’t available to assign to Fn1 is strange to me and would be better for me to switch these two functions, but whatever.) I’ve also been able to assign the AF mode to S-AF + MF so that I don’t have to switch when I want a proprietary lens to auto focus. What I have found, that I can also not find any reason nor explanation for, is that to enable the magnify feature, one must lightly push, or tap if you will, the Fn button while a full press/push seems to disable the function, in my use anyway and was the original source of my frustration. Odd as a full push/press allows these buttons to execute the other custom functions I’ve assigned (AEL/AFL, ISO, WB, etc) so just a weird, and undefined quirk as it were. Thank you again to those continuing the conversation via flickr, and to Olympus, it would really help if this were explained more clearly in the manual coming from someone who has a pretty decent relationship with high functioning cameras and is brand new to an Olympus camera. I doubt it would have been as much an issue for me as it has been if one of the main reasons I chose this camera wasn’t to gain access to the 5 axis IBIS for use with my legacy lenses.
What about the design and interface PROS:
  • The touch screen is far better than the touch screen on the G3. While the G3 is pressure sensitive (or feels it) it is difficult to press on screen options or scroll, etc leaving the experience muddled and sloppy. The OM-D E-M5 screen has a smart phone feel to it’s LCD. Much better.
  • Well, the camera itself is nicely designed in that it fits, and feels well in the hand all things considered. The two control wheels are wonderful allowing you to control both shutter speed and aperture without taking your eye away from the viewfinder or screen. This is a biggie for those used to a more direct interaction with pro level dSLRs and a wonderful feature as far as I’m concerned.
  • The ability to enable an auto switch between the viewfinder and LCD by way of an eye level proximity sensor is great. I tend to turn it off so that when carrying the camera around my neck, it isn’t constantly changing between the two, but with the camera in hand, it is really cool.
  • The OM-D E-M5 is solidly built and feels every inch of a pro built camera in the hand. The tilt LCD is also very, very handy for video and waist level, or overhead shooting. I kinda like the swing out, full swivel LCD on the G3, but this one is far more solid and there are arguments against the swivel screens moving the eye away from the camera axis which is valid to an extent.
  • The customizable function buttons are handy, even if they are small and sometimes hard to find due to the cramped real estate on this small camera.
  • Weather sealing = killer, period. No, you can’t take this camera under water, but you can rest assured that it will withstand most any realistic environmental condition when coupled with a similarly spec’d lens.

Performance:

So, why after upgrading 5 months ago would I be throwing a heavy chunk of change back into a system I’d just recently invested in? The OM-D seems to have the same sensor as the G3/GX1, even if Oly won’t admit it, albeit with a weaker AA filter and it’s own proprietary processor allowing for that Oly jpeg magic (UPDATE: it is in fact a Sony sensor). This spec is hotly debated, and I have no idea if it is true. I don’t really care who built the sensor, but I can say that it is as good in any of the shooting situations that I’ve come across to the G3/GX1 (and rumored G5) sensor. From my eyeball tests, the two sensors seem very similar and to my eye seem to be separated more by firmware than a file output differential. It’s EVF isn’t any higher resolution than the G3, although it seems to offer better performance to my eye initially, perhaps from better refresh rate, or some other technical video based thingamajig. Well, it comes down to a few factors as to why I decided to throw down the coin, the main reasons were the IBIS and the weather/environmental sealing.

First, my CONS:

  • I know that these little machines suck up a lot of energy, but have been designed to do so as efficiently as possible. The IBIS, LCD and EVF need constant power when on, but can we please oh please get a proprietary battery that either A) costs a realistic amount (less than $30) OR get one that at the current prices get more than a couple hundred shots requiring a charge after a few hours of continual use? Seriously, the G3 battery is no different and the OM-D battery also sucks.
  • Speaking of the battery, Olympus why do you still ship a charger that has a bulky cord? Please do away with the cord and go the route of the folding plug. One less thing to have to carry around and I’d imagine that it’s cheaper to manufacture a singular piece without the cord. If someone needs a cord, they can always use a household extension cord. Problem solved.
  • This is also a minor complaint, but I’d really like to see an integrated flash. The included add on is great in that it has a decent amount of power, but having to keep track of four pieces when using it (the flash, its plug cover and the two separate camera body covers) seems like a very poor oversight. I can almost guarantee that I will lose one of them within a few weeks, and then my “weather resistant” body will cease to be so. The Panasonic hot shoe cover/accessory plug is a beautiful little piece of simple design engineering and should be copied, please feel free to do so.

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  • What is up with the sleep mode? When the camera goes into sleep mode/power saving mode, most of the time, it needs to be turned off and then on again (taking 3-4 seconds to get back to shooting). Even when a shutter press “wakes” it up, it takes at least 2-3 seconds to wake making it amazingly difficult to capture any fleeting moment if the camera has been allowed to go into power saving mode (which, with this battery is very important). This is very, very poor for any camera, let alone one that is touting itself as a “pro-spec” or in any way serious camera. Add to this, the need to even pull the battery when using certain lenses as it actually freezes the camera and a simple on/off switch won’t wake it up, this is inexcusable to me for a camera that costs over a grand. Even with the recent firmware update, it has not properly addressed this issue. Poor form Olympus, poor form. Don’t expect this camera to be a great street shooter, unless of course you keep it from going to sleep at all times. Oly, fix it.

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  • High ISO banding. I’m sure you’ve read about the banding when using this camera at or above ISO 6400. I’ve personally only seen it when using the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens (which I use about 90% of the time admittedly). I know it can happen which is fine, but it’s been a known problem since this camera came out (and I have had good results using other lenses at or above ISO6400, so I know the camera is capable). It wasn’t addressed in the recent firmware update. Fix it! (you can see an example of it on my G3 vs OMD EM5 article CLICK HERE)

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Now, onto the PROS:

  • What more can I say about the IBIS that hasn’t been said already. It is killer, and when taking into consideration the equivalent angle of view crop factor, making lenses appear twice as long making for a harder hand held shooting experience, it is now something I’m finding I’m going to really have a hard time living without in my compact system camera, especially when using legacy, or manual focus optics. Kudos Olympus, it really is amazing and aside from any problems I’ve had with the camera, has helped me feel my money was in no way wasted by upgrading to this camera.
  • 9 frames per second. Seriously, nine. Yes, the AF tracking is poor (not really any worse than the AF on my 5DII), and is disabled when shooting at high speed burst anyway, but this is a great feature for those looking to capture the moment. Whether it’s of wildlife (albeit when somewhat stationary) or your kid’s basketball game, if you are properly set up with a workable aperture, your depth of field should allow for a reasonable margin of error, focus wise anyway. I really hope we see some type of hybrid, on sensor contrast/phase detection auto focus integrated in the future which would help make the tracking more accurate and would truly provide a serious argument against more expensive dSLRs for the enthusiast birder, sports shooter, _____fill in the blank. For those wanting to bracket shots for HDR eliminating as much movement due to breeze, et al, the 9fps is beautiful minimizing any environmental movement.
  • Speaking of AF, much like the touch screen on the G3 enabling the ability to move the AF point anywhere on the screen, the touch AF assignment via the LCD on the OM-D is wonderful. This is an area I feel beats the pants off of a dSLR when having to manually cycle through, or toggle a set AF point which takes time to do, sometimes causing missed shots. Great for street shooters, or even casually shooting kids, friends, etc.
  • The wireless flash feature is cool. The fact that Oly offered purchasers to get a rebate on the FL-300R flash is great, and while very limited, it’s a nice option even if it’s refusal to listen to the camera’s IR signal when outdoors is akin to a teenager taking music advice from their parents. It doesn’t offer much in the way of power, and I wouldn’t spend the $160 on it, but since they were giving it away, I’m glad I took advantage. I’d like to get my hands on an FL-600R unit and would have to if I planned on using it for any outdoor use, but honestly, I have some more powerful flash units and have already invested in multiple pocket wizards so I probably wont. Still a cool feature and one that many may really enjoy using, even if it may require that you do so indoors.
  • I know folks love Oly’s jpeg processing. I shoot RAW so I don’t know what to say other than aside from making the A/D better capable by utilizing a 14 or 16 bit RAW file, I don’t expect much more from the RAW files that I’ve been getting out of the OM-D (or G3 to be fair). I’m sure the future will hold even better performance on this front, but for now, these files when properly exposed will do more than most any of us would need. The high ISO (aside from the banding issue) noise performance is great (see ISO comparisons and examples CLICK HERE) and the dynamic range is as good in most situations as the GX1/G3/G5 sensor.
Here are a few quick shots. The first was taken in a bar darker than the bowels of hell with my FD 55 f/1.2, the side light hitting him is coming from an old pool table lamp which is just about the only source of light in the whole place. the next two were shot with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, all processed from RAW files.

*Olympus OM-D E-M5 w/ Canon FD 55mm f/1.2

*Olympus OM-D E-M5 w/ Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7

*Olympus OM-D E-M5 w/ Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7

*Olympus OM-D E-M5 w/ Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5

*Olympus OM-D E-M5 w/Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 – Macro setting

So, in summation, I love the camera, but feel that there are a few areas that can, and should, be improved upon in the future. There is no one way to skin a cat, but I think Olympus could really fine tune a few of these shortcomings which would benefit not only new users, but seasoned Oly aficianados as well. It’s not a perfect camera, but for the cost, it is close and truly offers a micro 4/3 shooter a good all around tool.

PanOly, keep the prices realistic, keep producing quality optics (maybe try shaving lens prices down a wee bit guys) and I think that the system will continue to have a very bright future. I’m happy that I’ve tied my horse to the Micro 4/3 system for my compact system needs and feel most anyone who chooses the OM-D E-M5 will feel the same.

You can see the various body/lens combos for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 via B&H here.

Thanks for the read. I am currently working on an OM-D E-M5 vs G3 comparison post (It’s done! CLICK HERE) as well as a post focused on the IBIS when using older, legacy lenses so check back or enter your email in the box at the top right of the page to subscribe to receive the posts as they drop. Feel free to fire off any questions you may have, I’d be happy to try and help answer them.

Happy shooting,

Tyson

*In case you missed them, here are a few recent posts about the micro 4/3 system:

NEW!!! OM-D vs. G3

GF1 vs G3

G3 vs 5DII

The Micro 4/3 Holy Trinity

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35 thoughts on “*OM-D E-M5, thoughts, pros and cons.

  1. Seems like the DSLR world and the M43 are getting harder to distinguish, functionally. The low light perf. of the Oly (according to DPReview) is excellent and the resolution, likewise.

    Nice to know about the Oly side of things. I’m a long time (film) Oly owner, had one of the original OM-1′s and still have a pile of lenses plus an OM to M43 adapter, if anyone’s interested. The IBIS (which I finally figured out was In Body Image Stabilization) sounds like the way to go, really. Put all that functionality in one place, esp. for the legacy lenses. Stabilizing the sensor vs. the correcting a lens position seems a lot simpler.

    I’m waiting for a Pana G3-like camera with the improved sensor AND a GPS. I know that Pana knows how to do this b/c my new little P&S Pana ZS20 has one – very neat and a decent little camera, too. Great for birders and misc. travel photogs. But, since I’ve invested in 4 lenses (45mm macro which is very sweet, a 100-300, the 20mm pancake and the 14-140), I’ll probably wait for another Pana b4 buying a different body but I’m holding out for GPS, even though they suck up battery.

    I too would like to see a side-by-side of the G3 vs E-M5 photo if not blog entry. You are to be excused with father duty, however. So, when you get around to it…

    • Hi Terry,

      Yes, I agree regarding the blending of the lines as it were. While I still prefer a large, bright OVF, EVF’s are the future, or at least a very large part of the future and will only continue to get better. Really, the only other area that most current DSLRs are really spec’d out better is in the Phase Detection AF which (in theory) is better able to track focus three dimensionally and focus in low light when accompanied by fast lenses. The pixel pitch and overall low light/high ISO capability is still going to be a sensor size issue ultimately, but these micro 4/3 sensors are doing just fine for themselves in that regard. Not capable of ousting a current Full Framer, but they compete well enough against the APS-C sensors so I feel they’ll be just fine in their niche. The Nikon 1 system seems to have cracked the PDAF/CDAF nut to an extent, so I fully expect that within 3 years or so, all mirrorless cameras should be employing something similar and when that happens I think that the major benefits to a DSLR are going to be much less so, argumentatively anyway. I hope that this brings body pricing down for the APS-C and Full Frame cameras to stay competitive as opposed to the alternative seeing us needing to pay $1500+ for a new micro 4/3 body for instance.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the G5/GH3′s have the GPS built in. If the rumors about the G5 sensor are true (same as the G3/GX1) then they’re going to need to do something to justify an upgrade, and I think GPS and possibly WiFi are the natural candidates at this stage, as you’ve said, many compact cameras already employ these features which is the testing ground for system cameras in many ways, just as entry level system cameras are also used to test new features at first for more advanced system cameras as the volume and margins are there.

      I’ll be slowly putting together the G3 vs. E-M5 post as I can steal away moments here and there.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

  2. Tyler, outstanding review – the cons sections felt like you were reading my mind! I’m really having a hard time falling in love with this camera like I did with my GF1. It does almost everything better but, my frustration level with it’s menus and lack of direct/labeled command buttons really drag down my enjoyment level. Panasonic just seems to have the software and button layout thing figured out – like you, I’m not sure I ever read my GF1 manual. All that said, it is a fantastic camera and the touch screen really makes me smile but you really need to invest some serious time to get comfortable with this camera.

    • Thanks Bill,

      Yes, now that I’ve figured the whole MF assist/magnify out, I feel much better about the camera. While quirky, I think it is more a problem with Oly not properly explaining HOW to press the button for certain functions and in truth, the manual (and on screen info) really lacks clarity and definition. I feel it may be something that isn’t quite as big an issue for an experienced Olympus shooter, but still, a poor execution in my opinion. No fault of the camera it seems, but a fault of the relay of information by way of the manual really, and don’t get me started on having to read through a pdf to find these poorly executed instructions…

      All said and done, once those of us who are having trouble really streamlining the setup and customization of this camera have accomplished what we need to accomplish and then get used to shooting with it, it really is a pretty amazing image making device that really employs some cool technology.

      Thank you for the read and taking the time to comment. I’m happy I’m not alone in some of the frustrations I’ve felt with the cam, and really appreciate the help I’ve received from the flickr community when I was about to start testing this camera’s ability to bounce off of a wall :)

      Cheers,

      Tyson

  3. Well, your list of wished-for improvements is shorter than mine (http://ranger9.net/2012/tenthings/) but it seems we’re on similar wavelengths about “option overload.” I’ve had several awkward cases of getting the camera set up for a picture-taking task, then not being able to return to exactly the same settings later (at least not without a struggle.) The “mysets” feature helps a little, but doesn’t store everything. Wouldn’t it be great if you could write out the camera’s full profile onto a memory card and then return it to that exact configuration later by reloading the file?

    Tip for your complaint about the battery charger: Go to Amazon and search for “duck head” in Electronics. This odd term will turn up Apple-style adapter plugs that will plug straight into the Olympus charger, turning it into a wall-mount type and eliminating the need for the cord. Most cost only a few dollars.

    • I think that I could align my frustrations with yours although, this being my third m4/3 camera, I’ve learned to temper my functional expectations, especially taking into consideration the overall size reduction. Little design issues, like the battery door, or long cord on the charger, are annoying, but aren’t directly taking away from the functionality of the camera. The issues with the interface, or even button placement are valid to anyone who feel it takes away from the shooting experience, but of course something that may bother me may not bother you and that is where Olympus has their team and makes their decisions (hopefully) listening to as many complaints and suggestions as possible.

      While the customization possibilities are nice, I must say, it has been one of my biggest annoyances so far with this camera.

      Thanks for the comment and I enjoyed reading through your list as well :)

  4. Tyson, not sure if you know but you can assign the direction buttons as well, I have my right arrow set to ISO and my down arrow set to drive, this leaves the left arrow (fixed) to AF point and the up arrow (fixed) to exposure comp. Also pressing the left arrow allows you to change between single, centre section or all focus points by pressing the info button and the the down or up arrow, you can also quickly access face detection the same way but this time its the info button and the right or left arrows. To enable the direction buttons/arrows you first need to change the direction buttons to direct function in custom menu B (button dial/button function). Finally you don’t need to assign a button to just magnify, you can set fn1 or fn2 to multi function and if you hold the button down you can access curve adjustment, magnify, WB and aspect by just turning an adjustment wheel. OK it’s one more button push but it frees up the other buttons for other functions.

    Paul

    • Hey Paul,

      Thank you for the pointer. I do need to dive back into the customization, but that I can and may have to, to gain access to certain functions is kinda what annoys me. That the depth of customization is pretty poorly defined in certain respects as to how these may affect other functions, (maybe amplified for those not used to the Oly’s) is what I’m having a problem with if I stop and really think about it. Cool in theory, but I think they may have to retool (and arguably offer a printed version) the manual to really draw out how and why.

      Thanks for taking the time to offer the help, I do truly appreciate it.

      t

    • Paul,
      Thank you, thank you, thank you – I knew about the direct function setting and the multifunction setting , but I have been going nuts trying to figure out how to change between the four multifunctions once it is pressed – thought I tried everything but guess I didn’t try the wheel. Again, one of the real irritations about this camera is how esoteric and hidden so many of the customizations are. Also, I accidentally discovered that when you are in magnify, you can press the info button and then use the wheel to vary the magnification level – who knew?
      By the way, how did you learn about the multifunction adjustment – trial & error or is it actually written someplace?
      Also, for anyone interested, I have the David Busch book on the OM-D – while it is better laid out than the manual and is actually a book you can hold in your hand, it doesn’t seem to help in figuring out these more occult settings and has some incorrect and contradictory information in places. I think he had as much trouble as everyone else understanding the camera settings but rushed to market with the book anyway….
      Tyson, (Tyson Robichaud – what a great name!),
      Just discovered your blog and am enjoying it.
      But – not monetized! – no ads! – no seller links! What are you? Crazy or some kind of commie? Ha!
      Thanks again for the info.
      Aloha from Hawaii – Stephen.

      • Aloha Stephen!

        Yeah, probably a little of both. I may look to monetize this blog in the future, but for the time being, it’s much less stressful to justify my ramblings as a passion project.

        Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share, it is after all, why I started this thing in the first place :)

        cheers,

        Tyson

  5. The issue you have with the magnify function is odd. I’ve tried assigning it to Fn1 and Fn2, and I never have to lightly tap the button to make it happen–either a light tap or a full press works fine to bring up the green box, then another to magnify the selected area.

    I was going to suggest that your button is faulty and a hard press produces two signals, which I guess would rapidly cycle the function if the green box was already up (magnify, then quickly back to unmagnified view)–but the fact that you experience the problem with both Fn1 and Fn2 makes that questionable.

    Anyway, I can see why Olympus didn’t describe the “light press” requirement in the manual… since it’s not typically how the camera works. :-)

    Other than that, good review! I had a G3 before the E-M5, and for me the Olympus is a much more enjoyable camera: whereas the G3 is clearly meant as a soft landing for people upgrading from bland compacts, the E-M5 encourages you to experiment.

    It’s fast and fun to use, takes great pictures (much better high ISO and dynamic range than the G3) — and you’re right, the IBIS is killer. I can’t wait to see what Olympus comes up with next.

    • I’ve heard from various other EM5 users of the exact issue which is how I figured it out. I agree, it is odd and I think it may be an early production issue. Who knows, some of the same components may be manufactured by different companies which could explain a functional difference. Regardless, mine does not function properly (Fn1 or Fn2) with the magnify assigned when the button is fully pressed, but all other functions have. Im not sure if it could be a result of some other custom setting, but if that is the case, I’d be even further frustrated. Annoying and strange, but now that I have it figured out, it hasn’t been a problem.

      As for the G3 comparison, all I can say is sometimes simplicity can better enable creativity and personally I wouldn’t consider it a hindrance for an advanced shooter at all. I’ve not found the high ISO nor DR to be noticeably better in the EM5 vs the G3/GX1, but I’ll be doing a more thorough test soon. The idea behind the customization of the OMD is great, but I’m finding it to be more of a deterrent than a benefit at this point, but hopefully I’ll become better versed with the custom menus as I go along. I love the functional benefits of the IBIS and environmental sealing, but this camera has certainly frustrated me from a frame to frame functional standpoint more than any camera since the NEX 5 personally. The results are great though.

      Thanks for the comment and I do really appreciate the different angles that we are all coming from with this camera.

      Cheers,
      tyson

  6. Very interesting. And what about sensor dynamic ? According to dpreview test, it seems far more better than te G3 one. (sorry for my “approximative english, i’m french !),

    • I am going to try testing the dynamic range (superficially speaking) compared to some other sensors. From what I’ve seen, it isn’t noticeably better than the G3 sensor, but that may be inaccurate as I’ve not really pushed either sensor directly compared to the other. I’m also shooting in RAW and many of the DR claims can be made when in camera JPEG compression has been altered (highlight tone curve priority, etc) which may show more range artificially as opposed to truly measuring the range from a non compressed RAW file. Stay tuned, I hope to have a comparison up soon.

      Merci pour le commentaire,

      Tyson

  7. how about video on this cam, heard good things but what i have seen is almost opposite, would be great to know your thoughts and if oly intend to support 24/25/50/60 fps in a future firmware release
    thanks

    • I’m really not the best to ask about video. I’m admittedly not a video guy. From my simple clips of my kids, I can say that I’m less than impressed with the AF in video when using certain lenses and I’ve found that there are some inexplicable hiccups during playback, sometimes (I cannot figure out if it is a write speed issue, or attempting to re-lock auto focus with a half press of the shutter when filming…). It hunts, fails to follow and just goes out of focus for no reason (I assume it is just looking for something to focus on and then finds something in the background, etc, creating an out of focus shot). This may be because of the lenses used (I notice the AF in video as well as stills being VERY challenged when using the Lumix 20mm pancake) and can be very easily remedied by using manual focus. Again, I’m not a video guy so I’m not a good source to ask, but from a complete novice’s standpoint, I’m less than thrilled with the video performance so far as perhaps I’m assuming the camera is capable of too much automation where with my 5DII, I know I need to expose and focus manually (out of pure necessity) for good results.

  8. Pingback: Aktuelle Systemkamera Links (11. Juni 2012) - Systemkamera Blog

  9. Hey Tyson, excellent clear-eyed review.

    Your interface battles makes me appreciate my GH2 all the more! I prefer labeled buttons, if for no other reason than my sieve-like brain never seems able to remember exactly what I programmed into C1/2 or 3. I just stopped using them.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      While I really like the idea of customizability, in practice I feel that there should be more attention by Oly paid to its implementation and relationship with the menu format. It’s great that we can assign (granted while having to remember the function of) the 4 buttons on the body, but to get to the stuff that we aren’t able to program and still need to change (AF mode, White Balance, ISO, AE/AFL, Metering, Focus Assist, Image stabilization, etc, etc) on a regular basis really is buried pretty deeply in some cases. Some may point to the quick menu, or whatever Oly calls it, which in theory is great, but I’m finding that it is only available with certain formulations of EVF auto vs. LCD settings. If you don’t have the EVF auto switch set to “on” then I don’t even know how to access the quick menu. If it is set to “on” then you still need to remember that the Info button wont get you there, but you need to tap the EVF button on the side to get to it, but again, only if the auto switch is set to “on” which to me is just to quirky.

      There are far too many variables in my opinion with this “customization” and it leads to a very inconsistent interaction. Just as I get it set up how I need it, I realize I’ve disabled something else that I wanted to use. I have just shut down to an extent becoming absolutely exhausted by the interface and have it just close enough to do what I need to most of the time. This is the one major reason I can’t see it as a true replacement for a “serious” camera for me. A very advanced and wonderful image creator without a doubt, but to trust that I could easily, and consistently change settings on the fly in a high pressure shooting situation is a place I doubt I’ll have the patience to get to with this camera, and that is unfortunate for me. I want to like this camera so much more than I do, and every time I have a gripe about it, it pays me back with a great image file, so it really has become a love/hate, or more accurately a love/unlove situation for me. I guess I just don’t like the idea that I’d have to spend as much time as I’d need to to truly get comfortable knowing this camera like I do all my other cameras which all took far less time to get to the point of the operation being second nature.

      Thanks again,
      t

  10. Sorry to say I’ve not been around much lately Tyson having been off searching for my photo-mojo which I seem to have lost recently… I’m glad to have come back and read this excellent post (as I expected it would be!), as well as your earlier one explaining why you chose the G3 over the GX1.

    You will no doubt be aware that my GH1 was my first (and so far only) m4/3 camera, and I had been hoping to upgrade before going on holiday in a few weeks time. Originally my eye was on the GX1 – the style and solid build quality appealed to me, and given that I use the EVF far less than you do (!) it seemed to make sense purely for the improved system performance and improved high-ISO performance. I find with the 14-140 lens I’m forever up at ISO1600 on the GH1, and the GX1 looks to produce as good images at ISO6400. I did worry about whether I would miss the articulated screen though.

    Of course, the OM-D caught my eye too, although right now I can’t stretch to it financially, at which point my sensible head kicked in and suggested I wait to see what Panasonic brings to the table with the GH3. I also think that I’d be better investing in some faster glass. The forthcoming fast f2.8 zooms from Panasonic look ideal for me, if a bit pricey, but I’d really like to add the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and Panasonic 100-300mm to my bag, and perhaps swap my 20 f1.7 for a 25 f1.4…. I’ve got a family to feed and a mortgage to pay though, so it’s perhaps best that I have to give my purchases careful consideration. By the time I have the money available, there may well be some interesting third-party auto-focus m4/3 lenses worth considering too!

    So the body upgrade is off for now, but I’m grateful for your views of the OM-D, particularly as they come from a previous Panasonic-shooter’s perspective, and aren’t compromised by brand loyalty, fanboy-ism or corporate affiliation – another valuable and informative post ;-)

    • Alisdair!

      Good to hear from you man. Thanks for the comments. I cannot disagree with your line of reasoning at all. I’m most of the way through my comparison between the G3 and EM5 (familial duties have also kept me busy) and as a bit of a sneak peak, I’d say that unless the bells and whistles the EM5 provide are important to a particular purchaser, the G3 provides a truly killer deal for the price. Seeing that the upcoming G5 should have the same sensor, albeit with improvements I’m sure, the G3, while available, will provide one of the best values in the micro 4/3 realm bar none. While not as solid as the GX1 or EM5, the EVF is as good (mostly) as the EM5, or expensive add on for the GX1, and the RAW files are very, very near those of the EM5 (and basically identical to the GX1). For less than half the price of the EM5, it should certainly cause one to really balance what we’re getting for the extra cost of the EM5 which is largely running on the fuel of being the latest, most hyped micro 4/3 camera since the G1. It’s good, but I wouldn’t say it’s a better camera than the G3 when all things are considered, only better at certain things at twice the cost. It can do things that the G3 can’t, but they aren’t really things that are necessary for image making, only complimentary to certain scenarios really. That said, the IBIS is truly amazing and whether that along with perhaps the weather sealing, frame rate and panache are enough to justify the price for any individual is more down to a personal preference. As far as making pictures, they are both pretty amazing. Now, the GH3 will really be an interesting addition, and one that I look forward to seeing.

      I hope all is continuing to go well for you. I haven’t seen a CWA post in a while… :)

      t

      • All’s well thanks Tyson, although in a bit of a rut if I’m being honest… even though my lifestyle changes are all long behind me now, I think I’m still getting used to this new “33% off” body of mine. Mind you, I’ve managed to maintain the new weight for about 8 months now, and it’s so nice to be buying Small or Medium t-shirts for the Summer rather than XXL… here’s hoping the sun comes out so I can actually wear them!! Hope you and the family are doing OK?

        You’ve noticed then that most CWA updates recently have been to do with my quirky iPhone case designs etc.. – no bad thing, but I probably need to redress the balance and get some tech talk back in there, or I might lose my loyal readers. You know, all 3 of them… LOL!

        Bit of a camera update this morning though – I’ve just pulled the trigger on a GX1 body having unexpectedly received approval from SWMBO over the weekend. Woohoo! We chatted about how she’d prefer a more “point and shoot” affair, so we tried some compacts on Sunday – I hated them, and had to be honest with her and say that we’d be better putting a few hundred pounds into upgrading the GH1 rather than purchasing a second, small sensor compact. From all I’ve read, the GX1 (and indeed G3) iAuto is much improved compared to the GH1 so when she wants to use the camera, the results should (hopefully) be better. Fingers crossed!

        Heck, I may well write a post over on CWA covering why I’ve chosen the GX1 over the G3, but I’m quite sure it won’t be as interesting or comprehensive as yours! Given that we’re off for a short break next week to a regular haunt, having reviewed my photo library from previous trips, I’m really looking forward to the extra speed and sensitivity boost that the GX1 will give us – I’m sure I’ll grab more than the odd shot or two that could be used in a wee review post for CWA, and given that I don’t hide behind the camera so often these days, my wife should get some better photos of me and the kids… hopefully a win win situation.

        Yes, I still want the faster glass, but that’ll come with time (and like I said above, hopefully there will be some more choice coming in that department soon) – for now, the extra performance of the GX1 with my 20mm and 14-140mm will make for a great holiday combo :)

      • Congrats on both the continued success and the new camera!

        I really wanted the GX1, and ultimately was the camera that definitively led me to upgrade. It wasn’t until I started digging a little bit, and really assessing my needs that I ended up with the G3. The one determining factor was the EVF. I’d grown dependent on the (albeit crappy) EVF1 on the GF1 when using my old lenses and the cost to purchase the EVF2 along with the GX1 was just too much for me at the time.

        With the new rebates, either the GX1 or G3 are absolute steals in my opinion. It appears that the sensor is going largely unchanged in the G5, which makes sense because, aside from the GH2 arguably, it is the best sensor Panasonic has created to date and I wouldn’t expect them to reengineer the wheel after just a year.

        I’m sure you will love the GX1 as any time I’ve handled one, I do really enjoy it and it is a true successor to the GF1 which is still one of my favorite digital cameras of all time.

        All’s well here, busy with the new lil’ one, but he’s much better at sleeping than his older brother, so we have that going for us. Otherwise, it’s just trying to keep up with everything and doing my best to enjoy each and every moment I can, and subsequently record it with new cameras :). Everything goes so fast…

        I’ll keep my eyes peeled for CWA posts and would love to hear your thoughts on both a comparison between the GX1 and the GH1 as well as why it made more sense vs the G3.

        Take care and here’s to hoping we both get some tee shirt weather soon.

        t

  11. Pingback: *OM-D E-M5 vs G3… what’s this about a new sensor? « Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  12. Hi Tyson! Excellent review!
    Just a quick question. So is there really no “shoot without lens” option on the Oly OM-D? I had a Pen E-P2 prior to the OMD and I was able to use an SLR Magic lens on the E-P2 but cannot on my OMD.
    Thanks!

    • That’s interesting… I have used a variety of lenses via adapters (which removes the electronic connection between lens and body) on the OMD EM5 and haven’t had any problem. I don’t remember having to set anything on the camera, but I’ll see if I can dig around and I’ll let you know.

      • Thanks Tyson! Would appreciate it! Prior to the em5, I had the ep2 and I was able to use the slr magic lens without any issues. But with the em5, I just get a black screen.
        Regards

        Lucky

      • Hey Lucky,

        I’ve had a look through the camera and done some searching online and cannot figure out why the lens wouldn’t work.

        You say a black screen, as in no info as you would have when shooting with any other lens? Or is it just dark with all the otherwise relevant on screen info showing? If there is no info at all showing, and pressing the INFO button doesn’t cycle you through the various, on screen modes, it is probably an issue with the connection between the lens and the camera. Is it aligned properly, are the contacts clean, etc? If the info does show, could it be an exposure or mode issue? Are you in A or M mode (the only two that will properly allow use of a non electronically controlled lens, in my experience anyway), is the aperture opened up enough to show proper exposure for a live view image, etc? Could you have exposure compensation set to an extreme negative setting resulting in a major underexposed preview? I’m just firing in the dark here, but trying to maybe think of something that could inadvertently be challenging the situation.

        There may very well be a multitude of custom menus that may or may not affect use with these lenses, and I wish that I was better versed in Oly-neese to be able to direct you definitively to, or away from certain settings, and in this I am sorry :)

        I’ve found this camera to be remarkably quirky with horrible documentation on how or why it works as it does. Enough to make me insane every once in a while, but once figured out, I really do enjoy the images.

  13. As soon as I got my hands on a Olympus EM-5, it was bye bye full frame DSLR. Wow, what a nice little camera. Extremely customizable, very responsive, good looking, well build and what’s most important, it has great image quality too! There are many high quality lenses available for micro 4/3 and all of them are smaller and lighter then the full frame and APSC equivalents. In fact, I carry two EM-5′s several very good native micro 4/3 lenses and a flash and the whole system weighs less then a full frame camera body with only one standard zoom lens. The EM-5 is less obtrusive and it focusses at least as fast and accurate too. Oh, and it’s weather sealed. Did I say that the image quality is excellent, because it really is. People that say it’s not either have unrealistic high standards or haven’t tried an EM-5 for themselves.

    • Thanks for the comment and insight Jan.

      While I agree that the EM5 is a really good camera, I’m going to stop short in saying it would ever replace my full frame camera. The sensor on the EM5 has a lot going for it, but really digging into the RAW files, I have noticed that this is by far the most digital looking sensor I currently own, or have seen in a micro 4/3 cam yet. By that I mean the grain is unnatural and artifacts can get very, very messy when trying to sharpen in post. It may be a case of “pixel peeping” but I guess, I pixel peep to the extent that I look at images at 100% when I work in post and these files do not hold up well compared to my full frame files by any stretch.

      I still have quite a love/unlove relationship with this camera. It is capable of great images, but it is just so unnecessarily complicated to change simple things… for instance, second curtain sync… Near impossible to figure out without the manual (at least it has been for me) and even when reading through the manual, it was no help whatsoever. Seriously, it is a joke. It says that I need to pull up the “super control panel” (but doesn’t say that you need to first enable the remote firing to even gain access to it) and then to highlight the flash mode, using the subdial to choose the setting, blah, blah… Well, that does, in no way whatsoever, provide me with the option to turn on 2nd curtain sync. I’m guessing there is some other phantom menu option that has somehow disabled me from getting to it, but it is stuff like this that just makes me hate this interface sometimes. The lack of fluidity and necessitation of nearly learning a new language to understand and remember how to modify this camera is maddening. I’ve never ever had an experience like this with any camera, from any of the half dozen systems I’ve shot with, ever.

      So, I do feel it is a good camera hampered by a horrible menu and interface layout which is just too quirky for me to feel comfortable considering it a “great” camera if that makes sense. For me anyway.

      Thanks again and I’m glad you’ve found the system to suit your needs, as I do really feel that the micro 4/3 system as a whole is really making waves and hopefully will only continue to grow and get better.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

  14. Pingback: *Olympus 75mm f/1.8, all it’s cracked up to be? | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

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