Olympus OM-D E-M5 review

Price when reviewed

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is disappointing, with a small viewable area, and it’s much smaller and coarser than rivals. Live view is replaced by image reviews in the 9fps continuous mode, making it almost impossible to track moving subjects. Continuous autofocus isn’t available in this mode either, and performance slumped after 13 frames to 1.3fps for JPEGs and 1.2fps for raw files.

However, an alternative continuous mode, which includes live view and continuous autofocus managed 3.5fps for 26 shots. Although the contrast-detection autofocus systems used in CSCs are usually slower than DSLRs’ phase-detection autofocus, that’s far from the case – Olympus has autofocus mastered here; it’s very quick indeed.

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Two command dials are welcome on such a slim camera, but there are no dedicated buttons to access photographic settings. You do get a pair of customisable buttons, plus another on the lens, but these aren’t enough to cover all the functions that enthusiast photographers regularly need. This leaves users to navigate onscreen icons via the navigation pad, and the layout of icons is disorientating. The touchscreen makes it easy to move the autofocus point, although it’s no use when using the viewfinder to compose shots. We really like the one-touch white balance, though, which calibrates the custom white balance extremely quickly.

Micro Four Thirds sensors are around half the size (by surface area) of the APS-C sensors used in DSLRs at this price, and a quarter that of full-frame sensors, so they’ll always have their work cut out to compete on image quality. The OM-D E-M5 acquitted itself extremely well, though, with crisp details in bright conditions that were on a par with – and often surpassed – the Canon EOS 60D and Nikon D7000.

Olympus OM-D E-M5

However, there was a hint of noise reduction glossing over subtle textures, even at the lowest ISO 200 setting. Noise reduction was laid on thick at higher ISO speeds, taking a heavy toll on hair and other fine textures at ISO 1600 and above, but it kept JPEGs looking reasonably presentable up to ISO 6400. Chromatic aberrations aren’t corrected in-camera, but they were barely detectable from the 20-50mm kit lens.

The OM-D E-M5 is a competent all-rounder, but its main strengths – small size, fast autofocus when using the screen and smooth autofocus in video – are relatively minor compared with rival cameras’ superior controls and image quality in low light. The ageing Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 shares the same benefits but has superior controls and costs less, even with its superb 14-140mm kit lens thrown in.

Click the links below for full resolution sample shots:
Test scene shot at base ISO, raw file converted with Lightroom 4 (10MB)
Test scene shot at ISO 6400, raw file converted with Lightroom 4 (9MB)
Bridge scene, raw file coverted with Lightroom 4 (12MB)
Resolution test card (7MB)


Image quality 4

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 16.1mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera maximum resolution 4608 x 3456

Weight and dimensions

Weight 425g
Dimensions 121 x 42 x 90mm (WDH)


Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 330 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? no
Aperture range f3.5 - fUnknown
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/4,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 1 mins
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 3EV
ISO range 200 - 25600
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 9.0fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? yes
Memory-card type SDXC
Viewfinder coverage 100%
LCD resolution 610k
Secondary LCD display? no
Body construction Magnesium Alloy
Tripod mounting thread? yes

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? yes

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