Olympus OM-D E-M5 / 12-50mm Kit
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Olympus OM-D E-M5 / 12-50mm Kit Review
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 / 12-50mm Kit is the new flagship Micro Four Thirds compact system camera from Olympus. The first in a brand new range of cameras dubbed OM-D, the E-M5 is a classically styled 16.1 megapixel model that offers the world’s fastest auto-focus system and the world’s first 5-axis image stabilisation system.
The OM-D E-M5 is a bit larger than the smallest mirrorless compacts, but still not as big as a D-SLR. Construction is magnesium and aluminum alloy with an overall rectangular shaped body topped with the electronic viewfinder masquerading as a DSLR-like pentaprism.
The right front of the camera body has a slightly enlarged handgrip made of a textured composite material that is almost as slick as the painted portions of the body. The camera is weather sealed with what Olympus describes as "advanced dust and splash protection." The 12-50mm kit lens is also sealed, as is the bundled flash head. Overall, body dimensions are 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7-inches and the camera weighs approximately 15 ounces with memory card and battery on board, but no lens attached. The camera is made in China and appears well put together.
You've got two options for framing images. The first is an eye-level electronic viewfinder. It's housed just where it would be on a D-SLR, adding a characteristic angular hump to the top of the Olympus E-M5 / 12-50mm kit. Packed with 1.44 million dots, the LCD EVF is sharp and crisp.The camera's rear 3-inch touch screen display is OLED, and even though its resolution is just 610k dots, it is extremely bright and crisp. The rear panel is hinged, so you can frame shots from above or below. There's no built-in flash, but Olympus includes a pop-up flash that slides into the hot shoe.
Physical controls are plentiful here. There are two control wheels, a mode dial, two programmable function buttons, a video recording button, and a four-way controller. The camera's menu system is pretty intense—there are pages and pages of options that you can customize—but once you've got the camera configured to suit your shooting style you won't have to spend a ton of time paging through it.
If you're shooting in JPG or Raw+JPG, it effectively doubles your focal length. The quality of the digitally zoomed JPGs was impressive—they were only slightly softer than non-zoomed files, and retained the full 16-megapixel resolution. The function can also be used as a manual focusing aid when shooting with legacy lenses. Tapping the button toggles between the two views, and even if you do find yourself firing a shot off when zoomed unintentionally in Raw+JPG mode, the Raw file retains the full field of view—it is only the JPG version that is cropped in-camera.
One of the advantages of Olympus Micro Four Thirds bodies over cameras with the same lens mount and sensor size like is in-body image stabilization. This adds stabilization to any lens that you mount on the camera. The system implemented in the E-M5 features a 5-axis stabilizer, which does a great job keeping shots sharp. The system also helps to keep your video footage steady.
The OM-D E-M5 can start up and grab a photo in 1.5 seconds, rattles off shots at 9 frames per second, and records an extremely short 0.09 second shutter lag. Recovery time also varies based on the format—all of the JPG shots are written to the camera in about 5.1 seconds, while you'll have to wait 11.8 seconds for the Raw buffer to clear, and 14.4 seconds for the Raw+JPG files to be stored on the card.
The included 12-50mm is a 4x zoom design with three operational modes. You can opt to use it as an electronic power zoom, which is very quiet, or as a traditional manual zoom. The third mode is Macro—which sets the lens to the 43mm focal length and makes it possible to focus on objects that are very close to the lens. Using Imatest to test its sharpness at 12mm, 25mm, and 50mm, it impressed at each of these focal lengths—notching 2,129 lines at its widest, 2,521 lines in the middle, and 2,477 lines at its longest. All of these figures are well in excess of the 1,800 lines required for a sharp image.
The camera records QuickTime video at 1080p30 or 720p30 format with continuous autofocus. The quality is excellent, and the camera's stabilization system helps to keep your handheld footage from looking as if it was shot on a boat. Serious videographers are going to be left wanting in terms of audio, since there's no microphone input.
The E-M5 has a micro HDMI port to connect to an HDTV and a proprietary USB interface to connect to a computer. It can record data to SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.
Overall, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 / 12-50mm does everything you want/need it to. Image quality is superb and almost all the settings can be customized. Everything is packaged in a nice compact and weathersealed body that's reasonably priced for what it delivers.