Olympus OM-D E-M5 retrospective review

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera was hard to come by since its announcement in February due to its popularity. It is a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format camera and is supported by a myriad of camera manufacturers such as Panasonic, Sigma and many others.

It is easy to find reviews, a quick search on the Internet will provide you with many. What I want to share are my thoughts of using it as a daily shooter. I have used it for quite some time now, and have continuously updated this post with my thoughts.

The E-M5 is a great camera for travel. It is so good that Olympus over the subsequent years introduced more models based on its sensor. The PEN E-P5, OM-D E-M10, and even the flagship OM-D E-M1, all share many features from the E-M5 and tweaks from its sensor.

The build of the E-M5 is solid except for one issue. The eyepiece is easily loosened while in use. The problem is amplified if a neck strap is used as the back of the camera would rub against your body. The solution I have found is to get the eyepiece from the OM-D E-M10. The design of the E-M10 eyepiece is slightly better. Since acquiring one from eBay I have yet to have a problem. Look for the Olympus EP-14 at your favourite online stores.

The biggest advantage of the Olympus mirrorless cameras is its in-body image stabilization (IBIS). All of the cameras have some kind of implementation of IBIS and the higher ranges support 5-axis. Every possible shake motion when taking a photograph is compensated by the camera. This do not help you to freeze motion, only faster shutter speeds will do that. But still life and landscape in dark lighting will allow for very low shutter speeds. I have been able to produce usable photos at 1/10 of a second without a tripod.

Almost every MFT lens produced so far have been excellent and there have been many that are top notch. I have put together a respectable kit without having to hunt down or wait for lenses to be developed. Besides Fujifilm, there is not another mirrorless system that is in the same league (as of winter 2014). I do wish more lenses are weather sealed. Coming from Nikon weather sealing was never a feature to request for as it is on nearly every lens. I know users of other systems are not as lucky so this may be overlooked by some.

Super Control Panel is the best implementation of touch screen and advanced controls of any camera I have used. This feature is on every Olympus camera and I would be very satisfied of shooting with it. The only things that takes too many key presses to change is the auto focus grouping modes. It is not a function that most people will change often enough to justify a complaint but it has slowed me down at times.

Electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a blessing in disguise. Sport photographers may prefer the responsiveness of the optical viewfinder in DSLRs but most other photographers would definitely benefit from EVFs. Being able to see your exposure, depth of field, white balance, and use electronic gauges such as leveling while making a composition is a superb advantage. Responsiveness will improve as refresh rates get better on these small displays.

Biggest disadvantage of the E-M5 is shared with almost all of its competitors in the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera category: focus tracking. Continuous auto focus is just painful to use. There are improvements in the E-M1, Sony a6000, Fujifilm X-T1 but it is still not anywhere close to even the most entry level DSLR. Wild life and sports photographers without perfect technique may be disappointed.