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If you think that the digital SLR still has the edge for photographers in most circumstances, be prepared to think again. Blowing away preconceptions while at the same time affirming many hopes, the Olympus E-M5 is the first model in the brand new OM-D range. Though its esteemed heritage stretches back 40 years to the original OM analogue series, this is a ground breaking new interchangeable lens digital camera with an exceptionally light and compact body; plus there are already a plethora of exciting new lens options.
Though it offers a beautifully classic carry-anywhere OM design, this is truly a benchmark raising, next generation product that brings the OM back in style. One of the camera's many impressive key features is a 1.44 million dot resolution electronic viewfinder complete with new interface, allowing discerning uses to carry out real time checks on manual adjustments to colour temperature, exposure levels and the effect of applying Olympus' Art Filters.
Serious users will also find peace of mind in the dust and splash-proof OM-D series body, fashioned from lightweight yet tough magnesium alloy. But the take-anywhere Olympus E-M5 is about more than the sum of its parts; obvious to anyone who views an image created on it. With the E in the model name denoting Excellence, this is one camera photo enthusiasts will be proud to own.
Banishing the blur that can ruin an otherwise perfectly composed and exposed shot is top of every photographer's wish list. The Olympus E-M5's world first of a five axis image stabilisation (or 'anti shake') system ensures that both stills and video are always sharp, even when shooting handheld. Unlike many interchangeable lens rivals, Image Stabilisation is built into the body, so the camera automatically counteracts blur with any lens you attach.
The new 'IS' mechanism now corrects effectively for horizontal shift, vertical shift and 'rolling', or rotary motion. Being able to decisively combat blur particularly comes into its own when shooting close up macro subjects. Alternatively, for those shooting when on the move themselves, multi motion IS with wide frequency band compatibility also compensates for shake.
Combining obvious sophistication with speed, the Olympus E-M5 benefits photographers in offering the fastest ever auto focus of an interchangeable lens camera – and that includes DSLRs – with a further refinement of FAST AF (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology), a technology also found on Olympus PEN cameras, including the E-P3.
This drives the camera's Live MOS sensor at 120fps, while the speed of communications for controlling the lens action has been improved. Also helping to provide a speed increase, Olympus' MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) system has been adopted, quickening auto focus whilst also reducing any noise produced by the lens. Improved subject tracking is also provided via 3D tracking.
For sequential shooting the camera is capable of operating at impressive speeds up to nine frames per second (9fps). When capturing an image, the brief pause while the image is written to card before the camera returns to Live View mode (or 'recovery time') has also been shortened. This has been achieved by the output to the rear LCD, or electronic viewfinder, no longer being dependent on completing recording of the captured image.
Fast and accurate: that's the Olympus E-M5. The camera not only comes with a new high resolution sensor but also a new, latest generation TruePic VI image processing engine at its core. In combination these features provide the inaugural OM-D camera with an excellent noise reduction capability, allowing for light sensitivity settings to be offered as high as ISO25600 whilst maintaining an excellent performance. Expanded dynamic range is a further benefit, allowing for more faithful reproduction of a wide brightness range.
What's more, Fine Detail Processing technology, first seen on Olympus' range topping E-5 Four Thirds digital SLR, eliminates unwanted image artifacts and colour aberrations, with Real Colour Technology deployed to accurately reproduce previously hard to render colours, such as emerald green.
Compatible with all current Micro Four Thirds lenses, the Olympus E-M5 is a portable new system camera that hits the ground running, and keeps going, thanks to support from an essential range of accessories from day one. These include the optional HDL-6 power battery holder, with the same splash and dust proof build and affording portrait or landscape shooting thanks to an additional shutter release. An extra lithium ion battery is provided to supplement the one already in the E-M5. When used together the camera can record around 650 images according to industry standard CIPA testing.
Also available on launch is a MMF-3 Four Thirds mount adapter – affording the camera instant access to a whole host of existing Olympus lenses – plus FL-600R electronic flash for added expandability.
The flash's specifics are a Guide Number of 50 at ISO200 or GN36 at ISO100. Along with improved recharge time plus enhanced flexibility and operability for moving recording, via the feature of a LED that can be used to illuminate videos or provide a brighter AF auxiliary light, the flash also comes with the option of wireless control.
Again, the lens adaptor provides the same build quality as the camera itself, being dust and splashproof. In that respect it is especially apt for use with similarly dust and splashproof 'Pro' and 'Top Pro' series lenses.
In addition two new lenses are also poised for release later in 2012. These are the creativity extending M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm 1:1.8 and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm 1:2.8 macro. The 75mm lens offers a fantastic quality metal build plus fat aperture settings for indoor portraiture and spots shooting. The 60mm lens meanwhile is splashproof, features 1:1 macro and a closest shooting distance of just 0.19m.
To add to its already impressive list of world firsts, the E-M5 further entices the enthusiast photographer by virtue of it being Olympus' first lens swappable camera to feature a built-in EVF at eye level. The electronic viewfinder offers accuracy in framing via a 100% field of view, maximum 1.15x magnification and 18mm eye point.
Coming into its own when shooting sports is an optimised display time lag, a further benefit being that the unique optical design affords detailed viewing from the centre to the periphery, with little or no vignetting.
Acting as a time saver and making for intuitive use, a built-in eye sensor effortlessly and automatically switches between the rear panel LCD and EVF instantly.
Shooting information, including shutter speed, is displayed at the bottom of the EVF – an advantage over a plain optical viewfinder – as is the ability to check the effects of various manual adjustments and application of Art Filters. A new interface, EVF Creative Control, enables separate adjustment of highlight and shadow brightness, which is monitored using the viewfinder image with a tone curve overlay. Without removing the eye from the viewfinder, white balance, magnification and aspect ratio can similarly be controlled.
Videographers looking to edit their Full HD video footage on a PC will appreciate the widespread compatibility offered by the Olympus E-M5's adoption of MOV format, MPEG-4, AVC/H.264 compression. This affords a recording time of around 29 minutes, while the traditional AVI, Motion JPEG format is additionally available. Making the most of Olympus' expertise in the world of audio as well as imagery, superior stereo sound quality is offered, with Linear PCM audio being used for both recording modes. The E-M5's already considerable arsenal of creativity is further enhanced with the ability of being able to add one-shot echo and multi echo effects to movie clips.
Add in a Supersonic Wave Filter dust protection system, installed in front of the image sensor to prevent any undesirables attaching themselves when swapping lenses and the result is a visible consistency of excellence.
The E-M5 takes inspiration from the best features of its critically acclaimed PEN range, in featuring a large 3-inch OLED monitor on its backplate. Not only does this produce a very life-like image with deeper blacks and improved contrast when compared to a standard LCD screen, the screen is also angle adjustable.
To better enable those otherwise awkward arm's length high or low angle shots, the swivel-type monitor can be tilted by a maximum of 80° upwards or a maximum 50° downwards. With a resolution of 610,000 dots it can display video in VGA quality.
In addition the first ever OM-D camera's screen is also a touchscreen, providing rapid responses when the finger is used to bias focusing or even fire the shutter release. A new Live Bulb feature updates the Live View image on the rear panel monitor at preset intervals during bulb shooting. This facility allows photographers to monitor and access the image for exposure and tweak as necessary.
The E-M5 allows you to take your photography further by offering almost unlimited memory expansion possibilities for all those JPEG, Raw and movie files. It provides compatibility with the SDXC removable media card format.
This affords high storage capacities of up to a gargantuan 2TB to ensure you don't run out of space for those many thousands of photos and videos at an inopportune moment – thereby making the E-M5 as 'future proof' as possible. Wireless transfer is also possible due to compatibility with (optional) Eye-Fi media cards.
Turn your memories into works of art. The first OM-D camera in the Olympus E-M5 comes with a new Key Line filter. This enhances edge lines so that a photograph looks even more like a well-defined illustration. Two variations provide different strength effects.
Added to this, Art Filter bracketing offers the creative flexibility of being able to create multiple versions of the same shot by applying different Art Filters to it. Both of these options – and many more – are designed to inspire photographers to experiment with their OM-D camera and produce more satisfying imagery.
Two further new filters have been added to the line up in Cross Process II and Dramatic Tone II, to instantly give both your images and movies a unique look and feel. Just select the desired Art Filter before taking a picture or shooting a movie; the effect is then shown directly on the LCD in Live View Mode.
In total the 11 available Art Filter modes comprise Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, and Key Line.
In addition there are five 'Art Effects': Soft Focus Effect, Pin Hole Effect, White Edge Effect, Frame Effect and Star Light Effect.
In addition to the above, the ground breaking, once-in-a-generation Olympus E-M5 is available in black and silver, and in the following configurations: