on 12 January 2013
I bought my E-M5 with 12-50mm kit lens in July 2012 through Amazon UK for £1000, imported from Hong Kong. I upgrade from my Panasonic GF1, because I wanted a view finder for composing pictures on bright sunny days and when using a zoom. I bought into Micro Four Thirds (MFT) a few years ago because of the trade-off between image quality and camera size.
I'm a sucker for a beautiful camera, so I bought the silver version. The black version is less eye-catching, but some of my favourite lenses are silver, and they stood out like a sore thumb on my black GF1.
Here are the things I like about the camera:
i) When fitted with certain prime lenses and a wrist-strap, this camera is almost the perfect size. It's small enough to go almost everywhere with me, stuffed in a jacket pocket, messenger bag or rucksack. (I don't think I would wand the body to be much smaller).
ii) It's very discrete (even in silver) and people don't tend to mind or notice when I take photographs. The touch to shoot LCD screen is really good fun for taking sneaky shots without anyone noticing.
iii) The image quality is a big improvement on the GF1. The difference between indoor shots with an identical is just incredible.
iv) I really like the fast prime lenses in the MFT system. I already owned the Olympus 12mm f2, the Olympus 45mm F1.8 and Panasonic 20mm F1.7 before I bought the camera.
v) It is fast at focusing for a compact system camera, unless you use a slow focusing lens like the Panasonic 20mm F1.7.
vi) The top control dials (PASM, Exposure and Aperture/Shutter) are a joy to use. I mention this because a lot of mirror-less cameras only have 2 of the 3 control dials.
vii) The in-body image stabilization is amazing. Nearly all the MFT prime lenses are un-stabilized, so it is really handy.
viii) The Electronic View Finder (EVF) is heaven after owning a GF1, and much better than the EVFs on early mirror-less cameras. You can check if the sensor is clipping, spirit level, etc. I don't mind that it is not optical, because camera size is far more important to me.
ix) It looks and feels good (for the most part).
x) It makes fairly good videos, especially with the image stabilization.
xi) The software is nice and simple. Firmware update software is hassle free, and picture viewer software is quick and simple to retouch photos (white balance, exposure, noise reduction, etc.)
No camera is perfect, and there are some things about the E-M5 that spoil the experience :
i) The position of the ON/OFF switch is not well located and I find myself fumbling for it when I want to quickly take a shot.
ii) The EVF eye sensor often detects my hand when I use the rear LCD screen's touch to shoot function, turning off the LCD screen and causing me to miss the shot.
iii) There are some fiddly clip on bits, and I have already replaced a lost the eyecup (£20) and the hot-shoe cover. The eyecup is particularly prone to coming unclipped.
iv) The ISO only goes down to 200 not 100 (max shutter speed of 4000), so it can be difficult to shoot at low aperture settings outside.
v) I find there are not enough buttons on the back of the camera (the LCD screen takes up all the space), so it is a bit fiddly to change certain setting.
vi) I really don't like the way Olympus implemented the custom settings (myset). They are not quickly accessible via the PASM mode dial and you cannot program a button to toggle through myset 1 to 5.
vii) Some controls and functions are quirky; you can only program certain functions to certain buttons. Bracketing is buried in the menus rather than grouped with the single/burst/timer, the format memory card is the first option in the menu (which seems like a dangerous place to put it), and I could go on........ I am waiting for David Busch's book "Olympus Om-D E-M5 Guide to Digital Photography" to better understand the logic behind these peculiarities.
viii)Lots of Olympus lenses are only available in silver, never supplied with a lens hood, never supplied with a lens case, never fit in a 3rd party lens case. Keep up the good work Panasonic, perhaps Olympus may one day learn !
I cannot comment on the 12-50mm kit lens, as I have hardly used it (perhaps that sums it up). It is too big and slow (aperture) for my taste, and I keep accidentally switching to E-zoom. I would have preferred to pay only £800 for the body, than £1000 for the body + kit lens.
Here are some things you might read in magazines and on the internet :
i) Sound of the image stabilization....Gone with firmware update 1.5.
ii) ~330 shot battery life and £60 pounds for a genuine spare.....I bought a third party battery + charger for £20 on amazon.
iii) No built in flash...Never needed it with a fast prime lenses, ISO=<1600 using RAW.
iv) Excellent customizable...I actually prefer the buttons on the GF1.
v) Olympus lenses work best on Olympus bodies and Panasonic lenses work best on Panasonic bodies....Don't agree. The Panasonic 14 - 45mm and 45 - 200mm work like a charm on the E-M5, as do the Olympus 12mm F2 and 45mm F1.8 on the GF1. The Panasonic 20mm F1.7 is slow to focus on all bodies. The only differences are, Panasonic bodies don't have image stabilization and automatically correct for CA.
vi) No manual focus peaking....If you are desperate for this function, you can use art filter 11ii (see youtube clip from Amin Sabet).
I would definitely recommend this camera to anyone who has already bought into the MFT format. Despite some quirks, for me it is the best MFT camera with built in view finder. If you are not already a MFT user, then you should ask yourself whether size really matters. You are paying a premium for picture quality in such a small package, and you lose some ergonomics compared to a DSLR.
I also recommend checking out the different lenses before you buy, as the best are not offered in a kit. I probably wouldn't rate this camera, if I didn't already own the 12mm and 45mm prime lenses. I was going to give this a camera four stars (-1 star for price and ergonomics), but I have just been looking at my Christmas photos and they are soooo nice. In fact, they make me want to spend even more money on a new lens (50mmF1.4) !
Finally, what sort of photos do I take; 5% street, 10% travel photo, 30% social gatherings (parties, etc.), 50% family, 5% other. Nearly all my photos have people in them, which is one of the reasons why a value a small(ish) camera. This camera is almost perfect for me (the way some of the controls & functions are implemented is not exactly to my taste).