Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5

_8012314 copy
My stealthed-up OM-D. Note lack of strap D rings; these are the clip points from the Crumpler strap.

I did a double take after seeing the teaser images for the OM-D, way back at the start of the year. Olympus managed to make a 2012 camera look like a 1970 one; not only that, why on earth would you need a prism hump for a camera that doesn’t even have a prism? My first impressions of the spec sheet were ho-hum, yet another over-cramped sensor with too many pixels, inside a tiny body. And it wouldn’t fit my workflow, because there was no ACR support of any kind. And what’s with having two cryptic names? Then, after a long wait, and at a camera shop in Singapore looking for some lighting gear, I made the mistake of playing with one. Not only did it not feel plasticky and toy-like as its appearance would suggest, but the camera was also very responsive – in a connected-to-your-synapses-good way that I’ve only felt with the pro Nikons up to this point. I was intrigued.

_8012328 copy
Reach out and touch me. Tilt and capacitative-touch LCD; there’s actually another accessory port under the flash hotshoe for things like GPS, macro LED lights (that look like tentacles), or for a completely bizarre twist, another EVF.

A little more research on reaching home in Kuala Lumpur revealed that the OM-D was not only surprisingly expensive for what it was – D7000 money – but perhaps enough camera that you could use one on assignment and be taken seriously. And whilst a nice idea, the two-part vertical grip both managed to look dinky and defeat the point of having a compact system in the first place.

_5001096 copy
Ladies at lunch. OM-D, 45/1.8 – this has rapidly become my favorite lens for the camera. It’s a little long to use at arms’ length on the Pen Mini, but excellently stealthy on the OM-D.

I admit, following reading a number of excellent reviews on the web, temptation peaked. ACR support was the final straw – one day, it followed me home. (My dealer has a joke about my car washes being very expensive, because while waiting for the car to be ready, I usually drop by; most of the time, I buy something. This was another one of those expensive car washes.) After all, I reasoned that I already had the Pen Mini and excellent 12/2, 20/1.7 and 45/1.8 lenses for Micro Four Thirds, plus there was all of this Leica M glass sitting around and an adaptor. The Pen Mini was surprisingly excellent. How bad could it be?

_5000140 copy
The Kicker. OM-D, 45/1.8

Actually, a lot better than expected. Turns out there’s a very good reason for that prism hump, just not one you’d expect. Aside from the 1.44 million dot EVF, there’s also a five-axis gyroscope – supposedly a world first – inside the camera that controls the matching five-axis moving-sensor stabilization system. I’m not a fan of sensor based systems, because they don’t generally have as much correction power (from an angle of view basis) as lens-based systems for longer lenses, and they tend to do odd things like ‘snap’ back into position once the limits of travel are reached. The OM-D’s system displays a little bit of the latter, but very, very little. And it’s surprisingly effective, too – it activates with a decisiveness I haven’t seen before on a sensor-IS system – but then again I don’t have any lenses over 90mm EFOV, and if I did, I’d probably buy the Panasonic 100-300 which already has lens-based IS built in, giving me the choice of both systems (but not together, as apparently both manufacturers claim they don’t play nice). You still need to give the stabilizer a moment to lock down though, otherwise you might get that unexpected jump.

_5001019 copy
A repost of one of my favorite portraits. OM-D, 45/1.8

And that brings me to the next popular point of contention with the OM-D: the fan noise. Turns out it’s the a combination of the gyroscope and the electromagnets that move the sensor, or keep it in place (if the IS system is off). In fact, you can hear a similar noise in Nikon’s VR lenses when VR is engaged if you listen carefully. I don’t think it’s a big deal, personally. You can only hear it in near-silent environments.

_5000219 copy
A shave and two bits. OM-D, 45/1.8

The OM-D is a tricky body to get a feel for – it’s smaller in person than you’d expect from pictures; it’s a little taller than the E-P3 due to the finder hump, but nowhere near as bulky and unwieldy as the E-P3 with the VF2 viewfinder attached. Ergonomically, this is good and bad news; the camera sits in the hand well, and both exposure adjustment dials fall easily to thumb and forefinger. The arrow keys on the back are still OK, but a little bit of a cramp to reach; the delete button and power switch are both far too low. Moving the power switch to that little empty bit of deck underneath the shutter button would be fantastic – a split second fumble to power the camera on can often cost your the shot. More on this later.

_5000076 copy
Damn you, Magritte. OM-D, Leica 35/1.4 ASPH FLE via adaptor

For the most part, ergonomics are solid. There are plenty of programmable buttons; the two on the top deck (Fn and record), one next to play (Fn) and the arrow pad. The play and Fn buttons are a bit small – perhaps making them pointier and longer might help – I’d be concerned about being able to hit them reliably with gloves, but then again they seem to be fine for bare-handed use. The arrow pad is set to pick focus point by default, and this is the behavior I prefer. You can assign shortcuts like ISO and WB to it, but why bother when there’s the excellent SCP which shows all settings at a glance? Hit the OK key and use your finger to select the setting, then use the front dial to change it.

_5000108 copy
Night Tree. OM-D and 45/1.8. ISO 2000, would you believe?

Oh, I forgot to mention the OM-D has also inherited the touch screen from the E-P3; Olympus has done a good job of making its operation unintrusive so you’re not accidentally shooting with your nose (you can do a touch-to-focus-and-shoot operation when in live view). It’s handy to select focus points quickly, as well as scroll and zoom images – though this behavior is just a little counterintuitive, because I don’t do it on any of my other cameras.

In addition to being hugely customizable, there are several neat touches with the operation of the camera – in playback, the FN1 button next to play zooms into the focus point to the last magnification with two presses: first to enable (after which you can also use your finger to drag the enlarged area box) and another to magnify. Amongst all cameras, only the pro Nikons do this. Better yet, you can skip between zoomed-in images to compare areas of the image using the front command dial. On top of all this, you can even select clipping levels for the shadow/ highlight warning display. Nice.

_5000206 copy
Memorial for a leaf. OM-D, 45/1.8

The OM-D has other functions which I don’t really use, but which might be nice for JPEG shooters like special effects and a form of live curve control using the dials; it isn’t very precise, but it is better than nothing.

Remember I was talking about losing shots to a powered-off camera earlier? There’s a good reason for this: if you leave the battery, it’ll probably be dead after about 300 or so frames because the EVF and LCD appear to be always on, even if the camera is in standby; the LCD might be black but mine at least has a telltale glow. My friends who don’t power off between shots are reporting battery life in this range. I’ve got no problem getting 500 shots out and barely making a dent in the battery (one little segment missing), however. I think I’ve only charged it a handful of times since getting the camera, and never has the battery been fully depleted.

_5001073 copy
Untitled. OM-D, 45/1.8

I think the EVF saves power over the LCD, but then again I’m not entirely sure; there’s a lot of dots on that little monitor. It’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen, with a very high refresh rate, low lag, good usability in low light (though oddly the live preview tonality etc doesn’t accurately match the captured image sometimes) and a fine dot pitch. Do I miss my real viewfinder? Yes, but to be honest, I seem to have adapted to this one. And being able to see a quick review of the image you just shot in the finder is great – you don’t have to take your eye away from it to check your composition. Similarly, if you want to shoot discretely at waist level – the tilting LCD is great. I prefer these to the swivel kind that frankly always feel like they’re going to snap off at the hinge point.

_5000222 copy
In praise of tilt screens. OM-D, 45/1.8

In use, the OM-D shows that it was designed by photographers – or at least has had heavy photographer input in most of the engineering decisions. Menus are logical, and settings are mostly easy to find – though it could really use a way of saving settings to an SD card to transfer between multiple cameras (this is a ‘pro’ feature for users of multiple bodies), or reload if somebody plays with yours. It’s solid, and surprisingly hefty for its size – the body is made of magnesium alloy a mix of magnesium alloy, plastic, and some stamped metal (brass?) parts; it’s weather sealed to the same level as the E-5. If you look closely, there are gaskets on every compartment. Although I’ve seen videos of people washing their E-5s, note that the only weather sealed M4/3 lens at the moment is the 12-50 kit lens. All in all, I’m pretty confident that the camera could take a decent beating and survive.

_5000876 copy
Remember this shot from Wesak Day? The camera was already soaked by similar blessings at this point. OM-D, 12/2

The critical thing that makes a good camera, in my mind, is responsiveness. And the OM-D has it in spades. I think it’s the fastest-focusing contrast detect camera out there; it’s noticeably faster than the Pen Mini, which I already thought was pretty speedy. It even shoots at 9fps, in RAW, with no buffer indigestion. Frankly, in good light, with a contrasty subject, it gives my D800E a run for its money. The catch is that you must use the Olympus lenses for this. Despite the supposed openness of the Micro Four Thirds standard, there are definite speed advantages to be had for using a manufacturer’s own lenses on its own bodies.

_5000941 copy
Bulding blocks. OM-D, 45/1.8

There is a catch with autofocus, however. As good as single AF is – I would say easily class leading, and giving most DSLRs a run for their money (with none of the AF alignment problems, because the imaging sensor does the focusing) – continuous AF is a completely different story. Even though Olympus claims that continuous and tracking AF is greatly improved with the OM-D, frankly, it’s unusable. Continuous autofocus can’t seem to anticipate subject motion; it drops after the first frame, and usually comes close but fails to re-acquire the subject. Tracking AF is a similar story; you can see the camera manages to find the subject in the frame and displays this in the finder, but somehow it just fails to move the lens by the right amount to keep up with it. I would personally avoid these two modes, and instead rely on its extremely fast S-AF, low shutter lag, and the higher DOF of Micro 4/3 (for a given FOV and aperture) to save you. In fact, I don’t think I’d use this camera for moving subjects at all; that’s why I still keep the D700 and battery grip around.

_5000653 copy
Holy man. OM-D, 45/1.8. Even at the slow, predictable speed of the moving float, getting this shot was a lucky break.

I haven’t seen any AF errors for single AF, except when there are objects at multiple distances inside the focusing box (whose size can’t be changed) and something other than the intended subject is the most contrasty. It’s also worth noting that because the imaging sensor is used, the AF grid covers almost the entire frame. These are two huge advantages of mirrorless systems that frankly I miss with full frame cameras, whose AF grid usually covers the central third of the frame at best.

All of this usability would be utterly, well, useless, if the image quality didn’t match. The OM-D reportedly uses the same sensor as the Panasonic GX1 I’ve been told by a number of sources that it’s a different sensor; 16MP and 3.63 micron pixel pitch. That’s tiny; the 10MP 1/1.7″ compacts run at about 2.3 microns or so. By comparison, the D7000 and D800E have a 4.88 micron pitch, and the D700/D3, an enormous 8.5 microns. (Every time you double the pitch, you quadruple the photo site area.) Even factoring in advances in technology, I’d expect pixel-level performance to be on par with the Pen Mini; going from 12 to 16MP while maintaining the same pixel quality is pretty much what Nikon did with the D3s to D4 move, and in about the same gestation period.

_5000967bw copy
Hot day. OM-D, 45/1.8

Wrong. It seems that either the old sensor was pretty old, or the new sensor has skipped half a generation – pixel level image quality is on par with the D7000, as far as acuity and noise goes; it may even be slightly better on the noise front. Color accuracy is better, too; the OM-D is both accurate and delivers excellent skin tones. The best way to describe its tonal palette is ‘natural’ – very little work is required to get my desired output from the RAW file, which isn’t necessarily the case with other cameras. The only place where it can’t quite keep up (and this is a fact of the laws of physics) is in dynamic range; I don’t know exactly how much it has, but my gut puts it at around 11-12 stops useable at base ISO with careful RAW processing, which is a little less than the D7000, and two stops less than the D800E. The sensor is further limited at higher ISOs, at which point dynamic range falls further. There’s probably no more than 6-7 useable stops at ISO 3200. This is still excellent performance for such a small sensor!

_5000552bw copy
Migrant workers. OM-D, 45/1.8. ISO 3200

On the noise front, I limited my Pen Mini’s auto ISO to 1600; anything beyond was just too grainy and edge-compromised to use. I’m happy to raise that one stop to 3200 for the OM-D; perhaps 6400 if I have no choice, since there are a few more pixels to play with – but by then dynamic range and color are really suffering quite badly. All in all, though, I’d put the noise performance on par with the Leica X2 I recently tested. One more stop of useable high-ISO, the hugely improved stabilizer, and the ability to use an eye-level finder and brace the camera against your face (increasing stability and reducing the minimum shutter speed required to handhold) means that the OM-D is capable of delivering 2-3 stops of additional usability over the Pen Mini (and by extension, E-P3/ E-PL3 cameras of that generation) – which is a huge step forward. In fact, it gives better color and detail than my D700 at base ISO, and keeps up with it noise-wise to about ISO 800. It’s probably about as flexible as the D800E in that sense. In daylight, picking this camera is a no-brainer.

_5000228 copy
The thinking man’s camera. With beer, too. OM-D, 45/1.8. ISO 2000

This doesn’t of course mean that the OM-D is perfect; there are many things that only reveal themselves with extended use, and one of the reasons why this review has taken so long (other than the X2 and M-Monochrom arrivals) is because I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time to shoot with it to fully understand this camera; there’s a lot of functionality in here I haven’t even tried, like video mode for instance. What I do want to test more extensively – and haven’t had the chance to, because FL-50Rs aren’t exactly cheap or easy to borrow – is the wireless flash system. If it’s as accurate and flexible as Nikon’s CLS, I may well have found a replacement lightweight system for anything that doesn’t require 36MP. I did briefly play with the two-part grip; it’s very solid, and improves handling and balance dramatically – with or without the vertical portion. It takes another battery and is sealed to the same degree as the rest of the camera. The only problem I have with it is the rather stiff price for what is effectively a few bits of plastic and some buttons; it’s fully 1/3rd of the camera – at least where I live.

_5001213 copy
Untitled portrait. OM-D, 45/1.8

Things I’d like to see improved:
– Strap lug placement is awful. Using the included D-rings, the strap digs into your palm, or the web between your fingers. It seems like this is an Olympus tradition; every single Olympus I’ve owned has had this problem. I solve it in the usual way: remove the D rings, and either use a thin lanyard hand strap (fortunately, the camera is light) or a Crumpler Urban Disgrace that attaches via a lanyard-style string that threads through the remaining eyelets.
– Continuous AF. It’s not usable now, period.
– The power switch is in a terrible location.
– The buttons could be more tactile, they feel, well, mushy. It’s not always clear if you’ve pressed something.
– Playback and FN1 buttons are too small, and you can quite easily press the wrong one.
– It seems battery life could be improved, perhaps through more intelligent use of sleep modes. The camera could be a bit faster in waking up and powering on, too.
– Some way of saving settings to an SD card and transferring them to another camera – this is meant to be a pro grade camera after all, and pros have more than one camera. With that many custom settings, resetting a second camera is a colossal pain.

_5001123 copy
Contemplating the upgrade (note watches). OM-D, 45/1.8

Notice that with the exception of continuous AF performance, there are no real big issues here. In all fairness, continuous AF is something that none of the mirrorless cameras do well (with the exception of the Nikon 1, which has phase detect photo sites on the sensor).

With the arrival of the OM-D, it finally feels like Micro Four Thirds has come of age. The original promise of ‘smaller, same quality’ which was made with Four Thirds I felt was never fulfilled with earlier cameras; they weren’t small enough, or able to deliver the same image quality. Although Micro Four Thirds went a long way to fulfilling the smaller part of the equation, image quality, speed and usability were lagging behind until the last generation; only now has the promise been met. I don’t look at the OM-D’s files and think ‘wow, this isn’t bad for such a small sensor!'; instead, I look at the files and am satisfied enough to not think about the sensor size. It’s hugely liberating to be able to carry a pro grade body and three lens fast-prime kit – 24, 40 and 90 equivalents – whose total weight is around 600g, and without feeling like I’m compromising anything (at least not for what I shoot; if it were sport, it’d probably be a different case). That’s the weight of one lens for the D800, or the M9-P body only. That’s hugely appealing for travel. Even two bodies wouldn’t weigh that much.

In conclusion: it’s an exciting time to be a photographer. For the vast majority of my work, this is more than enough camera; I just need a solid macro option (there’s a 60mm 1:1 on the way) and a good wireless flash system, and I’d be seriously tempted to switch over. MT

_5000959bw copy
Waiting for more rebar. OM-D, 45/1.8

More of my work with the OM-D can be found here on flickr. This is a set which will be continuously updated as time goes by…

Update: I’ve been made aware of an excellent thread on DPReview by Archer Sully here documenting some of the ‘hidden’ features of the OM-D that the manual doesn’t cover. It’s good reading for any OM-D shooter.

Get the Olympus OM-D here from B&H or Amazon.

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. Song Pham says:

    Hi. When shooting 3/2 on the OMD EM5 instead of 4/3, you have a crop of the sensor. Say I shoot 3/2 RAW and import to LR5. Will I get a 3/2 RAW or a 4/3 RAW? And is the video good enough for semi-pro work? Thanks!

    • All of the data is in the raw file, but there’s a tag written to the file. Some versions of ACR/LR/PS will display the cropped version, others won’t.

      Video is acceptable but not great; the bitrate is too low.

  2. Nikolay Karev says:

    I am extremely slow… :) Did you see any difference in shots taken with this OM-D’s “Half way els with IS” option on and off? It looks like it causes motion blur for me when I am using “focus-recompose” technique.

    • Leave it on all the time; the IS system needs some time to ‘settle in’ for maximum effectiveness. Suddenly engaging it only when shooting is almost certainly going to result in blur as the sensor moves.

  3. Hi Ming
    I have really enjoyed this review and others from your “blog”. This really does seem to be a very good option especially as a light weight system. I usually use Pentax K5 … whichI must say I love … but living on Dartmoor in the UK I do a lot of long walks (6-8 hours) often in rain … so the K5 weatherproofing has been great as has the ability to use all my old K lenses. None the less I really ache for a good lightweight system. i have an X100 Fw2 … and its a lovely camera but its lack of weatherproofing and slow focusing (still) make it frustrating.
    When i buy can I do so through your links in the UK?
    Tom

    PS I REALLY appreciate that as well as being a massive source of information .. that the replies here i.e. from D Parrot lead to a two way process where as well as teaching us … you are learning too! VERY refreshing!

    Thanks again

  4. Dear Ming,

    Thank you for your in depth review.

    How about Oly 17mm f/1.8?

  5. Noticed a small mistake. Where it says “Even two bodies wouldn’t weight that much”, it should be “weigh” instead.

  6. Hi Ming – I’m finally moving up from my old, reliable Nikon D50. I see that you have both a D600 and Oly OMD. I know they are both different cameras, but if you could choose one, which would it be? I already have a handful of Nikon lenses, so I wouldn’t have to buy any (for now). I know the OMD is less expensive by about a 1000 U.S., but I would then invest into a whole new system of lenses (which I’m perfectly willing to do). I’m looking for something for equal parts travel and photographing kids’ stuff (ballet recitals, soccer/basketball games, candid moments, etc.) Thanks for your time.

  7. Hi Ming – how do you remove the really tight D rings on the OMD?!

  8. Have you used the Panasonic GH3 yet? If so how does the IQ compare with the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I own a GH2 which I bought because it is a hybrid camera and i make lots of short films. However I have missed the still image quality of my old Nikon D80 I use to have. Thinking the GH3 could be a step closer.

  9. Dear Ming

    i’m almost sold on this camera as an upgrade to my current EPL1. However i was just wondering how if it would be OK for fast moving action.. i realise an SLR would be better for this but given its so good in other areas do you think i get a few keepers using this camera in rapid fire mode on those rarer occasions i wish to shoot sports?

    Cheers

    • Short answer: not good for action. None of the current breed of mirrorless cameras are, except the Nikon 1s, but you have other issues with limited high ISO and slow lenses. If you shoot occasional sport you can get away with trap focus or other similar techniques, but if you do a lot of it, AF will frustrate you.

      • DonParrot says:

        As usual, I have to contradict in this point, Ming. With the right settings, the E-M5 has got what it takes to deliver on a good level, when it comes to shooting fast moving subjects.
        Here the link to the pics I shot just the other week: http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157632620287310/
        I hsave been shooting running fogs (even sighthounds) for nearly a year, with the E-M5, and it’s anything but frustrating. It’s just important to use the proper settings, such as picture mode vivid, EVF-IS off (since firmware update 1.5) and the likes – and accept that you have to work differently than with a DSLR. If you do so, even the tracking can deliver series of eight or more consecutive well focused shots of a dog running at about 35kph. (Please take a look at the final eight shots of this album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157630591312236/).
        I would never claim that the E-M5 delivers on the same level as the big CaNokon sports cameras but if you are ready to really go for it, the E-M5 can produce 60 to 70 percent of keepers. But – as I said before – you need Zuiko lenses to achieve these results. The Panny lenses have a better video C-AF (on the E-M5, that is) but their C-AF performance for stills is mediocre. (Don’t know if this also applies to the 12-35 and 35-100 as I haven’t tested them)
        But with the Zuikos 12-50, 14-150, 40-150, 45, 75 and 75-300, shoorting action with the E-M5 is a pleasing experience.

      • Ming, i went to the store today to play with the Olympus OMD and the Sony a57 also caught my eye.. Apart from better action shooting is there any other benefit the Sony would give me over the OMD? The a57 is a bit bigger but alot cheaper..i imagine the image quality from both cameras would be more or less on par? i mostly shoot jpeg cheers :) p.s DonParrot you have some great shots on your flickr page

  10. Ming – I notice you tape up the Olympus branding for ‘stealth’.

    Do you feel it makes much difference when shooting people or on the street? Having read many of your reviews I have actually just ordered 2 OM-D’s, one in each color, with a view to returning the one I like least.

    So I’d be interested to hear if you feel there is any benefit to black?

    PS: great blog, really appreciate the reviews and the time you must put into it.

    • No, I tape it – and a lot of other cameras – up to avoid reflections in reflective objects I photograph such as watches. Same goes with black. My M9-P was chrome because I thought it looked better, and my Hasselblad is now electric blue. :)

  11. I just sold my Canon DSLR rig to purchase the OM-D. For some reason, I’m getting skittish now on ordering it. I don’t shoot sports or anything of that nature, just my 3 year old daughter, and other portraits. Am I doing the right thing???

  12. Hi Ming, just wanted you to know that I gave you some link love at the bottom of the blog post on the Olympus OMD EM5. Thanks so much for being an early adapter and such a great review!

  13. GREAT review!! I have had the camera for 4 months and you are spot on with the review! (BTW the 60 micro is available now!) I own the D3s/D800 and during daylight or at least good lighting, the E-M5 camera output is superb – almost equal to the other two – sometimes color is better! Jpegs seem to have a little more life than the raw images (I usually end up using them as processing time is quicker). Love your review – you seem to have the right words for describing photography clearly, concisely, and meaningfully. Bless you!

  14. Bruce CG Gallagher says:

    thank you Ming…..I’ve just discovered your site….and I am saving to buy this camera….For me your review has been
    one of the most enjoyable and visually compelling reasons to help confirm my decision to buy the OM-D.

  15. Interesting review Ming, thanks. I’m a satisfied user of the leica x1 planning to add the om-d with the 45/1,8 beside it.
    35mm equivalent is my choice for 70% of times, but I need something longer for the other 30%, portraits or details. My only concerns is due to the different image size ratio (2/3 and 4/3) but it’s possible I can live with it!
    robert

  16. Hi Ming, Been following your blog now for a couple of months. Even followed you on my recent 2 week trip {exclusive using my OMD5} in Paris. I took with me the 45mm 1.8, 12mm 1.2 and the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 The 45mm is hands down my favorite lens, super sharp wide open. The 12mm is great too but the 20mm IMO is lack luster and just doesn’t have enough contrast and sharpness. I may opt to upgrade to the Leica version in the future. I hope this is the right place to ask this…..The one area I miss the most that I do have with my DSLR system is my 70-200mm 2.8 IS L, Canon lens. I saw a recent post that you did on concert photography where you used, i think a Panasonic 100-300? Is there a top quality telephoto zoom lens that you’d recommend for the OMD EM5 system? I value your opinion and like to hear your thoughts on this. Hope all is well in your world and congratulations on your recent teach partnership!

  17. Thanks for such a detailed review! I was wondering if I could get your opinion on something: I’m shopping for my first “real” camera and actually already ordered a Canon 60d. I am seriously tempted to return it and get this Olympus OM-D instead. I’m mostly looking to capture everyday family memories (photo and video), but I also want some room to grow as a photographer. How do you feel about the OM-D as a learning camera, and do you think it will offer as many opportunities for growth as a real dSLR?

    I read all over the place that practice (not necessarily good equipment) is the key to developing a good eye, and I do worry that the Canon will be so cumbersome, it will become a “special-occasion only” camera. On the other hand, I would like to be able to keep this camera for several years without needing to upgrade, and the OM-D seems like it has some big drawbacks — people love it as a second camera, but as the only one? What do you think?

    • No problem. I don’t think there are any issues with the OM-D – I use it when I’m not ‘on duty’, and yes, it’s definitely a real camera. In some ways, it’s actually better featured than the 60D (9fps, weather sealing, touch screen, highly customizable etc) but lags only in continuous AF capability – if you’re going to shoot a lot of action or running kids, the DSLR might well serve you better.

      • After a crazy amount of agonizing and indecision (I even resorted to rolling the dice a couple of times), I decided to keep the Canon 60d and plan on getting a smaller m4/3 at some point in the future for traveling. I guess I wasn’t ready to put down that kind of money on a mirrorless yet — if it had been just a couple hundred dollars cheaper, things might have turned out differently. :) I’m not entirely positive that I made the best decision — the Canon is pretty darn huge — but I think it’ll be a good place to start. Thanks again for your input!

      • Alas, the RX100 is out of my price range (trying to keep it under $500). But I’m glad you mentioned it — I had no idea they made such nice point-and-shoot cameras. I may have to consider one. :)

        I’ve been looking at a Panasonic GX1 — how do you like that one? I didn’t find a review of it on this site. It seems to have its share of ardent admirers, and the price feels right ($470). I’m also reading your review of the E-PM1 ($350) and considering the similar E-PL3 ($500). Any thoughts?

        • I don’t review what I don’t use – I’m a commercial photographer first and a blogger a distant second. I don’t get paid for the reviews, and most of the stuff I have to buy (!) – spending money purely for sake of a review that doesn’t generate income is bad business.

          That said, I’d pick the E-PM1 out of that bunch – it’s the smallest, has the fastest AF along with the E-PL3, and the cheapest as a bonus.

      • Wow, you must have a lot of cameras! :) I hope people start sending you freebies — the reviews are very very helpful! :) I think I’ve decided on the Pen Mini, although I’m going to sleep on it first. Thanks again for your replies!!

        • I cleared out some. Down to seven at the moment – Nikon D600, D700, D800E and F2 Titan; Leica M9-P, Olympus OM-D and Sony RX100. I’m thinking about an old Hasselblad 503CM too.

      • I am surprised that there isn’t an X100 or X-Pro1 in that list. I know they frustrated a lot of guys at first, but the firmware seems to have brought them back to normal functionality. Did you just not like the images or mechanics?

        • Images were great from the X100, but even with the new FW I didn’t feel it was fast enough. The menus were also quite idiotically laid out. I haven’t shot with the X-Pro, so I’m not commenting – it seemed like too much money to spend on an uncertain system.

          • Funny reading your comment regarding the X100 menus. I have the OM-D and X100, initially gave up on the X100 but came back to try it again recently. I’m amazed how easy the menus are to use compared to the OM-D (and the EP-2). Olympus must have he worst menu system I have ever used as now the X100 seems like a breeze. I like both cameras very much.

            • I actually didn’t have any issues with the OM-D menus. There are a lot of options, but it’s pretty similar to my Nikons – perhaps that’s why I don’t mind it. What really bothered me about the RX100 was the illogical grouping of related functions.

      • Well, we ended up with a GX1 after all. I very nearly bought the Pen Mini, but an honest review of our photography habits revealed that we use (abuse? heh) burst mode shooting rather a lot, and the GX1 had a much nicer buffer. Also got a discount on the 20mm pancake lens. :) I hope it treats us well.

      • I didn’t realize you had one! :( I’ll look out for those in the future!

  18. Ming, I think you have some of the best photos on the net, and the best OM-D photos period. So much so that you have inspired me to buy an OM-D which arrives this week (plus a few primes). Finally I get away from the DSLR.

    I have researched a lot and one thing that comes up is ‘settings’ with comments saying the default settings are quite unpleasing to teh eye.

    I wondered if you would be so kind as to share your personal OM-D E-M5 settings? I am sure other Olympus users would be as interested as I would be.

    • Thank you. I presume you’re referring to the JPEG settings rather than the custom functions – sorry to disappoint you, but I shoot RAW on all of my cameras and run each image through my regular Photoshop workflow.

      • Hello Ming – thanks for the reply. I plan on shooting RAW almost exclusively, though I tend to use lightroom predominantly with perhaps a little finalizing in PS.

        I guess I didn’t look into the settings too well – I see a lot are pertaining to jpeg output which is of no use and you are correct.

        I have since found some suggested settings online in terms of functions so that will give me a good start. http://www.ayton.id.au/wiki/doku.php?id=photo:olympusem5_settings

        Thanks

        • Unless you’re using the Oly software, the RAW settings don’t do anything but affect the preview image, and the AF speed (higher contrast = easier focusing = faster). That’s a good resource btw.

  19. Thanks for your review. You do a tremendous job–really. It’s like a breath of fresh air, compared to many (most?) other reviews on mirrorless cameras these days. They all seem to be written by reviewers who work for the company whose product they are reviewing.

    I’m trying to decide between the NEX-6 and the OM-D. Lenses exist in both systems that I like, so that’s not a concern. I far prefer the body of the NEX as I feel it won’t slip out of my hands, but the OM-D’s comparable lenses are slightly more appealing, except for the more limited DOF. What it comes down to is enjoyable to use (NEX) versus easier to get good images out of (OM-D)? That’s what I’m really wondering. Do you find the OM-D takes pictures that are fairly pleasing and easy to work with? It seems that’s the Olympus advantage, and could make shooting more immediately gratifying if the pictures are more beautiful right away, but the limited dynamic range is slightly concerning.

    • Thanks Adam. I actually find the OM-D more enjoyable to use, and prefer the images out of it because of the weaker AA filter and more pleasing color. (I used to own a NEX-5, but sold it after about 1500 shots – 2000 seems to be my make or break point; my OM-D is at about 15,000 now which means I’ll probably keep it til it dies.) There’s not that much difference in available DOF control – even less so since there are so many good fast primes for the M43 system. I don’t find dynamic range that limited either; and of course you can always meter around it.

  20. Phukhanh Vu says:

    Hi Ming,

    I have 45mm 1.8 and 75mm 1.8 but thinking about getting 12mm 2.0 for wide angle. What do you think about the 12mm lens? Any reviews? Just got mine 60mm 2.8 for macro today as well. Once again, thank you for your input.

  21. Hello Ming, just an observation…
    I have found the Panasonic Lumix 14/2.5 G for 280€ brand new ( I think it is a very very good price) while the Olympus ZD 12/2 ED cost 745€ (over 2 ½ times the cost here in Greece), and I’m thinking seriously to make the purchase. For a WA lens I prefer (for the kind of shouting that I do) the FOV of the 28 vs 24mm. I have read also quite a lot reviews that they said the overall performance of the 2 lenses (in the OM-D 16MP body) is almost equal with a little advantage of the 12/2 in the extreme corners. The test of the lensrentals.com by Roger Cicala (http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/05/wide-angle-micro-43-imatest-results) indicates that the 2 lenses perform equally in the OM-D (the 14/2.5 if you look only the numbers is actually Better!). Should I make the purchase of the 14/2.5, what is your opinion Ming? The 12/2 is really out of my budget right now…

    • I prefer the 28mm FOV too, but I didn’t find any of the 14/2.5 samples I tried to be satisfactory. You (or he) might get lucky. I don’t particularly like the corners of my 12/2 either though…I suppose I will have no choice but to buy the Schneider!

      • Ming it is rumored that the Schneider-Kruzenach 14/2 it will be priced at around €1.500. That is a LOT of money for a lens (for my anyway!)! I think I will try the 14/2.5 and I might get lucky with a really good sample! At 280€ is a bargain!!! Thank you for your thoughts!

  22. Hello Ming,
    As you said, Sharpness & Contrast settings don’t apply to raw files but only to jpeg. What about the Noise Reduction? You propose to leave Noise Reduct. & Noise Filter in-camera settings to Off and do the reduction to Photoshop?
    Thanks again for your time to response!

    • That one is a much trickier answer – I don’t know for sure, but I think NR off is most probably really NR off. This isn’t the case with some cameras, which do pre-RAW noise reduction at the sensor level circuitry.

      • Thanks Ming! I think I will go with the “Off” settings. I use PictureCode Noise Ninja Photoshop Plug-in which I believe does an excellent job in NR and finally I do your sharpening workflow (from your Photoshop Workflow DVD)!

        • Also give the NR panel in ACR a try – you don’t need more than about 25 points for luminance NR even for high ISOs with the OM-D. It’s easy to find a good balance between detail and low noise with a bit of experimentation.

    • I have some problem with the focus when I took photos in backlight do you have the same problem

      • Yes, if the backlight is very strong; the overexposure/ internal flare fools the contrast detect system into thinking your subject has much lower contrast than it actually does. Believe it or not, the solution is to focus on something at the same distance which doesn’t have the same overexposed edge – even though it might be much lower contrast.

  23. Hi Ming, just an info. New firmware version 1.5 for the E-M5 has just been released!

    Ver.1.5 (Oct. 2, 2012)
    – Operating sounds in the photo ready mode were decreased.
    – Use of the Image stabilizer function by setting the Focal length of an OM lens attached with an adapter was enabled even in Movie mode.
    – All updates up to version 1.2 are included.

    • Thanks for the heads up. Doesn’t look as though it solves the odd lockup problem involving use of the protect and spot zoom keys, so I’ll probably not bother with the update. Annoyingly, these updates tend to cause your camera to reset the numbering sequence quite often…

      • One major benefit of the update,i f it bothered you in the first place that is, is that the humming of the stabilizer is now virtually gone. Only when you set the IS to engage with a half press of the button you hear the noise like before. And I haven’t set that option myself so the camera is just about silent now.

        • Ah. No big deal for me, most of the time the environment I’m shooting in is far more noisy than the camera – it’s no more noisy than the lens-based VR in some of the larger Nikon superteles.

  24. Ming what an amazing camera the E-M5 is!!! All my shots up to now have being made with the 20/1.7 and the crispiness, the contrast, the colors I get out of the raw files are beautiful! I believe the most pioneering feature of this little gem is the 5-Axis IS system! I manage to take impressively sharp images at 1/5s, f/1.7, ISO 200! OMG!
    Thanks again!

  25. Dimitris Glynos says:

    Ming what a great review! I’m actually planing to buy an OM-D body with a compo of 20/1.7 & 45/1.8 for street & enviromental portrait photography, as a 2nd system. I’m not a huge fun of wide angles so I leave the 12/2 for now. What is your opinion Ming for the Panasonic Leica 25/1.4? Except for the field of view, compare it to the 20/1.7 is it worth the extra money (about +200€ in Greece)?

    • the 20/1.7 is a small, superb lens. I had the 25/1.4 and ran them side by side on the OM-D and sold the PannaLeica—too big for the camera (for me) and the slighter wider FOV combined with the superb IQ of the 20/1.7 (wide open, too) made it a simple decision for me. I know there are many who prize the optical qualities of the 25/1.4, but it was not for me.

    • Thanks Dimitris. I’ve got the 20/1.7, because I think the larger lenses somewhat defeat the point of a compact body. I’m not that happy with the WA options either – more for lack of a decent fast 28 than anything else – if the Schneider lands up being somewhat affordable, I might succumb…

    • Well, I had both the 20 1.7 and the panaleica – and returned the 20 1.7 asap. The 25 1.4 just plays in a completely different league. Colour rendition, bokeh, AF speed. Compactness is nice – but in this case, the difference ist that big that it’s worth every penny and gram.

  26. Awesome review Ming, great pics too…

    I like your sharpening balance for the photos… Crisp, but not overboard :)

    Is the 45 your fave lens on the OM-D?

    Dave from http://www.iphotocourse.com

  27. Great review, first time that I have read anywhere online that the continuous autofocus is horrendous, everywhere people are praising its very fast autofocus.

    I was interested in this camera, but between this and the Fuji X100, I ultimately choose the X100.

  28. Hello Ming – thanks so much for your very informative review of this amazing camera – also many thanks to the various subscribers to this site who help fill in gaps in my knowledge too. I still cannot find out how to use the developing live view (for want of a better term for this function) – this would be ideal for low light work and for blurring the movement of water – it doesn’t seem to be covered in the on line instruction manual for the OM D. Also, the macro function seems to be able to actually magnify by several factors – I cannot find out how to do this. Can anyone on this site help me out here? Many thanks

  29. Hi ming how would you compare this camera head to head with the Sony nex 7

    • Don’t know, I haven’t used the NEX7 enough to make a comment. The AF of the OM-D is definitely faster, though, and I prefer the control layout. Can’t speak for image quality.

  30. I don’t know if others have discovered this, but when the OM-D is turned off and you shake it a little or put the camera down, you can hear the sensor unit rattle. It seems as if it hits something inside the camera. I find this slightly discomforting and it gives me the impression that the camera’s internals a very delicate and damage easy.

    • Mine does it too. VR lenses also do this. Any stabilization system has to have a moving element to it – a bit surprised they don’t lock it down with the magnets, though.

  31. A mildly dissenting opinion on many reviewers view of the new power switch. Personally I like it. When the camera is powered on there is no telltale LED to say it is and I find that a bit more “stealthy”. I think the location is arguably BAD. But I like the idea of toggle I can feel to know if the camera is on without that horrendous bright blue LED on my E-P3, lol.

    Also, I really like your approach to using and reporting on the camera and your photography is beautiful. I have had my OM-D E-M5 only a short time but already I’ve made it my “system” camera and am selling off my Nikon gear. I do only a little commercial work, and the E-M5 is an excellent fit for my art photography. As the lenses mature I would have no problem using the E-M5 to shoot an event like a wedding.

    • Thanks – I still think the best solution to the power switch problem is by Nikon and Leica – make it tactile and concentric with the shutter button so it’s easy to turn on and check before you shoot.

  32. Thanks for the great review. I was looking for a small travel camera that still has great IQ and fast (portrait) lenses. The OM-D and the 45 f/1.8 both get great reviews but most of the images I saw that were made with that combination weren’t exactly good. Then I stumbled upon your site. Terrific images and exactly what I was looking for (I’m mostly a portrait shooter so shallow DOF is a must for me). So I finally sold a few of my nikon lenses which I barely used anymore and got the OM-D/45mm/grip. I’ll probably get the 75mm f1.8 as well later on. It’s a great little camera. Enough heft to not feel like a toy, great IQ and fast. I hardly use continuous AF so I’m not really bothered by the fact it’s terrible. The extra grip is a HUGE help indeed. So glad I got it.

    Would I give up my D3s or other FF camera and shoot only with a small camera like the OM-D? I doubt I ever will, even if the IQ would be the same. For a shoot I’d always pick the D3s. Why? Ergonomics. It just fits my hand like a glove. Yes it’s heavy, which I don’t mind though, but everything just feels right. With the huge viewfinder and the zeiss 100/2 everything just snaps into focus. It just works/feels the way I want to. To me that’s just as important as IQ. That’s something that a small camera will probably never be able to give me (I even avoid the small dslr’s). I’m just glad that the small camera’s finally have such an IQ that you aren’t bothered by it anymore. It doesn’t feel like a compromise any longer. That says a lot. I’m very very happy to own both a dslr and an OM-D, both of them have their strengths.

    • No problem. I do feel slightly ripped off by the price of the grip though, at nearly 1/3rd of the body cost – it’s daylight robbery for something that should have been engineered into the body design in the first place, not an aftermarket two-piece part at the expense of ‘retro’ design. Using the grip extension only without the vertical portion/ battery carrier is also not very convenient, one has to unscrew and remove the whole thing to change the battery. I’ve taken to either using it with the whole caboodle or nothing at all.

      Could it just be that the OM-D is solid and tactile enough that it doesn’t feel like a toy? I know a lot of the consumer DSLRs definitely lack that density or solidity.

      • I agree, the grip is very expensive for what it is. It’s about a 1/5th of the cost over here. And I only use it without the extra battery carrier. Somehow I never use the vertical grip, even on the D3s. Hate to change my grip all the time. Having to unscrew the first part to change the battery is definitely annoying though so I understand where you’re coming from. The first part of the grip feels like it should have been part of the design indeed. It makes it much easier to handle the camera. And I do wish they had put the scroll wheel on the front of the grip lower and inside the grip, just like the nikons.

        That could be it. It feels very solid and well built. Agree with you about the consumer DSLRs. To me they feel too plastic and light, especially when used with heavier lenses. The OM-D has more of a “pro” feel to it.

        I do hope the prices come down. If they can manage to cut the prices I see very little reason anymore to get a consumer DSLR.

        • As sensor technology moves ahead with the smaller formats, the same advances are made with the larger ones – the D3200 sensor, for instance, is particularly impressive. It’s definitely a cut above the OM-D, and quite a bit cheaper, too…

      • Very true. The consumer DSLRs are amazing these days. It’s just that if camera’s like the OM-D get cheaper I figure the market for consumer DSLRs gets much smaller. I can see someone wanting one as a backup or as a travel camera if you want to use existing glass but other than that I don’t know. To be able to get the most out of the new camera’s you’ll need better technique, better lenses, like with the D800. Most people I know who own an entry level DSLR shoot with a kit lens and leave it on automatic all the time. It’s just that I can’t see the majority of entry level DSLR users making use of the new sensors/technology. For people who know what they want and have specific requirements those DSLRs could be perfect. I think most users would rather have a body/lens combination that is 75% or half the size of a DSLR if the IQ is already more than good enough.

        I could be totally wrong though. Luckily I’m not really into marketing :). But it’s great that things stay competitive and it’s amazing how much better things are still getting. Am really looking forward to see what everyone has up their sleeves for the coming years.

        • The funny thing is, I was told by several industry sources that the mirrorless cameras are a LOT cheaper to produce than DSLRs; they simply have a lot fewer components, especially those need precision alignment other than the sensor and the mount – none of this viewfinder and mirror business. Right now, we’re paying a huge premium over manufacturing costs for size.

      • I definitely believe that. Sometimes I wonder what we’re paying the premium for. R&D, starting costs? Look at the D4 for instance. It’s not that different from a D3s but look at the price. I guess early adopters always pay a huge premium in almost any market. And somehow we still spend the money even though we know the prices are way too high.

        • Easy – they did it because they could. Buried under a layer of ‘look at the 1Dx’ and ‘currency exchange’ issues. The technology should be getting cheaper, not more expensive.

  33. Ming,
    The size of the focus boxes can be changes…though i don’t know how.

    • Yes it can, but the camera doesn’t remember it (nor can you change it when using the normal grid array and EVF.)

      • DonParrot says:

        Hi Mimg,
        that’s not completely correct. If you use Fn2 for the multi-function menue it is used fpr by default, you have to press Fn2 while turning one of the control wheels at the same time. Select the magnifier menue, press Fn2 again (shortly) and you are in the magnified mode. Choose x14, press Fn2 again (shortly) and you get the minimised AF field. To get back to the normal AF field just press OK (shortly) or the Fn2 button longer.
        The camera will remember this setting even after having been switched off. You just have to press Fn2 shortly once to get back to the small AF field.

        Cheers

        Nicolaus

      • DonParrot says:

        Well – as far as I know, you also can access the magnifier menue via the coggle menues – but I haven’t tried this as I left Fn2 on the default setting. Have to cjeck this the other day.

  34. The 12-50mm was highlighted in this review as the weather-sealed lens that compliments EM5’s weather-sealed body. But I wonder if I’m insane to still get this lens as part of the camera kit (to save ~$200 instead of buying it separately) despite all the negative reviews and reports on its off-center softness at almost all apertures except 5.6, especially that my shooting style is mainly primes.

    The only reason I’m even considering this lens is the occasional possibility of using EM5 as a portable or fun camera with a decent zoom range. Will this lens produce such unsatisfactory qualities that others have claimed? Maybe the RX100 would serve the “leisure/vacation/beach” purposes better than the mediocre 12-50mm zoom? But RX100 is not weather sealed?!

    • Gustavo Guinand says:

      I have the lens but do not use instead I bought a 14-150mm 1:4 incredible lens I used in my trip to Moscu to St. Petesburg in all situation with good and bad light, sunrise,sunset, flash and macro

  35. Andrew Roman says:

    Being on the backorder waiting list for that camera I was thinking to ask you for a minimal best lens suggestion.
    BTW, do you know more about the new Panasonic 12-35/2.8?
    Thanks.

  36. Thanks for the informative review and great photos! What do you think about the idea of using the Olympus SWD series lenses on the OM-D via an adapter, especially the 7-14/4.0 and the 14-35/2.0?

    • Thank you. The optics are great, but the size of the combination makes the whole package unwieldy – defeats the point of M43. Slower focusing too.

      • Thanks Ming, I was thinking this might be the case. I’ve been considering a light and compact alternative to my Nikon system, and the OM-D seems like a really great camera but there’s no point in compromising small body size with a bulky lens. I shoot a lot of architecture and cityscapes and even though I absolutely like the results from my 14-24/2.8, it can get a bit heavy and intrusive sometimes. Oh well, probably gotta keep on saving for that D800 and get some pain killers.

  37. Thanks for the review of the Olympus OM-D, Ming. I suggest you use some of yours Leica lens and VoigtländerI have the 75mm an 21mm you are going to see the difference of the quality and contrast , I use to be a fan of the Olympus OM1 and cotninue to buy the digital OM, but this one is the best, I use a lot the filters dramatic, BW remember the kodak tri’x 400 asa, and the toon filter num(10)

    • M mount wides don’t work well on the OM-D, and I don’t have any teles because they’re not so easy to use on the M9…so each to its own glass.

  38. Andrew Roman says:

    Actually I’d like to hear your POV about the Sony NEX 5N. I know about Sony few lens, but the camera low-light performance isn’t an attraction point? Your photos are amazing, but the photographer takes most of the merits. I’d like to get a second camera when I travel with a good record of flexibility and performance. My main cameras are D4 and S2.
    BTW, your website is one of the most interesting ones. Thanks.

    • Thanks Andrew. I used the NEX5 but didn’t like the colors that came out of it; just too hard to correct. If the 5N has the same sensor as the D7000, it should be pretty good…I must have been one of those few people who didn’t have an issue with the controls.

      I think with those primary cameras, you should probably look at the OM-D instead. I feel that has image quality on par with the best of the APS-C cameras, and definitely a lot more flexibility than the NEX system.

      • Andrew Roman says:

        Thanks Ming. Your prompt response is highly appreciated. I think that I’ll give it a try and I’ll keep you updated.

  39. Hi, this post has pretty well sold me on the OM-D over the NEX-7 (this, and the small number of dedicated lenses for the NEX). Do you think the AF-C problem is in the hardware, or might a firmware update solve it?

    • It’s an inherent limitation of the CDAF systems, because the camera has no way to know which direction to turn the lens’ focusing motor in without giving it a tweak first – it’s got a 50% chance of getting it wrong. Similarly, there isn’t enough historical focusing information (change of phase, for PDAF systems in DSLRs) to do any meaningful predictions.

  40. Steve Jones says:

    I stopped buying new cameras six years ago because I didn’t feel digital was up to the job. Viewfinders ( or lack of), ergonomics, battery charging and the expense of having to keep updating products with a short shelf life were all issues for me, and so…I kept using my film cameras. But I couldn’t ignore the quality of results ( like those on this site) that I’ve been seeing. I live in Japan. and to tell the truth, knowing how the company has been operating and the ongoing scandal I was even reluctant to buy into Olympus products.
    But again, the photographer in me couldn’t ignore that the OMD is a camera done right in so many ways.. I caved in and bought the OMD kit and 45 1.8 yesterday, and traded in ( at a huge loss) some of my old gear Was it worth it? Can’t say yet. but my feeling this morning after taking it out in the rain is….Wow! This REALLY makes me want to get out there and shoot more. Pity I have to work for the next five days!
    Looking forward to seeing more of your quality work with the OM-D Ming.

  41. Tomas Insausti says:

    Hi Ming,
    what lens 35 mm equiv (or nearest) would you recommend for the EM-5? Was thinking the Panasonic 20mm/f1.7.
    Seems the Olympus 17 mm/2.8 does not get good reviews.

    Thanks

  42. OC Mike says:

    Ming, your talents are unbelievably great! How should I try to judge how good this camera is? Let me explain why. Your black and whites have black blacks and white whites. When I do it, I get fifty shades of grey. Your focus is right on the money. When I do it, it’s hit or miss. I guess I’m trying to say that your photos look so good that it makes me feel that you’d have exactly the same photos with a Kodak Brownie camera. How do you recommend that I parse out the camera from your outstanding technique? I am sure that others of your devoted readers are thinking the same thing. ps:you mentioned in another article about insurance policies for camera stuff on trips. How do you get this and what percentage of the worth is the insurance policy? Thanks!

    • Thanks Mike. Black and whites should have a bit of black, a bit of white, and nice shades of gray in between – so it sounds like what you need to do is use the levels tool and pull the ends until they just touch the histogram edges. Focus is a matter of practice…

      As for parsing out the camera: garbage in, garbage out. If the raw file I get is crap, then I can’t do anything with it. If it’s great, then I can do more. The biggest hint, however, is that I won’t bother using and reviewing something that I can’t get a decent image out of :)

  43. Steve Jones says:

    I’m going to pick up am OMD for use as a travel camera along with my M6TTL and Leica lenses. Would be great if you could share some thoughts about using M glass on the OMD.I plan to use it with the Apo telyt 135 , 35 summicron asph. and 90 2.8 Elmarit and use the Olympus lenses for wide and Macro.. Wondering how well the manual focus works.
    Thanks.

    • The wider lenses don’t work so well. 35 is about as short as I’d go, and use it stopped down to 2.8 or greater for optimal sharpness. However, the longer lenses shine because there isn’t anything like this native to M4/3, and they’re all tele centric designs…

      Manual focus is pretty easy. Set your sharpening to the highest level, it creates a bit of a halo/shimmer when something is in focus (sharpening affects the live preview but NOT the raw file, so shoot raw)/

  44. best camera Olympus ever made !!!

  45. I think that skin tone is too warm en WB is not always correct even at day light!???

  46. Great camera in a small package. Love it. !!!

  47. Robin Leow says:

    Hi Ming,
    Your photos depicted look really beautiful and at times inspiring. Did you shoot them in jpeg or raw? Any further post processing worked on the photos you posted here … if no pp was done on the photos … I am superbly impressed with Olympus OM-D EM5!

    • Hi Robin, I always shoot RAW and run each one individually through ACR6 and PSCS5.5. However, if the potential isn’t there in the raw file, then there’s no way I can make the image work no matter how much photoshop I do…

      • Thanks for clarifying that. I too am impressed with your post processing. I gave the OM-5 to my partner as a gift but was not too happy with the files out of the camera. With some work they look a lot better but I have some way to go before mine look as rich as your images. Any post processing tips you want to give would be much appreciated.

        Also, thanks for a very good review.

  48. MMitchell says:

    Really great work.
    This is the first review I’ve seen with great photos to show what the camera is capable of.

    Thanks for the information.

  49. Thanks for a great review. Really nice pictures too. I just wish they are not so sharp, or if I may say, over-sharpened to the point of distracting. I mean I was just saying Wow! so sharp, so sharp, and could not really concentrate and look at what are really wonderful “pictures” in the sharper than real images.

    • Thanks Dan! I’ve sorted out the image sharpening – turns out Flickr was using a new algorithm to do the resizing to intermediate sizes (which is what I use for hosting) – there will still be some images which appear a little over sharpened (but the full size images, if you click through, look okay) because there are things in the pipeline as yet unposted, but everything uploaded from around last week should be fine.

  50. Ming. How do you think about Lecia X2 Vs Nex 7 + Zeiss 24/1.8 ?

    • Haven’t used the latter, so I can’t say. On compactness alone I’d probably go for the X2, but I suppose the NEX7 makes a far more flexible system (even though there aren’t many lenses available for it). Can’t say I was a fan of the menus on my NEX5 – I hear the NEX7 is much better, though.

  51. Great Review with great samples…. Sent you a message

  52. Hi, love your photos. There’s a certain sharpness to your PP which I’d love to learn to do.

    How did you find Acme, Bar, and Coffee? Great restaurant, even greater building it’s in.

    • Thanks! A lot of it’s in the sharpening after resizing to web size – these are actually a bit over sharpened because flickr down samples them further to smaller sizes for hosting.

      ABC has an interesting location and decor, but the food is okay – nothing fantastic.

  53. Would love to do decent wildlife shots with OMD.
    Any chance the C AF deficiency will be fixed with firmware update??
    Thanks
    Bob

  54. Hello Ming,
    what do you think about the colours I have reached in the 5 pics I just posted 3 minutes ago in my weblog (using adobe RGB in my sweet little Olympus E-PL 1)? I was inspired by your pics you have made with the OM-D EM-5 to do some postproduction tonight. But as a beginner I needed 4 hours for just 5 pics to achieve this!

    It is a kind of answer in my discussions with Wolfgang Lonien about colours!

    I just tried to reach (imitate) your incredible colours!

    Thorsten Wieszniewski

    • Thanks for the compliments on your blog – I’m flattered! The colors look pretty good to me – natural, saturated, and not shifted with any obvious casts. Well done!

  55. Ming, thank you for your excellent reviews! I am visiting your blog every day and I wish I had only one percent of your talent.

    I just decided to order an OM-D E-M5 after studying your article. Loving to shoot with my M8, I originally intended to buy a Leica X2 and was very enthusiastic after reading the first full review here. Set aside the price difference – you get the Oly and two good primes for the price of the Leica – the E-M5 is more versatile and there are good enough lenses out there that the final image quality is on eye level with the X2. Isn’t that the ultimate measure? Just sad that the Leica is so much more sexy than the Oly. Well, let’s wait if Leica issues something seductive on the mirrorless front later this year or early next year.

    Best, Marcus

    • Thanks Marcus! I think a lot of it is practice and experimentation…have you considered signing up for my Email School of Photography? :)

      Can’t argue – the OM-D is definitely more flexible because you’re not restricted to 35mm. Of course, the kicker is that there is no good 35mm prime for the M43 system yet (jury’s out on the Voigt 17/0.95, and it’s manual focus only, too). So there’s a reason to have both if one has the $$, I suppose.

  56. Ruud Lamain says:

    Hello Ming,

    Nice review and very nice pictures.
    Could you share your image settings of the E-M5?
    (Saturation, contrast, etc…)

    Ruud

    • I can, but they’d be meaningless because I shoot raw and process each image individually in ACR, which completely ignores the raw file tags.

  57. Ming, the camera is great (I own one, the silver version), but, honestly, you’re such a great photographer you’d produce great pictures no matter which camera you use. Well, apart from the compliments, I’m puzzled about the settings on the 2nd pic: Sharpness +2, Contrast -1. Is it just for illustration purposes (random settings) or do you really use Sharpness +2 (I read everywhere sharpness needs to be lowered a point or two to prevent artefacts). Well, I suppose the incredible sharpness and microcontrast in your images are due to PP, but still… Just wondering…
    Thanks for the great review!

    • Nope, those are my JPEG settings – they don’t apply to raw files, but they do apply to the preview JPEGs. Easier to check critical focus with a bit of sharpening!

      • Thanks, Ming! Another thing that occurs to me when I’m looking at your JPG preview settings – what does Custom color mode exactly mean? Why not leave it at Natural or Vivid? Thanks once again, your article (and the entire website, for sure) is really helpful!

        • I’m not sure, actually – I don’t recall ever changing that setting. I think it defaulted to that when I changed sharpening and contrast.

  58. fab review, well written. i agree with everything you have written. the OMD is the new beginning for M43. this system will dominate.

  59. Jim_Clay says:

    This is an excellent review of the OMD written from the perspective of a real, live photographer (and a very good one at that) rather than an electronics engineer who never actually uses a camera. I’ve been trying to decide whether to get the OMD, a GH2, or a Nikon 3200 for travel. Ming’s observations have made an OMD purchase more likely for me.

    • Thanks Jim. The GH2 I found not very user-friendly – to be honest I’ve never gotten along with the Panasonic M4/3 UI – but it’s great for video. That said, my early experiments with the OM-D suggest that it too is capable of some excellent video footage. The Nikon D3200 I think has too many pixels on that sensor, and not as many features as either GH2 or OM-D.

  60. DonParrot says:

    Thanks for this great report and the lovely pics. I once again confirrms that I’ve made the right decision when purchasing the E-m5.
    In one point, however, I have to contratict. The C-AF is far from being useless. Okay, it might be too slow for using lenses such as the M.Zuiko 45 1.8 wide open. But when stoppping it down to 2.5 or using slower lenses, the not so shallow DOF helps and the results can be rather pleasing:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157629520530664/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157629746072442/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157629907856270/with/7274842134/

    • If you’re going to shoot stopped down and let the DOF cover any errors, I find that just using SAF and trusting the focusing system works far better. I’m used to being able to track moving subjects at f1.4 on my D700 and D7000, so the rather hit and miss nature of the OM-D isn’t so appealing. But no matter, I just won’t use it for those kinds of subjects. I did recall a patent some time back where Oly put phase detect photo sites on the sensor too, which should solve this problem nicely a la Nikon 1…cue the wait.

      • DonParrot says:

        Well…
        Stopping down the Nikons isn’t necessary as the lenses avaialble at this point in time for the 1 aren’t able to produce a shallow DOF with the crop 2.7 sensor, anyway. Nonetheless, I haven’t found a single truly sharp and perfectly focused pic of an at least slightly isolated subject approaching the photographer at some speed. And I looked for those pics in the World Wide WEB for months as I was looking for a replacenment for my E-5 due to massive back problems, last year. All what I can find are nearly shar and nearly perfectly focused pictures – but ‘nearly’ is even more annoying’ than a complete miss. While stopping a fast lens such as thee 45 1.8 down to 2.5, 2.8, or even 3.5 still will produce a certain dose of isolation.
        So, I agree: Xes, the E-M5 isn’t a perefect tool for shooting sports and action – mainly due to the fact that the visible AF field disappears in the EVF / on the display as soon as you start shooting in the burst mode. But in consideration of the fact that I am able to use it for shooting sighthounds at work and tha this guy…

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/77776631@N04/sets/72157629978713423/

        …uses it for shooting helicopter models in flight and we both are able to produce a 50-perecent rate of well focused and sharp keepers, I would claim that the E-M45 is the only mirrorless camera on the market – at this point in time – that features a usable C-AF.
        Did you take a look at the pics in links my at all?
        Cheers
        Nicolaus

        • I agree that it’s by far the best so far (except the Nikon 1s, which have advantages due to phase detect AF photo sites built in on the sensor AND more DOF for a given aperture due to the smaller sensor) – but it still doesn’t match what a DSLR can do, let alone a good one. Your shots demonstrate that – but I’d also love to know what the keeper rate is for critically focused images; I suspect it isn’t that high. Until we get Nikon 1 performance and OM-D everything else, I’m keeping my D700 for that kind of work.

      • DonParrot says:

        Hi Ming,
        have been at the dog-race circuit this weekrend, once again – and achvieved a keeper rate of more than 50 percent. And I’m sure that i could even increase this rate if they’d give the camera an AF field that doesn’t disappear in the burst mode. Nonetheless, I’m absolurely happy with the performance of the little gem’s C-Af performance. You just have to make some adjustments and use M.Zuiko lenses.

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157630172691350/

        • Not bad at all. Which AF-C setting were you using – AF-C single point, multi point, or tracking? I recently acquired a second hand 100-300 which I haven’t had a chance to use yet, but am itching to do so…

      • DonParrot says:

        Well – please allow me to just copy and paste a little recommendation collection I posted in the µFT forum:
        First of all: use the minimised single-point AF field. If your subject is further away and the AF field also is filled by other stuff, it can happen that the camera focuses on something that features more and clearer contrast lines.

        Next: Due to what I’ve explained above, forget C-AF tracking as the AF field can’t be minimised in this mode. It possibly can be helpful for shooting big moving objects like cars (haven’t tested it but it could be) but it’s useless for smaller subjects. In C-AF without tracking, it’s up to you to keep the SF field on your chosen subject (something that’s quite a challenge as the visible AF field disappears in the burst mode as soon as you have pressed the shutter button, so quite a lot of practicing is needed). But it pays off, as you can see. If you succeed in keeping the AF field on the moving subject, the C-AF works rather well.

        Next: Use picture mode vivid. It increases the reliability of the C-AF significantly. When I used the camera with the adjustments I was accustomed to from my E-5 and my E-PL3 (natural, sharpness -2, contrast -1, saturation default, noise filter off), the C-AF more often than not didn’t even start to ‘bite’ (don’t know the appropriate English word) and so, a series weren’t sharp from pic one. In vivid however, ( with the settings saturation and sharpness default, contrast +1), the C-AF proves to work just as reliably as the one of my E-5 (please note: as reliably doesn’t mean as fast as. I still doubt if the E-M5’s C-AF could cope with the shallow DOF of lenses such as the ZD 50-200 SWD 2.8-3.5, even if it would C-AF at full speed, on the E-M5. But that’s another story.).

        Next: Enable IS1 and the EVF IS. I know – we all have learned that you mustn’t use the IS when shooting action – but that’s a lesson of the DSLR days that arguably doesn’t apply to the E-M5. Don’t ask me why – I could only guess – but the IS and the EVF IS also increase the C-AF performance.

        Next: You should switch the EVF picture rate to high. Makes following you subject easier.

        You are aware of the fact that the C-AF only works in burst mode L (up to four pics), aren’t you?

        Next: Use shutter priority with the 75-300. With the 40-150 or 14-150, however, shutter priority off also seems to work fine without reducing the FPS rate significantly.

        And finally: forget the DSLR lesson that told you to allow your camera half a second for pre-calculating the speed and direction of the movement of your chosen subject. Well, that proves to be counter productive when it comes to the E-M5. Just aim at your subject, wait for the confirmation beep and shoot immediately.

        Good luck!

        By the way: the practicing could turn out to be rather frustrating at the beginning as the lack of orientation due to the invisible AF field really tends to make the task of keeping the AF field on your subject really difficult. But don’t give up to early. You will be rewarded with great pics.

        But for the moments of frustration I’d like to mention that the S-AF of the E-M5 – and the latest PENs too – also is fast enough for action shots. Just aim at your subject and press the shutter button in one go without waiting for the AF confirmation. You will be amazed about the results. You can’t shoot series this way (although you will be able to shoot three FPS – but keeping the camera steady is really difficult if you are pressing the shutter button again and again) but at least you will have something to be happy about on your memory card.

        Once again: good luck!

        And – I nearly forgot: It seems as if the Panny zooms are much better suited for video C-AF – I was told that in this area (I don’t shoot videos), they focus more smoothly, with the M.Zuikos tending to pump. But for action stills, the M.Zuikos apparently are better suited. I have tested the E-M5’s C-AF with the following tele zooms: M.Zuiko 14-150, 40-150 and 75-300 on the one hand and Lumix 45-200 and 40-175 on the other – and another user in a German forum made a direct comparison with the M.Zuiko 75-300 and the Lumix 100-300. The result: All the M.Zuikos are cooperating clearly better with the C-AF of the E-M5. Even the Lumix 40-175 – that seems to be the µFT AF-speed king in S-AF, to me – is not up to the task of C-AF-ing on the E-M5.
        It’s rather annoying as it seems to mean that those who do video and action-stills and tend to use the C-AF while shooting video will either have to decide for a priority or have to purchase the respective lenses twice – but that’s how it seems to be at this point in time. A video optimised lens isn’t ideal for shooting action stills and vice versa.

      • DonParrot says:

        It was a pleasure. It would be great to hear about the results, afterwards.

      • DonParrot says:

        Well – what goes around comes around. ;-)
        No need to hurry!

  61. Zaptrax says:

    Thanks for a great review. Also love your photography.

  62. Excelent camera, and… superlative images. I am sure you would get good pictures with any camera. You are not only an user and a reviewer, but a photographer. A real one. Valentin Sama. DSLR Magazine/CSC Magazine

    http://www.dslrmagazine.com

    http://www.cscmagazine.com

  63. Hi Ming,
    I got lucky with a small window of availability a few months ago and got delivery of the OM-D. I have been invested to the m4/3 ever since it was announced. Your review is accurate of my own experience. It is a mature camera and I have no worries about the image quality anymore. I like the Contax-G lenses and my only gripe is that the adapters scrape the EVF hump!! So no joy yet shooting with the lovely Zeiss lenses on the OM-D.

    Thanks for the review. Great photographs as usual. You set the bar very high. I like all the images, particularly ‘Night Tree’. I like it because if I have seen it I would have passed the tree as a mundane subject. The way you have framed it against the building with the white bars concealed is nice. Thanks for the images.

    Mo

    • How do you find the legacy RF WA lenses on M4/3? I’ve not had much luck with Leica glass with several adaptors (so I don’t think it’s an adaptor quality issue) – it just seems that the sensors really require tele centric designs to shine. 35mm and up is fine, but anything less is pretty horrible in the corners.

      • Hi Ming,
        I only use the Contax G 45/2 and 90/2.8 lenses with adapter. No complaints about the quality. The lenses produce a certain feel to the images that require very little post-processing. The Olympus bodies are great because of the IS. I tried some Minolta lenses. They appear too soft after seeing the Zeiss images.

        Mo

  64. Tim Higdon says:

    Ming, I loved this review. This is one of the best sets of pictures I’ve seen from the E-M5. The migrant workers picture is absolutely stunning. I disagree with you about a couple of things. The sensor and the dynamic range. The dynamic range has been tested to be one of the best among cameras right now, outside of the D800. Better than the Canon Mark II and III. And on PAR with the nice Sony sensors. Your review made it sound like a negative when I think it’s a real positive and a huge improvement over the previous models.

    Also I wouldn’t give Panasonic credit for this sensor. It’s a new design, different than the GX1.

    Great job again with the review. Thanks for posting it.

    • Thanks Tim. Wasn’t sure about the sensor – and Olympus here doesn’t know for sure either whether it’s completely different or a derivative thereof – but I’ve updated the review text anyway.

      As for dynamic range, the overall tonal response range is there, but shadow noise is what I find lowers the useable range to below that of say the D7000. It’s especially noticeable in the blue channel – or it might be my processing workflow that’s enhancing it.

  65. Rudolfo says:

    Excellent review – how would you compare to the Leica X2 – which do you prefer?

    • Thanks. The X2’s IQ is slightly better – probably because of the lens – but for usability, I prefer the OM-D – it’s just faster and more flexible. Plus smaller with EVF.

  66. How about compare the OM-D with leica X2?

    • I don’t have the X2 with me anymore, but subjectively – I think they’re very close, with a slight edge to the X2 for dynamic range. But everything else – microcontrast, tonality, sharpness – depends on the lens attached. The sensors are very, very close. I can’t think of a match for the X2’s lens except perhaps that new Voitglander 17.5/0.95, whose early reports seem good…but I haven’t tried one in person yet.

  67. Michael Bernstein says:

    Excellent review and photos!

    I was slightly puzzled by your comment regarding lens compatibility though (advantages of sticking to Olympus lenses). Could you elaborate on what those advantages are?

    • For some inexplicable reason, Oly lenses focus faster on Oly cameras than on Pana cameras; same for Pana lenses on Pana bodies. So the advantage is faster AF, basically.

      • I dunno, I use the Pana 14, 20 and 25, and the Pana 14-45 kit lens (my copy is surprisingly good) and don’t notice any consistent difference at all from my Oly lenses. Except for the amazing Oly 45mm.

        I don’t own the 12mm; maybe the big difference is between Pana lenses and the latest generation of Oly ones.

  68. Matthew D says:

    Great review. Still waiting for B&H to have both this and the X2 in stock so I can try both before choosing, but your coverage of both cameras has helped tremendously in eliminating all other cameras I was considering. This has everything; however, there’s some je ne sais quoi about Leica IQ that the OM-D might come close to but can’t quite grasp (98 percent may be good enough for me, though). Thanks for being so thorough with both cameras.

  69. Really like your articles, I do always send the links to our local photo-community, thank You for! ;)

  70. Ron Joiner says:

    The camera is great but you have given me one more reason to buy the 45 1.8.

  71. Sorry put one h to many.

  72. bspooner says:

    You are a wonderful photographer with a great eye. I so enjoy your work…

    Bill

  73. Some great photos, thank you for sharing.

  74. Not sure what happened to my first attempt to post here.

    Ming, you can change the size of the focussing rectangle (tho’ it’s anything but obvious). Press the button on the side of the prism; this makes the LCD live view. Tap the icon just below middle LHS; one of them looks like a focus rectangle with a hand. As soon as you touch the actual focus rectangle on this screen, a magnification bar appears on the RHS of the screen. Pull the green bar up to the “14” mark, and the rectangle will be very small.

    When you look through the EVF, that much smaller rectangle will display, and can be moved with the 4-way controller. Perfect.

    Re. mushy buttons: weathersealing, and probably nothing we can do about that.

    Great review

    Regards, KL

  75. Ming, you can change the size of the focussing rectangle (tho’ it’s anything but obvious). Press the button on the side of the prism; this makes the LCD live view. Tap the icon just below middle LHS; one of them looks like a focus rectangle with a hand. As soon as you touch the actual focus rectangle on this screen, a magnification bar appears on the RHS of the screen. Pull the green bar up to the “14” mark, and the rectangle will be very small.

    When you look through the EVF, that much smaller rectangle will display, and can be moved with the 4-way controller. Perfect.

    Re. mushy buttons: weathersealing, and probably nothing we can do about that.

    Great review

    Regards, KL

  76. Thanks for the review, Ming. Your reviews are always at just the right level – technical enough to give the details, but always with a shooters perspective.

    I’ve always admired your post-processing as well. If you ever wrote an ebook on your process, you’d sell a ton of them. (hint)

    Mark

    • Thanks Mark. PP isn’t easy to write articles on because there are so many subtle variations and tweaks you need to make depending on the specific image. I’ve got a workshop coming up in Tokyo this October which will incorporate a day of PP work, if you’re interested. I’ve also got a video article coming up that might be useful…

      • Thank you Ming. I’d love to attend your October workshop, but I live in Seattle and it’s a bit out of my budget.

        Question: I handled an E-M5 briefly and felt the same way about the side strap lugs. Do you know if the lugs themselves are removeable?

        • No problem. Perhaps an email course might work better?

          The little D rings are removable (as you’ve seen I did with my camera) but the lugs themselves are not and appear to be solidly bolted to the body internally.

      • Peter Boender says:

        Hello Ming,
        I’m now the proud owner of the OM-D E-M5. Like you I’m not comfortable with the side strap lugs. Your solution looked perfect to me. So I’ve been digging around for the Crumpler Urban Disgrace replacement strap. To no avail however… There are some other Crumpler [...] Disgrace strap models (Industry, Covenience, …) to be found, but not the Urban version. Any idea where I can get it? Or might it be discontinued? I especially like the threaded end loops and the buckle design. Maybe you’re aware of a likewise design from a differemt brand? Your thoughts?

      • Peter Boender says:

        Thanks for the quick reply Ming, but sorry, that’s not it either. Here are the current Crumpler offerings: http://www.crumpler.com/us/Camera-Bags/Camera-Straps-Accessories.html?LanguageCode=EN
        Nothing with the threaded loop and buckle design. Bummer!

      • Peter Boender says:

        Thank you for your perseverance Ming. I’m currently on a short business trip in the US, and was able to speed order the Crumpler Popular Disgrace strap through Amazon. It’s indeed the one with the buckle and threaded loop design, great! Strangely enough (and hence my initial confusion), Crumpler doesn’t show this detail in their product shots on their website. Please also note that Crumpler has different product offerings in different markets. E.g., I couldn’t find the Popular Disgrace in Europe (where Crumpler currently offers the dissimilar Singapore Sling). Long story short: thank you very much for your advice!

        • No problem! Just watch the weight of your rig as I don’t know how much those thin cords can hold. They’ve been okay with an M9 and noctilux, but I was very, very careful not to swing it around and put any undue strain on the combination or leave it unsupported for too long…

  77. Hello Ming,
    Thanks for a Great rewiev.
    Do you think it’s ok to change from Nikon d200 to olympus?
    I Wonder if the picture quality is better than d200?

  78. Up to you whether it’s ok or not. Yes, the picture quality is better, I’ve used the D200s extensively a while ago. You will lose out on AF-C performance and DOF control though.

  79. DonParrot says:

    Well, if you tell me which firmware version your E-M5 is on I will try to exactly tell you what settings you need for the best possible C-AF performance.

  80. 1.0 on both lens and body.

  81. DonParrot says:

    That’s a pity as 1.2 (that is no longer available due to download-problems) improved the tracking massively – and 1.5 that eliminated the IS noise unfortunately reduced the performance again.
    So, if you are planning to stay with FW 1.0, forget about the tracking – it doesn’t work at all. On the other hand, you might try to test it with IS on but EVF-IS off – never tried that with FW 1.0.

    First of all, I will try to explain why I did what I did to improve the C-AF performance. When I was still shooting with my E-PL3 I used to use the picture mode ‘natural’. (I’m a 90-percent JPEG shooter). One day, when the sky was overcast and everything was really grey I opted for switching to ‘vivid’ and quickly realised that the S-AF (the PL3’s C-AF is absolutely useless) was even snappier than it is anyway. After having realised this, I asked several people who know a lot about camera technology if I was mistaken or if my findings could be true. They all came to the conclusion that increasing contrast, sharpness and saturation might be helpful for the AF performance of a CDAF camera indeed if the AF doesn’t work directly on the sensor but used the display information or the likes. But in thre end, this wasn’t of major significance as the S-AF of the PL3 was blinding fast anyway.

    The, some months later, I purchased the E-M5 – and to my massive amazement, it featured a working C-AF – if shooting with the single AF field. But – just as you said – most of the time it didn’t deliver. But I quickly found out that the problem wans’t the AF speed but the fact, that the AF system didn’t ‘bite’ at all. When it bit, it reliably followed the subject but most of the time, it didn’t bite and so, it couldn’t follow. So, I opted for using the smallest AF field available (14x). An first improvement, but just slightly. At this point in time I remembered what I had found out with the E-PL3 and decided to do the same with my E-M5. I switched it to vivid – and the C-AF reliability turned out to be massively improved right away. Over the months, I increased sharpness from -2 to 0 and contrast from -1 to +1 and these settings improved the reliability once again. Then, I switched the IS on – something that is wrong, wrong wrong on any DSLR if you want to shoot action – but not so on the E-M5. It once again improved thje C-AF reliability. And the EVF-IS upped the ante once again. And for some weird reasons, you even can shoot panning shots with IS 1 on. From my technical understanding, this should be impossible – but it isn’t: http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157631497667064/
    (Please note: Not all these pics were shot with IS1 and they were shot with Firmware 1.2. Haven’t tested panning again, since then, so I don’t know if it’s still the same with Firmware 1.5).
    Then, Oly introduced Firmware 1.2 and all of a sudden, even the tracking with its far to big AF field worked – if combined with the small 14x AF field. Before, it just refused to stay on your chosen subject but moved to anything that provided better contrast edges – even if the subject didn’t move. Absolutely useless! But with 1.2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/63427925@N00/sets/72157630591312236/
    What a difference! Far from perfect, but amazing, nevertheless. (please note that the blurred pics at the end of some of the series were added deliberately to demonstrate at which distance the tracking stops working.)
    Then, last autumn, all my findings suddenly seemed to not work any longer. Tracking: useless. C-AF forget it. Really frustrating but as my dad fell fatally ill, at this pint in time, I just hadn’t the motivation to take pictures and do the necessary research to find out what had gone wrong.
    Only in mid-January I felr like taking pictures and opted for doing a multi-hour test to find out what the hell was going wrong.
    And in the end (it took me four hours), I realised that the frustrating changes must have been caused by FW 1.5 and that I just had to switch the EVF IS off to get back the pleasing C-AF performance. I still believe that it’s not quite on the same level as it was before but I’m back to a satisfying keeper rate. And when it comes to the tracking… Well, it still tends to move to something else, every now and then, but it’s usable again.

    To cut a long story short: If you stay with firmware 1.0, choose vivid, sharpness 0, contrast +1 and IS1 on. And you should test if the EVF IS is helpful or not. I don’t exactly remember if I tested it for the first time with 1.0 or 1.2. And I forgot: switch the EVF frequency to high. By the way: If I’m not mistaken, you are a 100-percent RAW shooter, aren’t you? In this case, you could even increase sharpness, contrast and saturation for an even better C-AF reliability.
    If you switch to FW 1.5, use the same settings but forget the EVF IS – it must be switched off, with this firmware.
    And – depending on your subject – it can be helpful to not allow the camera the half-second or so for calculating speed and direction as you will be accustomed to from your DSLRs. Instead, try to start shooting just after the first AF confirmation.

    Looking forward to seeing some nice action pics shot by you with the E-M5, in the near future.

    Cheers

    Nicolaus

  82. Thanks for the very, very comprehensive info. Let’s see – I’m on vivid plus high EVF refresh and IS on. Perhaps it is the firmware version. Doesn’t sound like it’s practical to have EVF IS off since most of the times I’d need AF-C I’d also be using a longer lens; I suppose I could use the in-lens IS of the Panasonic lenses to compensate – this would be okay, right?

    Yes, I shoot raw all the time, but the jpeg preview affects my exposure choices because that’s what generates the histogram and highlight warnings – can’t go too extreme here else image quality will suffer because of exposure.

    I’ll give it a try with 1.0, if not, bite the bullet for 1.5 – been a little hesitant to do the upgrades because I believe it completely resets all of your custom settings (of which there are many) as well as your file numbers…correct me if I’m wrong.

    Sorry to hear about your dad.

  83. DonParrot says:

    The problem is, that all the Panny lenses I tested – 45-200, 14-45, 45-175 and 100-300 – don’t C-AF properly for stills. Even the 45-175 – in my eyes the mFT telezoom with the fastest S-AF performance – is useless when it comes to the C-AF.
    And yes, you are right – I also would prefer using the EVF-IS – but currently, it’s a decision between a stabilised EVF and properly focused pictures and it goes without saying that I go for the pics. Although it’s a pain in the A*** when it comes – for instance – to birding. You need the EFV-IS when the bird is sitting on a tree – but as soon as it lifts off, the EVF-IS is counterproductive. I’m going to contact Olympus and ask them if there is a possibility to reset my camera to W 1.2 but before doing so, I’ll do a comparison – thanks to my camera dealer who still has got an E-M5 with FW 1.2.
    But it should work with 1.0. I achieved my findings with 1.0 and now, I really wonder if I have changed anything else as you definitely know what you are doing. It just should work – I don’t understand it. You use the single AF field and the smallest (14x) field, do you?
    And – I’m convinced that you are aware of these things, I just want to double-check: Did you switch ‘Burst mode + IS OFF’ to off? (How can somebody use a double negative in their menues? it’s incredible) Anyway, this point must be switched to off to allow the IS to work in combination with the burst mode. And you must use burst mode ‘L’ as the C-AF doesn’t work in ‘H’.

    Thanks – these are hard days for the entire family. He’s still alive but he’s suffering to the max and his heart just won’t stop beating.

  84. Yes and yes to the AF filed and smallest question.

    Yes again to burst mode + IS OFF (i.e. IS is on with burst mode, using CL).

Trackbacks

  1. […] E-M5 is a very good camera and here's a good review: Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 ? Ming Thein | Photographer Personally I'm getting an E-PL5 which has the same 16MP sensor but has a standard compact camera […]

  2. […] I was aware of his love for the Fuji X series. Ditto for David Hobby. Bloggers like Steve Huff and Ming Thein were raving about the Olympus E-M5, and there was also some noise about the Sonys and Panasonics. […]

  3. […] with a Ricoh GR, Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic 14-42 X pancake zoom during the October Prague […]

  4. […] with a mixture of cameras – mainly the OM-D E-M5 and 14-42 X pancake, with the Ricoh […]

  5. […] set was shot with a Ricoh GR, Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Panasonic 14-42/3.5-5.6 X pancake, and the Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M […]

  6. […] series was shot with a Ricoh GR, sometimes with the 21mm converter, and an Olympus E-M5 with the 14-42 X pancake or Leica 50/1.4 ASPH via an adaptor. Enjoy! […]

  7. […] were shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic 14-42 X pancake, Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH via adaptor, and Ricoh GR sometimes with […]

  8. […] Olympus OM-D E-M5 body (review here) Price: US$700, or US$860 with the HLD-6 grip Includes: box, battery, charger, cables, body cap, […]

  9. […] OM-D does; I’m pleased to say that the X-E2 fixes this. It still isn’t as fast as the E-M5 (let alone the E-M1); to be honest I think it sits on the borderline of being sufficient. There […]

  10. […] While I put together my new computer, I did take some photos of the process. I used my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera on top of my big Gitzo tripod. For the background, I just used some reflectors and diffusion panels […]

  11. […] examine some of the technical differences in a bit more detail against two benchmarks: the outgoing OM-D E-M5, and the Nikon D600. Both are 2012 cameras, and cameras that I’m intimately familiar with because […]

  12. […] teaching camera for the last year, and has now clocked somewhere north of 40,000 exposures (I also reviewed it here). What’s changed in a year? Quite a lot, it seems: certainly enough to get excited about. […]

  13. […] examine some of the technical differences in a bit more detail against two benchmarks: the outgoing OM-D E-M5, and the Nikon D600. Both are 2012 cameras, and cameras that I’m intimately familiar with […]

  14. […] teaching camera for the last year, and has now clocked somewhere north of 40,000 exposures (I also reviewed it here). What’s changed in a year? Quite a lot, it seems: certainly enough to get excited about. […]

  15. […] I took that photo right after we unpacked our luggage and neatly put everything away into the storage areas that they provided within our cabin. Barb had some time to relax with her Sudoku puzzles, and I got to play with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. […]

  16. […] Amazon). Leica X Vario (Typ 107) – review B&H Amazon. Olympus OM-D** – review B&H Amazon Olympus E-P5 – review B&H Amazon Nikon D800E** – review B&H […]

  17. […] of gear (D800E, D600, Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21, Zeiss ZF.2 2/28, Zeiss ZF.2 2/100, Nikon AFS 24-120/4 VR, OM-D and Panasonic 100-300, and of course the Gitzo GT5562, geared column and Manfrotto 410 geared head, […]

  18. […] year during my time in New York City, with an Olympus OM-D and Panasonic 14-42 X pancake zoom. The Olympus OM-D is available here (B&H, Amazon) and the Panasonic 14-42 X here (B&H, […]

  19. […] the X-E1 (or recently announced X-M1) and kit zoom (and a prime or two, to match the price), Olympus OM-D and kit zoom (or at this price, 12-35/2.8 and a prime or two); and appealing to the same crowd as […]

  20. […] curious, the island in question was Pulau Gaya off the cost of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. The Olympus OM-D is available here (B&H, Amazon) and the Panasonic 14-42 X here (B&H, Amazon). The Nikon […]

  21. […] the last week; there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between the E-P5, E-PL5 and OM-D – at least as far as raw files via ACR go – colour rendition, dynamic range and noise […]

  22. […] all-in-one general purpose travel camera – for good light, at least. Similar to how I use the OM-D and 14-42 X pancake now. A stabilizer wouldn’t go amiss, especially with an f6.3 maximum […]

  23. […] 12/2 (click on the lens names for my reviews). You can find them up to $100 off here. Finally, the OM-D + 12-50 kit is now $150 off – down to $1150. That’s […]

  24. [...] Olympus OM-D (B&H | Amazon) – This has cemented itself as my travel camera of choice. I’ve now done several extended sojourns with it and not found any major operational quirks (except the propensity to occasionally lock up if you ty to protect an image too soon after zooming out, necessitating a hard reset by remove the battery). During this trip, my camera surpassed the 30,000 image mark with no other major hiccups. It got rained on, covered in dust and dye and never missed a beat. A single battery Sid get me through most days, with about 50% remaining in heavy days. I still carried a spare just in case, but never needed it. Even though my camera appears to have sstarted developing the cracked LCD frame edge problem, I still come to the same conclusion as before: highly recommended. [...]

  25. [...] set was shot with the Olympus OM-D, ZD 12/2, ZD 45/1.8 and Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH (via a M-M43 adaptor). Enjoy! [...]

  26. [...] In fact, the majority of my recent workshops have been done with this setup – typically an OM-D, the 12/2 and 45/1.8 primes, and something else to fill the pocket for quick grabs. The trouble is, [...]

  27. [...] Canon 6D is ~$1,900, and the 7D a paltry $1200. Its main competition, the Olympus OM-D (reviewed here) sells for $950. You can see why there’s a problem here: it’s got to be a much better [...]

  28. [...] is his OM-D review — Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 – Ming Thein | Photographer He is a very good picture taker, and I really like his b&w conversions. I read Sean Reid's [...]

  29. [...] Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 – Ming Thein | Photographer [...]

  30. [...] Olympus managed to make a 2012 camera look like a 1970 one; not only that, why on earth would you need a prism hump for a camera that doesn't even have a prism? My first impressions of the spec sheet were ho-hum, yet …  [...]

  31. [...] until the last Tokyo workshop, I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to use the 12/2 on the OM-D (full review here) for a serious evaluation. The last time I used the lens on the OM-D was also the first time I’d [...]

  32. [...] snow is coming down fast in the Sierra Nevada range this winter. I grabbed my OMD with the 12-50mm zoom lens, and headed out on for some skiing this weekend. The photo below is of [...]

  33. [...] control over depth of field, and you lose out at least a stop or more in high ISO performance. The OM-D might give you back a couple of stops of hand-holdability thanks to its excellent stabilizer, but [...]

  34. [...] set was shot with an Olympus OM-D with the 12/2 and 45/1.8 lenses, and a Sony [...]

  35. [...] G, AI 45/2.8P, AI-S 58/1.2 Noct, AFS 60/2.8 G, AFS 85/1.8 G, PCE 85/2.8 Nikon SB-700 x1, SB-900 x3 Olympus OM-D Olympus ZD 12/2, ZD 45/1.8, ZD 60/2.8 Macro Panasonic 20/1.7, 100-300/4-5.6 Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 [...]

  36. [...] in architecture, I had a field day walking around the city; a couple were shot with the Olympus OM-D and 12/2 is surprisingly good for this combination, though at times I did wish I had something a [...]

  37. [...] set was shot with an Olympus OM-D and the ZD 45/1.8. As usual, click on any image to go to its Flickr landing page; EXIF data is [...]

  38. [...] set was shot with an Olympus OM-D, ZD 12/2, 45/1.8 and Sony RX100. As usual, click on any image to go to its Flickr landing page; [...]

  39. [...] series shot with an Olympus OM-D, 12/2 and Sony [...]

  40. [...] shooting anything that took my fancy. I travelled very light – in the end bringing only the OM-D, 12/2 and 45/1.8 lenses, plus a Sony RX100 for backup (the links are to my reviews); not having a [...]

  41. [...] you trust them to know about anything else? There are a few reviews around including this one: Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 which compare the Olympus OM-D E-M5 favourably to Nikon D700 and D800 full frame dslrs. Ming [...]

  42. [...] Olympus Reviews (OM-D and EPL-5) Please ignore if previously posted… Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 The Olympus E-PL5 PEN Lite review: a mini-OM-D [...]

  43. [...] the excellent SCP which shows all settings at a glance? Hit the OK key and use your finger toᔥ Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 – Ming Thein | PhotographerWer zudem Streetphotography mag, darf sich diesen Beitrag nicht entgehen lassen. Die Aufnahmen sind [...]

  44. [...] not commercial use – so I figured that I could get away with a lightweight rig. I used the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic Leica 45/2.8 Macro, and available light. Most of the images were shot at ISO 1600 or [...]

  45. [...] Olympus OM-D E-M5** (May 2012) – The most impressive new camera I’ve used so far in 2012. Not because of any one of its features, but because of its combination of features. It’s a game changer in its ability to combine excellent image quality – I’d say very close to the D7000 in every way, including high-ISO performance and dynamic range – to a very compact body, which also happens to be weather sealed and able to shoot at 9fps. EVF is finally good enough to use, though has limited dynamic range and of course can’t replace a good optical finder. In the tradition of Olympus cameras, it’s highly customizable, too. The only thing that lets it down is AF – yes, it’s blazingly fast, but not always accurate especially at longer distances with fast wides. And continuous AF is nearly worthless – good thing single AF is so fast. Also available with a two-part battery grip that makes quite a big difference to the handling and overall usability of the camera – but it’s still positively tiny. No built in flash, but they give you a little weather-sealed one that can also double as a wireless commander for other flashes. Olympus still hasn’t learned that putting the strap eyelet in the middle of your palm is uncomfortable. Sign. [...]

  46. [...] to be waaaay better than the EP-3, and paired with the lens I mentioned, it absolutely shone!!! Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 – Ming Thein | Photographer – This review explains IQ much better than me. DSLR-wise, I suppose it will be the platform with [...]

  47. [...] I posted my recommended reading article about Ming Thein’s review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, I got a comment from Bill Beebe about those super black colours in Ming’s [...]

  48. [...] The Olympus E-M5 is another one of the most reviewed cameras out there, the latest one is the completed review of the camera by Ming Thein. [...]

  49. [...] one of the most reviewed cameras out there, the latest one is the completed review of the camera by Ming Thein. This entry was posted in mirrorless, olympus and tagged 43M43-2X sensor, microfourthirds, ming [...]

  50. [...] Thein reviews the Olympus E-M5 Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 A number of interesting comments and photos in a rather nicely laid out review (he also has recent [...]

  51. [...] Thein has written a very nice “full review” about the newest Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera; it’s one of the best and [...]

  52. [...] Re: OMD gold award at dpreview As if we need any more convincing… Full review: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 [...]

  53. [...] Ming Thein posts an extensive, excellent OM-D E-M5 review. Take your time for it. In a nutshell: With the arrival of the OM-D, it finally feels like Micro Four Thirds has come of age. The original promise of ‘smaller, same quality’ which was made with Four Thirds I felt was never fulfilled with earlier cameras; they weren’t small enough, or able to deliver the same image quality. Although Micro Four Thirds went a long way to fulfilling the smaller part of the equation, image quality, speed and usability were lagging behind until the last generation; only now has the promise been met. I don’t look at the OM-D’s files and think ‘wow, this isn’t bad for such a small sensor!’; instead, I look at the files and am satisfied enough to not think about the sensor size. It’s hugely liberating to be able to carry a pro grade body and three lens fast-prime kit – 24, 40 and 90 equivalents – whose total weight is around 600g, and without feeling like I’m compromising anything (at least not for what I shoot; if it were sport, it’d probably be a different case). That’s the weight of one lens for the D800, or the M9-P body only. That’s hugely appealing for travel. Even two bodies wouldn’t weight that much. [...]

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,208 other followers

%d bloggers like this: