A blast from the past II: revisiting the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Of all the cameras that I’ve reviewed in the past, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 will always have a special place in my heart. It seems appropriate to follow the previous revisitation of the very first E-1 by revisiting the E-M5. The E-M5 was a game-changer for the mirrorless interchangeable camera world, pushing the boundaries for capabilities and setting high standards for other mirrorless manufacturers to follow. It’s been 6 years since the release of the E-M5 and I want to explore the significance of the E-M5’s role in changing the perception towards mirrorless cameras as a serious tool. I spent a day with the E-M5 for my shutter therapy and all the images shown are fresh out of the trusty, old E-M5.

MT also reviewed the original E-M5 some time back, here, and wrote about how it was a game changer for him professionally at the time, here.

Rewinding time back to the birth of mirrorless cameras – we find that feedback from users was: slow and unreliable AF, inferior image quality (in comparison to DSLRs), bad ergonomics, and laggy electronic viewfinder or LCD screen. While the mirrorless cameras were much smaller and lighter than DSLRs, they were in no way equivalent or close to what similarly priced DSLRs could do. Sony came along with over-simplified camera controls and a layout that required deep dives into the menu to change even exposure settings. Fuji followed closely with their nearly unusable autofocus. The mirrorless vs DSLR was a one-sided war (or massacre rather) until the unexpected Olympus OM-D E-M5 came along.

What did Olympus do with the E-M5 that changed the mirrorless game?

Firstly, there was the nearly lag-free, built-in electronic viewfinder. The EVF allowed photographers coming from a DSLR to feel right at home – and helped stability while shooting. The AF was so fast, even Canon 1D series shooters were impressed. The camera was built to take a beating with a magnesium alloy body and full weather-sealing. Then there was the first introduction of the 5-Axis image stabilization that no one saw coming. The benefits of powerful IS was a welcomed with wide open arms. The new 16MP Micro Four Thirds image sensor, as tiny as it was, managed to show a huge step up in image quality. The image quality was so good, it nearly matched the best APS-C cameras at that time, such as Canon 60D and Nikon D7000 – in terms of high ISO performance and dynamic range. The APS-C DSLR cameras had a slight advantage but the gap was small and dismissable. Finally – the fact that you had all this available in such a small and compact body made the E-M5 an instant hit for Olympus. It was the miracle camera they needed after the financial crisis from the huge accounting scandal in 2011.

As great as the E-M5 was, it was not perfect. I was the first to complain about the inconsistent color and contrast between the EVF and LCD screen. I also questioned the weather-sealing capability as the EVF fogged up while I was testing it in the rain. I was not entirely convinced by the EVF on the E-M5, and I recall that at the time I still preferred an actual optical viewfinder. The buttons on the camera were too small and grouped close together – an accidental press and unwanted settings happened too often. Also the buttons felt too stiff, due to rubber-sealing.

Despite the flaws (which were mostly addressed and fixed in the E-M1) the E-M5 remained my favourite Olympus camera over the years. There is just something about the E-M5, perhaps it’s all the memories. My blog rose to popularity after the rigorous E-M5 reviews and even Ming Thein told me that he took notice and got into Micro Four Thirds after reading my review.

Recalling the sales figures which I used to have access to when I was an Olympus employee, E-M5 sales were a record high but Olympus did not really successfully win over or convert DSLR users to mirrorless. Instead, a huge chunk of the E-M5 sales went to DSLR users who wanted another small camera to use alongside their DSLR system.

The reign of E-M5 was short-lived, as other camera makers took note and improved their products. Sony kept pushing their image quality and even dared to go full frame with their A7 series which has proven to be successful. Fuji was slow to fix their AF (even the X-Pro 1 and X-T1 were really sluggish), but they eventually got there. Panasonic has been at the forefront (alongside Sony) in pushing high-quality video (1080p first and now 4K). A little late to the game, Canon also upped their game with the M5.

Things are getting really exciting this year – Canon and Nikon are rumored to be releasing a full frame mirrorless system. The announcement is expected to be close to or during Photokina. If these full frame mirrorless cameras have super fast AF, good image stabilization, are built to be tough and have the latest EVF, things may not look too good for the Micro Four Thirds system. One clear advantage that the Micro Four Thirds system has is a mature range of lenses, but that is easily overcome in a matter of 2-3 years, especially by Canon and Nikon. Yet the sales of camera and imaging products in total continues its sharp decline each year. It is difficult to predict where the future lies.

As someone who has just exited the camera retail business, it was a breath of fresh air to not worry about camera sales trends. My focus is now on shooting more and  developing my skills as a photographer. I would be thrilled to be able to review new cameras now and then, but what truly matters to me is going out there and shooting –  regardless of the camera in hand. Even if that camera is the old OM-D E-M5, which remains perfectly capable of producing beautiful images even today.

Do you still have your old E-M5 in your camera bag? Do you still actively shoot with an E-M5? I have since moved on to E-M10 Mark II and E-P5 while shooting on the street. For paid assignments I use the E-M1 and E-M1 Mark II. But I will always have the E-M5 stored safely in the drybox and occasionally take it out for a spin. I have too many fond memories with the E-M5 to let it go.

Comments

  1. I have 3, tried and true and a Pen F (the point where I felt there was enough to upgrade). I still go to old ones when travelling and shooting street, leaving the Pen for highest res or silent images (electronic shutter). After 300k images from them, I am now curious to see how far they will go.

  2. Lawrence says:

    Still shooting with my EM5. Still getting great shots out of it after all these years. Wasn’t super sold on the MKII, so I didn’t upgrade. We’ll see if the eventual MKIII will be able to entice me enough to upgrade. Better handling of high ISO, low-light and improved focus tracking would definitely sway me, as my kids are getting older and I prefer always to shoot with available light.

    Great retrospect piece. In fact, it was your original post about the EM5 that sold me and convinced me that it was the right camera to move to from my previous DSLR kit.

  3. Stefano says:

    La utilizzo come secondo corpo o per i viaggi ma la qualità e l’equilibrio dei suoi file sono ancora eccellenti. Trovo che la gestione dei colori sia ancora un punto di riferimento

  4. Might still be using it if I didn’t lose it on my way to the airport four years ago. Packed litle camera with features so nice. 5 axis IBIS, weather sealing, fast AF. Miss this camera especially during the recent trip. Have good memories and good images with it.

  5. skinmaoz says:

    I own the E-M5. It is a great camera – size, functionality, performance, colour etc. Coming from the film days, I like the fact it doesn’t automate “every” aspect of the shot. I still have to use my composition, exposure and tracking skills.
    If it was good enough to be groundbreaking in its day, it’s still a great camera. I won’t upgrade until it breaks.

  6. Rhys Phelps says:

    I’ve always thought the EM5 has the richest colours of all the Olympus cameras, much better than the EM1 which I find muddy and flat. Your images above leap of the screen.

  7. Hi Robin, I came across your wander down memory lane and couldn’t help do the same as I had also published a small E-M5 report back in the day. If you’re interested in having gander, it’s here:
    http://www.ausphotography.net.au/forum/showthread.php?128453-Olympus-OM-D-E-M5-User-Report
    It remains one of my most fond purchases and I thoroughly enjoyed owning the E-M5 even though I have since moved on.
    I think you’ll find that we share a lot of similar opinions about the model. Coincidentally I’m also from Kuching too 🙂
    Cheers.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Glad to know another guy from Kuching. Hope to see you soon in one of the coming events!

      • Coming events? I checked out your blog and saw that you’re off to Kuching atm but I’m now residing in Sg actually. I’ll sure come say hello one day if our paths cross. Cheers

  8. I still have the E-M5 in my camera bag, and use it quite frequently. On a recent trip to USA, I took with me my Pen F and my E-M5 and left home my E-M1. I ended up using the E-M5 much more than the Pen F, although I really love the Pen F.

    • Robin Wong says:

      The E-M5 is just the camera that encourages you to pick it up and shoot, isn’t it? I still come back to my E-M5 from time to time!

  9. First, i apologies for my very bad english (i’m French…). Yes, i still have my old E-M5, and have shot thousands of images with it with great pleasure. Nevertheless, i’m looking for buying an E-M1 II or à Pana G9, because i think that sensor’s technology had made huge improvements since the E-M5 release. EVF have made huge improvement too, and, connectivity, and so on…But, i’ill also keep a love for this small revolutionary device.

    Well, my true question is in another matter : i follow with a great pleasure your reviews, mostly for the hight quality of your sample images !!! Thousand times i tried to obtain this image rendition so perfect with is yours, and never i succeeded…

    Its always disturbing asking somebody about its processing secrets, but, please, Robin, can you give me à little clue about your post processing, just not to avoid me to die idiot and desperate !!!

    And thank you for your great and commendable work.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks for the kind words! There are no secrets actually to my post-processing, I currently use Capture One Pro, and I do not edit my images extensively. White Balance tweaking is important, then followed by a bit of exposure/contrast boosting to the get the look that I want.

  10. Hi Robin, looking to upgrade my E-M10 to a body with 5 Axis IS. Would you recommend the E-M5 Mk ii or the E-M10 Mk ii? They are similar price second hand in my local area.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Whether to get an E-M5 Mark II or E-M10 Mark II, you have to ask yourself if you need weather sealing and a more capable video shooting? If yes to both, then get the E-M5 Mark II. If you can live without both, then E-M10 Mark II is a good choice.

  11. I still remember my old OM-1. That was a fine camera I wish had held onto. The lenses also, they were smooth and buttery.

  12. it really is a great camera. It was the E-M5 that got me into mirrorless. At the time I was all envious. The pictures coming out of it were easily compared to “full frame” of the year before. It was sharp and the pictures were on DPReview’s site when it was still in London and so the pictures looked great compared to sad Seattle.
    It was the camera that I started doing paid work with.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Oh dear, I have not been to Seattle, how sad can a place be?
      Glad to know that you loved the E-M5, and that it has earned you some good cash!

  13. My first m4/3 camera was the EM-5, twas a darling to me. Bought the EM-5 along with its battery grip when it first came out. IMO the Grip was an essential piece of gear that made the handling amazing. It had some quirks, it was a very sexy body and I had it paired with the PanaLeica 25mm f1.4. Unfortunately I sold it just over a year ago when I got my EM-1, I just wished the EM-1 had the handsomeness of the EM-5.

    Sad to see it go 😦

    I just wish the EM-5 MK3’ll have all the bells and whistles of the EM-1 MK2 or even MK1 like the EVF, fast AF, chunkier dials, 4K video, the handsome design of the EM5 MK2,

    • Robin Wong says:

      I wish I have inside info on the E-M5 Mark III! Unfortunately I have left Olympus, so no more special info available to me now. I do wish it has all the items you have described too.

  14. Hans - Joachim Benndorf says:

    Quite a capable and handsome camera. Your images a proof of that. Unfortunately the ergonomics were so bad for my hands that I decided not buy it back then. I was a little sad about that.

    • Robin Wong says:

      There is no one camera that fits all hands, just like shoes. But the fact that they managed to make it that small, is the true testament to the advantage of Micro Four Thirds system. You can always add on the beefier grips to add comfort and improve handling.

  15. Migs DR says:

    Hi Robin, great retrospective on the E-M5.

    The E-M5 was the first digital camera I called my own. I discovered your blog and mingthein.com because of your respective E-M5 reviews. The great photos you got out of them needed very little additional commentary. I am so thankful you guys veered me away from getting a NEX-series Sony, I tried one recently and getting anything done beyond Auto is a nightmare!

    Unfortunately, I took their claims of weather sealing too seriously and broke it more than 2 years ago. My caffeine-addled hands loved the E-M5’s revolutionary IS. I’m left with my backup E-PM2 with the inferior IS but I’m always thinking of getting a new OM-D so I don’t have to lug a tripod around when shooting.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Hah, there is only a limit on what the weather sealing is capable of! Sorry to hear about your camera not surviving the weather. But yes, for caffeine addicts like us, the 5-Axis IS is Godsent.

  16. Hi Robin,
    Reviewing the past is always a pleasant activity. It reassure us that we are progressing. Yes I totally agree that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was a major step for the acceptation of the MFT format by the many prosumers and even some courageous professionals at the time. I was part of that trend since I have migrated from an Olympus EP-3 which was a giant improvement. For sure the release of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II have addressed some major specific flaws present into the first original version and this is why I consider this newest itineration to be more practical and reliable. Somehow Olympus is now due to present a new Mark III declination with the 20MP image sensor. The big advantage of the E-M5 original or Mark II is their ability to be a discrete unit or a very powerful combination (with the added grip and the vertical power unit) depending of your different requirements.
    Thanks again for bringing us these good memories,
    Daniel M

    • Robin Wong says:

      No worries, Daniel, I too am a fan of the E-M5 series, and am eagerly waiting for the 3rd iteration. I agree that having the smallest form factor possible, with the possibility of adding on vertical and horizontal grips when necessary is a good move. I personally keep the size of the cameras and lens choices as small and light as possible when I am on the move (street shooting, travel, etc) but I need the better handling for long hour shooting (paid gigs, etc).

  17. Michiel953 says:

    Thank you David (Babsky). Your reading skills (and memory) leave nothing to be desired.

    You’re correct on all points, save one: I did consider, but didn’t mention, as that particular aspect has nothing to do with the point I tried to make (apparently in vain).

    • David Babsky says:

      ..One good turn deserves another.

      • Michiel953 says:

        😉

      • Robin Wong says:

        David,
        There were two things that did not sit well with me.
        1) Michiel953 claimed that all Micro Four Thirds photos, including mine shown in this article, have nearly unlimited depth of field.
        That was simply false. I have just as many shallow depth of field shots using M43. When questioned if he has considered if I was intentionally using more depth of field in my shots, he then,,,
        2) Falsely assumed that your choice of gear (camera system) dictates your style and approach in photography. Another point I disagree completely with. The photographer decides what he shoots, and chooses what gear he wants to shoot with.

        It would have been soooooo much simpler if he just said “Micro Four Thids could not render the shallow depth of field effect I needed for my own shooting. I found full frame to deliver this.” That should be the end of it, without dragging “all photos taken with M43”, or assuming how everyone else is doing their photography like the way he imagined it to be.

        • David Babsky says:

          Yes. You both made assumptions.

          Michiel appears to assume that your photos were to some extent confined to deep d-o-f as a result of using m4/3 lenses and an m4/3 sensor. He made a general remark about the m4/3 format, and you assumed that he was thus criticising, and being disparaging of, your photos.

          You, Robin, assumed that Michiel was being critical of your photos, and then assumed that he generally doesn’t like m4/3 (..you said, assuming it to be true, “You do not like Micro Four Thirds..”).

          Michael said in his initial comment that there’s “..always that nagging feeling you’re restricted in the way you shoot”, but perhaps there was a misinterpretation of “..you’re restricted in the way you shoot..” to mean YOU, ROBIN, are restricted in the way you shoot ..but he probably meant “..one [any person] is restricted in the way one [anyone] shoots”. I don’t think it was a comment aimed at YOU, even though Michiel used the word “you” ..I think that he just meant “anyone”. (Perhaps it would have been clearer in some other language, like German, say..)

          The conversation turned into guesses about each person’s preferences, and then the conversation turned into accusations, and then somebody else became more personal and accusatory with the phrase “..a jitterbug troll..” at which point I thought I should speak up on Michiel’s behalf – as he had done for me, some years ago.

          Misinterpretations all round I’d say: Michiel may have thought that you were willingly accepting some restrictions of the m4/3 format by using deep d-o-f ..perhaps without his realising that it was your specific intention to use that as your own artistic choice. And you may have misinterpreted “..that nagging feeling you’re restricted in the way you shoot..” to be referring to you personally, rather than meaning the world in general.

          It happens in blog comments. And we’re all possessive about our own pictures, as they’re something which we’ve put our own choice and effort into.

          (Many years ago when I saw some of your first pictures taken with the Oly 45mm f1.8 I was astounded by the shallow d-o-f you’d got with that, and I promptly went out and bought an m4/3 camera and the 45mm! I agree; the 45mm f1.8 and 75mm f1.8 give stunning results.)

          I also agree that it would have been soooooo much simpler if Michiel had said “m4/3 generally delivers deep d-o-f..” ..and if perhaps you hadn’t assumed what Michiel prefers, as in “You prefer to shoot with “shallower depth of field”. I get it … You do not like Micro Four Thirds..” etcetera.

          But I wouldn’t have written a word if somebody else hadn’t described Michiel as “..a jitterbug troll”, and diminished the conversation to insults.

          Misunderstandings all round. Hopefully now resolved.

          All the best,

          David.

        • Michiel953 says:

          To Robin, David and Terry:
          I’ve been wondering whether I should respond to all this, or let it pass; so much water under the bridge.

          Being weak, here goes.

          One (not you, haha, which – of course – was meant as a plural) should never assume I’m not fully aware of what I write. Maybe it takes careful reading, and putting aside a possibly fragile ego, to interpret a comment as it was meant.

          In this case, my initial comment was meant as a general observation only on the constraints of a format, which, like it or not, influence the ‘type’ of image captured. Vide my rangefinder example. Another example would be that I feel limited (to a certain extent) by the spread of the reliable AF points in my camera (an 850), as I like off centre subjects, in focus.

          Having near limitless depth of field at your disposal solves that problem, obviously.

          Thank you David and Terry!

          Signing off now… 🤔

          • “…as I like off centre subjects, in focus.”
            Michiel, I rather think you’d have some fun with Canon’s old Eos 5 film camera. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s getting on a bit now, but it has eye focus. It has an array of five focus points aligned left to right across the centre of the viewfinder. You need to set it up for your eyes but, thereafter, simply looking at a focus point causes the camera to focus on the subject covered by that point. Obviously, with only five focus points, it is fairly limited, but it is fun to use, when it works! I no longer use it, but I still play with now and again. Its a brilliant concept but one which Canon never developed. Modern digital cameras can move their focus point by command, but I don’t think this is as elegant a solution.

          • Frans Richard says:

            I’m sorry, but I think your comments are somewhat condescending, as this last one you wrote. Perhaps you are not as aware of what you write as you think. Clearly others have interpreted things differently from what you, apparently, meant. Could that be because of the way others read, or maybe because of the way you write?

            • Yes, I particularly like this part: “Maybe it takes careful reading, and putting aside a possibly fragile ego, to interpret a comment as it was meant.”

              (Given how any treatment of Micro Four Thirds on various Web sites seems to be accompanied, without fail, by sensor size trolling and pronouncements by the equivalence police, all for a format that is supposedly far inferior to whatever those people are using, one has to wonder why they feel so threatened by its existence. I’d certainly get annoyed if I had to read any of that nonsense in response to any of my writing, let alone on every single occasion.)

  18. Thanks for the article Robin. I still have and use my E-M5 with the pana-leica 25mm 1.4, it’s a great light weight kit that I can carry around in a backpack as an everyday camera. The weather sealing I found to be very good, mine ended up in a creek and the repairer who fixed the broken LCD screen said there was no sign of internal water damage. I also suspect that the AA filter is quite weak which helps with the resolution but don’t have any information to verify this apart from my own use, do you know if this is the case?

    In reading the above comments, I totally agree that the choice of tool is a consideration of the photographer based on the images they want to create and that any ‘style’ would be due to the conscious decisions made. This however has got me thinking though about those learning the craft, how much of a developing photographers work could be associated to the limited equipment choices that they have available?

    • Terry B says:

      Mark, I revisited DPReview’s original review of 2012 and whilst they do make reference to an AA filter it is only with reference to moire; they don’t mention what sort the E-M5 incorporates. As they have always seemed to mention if a camera does have a weak, or no AA filter, such as in the Panasonic LC10 dslr and the Olympus EPL-1, I’m guessing it is standard.

      Reading the review, I was impressed by the E-M5’s performance overall.

      • Robin Wong says:

        Terry,
        Olympus never specifically mentioned no AA filter for the E-M5, I think there was one. They did claim that for E-M1, there was no AA used.

        • Yes, Robin. Confirms my view from the DPR review that their not mentioning the E-M5 having a weak or no AA filter must mean it had one. If it didn’t I’m sure Olympus would have touted the benefits (sharpness) that having no AA filter, or a weak one, brings to the ball park.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Mark. As a learning and developing photographer, if you have found some restrictions imposed by your cameras and lenses, then you either find alternatives or solutions to break through the limitations (plenty of ways to go about something) or you end up getting the more suitable tool for the job. At the end of the day, once you know what you are doing, you know what you need to have to get the job done.

  19. Frans Richard says:

    “Canon and Nikon are rumored to be releasing a full frame mirrorless system. The announcement is expected to be close to or during Photokina. If these full frame mirrorless cameras have super fast AF, good image stabilization, are built to be tough and have the latest EVF, things may not look too good for the Micro Four Thirds system. One clear advantage that the Micro Four Thirds system has is a mature range of lenses, but that is easily overcome in a matter of 2-3 years, especially by Canon and Nikon.”

    The not so mature range of DX lenses is what drove me away from Nikon to Olympus OM-D. I wanted small and light, but Nikon did not offer that in DX. Not even now does Nikon have a mature DX lens range. I doubt they will take a different approach when they introduce a mirrorless camera, seeing what they did with the Nikon 1. That, and more people looking to smaller and lighter cameras is where MFT has, and will keep, a clear advantage. In my photoclub many are amazed by the small size an light weig of my EM-10 and the image quality it offers, which can match a FF DSLR in all but the most demanding (low light) scenarios.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Size advantage is a big considering factor when people choose mirrorless camera systems. However, it is too early at this stage to tell how large or how heavy the lenses for the rumored Canon and Nikon Mirrorless Full Frames will be. We all assume that (no thanks to Sony) these lenses will be unbearably huge. What if, they were not that huge and made within the size that is tolerable?

      • Robin, I can’t see this. The professional market wants pro lenses and that doesn’t include f3.5 to f5.6 zooms. That “f5.6” bit is very important in keeping kit zooms so small, even for FF. Pro lenses with faster apertures will always by much larger, and heavier. No way to beat the laws of optics. The only way I can see this happening (smaller aperture, but high quality optics) is if, and when, sensors operating at up to 25,600 ISO, say, have absolutely no noise penalty over base ISO.

  20. pboddie says:

    The E-M5 is my main camera, so I revisit it every time I go and take some pictures. And even though I arrived late to the party, buying mine in 2014, I have been largely happy with its output, even more so after getting the 45mm f/1.8 lens.

    As for the buttons, I managed to operate some of them more or less without problems while wearing mittens yesterday, so I suppose it is a question of knowing where they are and having the confidence that you’re pressing the right spot on the camera body. 🙂

    Nice illustrative photos as always, particularly the one of the bridge/walkway.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks for the kind words, I like the pedestrian bridge image too. You are right, it is crucial to know the camera well, spend enough time with it and know how to operate it efficiently.

      • pboddie says:

        It is interesting to me, having moved up from a compact, how the E-M5 supports rather different shooting styles. So when I started out in 2014, I used P mode and a fair amount of exposure compensation. (On a holiday that took me via KL, by the way.) But now, I use M mode, perhaps to try and be more ambitious, to control the parameters more, to take advantage of the effects of different apertures, and so on.

        It was interesting when, the other week, I took my old compact out and shot some scenes in the snow. For one thing, I found myself not zooming at all and just settling for the default wide angle view. Then I realised that I could have been zooming but had become so used to wandering round with the 45mm lens on the E-M5 that I had almost forgotten about the compact’s zoom control. That said, to avoid inviting trouble with the weather, plus difficulties operating the zoom control with mittens on, I decided to keep it simple and stick with the default focal length. It is amazing that something that was once second nature has now become so foreign.

        Paul

  21. Never owned the original EM-5 but when they brought out the EM-5 Mark II, I got one with the 12-40 F2.8. Love it still. Good size and weight and the image quality is amazing. Took a shot with it, leaning out a hotel window, with arms outstretched at sunset over the city of Makati Philippines. 1/2 second and it was sharp as a tack. Every now and then I’ll pop on the 9mm Body Cap lens for a different point of view. https://throughdavidseye.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/olympus-9mm-body-cap-fisheye-lens/. my EM5-II is my goto camera for a grab and go. It always delivers. If they hadn’t brought out the II version though I would have gotten the original. https://throughdavidseye.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/olympus-9mm-body-cap-fisheye-lens/. I wish they would find a way to simplify their menus, but other then that, the system is pretty awesome.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the E-M5 Mark II. Glad that you have found the joy of using the fisheye body cap lens. And I agree with you that the menu is not easy to use, even myself, who worked for years as a product specialist for Olympus Malaysia found that the menu was difficult to navigate.

  22. Hello Robin! Yes, i also use my “old” E-M5 since today. Especially for the street photography! On my Blog there are am many photos shot with the Olympus E-M5. For example a few from Vienna Winter 2017
    https://www.christianmari.at/street-photography-in-wien-jaennerfebruar2017
    Greetings from Vienna,
    Christian

  23. Michiel953 says:

    Why is it I wonder, that almost all images of mft cameras posted on the web, including here, have almost unlimited depth of field? No prizes for guessing; there’s (almost) no other way.
    As good as these images may be in other departments (as some commenter said “colours, contrast and sharpness”), teher’s always that nagging feeling you’re restricted in the way you shoot.

    Btw, my most used (not necessarily favourite) lens on ff is 35mm, my most used aperture is f4.0

    • Robin Wong says:

      Are you saying that these images shown in this article are bad because they have “unlimited depth of field”? Have you considered that it was a conscious choice to stop down the aperture to F5.6-F8 to achieve everything in focus (except the food shot)? I was doing environmental portraits. I want to see the environment surrounding the people I shoot. Is that a bad thing just because the images have no “shallow depth of field” effect?

      I shoot mostly micro four thirds. I have lost count how many times people tell me my shots have too shallow depth of field (when I use 45mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8 for portrait shots) and I have learned from years and years of shooting experience that there is a very clear line between blurring everything into nothingness unnecessarily and having the right amount of zone in focus to tell a better story. I choose the later.

      • Michiel953 says:

        Please read carefully Robin, I did not use the word “bad”. “Everything in focus” does not have any specific creative merit (neither does the opposite). I was merely commenting on the limitations of the format, that drive people towards a certain style, which they then justify. A bit like rangefinder users that center their subjects, if you know what I mean.

        I prefer choices.

        • Robin Wong says:

          “As good as these images may be in other departments (as some commenter said “colours, contrast and sharpness”), teher’s always that nagging feeling you’re restricted in the way you shoot.”

          Was that not obvious you were referring specifically to my images, that they were, how did you put it, “nagging feeling being restricted”. That sounds VERY bad indeed, especially commenting on someone’s images.

          So I was merely questioning, have you considered that it was a conscious decision to have MORE depth of field?

          • Michiel953 says:

            Yes. Why do you keep misinterpreting my comment?

            • Robin Wong says:

              There was no misinterpretation here.
              You prefer to shoot with “shallower depth of field”. I get it. You could have just said that. However, you used my images to demonstrate that there was “unlimited depth of field”. That was uncalled for.

              • Michiel953 says:

                I demonstrated that the limitations of the format (you probably don’t like that wording) leads one to to a certain style of photography. Not really something to be offended by.

                • Robin Wong says:

                  “I demonstrated that the limitations of the format (you probably don’t like that wording) leads one to to a certain style of photography”.

                  I disagree with this completely. A photographer develops his style, vision and execution over time and experience, regardless of his choice of gear. He then chooses the selection of tools that works best for his specific shooting purposes and needs. Not the other way around. The format/system does not dictate the style of photography. It is the conscious creative direction of the photographer that makes photographs.

                  You do not like Micro Four Thirds. That is perfectly fine. Go for whatever format that works for you.

                  • Robin: I’m surprised that you got sucked in by a jitterbug troll who thinks shallow depth of field is a requisite to a good photograph. He obviously doesn’t get it and wasn’t taught proper manners or communication skills. It’s amazing the lengths some people will go to justify their choice of brand or format even to the point of being rude or vulgar. This is a wonderful article about an extremely influential camera. Well done! Great set of photos too 😉

                    • David Babsky says:

                      Once upon a time Michiel stepped into an online discussion – about 3 years ago? – and said some good words on my behalf in the middle of some knockabout discussion, or argument ..oh, wait a minute: I think it was on this very website.

                      So let me say that – in my opinion, anyway – I don’t think, Robin, that Michiel made any QUALITATIVE pronouncements ..he didn’t say that the pictures’ “..almost unlimited depth of field..” was a BAD thing ..nor that it was a GOOD thing. Just that it was there to see. He didn’t give any opinion as to whether that was good or bad.

                      He said “..No prizes for guessing; there’s (almost) no other way..” ..not meaning, I think, that Robin can’t shoot any other way ..but meaning that with the smaller-than-full-frame size of m4/3 sensors, any photographer gets twice the d-o-f (at any identical aperture) compared with using that same aperture on a “full-frame” sensor. Michiel didn’t say that greater d-o-f was a good or a bad thing, but that it’s a characteristic of using m4/3 compared with “full-frame” 36mmx24mm.

                      You’re right, Robin; my guess is that maybe Michiel didn’t think whether or not you’d purposely CHOSEN great d-o-f as your preferred way of shooting; I think he was simply saying that greater d-o-f was inevitable when using, say, a 25mm f2 lens on m4/3, compared with using a 50mm f2 lens on “full-frame” ..they both give the same ‘angle-of-view’, or look to the picture, but the 25mm f2 on m4/3 gives unavoidably greater d-o-f.

                      But Robin, you seemed to take as a personal insult Michiel’s comments about greater d-o-f ..whereas he was, I think, just commenting on the physics, or optics.

                      I don’t think Michiel was CRITICISING your pictures in any way, but was just saying that greater d-o-f will generally occur when using m4/3. However, I think you’re right, Robin, that Michiel may not have considered that THAT was the way that you specifically chose to create these shots.

                      So I think that you each misunderstood or misinterpreted the other’s description in these comments, but I’m sure that no personal antagonism or criticism was intended.

                      Why not just calm down a bit, and then kiss and make up? I’m sure that no animosity is needed.

                    • Terry B says:

                      It is so easy when reading posts to completely misunderstand what a poster intended and to read into it things that weren’t actually said. With the absence of face to face, we have no immediate clue that something we said isn’t been taken the way we meant, or didn’t, and can’t immediately respond with a conciliatory follow up, if needed. What then ensued is an example of a typical escalation in words as neither party could instantly respond to the other to avoid any escalation arising from misunderstand.

                      Scott, would you now have preferred not posting “a jitterbug troll”, “wasn’t taught proper manners or communication skills”, “even to the point of being rude or vulgar”? Being rude and vulgar – hoist with your own petard, perhaps?

    • Frans Richard says:

      A MFT camera with a 17mm f/1.8 will get you an equivalent DOF. So what’s with your comment there’s (almost) no other way or feeling restricted? The FF format has it’s own restrictions (shear size if you want a lens that allows that shallow DOF for one). You just need to know how to use each format to their own advantages. Choose the tool that allows you to get what YOU want to accomplish best and leave each to his/her own.

      • Michiel953 says:

        Equivalent to what? I’d have to use that 17mm wide open to get the same DoF as the 35mm on ff used at f4.0? You just underlined my point.

        And I did choose the tool that in my experience gives me the widest choice of photographic options, and the least downsides. Once you’ve made that choice, you”just” need to master that particular tool, and you can progress to the final image, which is what interests mé most.

        As for Robin’s “You do not like MFT” comment: Two years ago I was at the official presentation of the F in Amsterdam. Lovely little camera, with infuriating ergonomics for my medium sized hands, and very impressive images, printed big, by Andreas Bitesnich.

        • Frans Richard says:

          What point that you think I underlined do you mean exactly? That “teher’s always that nagging feeling you’re restricted in the way you shoot.” with MFT? Then can you explain how you are restricted when you can get the same DOF as with your most used setting on FF? Because you have to use a MFT lens wide open? Sorry, but that seems like nitpicking to me.

          Perhaps MFT is not for you, but that does not mean MFT is restricted in general, something you seem to suggest in your OP. Like I said, every format has it’s own restrictions, as well as strong points. Choose what suits you best, which you seem to have done, and leave others their own.

    • “As good as these images may be in other departments”

      They aren’t as good as they could be because of the “unlimited depth of field”? Of course you never actually said that.

  24. Michael Hofmann says:

    Bought it way back when – it was a really great camera at the time; still capable of producing wonderful images today, with the right primes. I fell in love with its small size, looks, and (mostly) ergonomics. As great as the camera feels, however, its menu system and UI are a horrible nightmare.

    What eventually killed the camera for me, and this is where I have to disagree with the author, is its sensor’s lack of dynamic range. There’s barely any latitude in the raw files (both shadows and highlights), and that severely limits the capabilities in post-processing to achieve certain looks, even when exposed perfectly in-camera. Moved on to Nikon’s D8x0 range, despite the size and weight, and never looked back.

    • Robin Wong says:

      The menu system and the UI, unfortunately, have not improved much over the years. I seriously hope the product team in Japan will consider making a complete make-over. How many million complains must they hear before they make the change happen?

      I claimed that the dynamic range of the E-M5 was close to the APS-C DSLR at the same time of release. That would be D7000 Nikon and Canon 60D. You compared the E-M5 against a full frame camera, the D800, surely that is a little extreme even to illustrate your point?

    • Frans Richard says:

      “There’s barely any latitude in the raw files (both shadows and highlights), and that severely limits the capabilities in post-processing”
      I’m sorry, but you seem to severely exaggerate, and that barely gives your statement any believability. I personally switched from a Nikon D300 to an Olympus OM-D EM-10 and found IQ and DR the same for all practical purposes. Perhaps you have very specific needs and MFT is not for you, but please don’t suggest something that is far from the truth.

  25. Robin I had tried the M5 as a second camera to my Nikon D7000 on a vacation trip, but the menu and controls were too confusing, and I returned it. But the trip was in Florida in the summer and carrying the Nikon was a chore in the heat. I later got an M10, worked on the controls and menu, and got to like it. It is now paired with an M5 Mkii with a half dozen lenses. The 12-40 mm f2.8 is usually on the camera, an amazing lens. Another lens for walking around is the 14-150 mm, which I find very good. I no longer think of getting a FF camera, as the FF camera will need larger and heavier lenses than M4/3. I am looking at the Panasonic G9 as an upgrade, as I am not sure I want to get the M1 Mii. I still find the Olympus control placement awkward, as I still sometimes accidentally reset something, especially on the M5 MKii. It looks like the G9 may be better in this respect, at least I hope so. I look forward to checking your website and looking at your great photos and a review of the G9.

    • Robin Wong says:

      I seriously hope the Olympus people are taking notes. “Menu too confusing”. That is one big problem, you are not alone in this.
      Glad that you have found the joy of using the E-M10 and the 12-40mm PRO. That is one great combo to work with. Either the G9 or the E-M1 Mark II, you can’t go wrong. Both are great choices. If you still cling on to the 12-40mm PRO and Olympus lenses, then the Olympus camera body is the better choice for optimized lens on camera use.

    • Frans Richard says:

      I agree the OM-D’s are very difficult to setup. It took me a long time, longer than any other camera I’ve owned, to get a grasp on mine. However, once setup they are easy to operate. Operation between different models is mostly the same, which I think is a good thing if you use several cameras. I really like being able to save and recall settings through mysets, although you really need to understand how that works. I found this website very helpful: http://www.biofos.com/mft/omd_em1_settings.html
      I can also recommend the book “Supercharging the Olympus OM-D EM-10 Camera” by W.N. Green.

  26. Still clearly remember the way I was gobsmacked by it’s capabilities after I pulled the plug and bought it in 2012. My E-450 suddenly felt so ancient.. After a number of various lenses that I went through I finally settled with 25/1.8 (nearly permanently fixed to the camera) and Rokinon fisheye.
    Last year I bought E-M10 MkII, but to my surprise sold it just weeks later. Despite some of its advantages (e.g., those control wheels) I wasn’t all happy with Oled viewfinder, plasticky feel, some other niggles and just couldn’t see it as my camera for foreseeable future. Although similar in appearance, for me the E-M5 felt substantially more pleasing to hold and to use. Anyway, 6 years and some 60.000 shots later the E-M5 is still my main camera, beautifully worn and just keeps banging on. My GAS is at an all time low and I’ll worry about the substitute when my old buddy decides to shut down for good.

    P.S Feels good you decided to review my two all time favorite cameras and the only ones that i have in a row. Cheers!

    • Robin Wong says:

      Glad to know that both the E-1 and E-M5 are your favourites! I wish I have discovered photography sooner, my first DSLR was the Olympus E-410, which was about 2 generations later than the original release of the E-1.
      Thankfully I was around when the E-M5 came along, and I was fortunate to be the first few in the world to review it. Glad that you are loving the E-M5 and it is still going strong.

  27. Great photos as always. It’s still my main Four Thirds Camera. After all, it still has the same sensor as all but two of the current lineup! My 12-40 is pretty much glued to it (with the E-P5 being used for primes).

    • Robin Wong says:

      Matching the E-M5 with the 12-40mm PRO is a great idea! I usually bring along some primes too. And yes, I also have, and actively use my E-P5. Awesome camera that is, too.

  28. Casey Bryant says:

    Hey Robin,

    I remember trying out the E-M5 when it was released, but couldn’t justify the price and ended up with the E-PM2. I still regularly use my PM2 to this day. When you have a lens like the 1.8/25 or 1.8/45 it’s hard to find a better a pocket-size portrait camera. Thanks for sharing your story. Great photos btw.

    • Robin Wong says:

      I was a bit disappointed when Olympus decided to kill the Pen Mini line of cameras. I always loved smaller cameras, and was particularly in love with the Panasonic GM series.

  29. Steve J says:

    Still using mine and haven’t really felt a need to upgrade it because of the high quality of the images. Zuiko lenses really are amazing quality for the money. The menu complexity is the only thing i don’t like but once set-up-how-you-like-it, there isn’t much of a problem.The weatherproofing has worked for me even while shooting birds on exposed beaches in the rain. Really, any of the OM digital cameras with any one of the pro lenses will be enough to get excellent photos without breaking the bank. I remember being not much impressed with digital cameras until I saw the results from the E-M5. For me it was THE camera that made digital viable, not because of the technology like image stabilization, but simply because of the color and sharpness I was seeing in the results.

    • Steve J says:

      Sorry, sharpness probably isn’t a very precise word to use ( most lenses being sharp these days ) I maybe meant to say.. color and details resolved in the images. The images I was looking at were of course the ones on your Shutter Therapy site!

      • Robin Wong says:

        The fact that you found the E-M5 to be still good enough, even till this day, is a testament of how many things Olympus got right with that E-M5. I also agree with you that it was the image output that successfully convinced the crowd that the E-M5 is a worthy consideration and a viable alternative to DSLR APS-C cameras.

  30. Ken Wong says:

    I tried out a colleague’s E-M5 once 5 years ago, and it got me attracted to Micro Four Thirds, although I didn’t like the slightly mushy buttons. I didn’t have the budget for the E-M5 itself, so I bought in on an E-PL5 and a year later an E-M10. The size and handling of OM-D, especially with the wonderful small MFT primes, has made it a joy to use, and way easier to travel with than a DSLR. Now I’ve added an E-M5.2 because of recent price drops, and a 12-40/2.8 that’s barely bigger than a DSLR kit zoom.

    Although I never bought one, I guess the E-M5 started my relationship with the MFT system. It’s the lenses that sealed the deal, though 😉

    On full frame mirrorless from Canon and/or Nikon being a serious threat to MFT, do you think the size/weight of lenses could help the MFT system defend its position in the market?

    Thanks Robin for the article and pictures, hopefully with enough practice I can make some images like that! 🙂

    • Robin Wong says:

      You are being too kind, Ken. Thanks for the kind words.
      I think Olympus and Panasonic need to up their game when the full frame Nikon and Canon mirrorless are entering the market. The lenses alone are not enough to justify the micro four thirds advantage for too long.

      • Hi, Robin. great article, as usual. However, I don’t entirely share you somewhat pessimistic view of the threat to m4/3 that FF Nikon or Canon will pose. THE big advantage with m4/3 has always been the size (and optical quality, of course) of the lenses and, as shown on this site, there have been big strides in IQ. When it comes to zoom lenses, the faster the aperture and the wider the zoom range will always be in favour of Olympus/Panasonic when it comes to bulk. IMO, one of the issues that could be levelled against the Sony 7 series is that the bodies are simply to small for the mass of some of the pro grade lenses.

        And when push comes to shove, and if we photographers are really honest with ourselves, how many really, and I do mean really, need FF, except for bragging rights? How many buy a camera/system actually geared to the eventual output requirements? I bought an A7 upon its release, but now it is my least favoured camera, and it hardly ever gets used. It was an expensive mistake for my needs, and I much preferred my Nex 5N, and then my Fuji X-Pro 1 and XE-1. I realised where my limitations/requirements were and no FF camera would change that.

        Rightfully, though, my comments are not directed to those who do need FF.

        • Replying to my own post, I do know the difference between “to” and “too”. Slap on the wrist for the typo I spotted after posting!

          • Robin Wong says:

            Do we really need full frame? Well it depends on what you do. For example, if I make a living shooting in an extremely dark theater, and I need to shoot beyond ISO6400 even when I am using F1.8 primes, then I know the Micro Four Thirds system has been stretched it its limit. There were also situations when more resolution is needed, for commercial jobs (things that MT are doing, for example) and the Micro Four Thirds just cannot deliver. At least for my own photography needs, both shooting for my clients and my personal projects, I have not gone over the limits of what the system can do, at least not yet. I cannot speak the same for everyone.

            • Terry B says:

              Robin, I didn’t really say there was no need for FF, just that for the many they don’t really need it. For those whose photographic requirements demand it, they’re the ones for whom nothing less will do. And in certain cases, as we know, some will have moved on to MF. You make the very valid point and which, in a way, supports my view. I suspect many jump on the FF bandwagon without ever pushing to the limits of their m4/3 or APS-C systems.

  31. Henry Liu says:

    What’s the camera bag you’re using here?

  32. Petr Karlach says:

    “… the Olympus OM-D E-M5 will always have a special place in my heart.” Yes! I still occasionally use my E-1 for fun, and I use my E-M5 regularly, besides my E-1, mostly with the 12/2, 45/1.8 or 12-4.8 lenses. It is great small camera and still delivers pleasant results. In fact, I am thinking about buying new one to keep it alive as long as possible.

    • Petr Karlach says:

      Correction: “besides my E-M1, mostly with the 12/2, 45/1.8 or 12-40/2.8 lenses.”
      Btw. great article and photos, thanks. 🙂

      • Robin Wong says:

        Thanks Petr! The E-M5 makes a great companion for the E-M1 indeed.

        • Petr Karlach says:

          I actually bought yesterday a new one, it was the last piece on sale, with the mZD 12-40/2.8, for ca 1350 U$, this is the price of the lens here. My old 12-40/2.8 goes to my son, the new set stays home and replaces my original already a bit used-up E-M5 … 🙂

  33. Fellow EM5 owner here , and still currently shooting casually and gigs with it.
    The kit lens did not inspired me initially, there was apparently lack of excitement at times.
    Over time of ownership, it was MFT primes which opened up my full own fire for Olympus OMD
    I really still prefer ISO200 on EM5 sensor, it is really competent. ISO1600 onwards it does looks like image quality of yesteryear DC.
    I end up with Lumix 14mm f2.5 and 42.5mm f1.7. Loving it till today.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Using small primes is the way to go with these small cameras! Keeping the size down yet getting great image quality.

  34. Always enjoy your posts–inspiring. Still have my EM5 (much prefer the tilt screen and take it our of it’s draw from time to time). Upgraded to a Pen-F (for walk around) and EM5 Mk2 for birding. Link to my “downsizing” experience from Canon DSLR to micro 4/3s for birding: http://dwkee.blogspot.com/2013/10/birding-snapshots-camera-downsizing.html
    And link to my last outing with my Pen-F: http://dwkee.blogspot.com/2018/02/bernard-fallon-demonstrates-at.html
    Thanks, Robin!

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks for sharing Dan, and glad that you are diving deep into the Micro Four Thirds world. I am sure it made a huge difference for birding without having to carry so much load!

  35. I’m impressed with your images from the m5, I like the colours, contrast and sharpness. Wondering if you did any post production with these images.

  36. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Robin, you have to excuse Olympus for teething troubles when they introduce a remarkably new camera. My first introduction to their cams was back in the 1960s, when a guy from England showed me his cam. They have ALWAYS been high quality, very well oriented towards “photographers” and producing high quality images. I’ve always preferred a larger format, so I’ve never owned one myself – but they always impress with their results, as the pictures in your articles show.

    • Robin Wong says:

      True that, E-M5 is already a great camera on its own. You are right, they do think about photographers first when they design cameras. While they do not get everything right, they have more hits than misses most of the time.

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