Brian's Photo Blog — Article 127
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Olympus OM-D E-M5 First Impressions and Photos
Tuesday 10 July 2012   —   Category: Equipment
Yesterday a precious little baby arrived — my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera! Once I got everything unpacked, I mounted one of the lenses from my newly-assembled Micro Four Thirds lens kit and took my baby out for a walk! Throughout the rest of the day and this morning, I took a number of test shots with various lenses under diverse conditions, including flash. I've gathered the most interesting of these images into the OM-D E-M5 Test 2012 photo album so you can see them for yourself.

First of all, I have to say that for a DSLR-like camera, this baby is REALLY small and lightweight! With similar-focal-length lenses, it has about two-thirds less weight and bulk compared to my Sony α77! Second of all, I have to say that this is one amazing machine! Olympus has done an outstanding job packing tons of features, as well as gorgeous image quality, into a small and lightweight camera that doesn’t weigh a ton!

One feature I was eager to try out was the capabilities of the touch-sensitive rear screen. As was demonstrated to me when I first held the camera at Pro Photo Supply in Portland, you can set it up so that when you touch a specific spot on the screen, the camera will focus on the object at that point, and then automatically release the shutter to take a photo, without having to press the actual shutter-release button!

Needless to say, I was pretty impressed! So I just had to try it out myself. The feature works great both indoors and out, and is VERY cool! In some situations, this could be a much faster and easier way to get the shot you want, compared to the traditional method of locking in the auto-focus and then pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the picture.

Because this camera has excellent built-in optical image stabilization (OIS), I made sure to turn off the OIS that is built-in to many Panasonic’s lenses. Having them both on at the same time can cause poor OIS performance. During the tests I took some hand-held shots at quite slow shutter speeds, and when I looked at them later I was impressed by the lack of blur often resulting from unsteady hands.

On a walk down the block to the mailbox and back, I took a number of photos in the yards of various neighbors. Looking at them in Adobe Lightroom at full 100%, pixel-to-pixel magnification, I was astounded to see the high level of detail. I've included five of these 100%-magnification crops so you can see the excellent image quality this equipment is capable of.

The camera’s 16-megapixel Four Thirds sensor has an aspect ratio of (duh!) 4:3 — well, the name “Four Thirds” did come from the sensor’s SIZE, not its 4:3 aspect ratio. Anyway, I much prefer the 3:2 aspect ratio used by classic 35mm film cameras, and modern full-frame and APS-C digital SLRs. Fortunately, the E-M5, like most higher-end cameras, let’s you choose the aspect ratio you want to use. I set it to 3:2, even though this reduces the size of the photos to 14 megapixels.

The native, and lowest, ISO setting for the E-M5 is 200. From what I could see in Lightroom, the RAW photos I took had much less image noise than my Sony α77. For most of the pictures, I could have gotten away without any noise reduction at all, which rarely is the case with the α77. Even when I applied sharpening, the noise was still hardly noticeable. All in all, I felt like this camera was producing better images than my larger Sony camera.

The standard FL-LM2 flash for the E-M5 is not built-in, but attaches to the hot shoe — which is fine with me, because I don’t use flash very often. In order to give you an appreciation of its small size — as well as the cute little storage pouch that comes with it — I have taken a picture of them next to a golf ball. Being so tiny, it doesn’t have much power, but probably not any less than the built-in flash on most cameras. Because the E-M5 has a hot shoe, it is always possible to attach a bigger flash unit, as well as other Olympus accessories. I’m fervently hoping that one day soon they will have a small GPS unit which will attach to this camera — I've already e-mailed Olympus to make my request!

Well, this brings my first twenty-four hours of E-M5 testing — and my first impressions — to an end. Be sure to check out the test photos in the OM-D E-M5 Test 2012 photo album, and then stay tuned for more great performances from this sweet little baby!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 127
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