Olympus OM-D E-M5: The Ideal 365 Camera

I’ve always liked Olympus cameras, my first camera being an OM-1. Just over a month into my tookapic project I decided to buy an Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Sixteen months and tens of thousands of photos later I’m glad I did. This small article shares some of the reasons why.

Size

What I especially like about the E-M5 is that it’s really small and light. So small and light that I often just wear it strapped over the shoulder and hardly realise it’s there.

Cool t-shirt!

Wearing it like that means I’m always ready to take a photo and don’t need to reach into a camera bag and maybe miss a shot. Or even worse, have no camera at all because it was left at home. The best camera is the one you have, as they say.

Would have missed this shot if I hadn’t been wearing it over my shoulder

One unexpected advantage of having a small camera is that it allows better eye-contact with people I’m photographing and feels somewhat less agressive than a large DSLR that hides the photographer from the subject.

Eye contact

Image quality

I’m also really happy with the image quality. Even with the “kit” 12-50 the shots come out consistently sharp, balanced and with excellent dynamic range. Good enough for me anyway.

Nice and sharp

It’s also a very easy camera to use. Most of the time I shoot in Program mode (yes, I know, real photographers only shoot in manual!), and tweak the shutter and aperture via the rear top dial, and the exposure compensation via the front top dial. I’ve also assigned the ISO selection to the Fn2 button. All the other settings are quickly available on the rear touch-enabled LCD screen.

Basically I don’t “see” the camera anymore, which is a good thing as it means I can concentrate on the subjects I’m trying to photograph!

Image stablisation

One of the things that makes Olympus cameras different is the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS). This really does work well, and I’ve found that I can shoot sharp photos at least 3-stops below what what I’d shoot normally. The photograph below, for example, was shot at 1/4 of a second where normally 1/25th of a second would be the minimum recommended as it’s shot at 26mm equivalent.

Handheld at 1/4 of a second

IBIS also means the Olympus lenses do not need image stabilisation built into them, making them smaller and relatively cheap. More on the lenses I have (12-50, 17, 25, 45 and 75-300) in another article.

Electronic Viewfinder

Another feature I really like is the electronic view finder. Call me old-fashioned but I much prefer composing my shots by having the camera up to my eye. I especially like have visual guides to make the photo horizontally and vertically level, really useful for landscapes and architecture photos that I take quite a lot of.

Electronic viefinder has a lot of useful features.
Electronic viefinder has a lot of useful features.

Dust & waterproof

Another unique feature is that it’s dust and waterproof. This along with the weather-proof lenses means that I have no excuses to leave the camera at home or in its bag. Like this I simply have more photo opportunities than I would with a “normal” camera.

Yeah, it’s dirty
Yeah, it’s dirty

Any cons?

OK, so those are the “pros”. What are the “cons”? Not many, but I do have to mention that sometimes the first shot I take on any given day comes out completely dark. No idea why.

I had to glue back on the top-rear dial casing which came loose just recently. Shooting above ISO 5000 is where I find the image quality degrades, but that is something the IBIS compensates for in poorly lit situations.

Battery life is quite decent, but the indicator goes from full to empty in only something like 40 shots, so I always have a spare battery handy.

Conclusion

All things considered, my E-M5 has been, and still is, a great camera for my project allowing me to take many photos that I’m proud of. And isn’t that what a 365 project is all about?

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  • Nilson Menezes

    Like you Ian, I love Olympus cameras, I have had several models OM-1, OM-2, E-510 in the last 40 years, and now I have an OM-D E-M5 since 2014.

    • Ian Prince

      We seem to be quite a few here who love their Olys 😀 Mmm, the EXIFs on you recent shots seem to indicate a E-M5, do you have one as well as your E-M1?

  • tania

    Agree with everything 😀 except the battery, a disaster compared for example to the Nikon D90 !

    • Ian Prince

      I get about 10 days on a battery taking 6-30 photos a day. My only problem is I the battery indicator going from full to empty very quickly. How many shots so you get with your Mark II?

      • tania

        No idea. But a battery lasts 2-3 days with me. I think macro and long Exp. don't help either.

      • Ian Prince

        Must be the macros 😉

      • tania

        Certainly...

      • zlasu

        @Ian Price - you can change default battery warning level (menu -> custom menu -> utility -> warning level to +2). I agree that standard warning profile is too steep but in Olympus you can customize everything.

  • tania

    PS : I just lost the top-rear dial casing 😞

    • Ian Prince

      Ouch 😞 It also happened to my Stylus 1 (on the first day I had it), so I guess there's something wrong with the glue the Olympus uses 😕

  • C J

    My first SLR was an OM1. I've also owned Stylus Zoom (35 mm film), Evolt500, and a few cheap Olympus Point & Shoot digitals. I had put the camera down for about 8 years. Last Christmas I bought myself an OMD-EM10II. It has been a great camera. It reminds me of shooting with my OM1. As a budget alternative to the OM5 you can't go wrong. Somewhere down the road I may get an OM5.

    • Ian Prince

      Hihi, I have quite a stable of Olys too. Olympus sure knows how to build brand loyalty 😀 Not sure that the E-M5 is that much of an upgrade from a E-M10, except for weather proofing. Might be better to invest in lenses?

    • Kazziz

      I'm not sure if You missed one zero in battery life... ;D

      OI had E-M10, now I have E-M10 Mark II... and love those little motherf___ers. Olympus, You make really small pieces of useful art.

      • Ian Prince

        They sure do :). I think I know what you mean about battery life.... sorry I wasn't really clear. I get about 200-300 shots over 10 days usage, it's just that the indicator seems to go from 100% to 0% in the last 40 shots 😕

        • zlasu

          @Ian Price - you can change default battery warning level (menu -> custom menu -> utility -> warning level to +2).

        • Ian Prince

          Thanks zlasu! I just applied the change, I'll let you know how it goes.

        • Ian Prince

          Thanks, now *much* better correlation between the battery and the indicator 😀

    • Joost van Halm

      Thank you for your article Ian! I like these write-ups because it gives us more insight than a standard review and only after a longer period users can really share the pros and cons. Don't you just love those reviews: 'got this camera for a week now, reliability:10, build quality: 10...'.

      I'm just too much into Fuji to get an Oly, but I think there are some of the same benefits between there cameras: small, good IQ, nice lenses, EVF. I might be doing a write-up of my experiences with the Fujifilm X100 and X-Pro1.

      • Ian Prince

        My pleasure Joost, glad you liked my little write-up. Yes, please do write about the Fujis, I'm intrigued about your experience with them.

    • Magda Ko

      Looking forward to read your next article about lenses. I just sold my Canon Eos and nice lenses so I am ready to buy new Zuiko.

      • Ian Prince

        Ok, I hope you'll like what I write 😀

        • Agnieszka MW

          Magda, are you satisfied with the change? Now I use Canon EOS with Sigma 18-200 lens and it's useful for travels, but so, sooo heavy. @Ian, I'm looking forward to read your article about lenses. 😀

          • Magda Ko

            Agnieszka I am very happy with it. I start my project with EPL5 and changing to EM5MK2 was huge change. Stabilisation, Viewfinder, Wifi but also adjustable screen was my main reason to change from EPL5. The only disadventage is weight. It is more serious camera so it is also heavier. I love it very much. I only use 17 and 45 lenses from premum line-up and plan to buy one more, but to be hones no idea yet what I would like to have more 12 or 60 micro. Hope to hear more from @Ian on blog.

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