Camera Test: Olympus OM-D EM-5

Last Friday I was lucky to be invited along to a photowalk run by CNET Australia to road test the new CSC realised by Olympus the OM-D EM-5.

I don't intend this post to be a full technical review but a couple of impressions I got from having the camera in my hands for 2 hours on an overcast afternoon. For a technical review go to dpreview.com for a fun one try digitalrevtv and one specfic to street photography with Eric Kim on youtube here. Another street photographer I know who is useing the OM-D right now is Thomas Leuthard with a post here.

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The OMD with kit lens and addtional flash.

We started off at the Argyle Bar at the Rocks where they put on some drinks and nibbles to get us ready for the photo walk to come. It was also a good chance to meet the other 9 photographers who were invited along. It was also here that we were give a ‘quick’ run down on the camera before heading out.

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Quett from Olympus Australia and Lexy Savvides

First Impressions

It is a small stylish camera and is surprisingly light to some one that shots with a DSLR. The kit lens is almost as big as the camera body itself and it a 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3, which is quite slot at the long end.

For my hands I had to tick my pinkie under the camera body itself. I should have got one with a battery grip. Like all new cameras it took us a while to figure out how to adjust the cameras settings.  It was a overcast day and started to rain towards the end of the walk so the settings I decided to go with were

  • Manual Mode
  • Back Button focus with AFC
  • Fixed iso of 800 (which later become 1600)
  • RAW (which later one I regretted for a little while later on)

These are also the settings I generally use when I am out shooting as they work best for me.

The walk

From the Argyle we were going to head up to Observatory Hill before heading down to Hickson Rd walk under the bridge before heading back to the pub. Sadly the weather did not let use finish the walk as by the time we were back to the bridge it started to rain and we all gave back our cameras. Now the OMD with the kit lens is water resistant and this generally would not be a problem but I had just shifted over to the 12 f2 lens which was not weather sealed.  Given that I have shot with my DSLR which weather sealing involves the use of sticky tape it was quite disappointing.

Like with most photo walks it is hard to stick together as we all have different interestes, you also have the photowalk mentality of taking photos of things you would generally not for the sake of being creative.

10 Test Shots (Chronolgical Order)

During the walk I only managed to take 94 photographs so here are 10 shots. All the images have been croped to 16x9 for the video CNET is making about the photowalk. All the images have been edited in Lightroom unless otherwise stated. As I shot in raw mode and I do not have the latest software I had to convert the files to DNG's first. This can be done with Adobes free converter.

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Argyle Stairs - 1/160 f5.6 800iso @ 22mm

The first real shot of the day after about 50m of walking. Processed in lightroom with a blur cross process to work with the pink jacket.

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A quick snap, almost - 1/250 f4.5 800iso @ 13mm

I had actually tried to photograph her friend in frount of her before this shot but found that this is a fractional delay before the EVF turned on as I had not taken a shot for a while. This happened a couple more times during the walk, if I had more time with the camera I am sure I would have found some way to fix this in the settings. At least I got this one.

The exposure was dead on for her but blew out a lot of the background, with the raw file I was able to pull out enough detail from the highlights to make it look more reasonable. Shame those guys on scooters were going by.

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Out of the tunnel - 1/320 f5.2 800iso @27mm

A women does boxing traing under cover out of the rain. One of the problems I had all day was focussing with AFC as it really wanted to jump around the focus, I don't think I had selected the center focus point. I was intending to use zone foucssing but with no markings on the kit lens it was a bit of guess work.

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 Afternoon Stretches - 1/200 f5.2 800iso @27mm

This shot was taken up where the women was boxing in the pervious shot. What drew me to this show was the lighting and the wall in the background. It is a shame I could not get the focus right which I am not sure if it was operator error or the camera not being able to lock onto something. Edited in Silver Efex Pro.

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Afternoon Reception -1/250 f5.6 800iso @ 17mm

 This shot has been very hevely croped as at the time I also inculced the pagolas roof. The reason for the crop was to help improve the blanace of the shot and alow you to see what is happening in this busy shot. What I like here is the fact you have so many different groups of poeple all doing there own thing but but when viewed as a whole it all makes sense.

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 Obligatory Landscape shot - 1/4000 f9 800iso @40mm

For some reason every time I go up to observatry hill I some back with shots of this control tower, it is just in that annoying spot. I just love moody clouds and the sun beams add to it.

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Obligatory Macro Shot- 1/640 f6.3 800iso @ 50mm

One of the nice features of the OM-D with the kit lens is how versatile it is. On the lens there is a button that you can press that lets you turn on the Macro mode. With macro photography it is very important to get the focus dead on, with the camera in AF-C the focus bounced around a lot making it hard to shoot. This is one of the down sides of haveing very fast AF systems you have to be quick. I wish there was a better way to select the focus point on the camera, maybe I am just too used to single point AF on my DSLR. Processed in Silver Efex Pro.

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A curious secene - 1/125 f4 1600iso @ 12mm

Being a street photographer I oftern find meself shooting into dimly lit places like this (I love shooting though back doors of kitchens) and I am very impressed with the performance of the camera in such a dimly lit scene. 

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Safty in Orange - 1/250 f5.1 1600iso @ 25mm

This is the last of a series or shots I took of this scene. I new there was a photograph there and I had to work up to this composition which is the only one that inculded all 6 traffic cones. I am quite impressed with the front to back crispness of this shot. This is what I consider to be my shot of the walk.

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The Bridge 1/800 f4 1600iso @ 12mm

This was my second to last shot of the day, as you can tell with the umbrella there is some moisture around. This was the only shot I was able to take with the 12mm f2 lens. It was a disappointing to end here as we were just starting to get to a nice place to do some street photography.

Final Thoughs

The OM-D is a fun little camera that I would have enjoyed to have spent some more time with. As a lover of old SLR's (I own about 5 Nikon SLR's) it looks like a real camera, the fact it has a view finder is very important. It has a nice feel to it metalic not plastic, and when you click the shutter you get the felling like you just took a photograph rather than the silence of compact cameras.

  • It was the first time I shot with an EVF while I have heard that is it one of the best ever I still find it lagy when compared to my DLSR.
  • The kit lens is very versiatile and would fit most peoples need.
  • Great that it has two dials one appature and shutter, I don't find a quick way to change iso during the walk.
  • It is a nice small discret camera, but I don't know where to place my pinky finger.
  • The quality of files is excellent much better then my D90 at 1600iso which is generally where I shoot.
  • Burst mode (9fps) would be great for stop motion video creation.
  • The settings a quite customisable with out speending too much time in menus once you know how.

But where does the OM-D sit in the camera Market. Well it is much better then any compact camera but how does it compare to entry level DSLR's? Are they comppeting there or is the OM-D better suited as a photographers carry around camera? At around $1400 with the kit lens these are some important questions which I don't have the answers too.

CNET Photowalk video 

 Have a look at this short video to see what the other photographers capture on the day.

To finish off I would like to thank Quett from Olympus for his expertise on the day, Lexy Savvides for our short interview and to Ben Spicer for organising the day and the food at the Argyle.