Olympus OM-D review

September 2nd 2012


I thought I’d write a little bit about my new camera, the Olympus OM-D – or EM-5; confusingly it has two names but I’ll stick with OM-D. I decided to invest because my dear old E-P1 was getting a bit worse for wear after three years’ loyal service – the battery door had fallen off, it was held together with tape and the sensor was showing specks and dust. I’m still holding onto it for backup though since it isn’t worth anything to re-sell! (The camera pics above & below are taken with it, obviously.)


I chose the OM-D because I’ve been supremely happy with my Pen and generally have brand loyalty to Olympus. The OM-D joins my XA2, Ecru, OM2 and the OM10, the classic SLR which inspired this new camera’s retro design (see above). It also meant I could continue to use the great lenses I’d already invested in: the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake and Olympus 45mm f1.8. What cemented my decision was the reams of positive reviews it’s received from amateurs, pros and expert reviewers alike.


The fact that’s it a beautiful little thing helps too, of course. I love the look of the all-black body version but went with silver to match my 45mm lens. It feels lovely in the hand – a bit lighter than the Pen but well-balanced. There’s a fancy pivoting LCD screen, but I mostly use the built-in viewfinder to shoot – a huge improvement from the viewfinderless Pen.


The controls took me a bit of getting used to. There’s a slightly fiddly extra dial around the shutter button which controls exposure in A mode and some of the buttons feel in a slightly unnatural position. I keep expecting the review button to be in a different place, but I’m already getting used to it. Some reviewers comment that the buttons are a bit small and hard to press and I have found this a little true. On the plus side, there are a few programmable buttons which you can configure to functions which suit you, though it takes a bit of delving into the menus to set up.

(Aside: On firing up the camera for the first time, I was a little startled to hear a constant whirring / humming noise. Apparently this isn’t a bug but the extremely powerful image stabilisation motor working away. It’s quieter in video mode but not improved by turning the IS off. I’m quite sensitive to noise so in a quiet room it’s really audible to me, but actually when you’re out and about with other ambient noise it’s hardly noticeable – it didn’t interfere with shooting at a wedding, for example.)

On to the photos! From the beginning I was amazed by the image quality. I wasn’t expecting quite the step up in quality from the Pen, which I considered pretty good already. I’m not the most technical person to explain, but the sharpness and losslessnes (see?) of the JPGs are quite remarkable, even when cropped right in. Here are some examples with 100% crops (click to enlarge).

It’s great at high ISO – so little noise! This was taken at ISO 1600 / f2 in very low light.

Tested on the cats, of course. Love the clarity it brings their fur, eyes and whiskers.

Landscape shots with the 20mm lens. The second one uses the inbuilt Tilt Shift filter which is kind of fun. Oh, and it also shoots awesome 1080p/30fps video. I shot this on the cable car ride in Chamonix – the powerful image stabilisation motor makes shaky footage incredibly smooth (hit HD on the video to see it in proper res).

If I’ve convinced you that you need this camera in your life (I tend to have that effect), I bought it from digitalrev.com which have the best prices I’ve found in £GBP.

Comments (7)

  • Graham Ashton

    September 2nd 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Nice post. That video footage looks surprisingly good.

    What I suspect you need to do now is to get the 12mm. Given that you went for the silver one, it’d almost be rude not to!

  • Magali

    September 2nd 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I really drooling over the OM-D. It would be a great camera for me because my dad’s camera in the 80’s was an OM-10 which he passed on to me. But I’m sort of a Canon girl & I just bought a new dSLR so not happening soon. :(
    Oh well.. Your pictures look fantastic though.

  • Michelle

    September 3rd 2012 at 2:26 pm

    It looks like a great camera! Love the video.

  • Claire

    September 4th 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Lovely shots. Which of the OM-D XA2, Ecru, OM2 and the OM10 do you find the best?

    1. Katie

      September 4th 2012 at 2:26 pm

      They’re all so different, you can’t really compare a ‘best’! I use them all for different things.

  • Claire

    September 4th 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I’ve commented on the magazine-spread quality of your images, and this time that photo looks like it should be on some fancy travel website! I loved seeing those photos from Chamonix, it looks beautiful.

    I also can’t stop looking at those pictures of your cats!

    I just bought my first “real” camera, and I’m just an amateur, so I’m certainly not in the market, but it is fun to see reviews of other cameras.

  • Nose in a book

    September 26th 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Ooh, it looks _really_ good. I love my Olympus OM1N despite its broken light meter and how expensive film processing is. Our digital camera is five years old now and about due for an upgrade. Hmm…

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