Saturday, June 23, 2012

More about the Olympus OM-D E-M5

People that know me know that for years I have valued smaller/lighter as long as I didn't have to give up much with regards to flexibility and performance (the kinds of performance that I care about, not the types such as FPS that I don't). When I travel I want to keep things reasonably light and small since I spend lots of time each day walking around, often in hot and humid places, and also must keep gear security in mind. At one time I had hoped the NEX 7 might fit the bill, but the more I looked at it and read about it the more I realized that for my uses it was not the one for me. Then the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was announced and even though I was not at all taken by the retro looks the specs looked very interesting. In April I bought a Panasonic Lumix G3 in Tokyo along with 2 lenses to try out m4/3 and then in May I bought the E-M5, 4 more lenses, a flash (ordered the flash in May and still waiting for delivery :( ), several filters, a Minolta MC/MD lens adapter for my old Minolta MC 50mm f1.4, and an A-mount adapter for my old Sigma 90mm f2.8 macro. This is what I have now:

Olympus E-M5 body
Panasonic G3 body
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6
Panasonic 20mm f1.7
Panasonic 14mm f2.5
Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6
Panasonic 14-42mm f3.5-5.6

Although the ergonomics, particularly for me using my left eye, are not ideal and could be improved, other aspects of the camera and system were so attractive that I decided to get the new gear. After a few weeks of light use so far I am coming to terms with the ergonomics and I hope that they will not interfere when I need to shoot fast. I decided against the 2-part extra grip ($300) because although the top part helps some aspects of the ergonomics it actually hurts a bit one other aspect. It also adds size/weight/cost.

Here is an example of my backpack travel camera kit for several trips and it is typical (this is what I used in Egypt for a month in 2009):

Sony A700 + 2 batteries + charger
Sony A100 + battery (backup body)
Sony 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Sony 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Sigma 24mm f2.8 + UV filter + lens hood
Minolta 50mm f1.7 + UV filter
Sony F36AM flash + 4 AA nimh batteries
Canon A590IS digicam + 2 AA nimh batteries
AA nimh battery charger
several CF and SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit
card reader
netbook + 500gb ehd

This is what I expect to use on my next trip:

Olympus E-M5 + battery + charger
Panasonic G3 + battery + charger (backup body)
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 14mm f2.5 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 + UV filter
Olympus FL-300R flash + 2 nimh AA batteries
Canon S95 digicam + battery + charger
AA nimh battery charger
several SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit
netbook + 500gb ehd

The size/weight is unbelievably less!

The EVF is pretty good. To improve the DR I set it to portrait mode and minimum contrast. When I look at a contrasty scene I can see quite a large difference using these settings compared to using the default settings. I shoot raw so I don't care about the jpeg settings. On dpreview several people who own both the E-M5 and NEX 7 have reported that they prefer the E-M5 EVF. I have never compared the 2 side-by-side so I can't really comment about that.

The IBIS seems to work very well.

I have been impressed by the IQ. Not what I would have expected from m4/3. Down near the bottom in the Output Quality section there is a table that shows the quality of various print sizes/ISOs for the E-M5, Nikon D7000, Canon 7D, etc. The E-M5 matches those two cameras:

I have my fingers crossed that all this new gear will work out okay for my travel. If it does then I really hope that Olympus (or Panasonic) comes out with a new m4/3 body later that has all the good stuff I like, but with better ergonomics.

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