In the spotlight: Olympus OM-D E-M5

Words & Photos: Anthony Churchyard

I like to think of myself as a camera enthusiast who thoroughly enjoys trying out new equipment, so I was more than happy to do a review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for a weekend. As I haven’t had the opportunity to review any other mirrorless cameras, I am comparing the Olympus OM-D E-M5 against itself.

First impressions

I wasn't aware of what camera I would be testing until I opened the box, and I must say a flutter of excitement hit me. Right or wrong, first impressions certainly do last. The camera is really small, but beautiful, like a retro-rugged beautiful, and I was so excited by what I saw that I immediately Instagrammed a picture of the OM-D E-M5 in my hand.

I was torn between testing its full in-depth photographic potential and just testing its user friendliness because of the short time I had to get as much as possible from the camera. As my immediate opinion was that this camera was built more for the traveller, blogger or photo-happy mom, I decided to stick with finding out more about its user friendliness, and if a moment arose where I wanted more 'control', I would dig into the settings.

Likes and dislikes

I could go on and on about each little piece of this camera that was new and fun to me, but I’ll break it down into likes and dislikes, followed by a rating and the technical details towards the end.


• The screen is a perfect 3.0" OLED touch-screen monitor, with tilting abilities. This means that you can shoot difficult high/low angles with very little effort, other than moving the screen. It’s incredibly simple and just a touch of the screen acts as a trigger to snap an image.

• I love the retro look of the camera; it makes me feel like photography is an art again. It makes me want to dress outrageously and go exploring for amazing images when I hold this camera in the palm of my hand. Its speed is impressive and you get 9.2 fps high-speed sequential shooting when set, and ensures you don’t miss a moment.

• The two-part zoom modes are fantastic and can be easily changed by sliding the ring forward or backwards. A manual twist of the main ring is for shooting stills. A second power-zoom mode is for zooming smoothly during filming. The extra 6 vertical battery grip is a must have. It fills the camera out and places the trigger in a better position (see point 1 of my dislikes).

• The AUTO and ART settings are amazing. They’re simple yet creative, and I had great fun taking macro and ART shots of something as simple as my blanket.

• The auto playback inside the viewfinder was something new for me, as I didn’t have to look at the screen to see my image anymore. A definite double thumbs up for that one.

• Finally its size. It's more than just travel friendly, it's almost an adventure starter. You will still need a small bag for the extra lens and flash, but its nothing compared to a bulky DSLR.

• The ISO noise control is very good, and I was happy to shoot ISO 1,600 and 3,200 for casual shots in low-light settings.

• The size. Sometimes, it's too small and I felt like the trigger is made for people with small hands - the vertical grip does solve this problem though. I also felt like it didn't look like a 'professional' camera because of its size. It does, however, do great things within that tiny body.

• The power and playback switch are not placed in the best positions, and the playback button is so small that I had to use the very tip of my finger to push it.

• The touch screen doesn’t allow for menu changes, so you end up pushing buttons instead of just enjoying the camera.
At times, I found the menu to be a little complicated. Yes, you can read the instructions and be back in business in less than five minutes, however your 'average' photographer may get a little lost trying to plough through the pretty technical information, unless you switch it to auto.

• The flash is half hot shoe and half clip in, which I don’t understand? It works well as a flash, but since it draws its power from the camera your battery dies far too quickly. On my night trip, it took less than an hour for the battery to go flat.

• At around R14k for this kit, I feel that a DSLR Kit (consisting of a HYPERLINK ""Nikon D3200 DSLR with 18-55 mm VR + 55-200 mm VR + 50 mm f/1.8 G Triple Lens Bundle for R9 500) would be a better buy for a photographer who is just starting out. But for those who are less interested in photography as a business or as art and are just interested in beautiful family, travel and even fashion blog images, then this is the perfect camera!


Based purely on my opinion of this camera, my ratings are as follows:
* Look and feel: 4 out of 5
* ISO noise control: 4 out of 5
* Image quality: 4 out of 5
* User friendliness: 4 out of 5
* Price: 3 out of 5
* Overall: 4 out of 5

Features for all those other camera buffs:

• 16.1Mp 4/3 Live MOS Sensor
• TruePic VI Image Processor
• 3.0" Tilting OLED Monitor
• Eye-Level Electronic Viewfinder
• RAW + JPEG Still File Formats
• 200-25,600 ISO Sensitivity
• TTL Flash Compatibility
• 1920 x 1080 HD Video Capture
• Computerized Focal-Plane Shutter
• Digital ESP/Center/Spot Metering
• M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 Lens
• Colours: Silver and Black

In conclusion

For every little thing I could find 'wrong', I still loved it and think that it is a pretty awesome camera. I really had great fun with this camera and wished I was travelling in some majestic countries like Egypt, Paris, China or even somewhere closer like Namibia.

It's perfect for travel and social events, and everyone I showed the camera to was both interested and impressed by it. The screen, lens, size and image quality were just as exciting as the moment I took it out the box.

So the next time you go into a camera shop, stop to check out the Olympus OM-D E-M5 when considering buying the perfect camera for you.