I’ve long wanted to reach out the RAW community for more guest posts. Today marks the first of hopefully a series of guest posts from our growing community. Today’s post comes from one of our very active Facebook Group members who you probably know as “Mayland Long”.
In a marketplace where camera technology is rapidly improving; we, the consumer are spoilt for choice. New models are continually being introduced and there are so many excellent cameras around that it’s hard to choose one that suits our photography interests.
A lot has already been said about build quality, handling, ergonomics, image quality, feature set etc by a range of very credible reviewers. Their comments have been very complimentary and include:
“The E-M5 is, without question, the most accomplished Micro Four Thirds camera we’ve seen and…vies for the title of the most capable mirrorless option yet.” DP Review.
“The noise performance and detail in images is very good even at high ISO settings, comparable to cameras with APS-C sized sensors” ePhotoZine.
“Simply put, the OM-D E-M5 is equipped with the best sensor we have ever analyzed for a micro 4:3…” DxO Mark.
I don’t wish to repeat their very comprehensive reviews. Rather this is a personal account of why I like the OM-D and the reasons for my choice over other excellent mirrorless cameras from Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, Fuji and others
Some of the key requirements for a new camera were that it needed to perform well in low light and have low noise at high ISO for low light action photography in dimly lit training venues. It also needed to be small and unobtrusive so I could use it for street level photography and photographing martial arts without being distracting to the people training. Equally important was the ability to choose from a wide range of lenses from different manufacturers without the use of additional adaptors. Being someone that has only recently started photography as a hobby, I wanted a camera that was really easy to use and that the most common used settings could be easily accessed. Lastly, it needed to fit within a limited budget.
Ultimately, the OM-D E-M5 was the best fit for all of these criteria over other mirrorless cameras. Given this there is a lot to like about the OM-D.
It’s very easy to use and all of the main settings you would frequently use can be easily accessed from the “Super Control Panel”. For those familiar with Canon dSLRs it’s very similar to the “Q” menu. So it’s not that great a leap from the interface that I am used to with my Canon 60D. I also like how the main dials are positioned on the camera. The mode dial is on the left and the dials and buttons for shutter, aperture and iso are on the right hand side. One of the dials in the right also doubles as the control for exposure compensation when in either aperture or shutter priority. For me what this means is that all of the key exposure settings for a given mode are easily accessible without having to take your eye away from the diopter. If you don’t like how the dials and buttons for exposure settings are set up, you can reassign the functions via the configuration menu options to suit your shooting style.
Some reviewers and users have said the camera is too small and the buttons are a little difficult to get to. To address this they have either suggested or have bought the additional grip and battery pack. I’ve opted not to go this way as I have small hands so I’ve not had this problem.
Another aspect of the OM-D is that its magnesium alloy body has a reassuring weight behind it for me. I can feel the weight of the camera without it being as heavy as my 60D when you have a battery pack and lens attached. Given its small size I’ve opted to use a small wrist strap instead of a neck strap or my black rapid sling.
Overall it feels very comfortable and secure in my hand and it’s very quick to bring it to my eye to take photographs.
The styling also appeals to me. I have opted to get the silver and fake leather look. It look like my old Yashica Electro 35 film rangefinder and some people have commented about how much it looks like a film camera.
One of the features that I like about the OM-D is the tilting touch screen functionality where you can focus and activate the shutter by touching anywhere on the OLED screen. The point on the screen you touch is where the camera will focus on. Something that is really useful for unobtrusive/candid street shots.
The speed of the Auto Focus (AF) on the OM-D has been very impressive. It’s very quick and accurate; for static objects. However, fast moving objects using continuous AF and continuous AF with Tracking is not as reliable as the phase detection AF systems in dSLRs. Whilst the first one or two shots in the burst are focused, the rest of the frames may not be. Because there is a lag before the EVF refreshes during burst mode, you can’t track accurately and you sometimes have to guess where the subject has moved to. Be aware also that with continuous AF with tracking enabled the 9fps drops to 4fps. Given, I like to shoot low light action, this continues to be frustration with me.
However, for street photography, the lightning quick AF means I can shoot quickly and accurately. The touch screen functionality for the shutter and AF also adds to “nimbleness” of the OM-D even in low light.
On a definite plus side for this camera, is the overall image quality especially in low light and at high ISOs (eg 1600+). One commentator at Imaging Resource has said that “Resolution and image quality was the most pleasant surprise with the OM-D E-M5, the best we’ve seen from a Micro Four Thirds camera.” I would agree that it produces very usable pictures at ISOs up to 6400. Some have said that images continue to be usable up to ISO12800 if they are not full sized but I’ve not pushed it so high. Whilst there is grain, it isn’t unpleasant. Personally, I think the OM-D handles noise better than my 60D which is why I continue to use it for photographing martial arts, apart from its small size. In low light, I think the OM-D performs very well. The sharpness of the images in part are due to the 5 axis (lateral, vertical, rotational, pitch and yaw) image stabilization in the camera. It looks like you are shooting with a steadycam when you lightly shake the camera and then half press the shutter. I have been able to get sharp and focused pictures handheld at shutter speeds at about 1/10 sec.
The small sized for this camera couple with excellent image quality means it would be a worthy option for those who like to do travel photography. I can fit a charger, spare battery, circular polarizing filter, body and three lenses into a bread loaf sized bag or a small back pack and still have lots of room left over for travel documents, a small notebook computer and a gorillapod.
Because the cameras are small, their batteries are also smaller in comparison to those used in dSLRs. The battery for the OM-D is rated for a little over 300 shots. My experience is that this is pretty close to the mark. So if you are on a long photo shoot or you’re carrying around with you all day taking pictures, you are going to need a spare battery. On the upside, the batteries charge in a couple of hours.
Overall, I have had this camera for about three months now and have enjoyed using it thoroughly. It’s opened up street photography for me and is my camera of choice for photowalks. I think the glowing reviews that the OM-D have had a well justified and others that have used the OM-D are equally impressed with this.