Olympus OM-D E-M5

The Olympus OM-D E-M5, fitted with both parts of the HLD-6 battery grip and optional grip strap. The lens is the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit zoom with a uWinka lens hood.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5, fitted with both parts of the HLD-6 battery grip and optional grip strap. The lens is the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit zoom with a uWinka lens hood.

I love the OM-D (in line with my general love of Olympus cameras). It’s been my workhorse camera for the past 12 months, in which time I have had no faults or major complaints. That’s a first for a workhorse camera in my ownership, and a welcome relief for those who have to sell me equipment.

Broken mussel shell and seaweed, Riverton Rocks. 12-50mm lens on its macro setting.
Broken mussel shell and seaweed, Riverton Rocks, Southland, New Zealand. Olympus 12-50mm lens on its macro setting. I wouldn’t have managed this anywhere near as well without image stabilisation.

The major features which attracted me to the OM-D were it’s good image quality, environmental sealing, in-body image stabilisation, compact size with low weight, decent viewfinder and metal body construction. I spend a lot of time shooting outdoors, and have found over the past seven years especially that these are the most basic functions I need in a workhorse. Combined, they provide a solid platform for making good photographs.

An abandoned couch, River Leith, Dunedin, New Zealand. Taken in heavy rain with the weather sealed 12-50mm lens. Needless to say, the camera survived this better than I did.
An abandoned couch, River Leith, Dunedin, New Zealand. Taken in heavy rain with the weather sealed Olympus 12-50mm lens. Needless to say, the camera survived this better than I did.

Compared with the two Pentax DSLRs I owned previously, the OM-D has been nicer to own (so far). It’s far lighter to carry, which is especially important for long walks into a location or prolonged shooting. Build-wise, Pentax and Olympus are comparable (which is to say excellent). However, the Pentax P-TTL flash never worked with my larger (and most commonly used) flashguns, forcing me to use largely manual control of them all the time. I’ve had no such issue with the Olympus TTL system, although it does occasionally provide a full power flash where it really isn’t necessary. Bear in mind that this is my personal observation: I like Pentax cameras, and took many a good photo with them, but the Olympus cameras have been a better fit for me overall. The fact that Olympus is generally much cheaper than Pentax in New Zealand has sweetened the ownership experience no end.

Looking out towards Stewart Island from Riverton Rocks, Southland, New Zealand. Olympus 12-50mm. The weather sealing meant the salt spray was a little less of an issue. However, you should always wipe equipment with a cloth dampened with fresh water after exposure to salt air. Lenses should be cleaned with a liquid lens cleaner and lens cloth if they become coated.
Looking out towards Stewart Island from Riverton Rocks, Southland, New Zealand. Olympus 12-50mm. The weather sealing meant the salt spray was a little less of an issue. However, you should always wipe equipment with a cloth dampened with fresh water after exposure to salt air. Lenses should be cleaned with a liquid lens cleaner and lens cloth if they become coated.

As seen in the picture at the top of the page, I leave the full battery grip on the camera all the time. I found this necessary to make the camera comfortable to hold. It’s a personal preference thing, though, since I never really like cameras without grips fitted. The grip gives me two batteries to run from, and while the battery life is somewhat shorter than I could get out of a Pentax, I’ve yet to have it die on me mid-shoot. Unless I haven’t charged it for over a month. The grip strap (barely visible on the left side of the photo) has been a blessing, especially in bad weather. When it’s tightened down, you’re highly unlikely to drop the camera and it won’t pelt you in the stomach while you’re walking. All major controls, including the memory card door and the power switch, are operable without removing your hand from the grip. Due to the light weight of the unit, it’s very comfortable holding it this way for hours at a time.

Overlooking Hoopers Inlet (right) and Kakanui Inlet (left) from the summit of Harbour Cone. Olympus 12-50mm lens. Benro tripod.
Overlooking Hoopers Inlet (right) and Kakanui Inlet (left) from the summit of Harbour Cone. Olympus 12-50mm lens. Benro tripod to support the 4s shutter speed. I released the shutter with a JJC timer remote.

My niggles with the OM-D are few and far between. Battery life could potentially be improved, while the buttons could be less spongy feeling and easier to operate wearing gloves. Besides this, the one major gripe is the lack of an infrared sensor for a wireless remote: opening the port cover to plug in a cable release compromises weather sealing in that area. I’ve managed to get away with doing that in drizzle (see photo above this paragraph) a few times, but it’s not the most confidence inspiring or reassuring way of doing things.

Wildflowers in a garden bed, lit with an Elinchrom D-Lite 2-it and Elinchrom Portalite softbox. Olympus 12-50mm lens on macro setting.
Wildflowers in a garden bed, lit with an Elinchrom D-Lite 2-it monolight flash and Elinchrom Portalite softbox. Olympus 12-50mm lens on macro setting. This particular photo is actually one of my main arguments for why bigger is better when it comes to flashguns.

Overall, I’m rapt with the OM-D. In the past 12 months, it has proven itself to be a capable, rugged and reliable workhorse for outdoor work. Initial impressions are so strong, in fact, that it looks set to become the first workhorse camera I keep for more than three years. That’s about the highest recommendation I can give any photographic product.

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