With a quite a few new camera models mimicking the retro look of classic rangefinders, Olympus has turned to old film single-lens-reflex cameras (remember those?) for inspiration on it’s newest digital camera, the 16.1-megapixel E-M5.
The mirrorless E-M5 is the first in a new line of Olympus OM-D (OM Digital) compact system cameras that use Micro Four Thirds image sensors. The OM-D E-M5 is based on the Olympus OM-4, a film SLR from the 1980s, though it looks like a miniaturized version of that model.
We got some hands-on time with the exceedingly cute Olympus E-M5 at the CES show in Las Vegas and were then shipped a prototype of the camera to play with for a few days after the show. The only catch — and it was a big one — was we weren’t given a battery for the camera so could not shoot images or access the new OM-D model’s performance.
Included with this story are some real-world images we shot of the Olympus OM-D E-M5.
The camera will start shipping in April for $999 (body only, in black or silver) or $1,299 (black or silver body with black M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-50 mm f3.5-6.3 EZ lens), or $1,099.99 (black body with black M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42 mm f3.5-5.6 II R lens).
In some ways, the E-M5 is one of the stranger “throwback” style cameras because it makes you wonder why Olympus didn’t just create a digital SLR with a larger APS-C sensor rather than using the smaller Micro Four Thirds chip format.
Toshi Terada of Olympus Tokyo, explained at CES that along with being able to make the E-M5 smaller by eliminating the mirror box of an SLR, Olympus felt photographers would appreciate how the new camera was “more discreet” and “quieter” than a DSLR, which makes a louder sound when capturing a photo because of the noise from the mirror slap. The E-M5, which uses an electronic shutter, makes barely a peep when it captures an image.
He noted that the development of the E-M5 does not mean Olympus was abandoning the DSLR camera category. “We are also working on digital SLRs,” Terada said. “We are actively supporting Olympus E-5 users.”
Sally Smith Clemens of Olympus added: “This is just another family member in the line of Micro Four Thirds.”
Though it’s smaller than a traditional SLR, the E-M5 resembles one because of the pentaprism-like steeple on top of the camera, which houses the 1.44-million dot electronic viewfinder. The Olympus E-M5 has a dust and splash proof magnesium alloy body and a solid feel to it. Photographers nostalgic for the days ofr classic metal SLRs will likely be attracted to it.
Here are some key specs of the Olympus E-M5 in the new OM-D lineup:
• High-resolution electronic viewfinder with 120-fps (frames-per-second) refresh rate and eye detect
• A 16.1-megapixel Live MOS Sensor and TruePic VI image-processing engine
• “World’s first” 5-axis image stabilizer to compensate for multi-directional camera shake during both still photography and HD moviemaking
• “World’s fastest” (according to Olympus) autofocusing system (FAST AF) with new 3D AF tracking following moving subjects at up to 9 frames-per-second sequential shooting
• Tilting 3.0-inch touch screen OLED and new Movie Effects: One Shot Echo, for a semi-transparent frame at your whim and Multi Echo, for a multi-motion trail effect.
More details and images in the press release below.
DIGITAL CAMERA – THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW: OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5
The Olympus E-M5 Unites an Intuitive Built-In Electronic Viewfinder with the World’s First 5-Axis Image Stabilization and World’s Fastest Autofocusing System inside a Powerfully Portable and Rugged Dustproof and Splashproof Body
CENTER VALLEY, Pa., February 7, 2012, 9:00pm – Today Olympus builds upon the 40-year legacy of the OM SLR film camera series and marks the beginning of the new digital imaging era with the launch of the Olympus E-M5, the first of the new Olympus OM-D (OM Digital) Series of Micro Four Thirds products. Designed to meet the needs of advanced photographers, the Olympus E-M5 is packed with a built-in electronic viewfinder, superior image technology, blazing fast speed and total creative control in a classic, rugged body ready for sand, sun, sleet or snow.
Evoking the classic design of the original OM Series introduced 40 years ago, and transforming it for the modern age, the Olympus OM-D Series is a new and entirely unique Micro Four Thirds camera system. It combines outstanding features found in the Olympus E-System DSLR line with those of the compact Olympus PEN Series to meet the requirements of discerning photographers who demand more performance and portability from their interchangeable-lens cameras. The compact and ready-for-action Olympus E-M5 boasts breakthrough innovations inside, including:
• A built-in 120-fps (frames-per-second) refresh rate, high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) with outstanding image quality, eye detect and intuitive functionality that enables real-time viewing of shooting conditions
• A 16.1-megapixel Live MOS Sensor and TruePic VI image-processing engine for superior image quality and high sensitivity
• The world’s first*1 5-axis image stabilizer to compensate for multi-directional camera shake during both still photography and HD moviemaking
• The world’s fastest*2 autofocusing system (FAST AF) plus new 3D AF tracking for improved performance following moving subjects at up to 9 frames-per-second sequential shooting
• A lightweight magnesium alloy body that is enhanced with the same dustproof and splashproof durability of the Olympus E-5 DSLR
• A tilting 3.0-inch touch screen OLED and new Movie Effects: One Shot Echo, for a semi-transparent frame at your whim and Multi Echo, for a multi-motion trail effect.
Intuitively Designed Electronic Viewfinder
The OLYMPUS E-M5 is the first Olympus interchangeable-lens camera to incorporate a 120-fps refresh rate, High-Definition electronic viewfinder with an eye sensor to seamlessly switch the display between the tilting, 3.0-inch touch screen OLED and the electronic viewfinder for ease-of-use, features a 100-percent field of view, maximum 1.15x magnification and an eye point of 18mm for fatigue-free viewing. Camera setting information, such as shutter speed, is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder so photographers can concentrate on framing shots and take full advantage of an EVF’s ability to display the effects of various exposure adjustments and Art Filter effects – all without having to take the eye away from the viewfinder.
Superior Image Quality
The Olympus E-M5 uses a new 16.1 megapixel High-Speed Live MOS Sensor offering improved performance and exceptional clarity and speed in all aspects of image capture. Olympus’ TruePic VI image-processing engine dramatically improves image quality in low-light environments. The camera’s sensor allows for a maximum ISO of 25,600, and the dynamic range has been expanded for more faithful color reproduction.
Unprecedented 5-axis image stabilization
The Olympus E-M5 is distinguished by the world’s first 5-axis image-stabilization mechanism capable of reducing the effects of camera motion and image blur from five directions on stills and video, even including motion blur caused by the photographer walking or running. Previous IS mechanisms compensated for camera shake by addressing only two kinds of movement along the vertical and horizontal axis. However, camera shake can actually be caused by five different kinds of movement: horizontal shift, vertical shift, rotary motion, as well as the yaw and pitch. While some technology has attempted to correct for camera blur by building the Image Stabilization mechanism into the lens, the Olympus E-M5 IS mechanism is incorporated into the camera body itself so that all lenses mounted on the body can take advantage of this sophisticated technology, whether shooting stills or HD video.
Focus and shoot faster with record-breaking autofocus speed and imaging processing. The Olympus E-M5 employs the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF system, introduced in the PEN E-P3, but with even greater speed. The 16MP Live MOS chip drives image data off the sensor at a blazing 240 frames-per-second, a 2X speed increase in Continuous Autofocus, with reduced image blackout enabling photographers to track fast action, Maximum frame rates in sequential shooting have also increased more than 2X with a max frame rate of 9-fps in Single AF. A new 3D tracking AF system can follow the subject through the X-, Y- and Z-axes to dramatically improve focus on moving subjects. Paired with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50-mm f3.5-6.3 electronic zoom lens for optimum focusing speed, fast camera start-up times and operational speeds enable the photographer to keep up with the most challenging shooting situations, while dual control dials and dedicated function buttons help them adjust settings on-the-fly.
The Olympus E-M5 features a 3.0-inch tilting OLED touch-screen to enable photographers to get up high or down low for any shot. The touch screen interface offers intuitive focus and release of the shutter and review and enlargement of images in playback with the touch of a finger. The new Live Bulb feature updates the Live View image on the OLED screen at pre-set intervals during long exposures and enables the user to preview continually unfolding action such as fireworks or waterfalls and adjust the exposure time accordingly while capturing the image at the desired moment. An innovative new interface, EVF Creative Control, produces a tone curve overlay on the viewfinder screen to enable separate adjustment of highlight and shadow brightness, white balance, magnification and aspect ratio can also be manipulated via the EVF.
A new “Key Line” Art Filter joins nine other available filters on the Olympus E-M5 and enhances the edge lines of the image to make it look more like an illustration. New “Cross Process II” and “Dramatic Tone II” Art Filters provide variations on the popular existing filters, and the two new Echo effect for movies leaves a momentary residual image of a subject’s movements when activated during movie recording. Users who like to perform their movie post-editing on a PC will particularly appreciate the Full HD 1080i movie recording function, which adopts the MOV format (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264).
Powerful Portability and Rugged Durability
The striking, iconic design of the Olympus E-M5 is more than just looks; its magnesium alloy body is rugged enough to stand up to severe environmental conditions like heavy rain and blowing sand. The Olympus E-M5 employs internal seals extensively and, when the new M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50 mm f3.5-6.3 EZ lens is attached, this combination delivers an integrated dustproof and splashproof camera system. The electronic viewfinder section of the body is also made of magnesium alloy to ensure durability, and the FL-LM2 Electronic Flash that ships with the camera features the same dustproof and splashproof construction.
New Lenses and Accessories for Every Shooting Challenge
The HLD-6 Power Battery Grip, in the same dust- and splashproof construction as the Olympus E-M5 body, is an adaptable, two-part grip that can be used either as a landscape grip for easier handling or as a portrait grip with an additional shutter release. The portrait grip accommodates an extra lithium-ion battery to supplement the one in the E-M5, thus extending battery life. The FL-600R electronic flash (GN 50 at ISO 200 or GN 36 at ISO 100) offers improved recharge time and enhanced flexibility and operability for movie recording, and with a wireless control option. Equipped with a built-in LED, the FL-600R can be used to light movies and as a brighter AF auxiliary light. The MMF-3 Four Thirds mount adapter is designed for mounting a Four Thirds Standard-compliant lens on a Micro Four Thirds Standard-compliant camera body. The MMF-3, which also features dust- and splashproof construction, is ideally suited for use with Olympus’ similarly constructed High Grade and Super High Grade lenses.
The Olympus E-M5 is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds-compliant lenses, including two new lenses that Olympus will introduce later this year: the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f1.8 and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 macro. The 75mm lens is a high-quality metal design with fast aperture settings for portraits and indoor sports shooting, while the dustproof and splashproof 60mm lens features 1:1 macro and a closest shooting distance of just 7.5 inches.
*1 As of February 2012. Among interchangeable-lens cameras.
*2 As of November 2011. Among interchangeable-lens digital cameras on the market, and using Olympus’ in-house test conditions.
U.S. Pricing and Availability
The Olympus E-M5 will be available in April and ships in the following configurations:
Estimated Street Price:
$999.99 (Body only, available in Black and Silver)
$1,299.99 (Black or Silver body with black M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-50 mm f3.5-6.3 EZ lens)
$1,099.99 (Black body with black M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42 mm f3.5-5.6 II R lens)