Saturday, May 5, 2012

Surprised by the Olympus E-M5

I'm jaded and cynical and anything else that would lead you to believe that I don't believe much anymore.

So, Olympus brings out a new series of camera bodies to supplement the PEN series: OM-D.  Yes, sure, the OM-system was amazing.  Olympus shocked Nikon into making smaller camera bodies.  You only need compare the Nikon F2 with the Olympus OM-1 to see why.

I used an OM-1N for years and it was quite good and the results were amazing.  I was more than pleased with lens quality, even though I didn't have the best of the best.  When the OM-1N failed and couldn't be repaired, I settled on an IS-series camera and it was adequate, but as a Zoom Lens Reflex (ZLR), it had to be everything to everyone and it wasn't.  Now, we have those SLR-like superzoom cameras that follow Olympus' lead.  The IS-20DLX that I had took photos that were good as snapshots.  It had scene modes and it was pleasant to use but it was a snapshot camera.  Ugggh.

Olympus even transitioned those into the digital world with the D-500/D-600, C-2500L (the first with TruePIC), and the E-10/E-20 pair.  The add-on lens was an interesting way to add capabilities, as long as you followed the rules.  Otherwise, you ruined film or had a digital shot to delete but you might have gotten a bit closer, hand you done things correctly.

When Olympus introduced the E-1, they said goodbye to the ZLR, and exclaimed that they had entered the world of the SLR again, after a long hiatus from the OM-4Ti.  I was so enthusiastic that I bought an E-1, the 50-200mm and 14-54mm lenses a few months after release.  (Version 1.0 isn't for me, generally.)

I was surprised that it worked so well.  I had tried various dSLRs and they were sluggish and gave poor photos and didn't seem worth the trouble.  In 2004, there just wasn't the software for processing raw files and Olympus' JPEG files were the envy of every camera maker.

Today, we have the E-M5.  It's about as close to the OM-4Ti as could be possible.  Unfortunately, they couldn't stuff a 24x36mm sensor in there.  Fortunately, they didn't have to do that.  Reading review after review, it seems that it works quite well.  In fact, for a lot of shots, it works better than the E-5 "professional" camera body.  This bothers me to no end because I bought an E-5 in November of 2011.  (Yes, yes, get over it.  I know.)  Of course, I just have to shoot sports and I realize that I'm not having a bit of trouble with the E-5.

I have a few reservations about the E-M5 for sports photography:

  • it's slippery like the OM-series
  • the lens quality is lower than what I have
  • the ISO sensitivity values are apparently not close to accurate

There is an add-on hand/battery grip, just like the OM-4Ti had, so even if it's slippery or unbalanced, that hand grip will help.

The lens quality issue isn't going away any time soon.  Olympus was (and is still) knocked for the size and weight of the High Grade and Super High Grade lenses.  They've gone small with the micro Four-Thirds lenses and that means lower quality and smaller maximum apertures.  That doesn't work for me.

The ISO sensitivity values are apparently far from what they should be.  I've forgotten how far, but 6400 may only be 4000, as a non-factual example.  What I recall was much further off.  I've been complaining about ISO 1600 with the E-5 and if its calibration was off like the E-M5's is and I was seeing ISO 1000-quality shots for ISO 1600, I'd probably be thrilled, until I learnt the truth.  (I'm still not happy with ISO 800 on the E-5.)

Few people seem to have reservations and a lot of people have ordered.  Apparently, so many that Olympus are struggling to make and ship enough, for the first in a very long time.  Congratulations to them!  I'm glad for their success.

They've been talking about a professional micro Four-Thirds camera body for a while.  I'm listening for any news about it, but they have to provide lenses and somehow keep the detractors from saying "huge", "heavy", and "pricey" while providing the amazing quality that we've come to know from the HG and SHG lines.  I'm looking at Nikon every day and wondering if I'll take the plunge and switch.  Nikon hasn't proven anything much to me, though.  The D300S doesn't look much better than the E-5, especially considering the lens choices.

Maybe, the E-M6 will arrive quickly, or maybe, it'll be an E-7 since the bit about some quick changes to the E-5 in 2011 still haven't happened.  Maybe, Nikon will get with it, ditch the 1 system, and provide a blow out mirror-less system camera but that's not their way because it's not safe.

Update 2014.01.10: The time has come for the E-M5 to be replaced.  Supposedly, the replacement will be the E-M10.  As the name implies (think OM-1, OM-10), it will be slotted under the E-M1.  The E-M5 got some awards, including Camera of the Year from the most unlikely source--DPReview.  Hopefully, they'll fix the mushy buttons and replace the viewfinder with something similar to the excellent unit used in the E-M1.

No comments:

Post a Comment