Olympus OM-D Review

Thursday February 09 2012

Camera Review
Introduction | Olympus OM-D Hands-on | Olympus OM-D versus competition | Conclusion

The Olympus OM-D: the digital version of the OM line

This new camera fits right in to the OM line and will appeal to demanding and adventurous photographers. We had a chance to see this camera yesterday in Paris, and here are a few first impressions:

DxOMark Olympus OM-D

Compactness, tropicalized housing, and integrated viewfinder

The first thing we noticed was how compact this camera truly is, with Olympus taking full advantage of the 4/3 sensor format. And as soon as we handled it, we could tell that its size in no way compromised its ergonomics: this camera has a very nice feel to it, light-weight (425g), and with an optional grip available to provide even greater user comfort.

DxOMark Olympus OM-D
DxOMark Olympus OM-D

Olympus keeps its promises in terms of compactness. The OM-D E-M5 fits in your hand — the same size as or smaller than cameras such as the Panasonic GF2 and the Sony NEX 5N.

DxOMark Olympus OM-D
DxOMark Olympus OM-D

A 16-Mpix sensor

The technical specifications of the OM-D’s sensor are very close to those for Panasonic’s GX1, GH2, and GF3 cameras. While the Olympus marketing team has not formally confirmed that the OM-D uses the very same sensor, our upcoming DxOMark measurements will certainly make this clear one way or the other. In any case, although we expect to see pretty much the same sensor results for the OM-D as for the Panasonic models, it’s always possible that there may be some surprises in store.

With respect to the old PEN line, the OM-D gains in resolution, going from 12M pix for the PEN to 16 Mpix. The OM-D’s sensor can provide sensitivities up to ISO 25,600, although it remains to be seen just what kind of image quality a 4/3-format sensor can produce at such an extreme ISO.

The OM-D also comes with a new shutter that features two different burst modes :

  • With autofocus (“Continuous AF” mode), 4.2 frames per second
  • Without autofocus (“Single AF” mode), 9 frames per second

Autofocus

One of the weak points for the PEN line has been its autofocus (notoriously slower than certain Panasonic models). With the advent of the OM-D, Olympus announced a noticeable improvement thanks to its new, faster sensor. In fact, Olympus announced a measured gain of 20% between a PEN EP3 and the OM-D using a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ lens (lens data available soon on DxOMark).

Another slight modification to the autofocus is the new “semi-predictive” followup tracking mode. The autofocus is now equipped with 35 collimators.

Viewfinder

The integrated viewfinder is a real plus and something that the Olympus PEN series didn’t have. While simply a detail for certain photographers, it can be a real show-stopper for others. Users of the OM-D will enjoy the 1.44-million-pixel electronic viewfinder that provides comfortable viewing at 100%. Those with vision problems can apply corrections from –4 to +2 diopters.

The OM-D also has a ring to allow photographers to adjust the framing ratio as well as the high- and low-light settings.

Stabilization

Stabilization has been a somewhat delicate topic for Olympus, bringing to mind the comparison between the Nikon 1 and the Olympus PEN EP-3 — a painful experience for Olympus, in fact (see Nikon Rumors’ Nikon 1 v1 vs Olympus PEN EP3). Determined to learn from its past, Olympus has announced a completely redesigned system that features a sensor stabilized along 5 axes and rolling shutter compensation. We will be sure to test this!

DxOMark Olympus OM-D

A few other things worth noting

  • A touch screen on a single-tilt axis (we frankly expected something better…)
  • Better maintenance support
  • Available in silver or black
  • Price: around $1000 for just the body. So far no kits have been announced, but we anticipate that Olympus will offer one with a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ tropicalized lens (price to be determined).