The new Olympus E-M5 is an interesting camera for street photographers. It’s smaller than an normal DSLR but larger than a candy-bar style micro four thirds such as the GX1. So it might be the best of both worlds for you, or the worst of both worlds.
The E-M5 is launching against tough competition from the GH2, GX1 and even the E-P3 because the sensor size is the same as these other cameras. This means that the fundamental physics behind shallow depth of field, low light performance and image quality are all the same across the competition. To address this Olympus have tweaked the sensor, but don’t expect images that are of a fundamentally different charachter than the other micro four thirds.
Based on a couple of photo leaks at Four Thirds Rumors I mocked up the front of the Olympus OM-D series E-M5. The camera’s design is apparently based on the OM-4 so it should be a nice solid camera. There has been a lot of speculation on the sensor, viewfinder and video features. I’m interested in the camera as a street photographer so my focus is on speed, toughness and RAW image quality.
The OM-D is a special camera for a lot of people
My dad bought his first Olympus OM series camera in 1979, the year I was born. Even as a child growing up you could tell that camera was special. The OM series of cameras were the mini SLRs of their day. Much like the micro four thirds of today they weren’t universally loved by the photography community, many of whom thought they were toys. But the build quality, affordable lenses and optical quality was superb. They were loved by all who owned them
So it’s with much excitement that I’m looking fowards to the new digital OM-D series from Olympus. The first camera will be the E-M5. Continuing off from where the OM-4 left off in 1987. The camera will uses lenses like the excellent Olympus 12mm and Olympus 45mm. But it’s the viewfinder that everyone is looking forwards to.
I’ve been happy with my GF2 sans viewfinder, because for street shooting, it’s nice to spray and pray. But I’m mellowing a little and might be ready to spend more time composing an image. For the thoughtful street photographer the new Olympus E-M5 is going to be a great camera.
E-M5 sample images
The image quality for the E-M5 is great from RAW, as are the other high end micro four thirds cameras. The sample image JPGs show some of the characteristics of the camera.
Once you get to higher ISO settings the in-camera JPG engine kicks in to blur out noise. I’ve chosen the highest ISO setting as a sample for when you really need the extra juice. It’s no Canon 5D Mark II but to get a difficult night shot you might just be able to live with this JPG engine.
I’ve signed up to the Olympus UK list to test the camera and I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve had a chance to try it out on the street.