Olympus announce their exciting new mirrorless camera – the OM-D E-M5 – at last an Olympus mirrorless with built-in EVF – how does it compare to the Panasonic GH-2 and Fuji Pro X-1?

Written by Gary on February 8th, 2012

See Olympus website and the press release pdf and for a nice preview, see pekkapotka

This is indeed a very exciting camera!

Please also check out the preview on dpreview.com where this image is located:

To me, it brings the mirrorless camera genre into real contention as a serious, versatile camera system designed with photographers in mind whilst still offering what appears to be high enough movie mode specs for most of us.

This camera for the 1st time introduces a weatherproofed robust body to the mirrorless genre and the 1st to offer such a highly effective image stabilisation system which has been re-designed to allow use during movie mode, and will be of great benefit in use of those excellent prime lenses now available as well as legacy lenses such as using a Canon 135mm f/2.0L lens on it – this will be absolutely awesome!

I am very happy they have added the tilt out OLED touch screen which will be indispensible, and you can even add the PEN external electronic viewfinders if you want to look down through a viewfinder.

The flash capabilities far exceed anything Panasonic make with remote TTL flash, flash sync of 1/250th sec for the new flash, and full range of manual flash outputs, plus I presume the TTL flash will work well with legacy lenses which is certainly not the case with my Panasonic GH-1.

The high ISO quality seems usable for web sized images up to ISO 6400 and perhaps ISO 12,800 according to these images, but I suspect I would not use it past ISO 800-1600 – see these images, and as usual with Olympus cameras, I would turn the in camera NR down and use software NR instead. We will have to wait until Olympus finishes tweaking firmware to see how good image quality really is at higher ISO levels. As long as the image quality is as good as my GH-1 I will be happy – and there is good reason to expect it will be significantly better.

95% of my shots I do at ISO 400 or less (even on my Canon 1D Mark III) so I don’t care much for high ISO as if I need high ISO, the lighting is usually lousy anyway and I would use my own lighting to remedy the quality as well as quantity of light – an exception of course is astrophotography or sports under lights. If high ISO quality is very important to you, get a full frame dSLR such as a Canon 1D X or Nikon D4 (not the 36mp D800!).

What is missing from the E-M5 – nothing that would be a show stopper!

  • wireless remote control – must use cabled remote (RM-UC1)
  • intervalometer ???
  • GPS
  • USB 3.0
  • flip out and swivel screen as with the GH-2 – but then the tilt screen may be more functional for enthusiasts
  • oversized sensor as with GH-2 appears not to be in this model
  • built-in flash but it is bundled with a small weatherproof flash
  • AVCHD video and 24fps filmic mode but the 20Mbps .MOV video will be adequate for most – if you want the best video, get the GH-2 or wait for the GH-3
  • uncompressed live video out
  • flash sync only 1/180th sec for older flashes
  • peaking functionality for manual focus confirmation
  • in-camera HDR
  • AE bracketing may be a little limiting for some
  • 1/8000th sec shutter speed – but then only pro dSLRs have this
  • ISO 100 – oh well, guess I will be using ND filters or polarising filters in bright sunlight with those fast primes
  • 40fps 4Mp mode – not sure I would use this but the GH-2 has this
  • C-AF with Four Thirds lenses – maybe this will come with a phase contrast adapter
  • 100mm f/2.0, 150mm f/2.8, and 200mm f/4 lenses – I’m sure Olympus are working on these!

I loved my Olympus E-510 and this camera is smaller, faster, better image quality, weatherproofed and far more feature-laden, so I for one will not be complaining of lack of the above features – this camera is aimed at the enthusiast photographer who wants fun without being over-burdened with large heavy lenses or big tripods – and that is me! I am just worried my daughters will try to take it off me!

There is so much to love about this extremely well thought out camera – mark my words, I will be buying one – I just hope Olympus Australia do not do the usual sting and charge us Australians a ridiculously over-priced amount! The landscape grip seems essential but the portrait one I can do without. And those new lenses (75mm f/1.8 and 60mm macro) to match the 12mm f/2.0 and 45mm f/1.8 have me salivating!!!!

The new Fuji Pro X-1 as nice as the sensor may be, and as nice as the aperture and shutter speed controls and hybrid OVF/EVF are, seems sadly compromised by only having 3 prime lenses, no IS, no remote TTL flash, no dust sensor, minimal movie mode control, and minimal manual focus support.

The Nikon D800 with its 36mp, 70Mb+ files is sure to give great images but it is not going to be a fun camera like the E-M5, and I like to have fun with my photography!

First a comparison with the GH-2 and Fuji Pro X1:

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Fuji Pro X1
Price at Amazon.com $US999 with 14-42mm lens $US995 body only, $1299 with 12-50mm lens; HLD-6 external battery grips $299; FL-600 flash $299; MMF-3 FT adapter $179.
Weight 442g, plastic  373g (425g incl. battery) weathersealed, magnesium
Size 124 x 90 x 76mm  122 x 89 x 43 mm  140mm x 82mm x 43mm
EVF eye sensor auto switching  1.44m dots, eye sensor auto switching  hybrid OVF/EVF eye sensor auto switching
LCD articulating LCD touch screen
 tilt – out 610K dot 3:2 OLED touch screen  no touch,
HD video 1080p 24fps 23Mbps quality and
1080i 60fps; 1/16000th shutter, AVCHD or motion jpeg
 1080i 60fps 20Mbps or 720p, manual audio levels, .MOV or motion jpeg, built-in IS works!!! Stereo mic  1080p 24fps or 720 24fps, limited manual control;
Over-sized sensor for native,
uncropped 16:9
Yes, 18.3mp giving max. 16.1mp  No, 16mp
Burst rate 5fps; 40fps at 4mp electronic
 3.5 with AF/IS; 4.2 with AF no IS; 9fps with AF only on 1st shot x 17 frames RAW;  3fps or 6fps
Top panel mode switches AF mode switch; Drive/self-timer
 Exposure mode dial top left; main dial; subdial;  shutter speed selector dial (aperture on lens)
External mic socket Yes  Yes but requires adapter SEMA-1 via the Pen port
Rear AF-lock button Yes  Fn button
Subject tracking AF in HD video No  Yes
AF mode reasonably fast AF for stationary subjects  fastest AF of all cameras for stationary subjects plus 3D tracking and AF can detect subject’s eye (you can choose which eye – nearest, R/L), 800 AF points;
Max.ISO 12,800  25,600  25,600 but only 6400 in RAW
Max. bulb duration 4min  timed BULB available up to 30min; Live Bulb viewable on screen up to 13sec!  up to 60min but not timed past 30sec
Hotshoe Yes  Yes  Yes
White balance presets 5  12
Built-in flash GN 15.6m, sync 1/160th sec, no remote TTL, no TTL with legacy lenses
 No, bundled weatherproof flash with sync 1/250th sec, remote TTL, manual output down to 1/64th, Super FP HSS mode  No, no remote TTL flash, no HSS flash, flash sync 1/180th
Exposure compensation +/- 5EV +/- 5EV  only +/- 2EV!!
AE bracketing +/- 3EV +/- 2EV; 2,3,5 frames up to 1EV; 7 frames up to 0.7 EV?
 no remote TTL flash, poor TTL flash with legacy lenses, limited manual flash output control  Super FP flash, remote TTL flash, full manual flash output control to 1/64th?  limited movie or manual focus functionality, no focus distance visible on lenses!! Cumbersome MF magnified view
 optical IS only; film presets;  5 axis 5 EV built-in IS which also functions in movies and half-press shutter can activate IS to enable accurate manual focus! Level guage, 11 Art filters, Scene modes, iAuto,  only 3 prime lenses to choose from; no IS; 10 film presets;
 can also use external EVF as with Pen cameras; Multiple exposures; shutter quieter than even the electronic quiet mode of the Sony NEX7!  2 image multi-exposure mode; no sensor dust removal!
 optional grips, ext. battery pack/vertical grip, underwater kit, FL-600R flash with movie light  panoramic stitching

And,  the 3rd generation Olympus Pen cameras:

E-PL3 “Lite”
E-PM3 “Mini”
Price at Amazon.com $US945 with 14-42mm lens
Weight 369g 313g 263g
Size 122 x 69 x 34mm 110 x 64 x 37mm 110 x 64 x 34mm
EVF optional via hot shoe optional via hot shoe optional via hot shoe
LCD OLED, 614K dot 3:2 fixed, touch. Usable even in bright sun. 460K dot 16:9 tilting, not touch 460K fixed, not touch
HD video 1080i 60fps; 720p 30/60fps; 17 or 13mbps quality; as for E-P3 1080i 60fps; 720p 30/60fps
Over-sized sensor for native,
uncropped 16:9
No; 13.1mp giving 12.1mp No; 13.1mp giving 12.1mp No; 13.1mp giving 12.1mp
Burst rate 3fps 5.5fps with IS turned off
4.1fps or 5.5fps with IS turned off
Top panel mode switches No No No, and no exposure mode dial
External mic socket No
Rear AF-lock button 5 customisable buttons
Subject tracking AF in HD video Yes Yes ?
Pinpoint AF mode No, but has 35 AF zones, eye-detect AF and front AF lamp as for E-P3 except 11 points only No
Max.ISO 12,800 12,800 12,800
Max. bulb duration 4min 2min
Hotshoe Yes, 1/180th sync Yes, 1/160th sync Yes, 1/160th sync
White balance presets 12 8 8
Built-in flash GN 10m at ISO 200; remote TTL master; manual down to 1/64th output; None, clip on FL-LM1 included None,
Exposure compensation +/- 3EV +/- 3EV +/- 3EV
AE bracketing +/- 3EV +/- 3EV +/- 3EV
level gauge no level gauge no level gauge
10 art filters 6 art filters 6 art filters

more links relating to the E-M5:


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