OM Gee!

IS THIS THE OM HEARTHTHROB FOR THE DIGITAL GENERATION? IN THE DAYS when we used to write with light on celluloid film, OlympusOM-series of SLRs were deservedly revered. Now Olympus has resurrected the monicker to identify its high-end line of Micro Four Thirds cameras. Dubbed the OM-D, the new line debuts with the model E-M5 ($999, street, body only; $1,099 with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens; $1,299 with 12-50mm f/3.5 —6.3 lens). This 16.1MP camera boasts a 1.44-million-dot electronic viewfinder, 1920xl080i60 video capture, and weathersealing equivalent to that of the companyrugged E-5 DSLR. Moreover, the longer of the optional kit lenses (also weathersealed) covers an equivalent of 24-100mm and can switch between normal and electronic zooming. With the hold of a button and a slide of the zoom ring, the same lens can enter a macro mode that allows focusing as close as 7.9 inches for a magnification of about 1:1.4. Of course, the question is how well the camera fared in the Popular Photography Test Lab and in our field tests. In the Test Lab The E-M5 earned top honors in image quality with an Excellent rating at ISO 200 (its lowest sensitivity) and ISO 400. Results were ) similar to PanasonicLumix DMC-GX1, though the E-M5 kept noise lower at all shared ISOs. Resolution just barely qualified for an Excellent rating, with 2520 lines per picture height at ISO 200. And it managed to hold most of that resolution for the first half of its sensitivity range; by ISO 1600, the E-M5 delivered 2420 lines in our test. At its highest ISOs, resolution dropped significantly but images still had enough detail for small prints or web sharing. Color accuracy also garnered an Excellent rating, with a Delta E of 7.8 in our test. As mentioned earlier, we were impressed with the E-M5noise control, keeping it to a Low or better rating through ISO 1600. Furthermore, it didnhit Unacceptable until ISO 6400, and even then only barely so. If you add in a touch more noise reduction at ISO 6400, you can easily bring it into acceptable territory without sacrificing much more resolving power than the default settings do. Dubbed the OM-DAt the E-M5top two sensitivity settings, the noise is heavy, but, again, if you plan to print small or share online at smaller sizes, you may still get usable results, depending on the subject. JPEG shooters should note that, as with OlympusPen E-P3, the E-M5JPEGs end up taking on an almost mosaic-like look when images shot at higher ISOs are viewed at 100-percent magnification. You can minimize this in RAW conversion with finer controls over noise reduction, but these images wonlook pretty if blown up too much. In the Field With an elegantly textured look, rugged build, and diminutive size, the E-M5body design is admirable. Wenormally complain that the grip is too small, but wejust advise you to invest in the HLD-6 Power Battery Holder ($299, street). Though it sounds like a place to store extra batteries (and it is), the HLD-6 is actually a two-part accessory grip system. The first part screws into the cameratripod socket and provides a beefier grip for horizontal shooting, as well as a duplicate shutter button and surrounding command wheel. The second part screws into the first and adds a vertical grip, a compartment for an extra battery (though it doesncome with one), another shutter button and command wheel, and two assignable function buttons. With all this attached, the E-M5 resembles a tiny pro DSLR body. There arena whole lot of dedicated buttons to change settings on the E-M5 —actually, only two assignable function buttons. Other than those, youhave to change settings through the 3-inch tilting OLED touchscreen on the camera back. A quick press of the OK button gets you to a control panel, so this is still a fairly painless process. Furthermore, since the camera has an EVF, you donhave to take your eye away to look at the OLED. This means that the lack of dedicated buttons doesnbecome as much of a problem as it could on a DSLR. A pair of command wheels keeps manual shooting simple. Likewise, a dedicated button for video recording makes moviemaking simple. The video footage from the E-M5 is on par with what weseen from other ILCs recently. Colors are well saturated, video artifacts are kept to a minimum, and the footage is pleasingly sharp. Full-frame DSLRs have a minor advantage: With the right lenses, they can limit the depth of field more than current ILC systems. Still, we think that video from the E-M5 will be good enough for the vast majority of nonprofessional applications. We also wouldnbe surprised to see amateur filmmakers create stunning projects with this camera. Autofocus relies on a contrast-detect system and is relatively rapid in bright light, but it becomes too slow to keep up with fast-moving objects in moderately dim light. Shooting an evening snowboarding competition that was lit about as well as a night baseball game, we had trouble locking focus quickly enough to get our shots when usina a 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 lens racked out to 300mm (a 600mm equivalent) —worth noting, as this slow zoom is the only current option for such a long focal length in the Micro Four Thirds format. The next day, with snow-boarders on the deck of a half pipe in bright sunlight, the E-M5 locked quickly on our subjects and had no trouble tracking them perfectly as they soared through the air, twisting and flipping the day away. Burst shooting is limited to 3.5 frames per second with continuous AF and metering between shots, and sensor-shift image stabilization turned on. Turn IS off, and the rate speeds to 4.2 fps. When metering and focusing for only the first shot (with IS off) you can get up to 9 fps. Serious sports shooters will likely want faster bursts with IS, metering, and AF enabled. More casual action shooters, however, should be pleased with the E-M5autofocus capabilities. The Bottom Line The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a good-looking, fun-to-use camera capable of delivering wonderful images. But it doesncome cheap. By the time you add a second battery ($50, street), the accessory grips, and the fancier of the two kit lenses, youend up spending well over $1,500. Keep in mind, though, that this rugged little ILC might be all the camera youneed for many years. And its small size means yoube able to bring it with you almost anywhere. We fit the E-M5 (with the 12-50mm kit lens attached) in the pocket of a ski jacket and brought it out on the slopes without fear, thanks to the weathersealing. Add the wide array of lenses available for Micro Four Thirds to the E-M5other benefits, and yougot one heck of an ILC. To compare, SamsungNX lens selection is nice, but its bodies so far have not kept up with this Olympus; Sony has an incredible body with the NEX-7, but its lens selection hasnquite caught up with the combined output of Olympus and Panasonic. In time, this will change, but for now the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is one of the most attractive ILC bodies you can buy.

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