Olympus OM-D E-M5 mirrorless compact resurrects classic OM style

Summary:Olympus announces a new line of interchangeable lens compact cameras for advanced photographers, channeling an iconic design.

What is it about cameras that brings out the nostalgia in us? Maybe it's some kind of karmic twist that makes us crave designs that conjure memories in devices we use to capture memories, but when it comes to camera design of late, the more retro-looking the better. In fact, it seems the more classic the look, the more high-end the camera feels (case in point: the Fujifilm FinePix X100 and X-Pro1). Olympus was among the first to revive an iconic design from its past when it launched its PEN series of interchangeable lens compact (ILC) cameras and with today's announcement of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, it has turned to the classic Olympus OM line of compact full-frame professional 35mm SLRs from the '70s for inspiration.

Original Olympus OM-1 image courtesy of Olympus America

Original Olympus OM-1 image courtesy of Olympus America

Like their film-based predecessors, the OM-D line is a step up from the PEN series, aimed squarely at advanced and professional photographers. Slightly larger than the top-of-the-line PEN E-P3, the new E-M5 is something of a cross between the E-P3 and Olympus' E-5 digital SLR, borrowing features from both. For example, like the E-5, the new E-M5 sports a dust-and splash-proof body design, using a magnesium alloy body and a number of internal seals. The FL-LM2 electronic flash that will ship with the camera is dust- and splash-proof as well.

PEN series users have long been asking for an integrated electronic viewfinder (EVF), and the E-M5 essentially incorporates the PEN line's VF-2 removable EVF accessory into the camera, featuring a 1.44 million-dot LCD with 100-percent field-of-view coverage and 1.15x maximum magnification. The EVF is located in a pyramid over the lens, positioning it perfectly where the film-based OM line's pentaprism viewfinder would be. Not only does this allow the E-M5 to closely mimic the design of the original OM cameras, but it also provides a location for an accessory port above the EVF.

The E-M5 uses a new 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor (compared with the 12.3-megapixel sensors in the E-P3 and E-5) with a maximum ISO 25,600, and offers five-axis image stabilization that compensates for five kinds of movement (i.e., horizontal shift, vertical shift, rotary motion, yaw, and pitch). The in-body image stabilization also helps improve video recording stability as well.

The new camera also incorporates the Fast AF system introduced in the PEN line, but is even faster, currently claiming to be the world's fastest autofocus (until the next competitor one-ups them anyway). The fast AF is improved in continuous AF speeds and 3D tracking performance as well, producing 4.2 fps sequential shooting with continuous autofocus.

Other key features include:

  • Tilting 3.0-inch, 610,000-dot touch screen OLED
  • Movie Effects (e.g., One Shot Echo, for a semi-transparent frame and Multi Echo, for a motion trail effect)
  • Live Bulb (updates the OLED preview at pre-set intervals during long exposures)
  • EVF Creative Control (produces a tone curve overlay on the viewfinder screen)
  • 10 Art Filters, including the new Key Line, Cross Process II, and Dramatic Tone II
  • Full HD 1080i movie recording
  • Black or silver body options

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is scheduled to ship in April for $999.99 (body only), $1,299.99 (with 12-50mm, f/3.5-6.3 lens), and $1,099.99 (with 14-42mm, f/3.5-5.6 lens, black body only)

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About

Janice Chen is an editorial consultant and has been covering technology for over two decades. Serving as editor in chief at CNET and Computer Shopper magazine for many years, she oversaw product coverage for the CNET and ZDNet websites. She has appeared on most of the major morning TV news programs and was featured weekly on CNN Headline... Full Bio

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