This was originally posted on my photography blog almost two years ago, on October 8th, 2012.

I got married two years ago and when I was planning the wedding and the honeymoon, I decided that I didn't want to bring my 5D Mark II and the usual lenses I carry along. We were heading for the coast of Maine and I wanted to travel light. About a month prior to the wedding, I bought a mirrorless camera: the Olympus OM-D E-M5. It is a micro 4/3 camera and its strongest points are a small form factor and a light weight. This is not a technical analysis of this camera but a real life experience on the field.

What did I bring?

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5
  • Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-5.6
  • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8
  • Polarizing filter
  • Golla Generation Mobile Bag

The design of this camera looks like the old Olympus OM film camera that was sold in the early 70's. That camera revolutionized the market at the time because of its small form factor. Olympus is hoping to do the same in the digital world.

The sensor is a 16MP Sony sensor with nice High ISO performances (ISO 200-25600) and it produces great image quality. It has an exceptionally good internal 5-axis stabilization system. I was able to handheld a 0.8sec shot. That's really impressive. The burst rate is 9 frames per second and the AF is very fast, especially with the 45mm and the 12-50mm. The touch screen make it easy to navigate the menu system and you can take a photo by just taping where you want the camera to focus which is very useful when you take overhead shots. The camera is sturdy and weatherproof. A wave caught it when I was on the beach. I cleaned it under flowing water and it still works like a charm two years later.

The quality of the micro 4/3 lenses is impressive. I acquired many lenses since the first I had in 2012 and every single one of them is sharp and light. The 12-50mm is weather-sealed, fast to focus and offer some macro possibilities. The variable aperture isn't that great but for outside, it's a good choice. In the micro 4/3 world, there is a 2x crop factor so the field of view equivalent on a full frame camera would be 24-100mm. The Olympus 45mm is a steal and is as sharp as it gets. Some will talk about the plasticy build but the result is a lens so light. The auto-focus with this lens is almost instant. Put it in a coat pocket and bring this lens everywhere you go. The Panasonic 20mm f/1,7 is slower to focus but is very sharp and so small (pancake lens). It's my go-to lens and the one I use the most.

Hiking

On our first day, I used almost exclusively the 12-50mm for the versatility of the zoom but especially because it was my only wide angle lens and I wanted wide to capture the superb landscapes of Acadia National Park. I used it with a polarizing filter. We started our day at sunrise on the top of Cadillac mountain.

City walk

After Acadia National Park, we spent two days in Portland, ME. For street or lifestyle photography, my favorite focal lenght has always been 35mm so the lens of choice was the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. The minimum focus distance is short enough for interesting food photography.

Conclusion

My back was extremely happy to carry my OM-D kit instead of my 5D Mark II. In spite of its size and light weight, the camera is weatherproof and well built and that makes it a very good travel companion.

It takes some time to get used to after shooting the last 10 years with Canon cameras. The electronic viewfinder is very different from an optical viewfinder but once you get comfortable with it, you discover all the advantages of that tool. I came to like it very much over the years. It is so useful to see the picture before even pressing the shutter. I called it pre-chimping. I don't have to look at it after taking it. It helps me stay focused. Having a live histogram right in the EVF is also very useful.

The picture quality speaks by itself. The JPEGs are very good too. While on the trip, I was transferring the files from the SD Card to the iPad to share them on Facebook and didn't have any post-process to do. Video quality is average. The in-body stabilization helps have good footage but the camera compresses it a bit too much for my taste. I wish Olympus took some advice from Panasonic on this part.

If you are looking for a small, light and very good camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is an excellent choice. It offers pro-grade performances in a small package. It's a very versatile camera with nice high ISO capabilities. There is a lot of micro 4/3 lenses and they are light, small and very sharp. 

Since I first wrote this post, there are three more cameras from Olympus on the market: 2 new OM-D (E-M10 and E-M1) and the Pen E-P5. They offer all very good image quality and they have some nice additional features like WiFi. 

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