This was a brief encounter with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Gozo, but both made a lasting impression and I very much look forward to experiencing them again.
The E-M5 is a fine camera with strengths well suited to underwater photography. Its image quality is certainly a match for the popular DX/APS-C SLRs and therefore is entirely appropriate for large prints, publication and almost any use. It is a good all rounder, but its abilities in shooting in low light are particularly noteworthy, given its remarkable ability at high ISO and image stabilization.
Its biggest shortcoming compared with SLRs is with fast moving subjects, such as swimming fish portraits. Single servo autofocus is good, tracking autofocus was less impressive. Furthermore, I found that when I used TTL there was a shooting lag caused by the pre-flashes.
The Olympus housing provides full functionality, but is well behind current SLR housings in usability and ergonomics. This is a pity since the camera matches SLRs in so many areas. My main criticisms are controls that require you to stop shooting to adjust and a housing viewfinder than makes the electronic viewfinder of little use. That said the Olympus housing is considerably lighter and more keenly priced than SLR housings.
As an upgrade for existing M43 users this camera is an obvious choice. The camera has significantly improved AF, ISO, dynamic range, resolution etc and the housing is more button controlled than menu driven. It is a no brainer, if you have the funds. The E-M5 is also likely to appeal to many compact shooters looking to make a serious upgrade, providing a system that is much easier to adapt to than a SLR. I can also see it appealing to some current SLR shooters, who are looking to downsize, without compromising on performance and image quality.
The dominant trend with technology has always been downsizing. Computers used to fill rooms and mobile phones used to fill briefcases, perhaps micro is the future for underwater cameras too?
Alex Mustard. May 2012. www.amustard.com
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and specs.
- The Olympus housing and underwater handling.
- Image quality: ISO, resolution, dynamic range.
- Lens performance, autofocus & stabiliser.