Saturday, February 11, 2012

No, I'm not buying an Olympus E-M5, but I wish I were

So the Olympus E-M5 was officially announced last Wednesday, and everyone is asking me if I'm going to get one. No doubt, this is because I'm so gung-ho about the Micro Four Thirds system, and I seem to be the exact person this camera is targeted at. The answer to the question is NO, in case you were wondering. But it's really more of a NO, I WISH.

Enough about me, let's talk about the camera first.

Before anything else, I have to say the camera is drop-dead gorgeous. It looks like the love child of an OM-4n and an E-P3. And the mere idea of a better E-P3 has me reaching for my wallet.

It comes in silver too

The E-M5 is part of Olympus' new OM-D line. That's short for OM-Digital, which is a nod to their excellent line of compact 35mm film cameras, the OM series. It's supposed to be their "Professional" series with weather sealing, a built-in viewfinder, better handling, faster autofocus, a brand new image stabilization system, and an incredible 9fps burst rate. And let's not forget that new improved sensor. Basically everything the fanboys have been asking for.

Check out dpreview's Preview here. No image samples yet though.

It's a pro camera right? That's why they also made an extended battery pack.

(The jury is still out on whether or not Olympus has achieved a dramatic improvement over the E-P3's aging sensor. We'll just have to wait, but we can be pretty sure that there'll be some improvement. The question is if it's enough.)

The $1,000 (body only) price tag -- or $1,300 with the weatherproof kit lens -- is also fantastic. It really hurts for anyone who bought an E-P3, which was $900 with the kit lens, or around $1,100 total if you buy an external viewfinder, sold separately.

And the viewfinder tilts. Can be useful.

In an alternate universe where $1,000 is nothing to me, I'd buy this camera in a heartbeat, but here's why in this universe, I won't:

1.  From the get-go, I'm a little confused. Wasn't the OM a 35mm camera? This isn't full-frame, so how is it pro? I know a few pro photographers and they'd never even consider using this in their work. As a second camera, sure, but not as their go-to camera. So maybe it's for more serious enthusiasts trading up, which maybe sounds like me. The thing is, I don't really want a "pro" camera. Super high frame rates, extended battery packs, flash triggers for lights, and all that stuff don't interest me very much. All I want is better image quality so we can end this SLR versus mirrorless camera debate once and for all.

2. In my opinion, the only shortcoming of the E-P3 is the sensor, and I'm not sure they've done enough to improve it yet. There's speculation that the E-M5's sensor is the same as the Panasonic G3's, which means it's definitely better, but not dramatically super better. I'm willing to wait another generation for them to get it right. Anyway, the upcoming photos from the camera will tell all.

3. I'd rather buy new lenses. Olympus announced more lenses. As anyone with an interchangeable lens camera should know, it's always better to buy a new lens than a new camera body.

But you know what? Don't listen to me! Most people don't have an E-P3, so their situation is very different. This E-M5 already looks amazing on paper, and if it's better than my E-P3 -- and it sure as hell looks that way -- this would be a great camera to have. Make no mistake about it, this is THE camera to get for anyone with Micro Four Thirds lenses or even first-time buyers of the system. Anyone want to buy an E-P3? :)


corinnesmom said...

Hi! which is better.. this one or the NEX 6? =)

The Third World Nerd said...

E-M5 but I am biased. Here are my reasons:
1. NEX-6 has a small body but their lenses are huge in comparison. Kind of defeats the purpose of a small system.
2. Micro Four Thirds has better lenses and a lot more too. The only thing missing is a fast, high quality zoom.

I will admit that the NEX line probably has better image quality if you're into pixel-peeping, and this is because of the larger APS-C sensor. But the E-M5 gets close enough so that the difference doesn't matter, in my opinion.

Finally, the last one is intangible: everything comes together in the E-M5. Technology, usability, image quality. It's a gem of a camera. Again, I am biased.

corinnesmom said...

Thanks so much! I have been going back and forth for days, whether to get the E-M5 or the Nex 6.. so I guess we'll see. =) Thanks again!