Olympus Announces New Mirrorless E-M5

new olympus mirrorless camera
The new Olympus OM-D E-M5, Micro Four-Thirds in an SLR body

Olympus raised the curtain on a new Micro Four-Thirds camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M5, the first new model not part of the Pen series and sporting a new line of interchangeable lenses.

The E-M5 is styled like a smaller version of the old style Olympus SLR cameras, down to the control knob in roughly the same position as the ISO dial on the old OM-1. Yet the E-M5 has at its core a Micro Four-Thirds, 16.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor, backed up by the TruePic VI image processing engine providing a maximum ISO of 25,600. That compares to the 12.3-megapixel sensor in the E-P3 and E-5.

My question for Olympus would be why they stuck with the Micro Four-Thirds sensor on an SLR form factor instead of going with an APS-C chip? I’m guessing it has something to do with the size, weight and ability to stick with the quieter electronic shutter that makes barely a whisper when taking pictures. The slightly larger prism hump actually houses the 1.44 million dot electronic viewfinder.

The E-M5 incorporates a new type of 5-axis image stabilization built to compensate for multi-direction camera shake and Olympus is claiming they have the world’s fastest 3D AF tracking system that can follow moving subjects at up to 9 frames per second.

Top view of Em-5
Top view of the Olympus EM-5 is reminiscent of the old OM-1

For video the E-M5 offers full 1080i video at 60 fps with automatic correction for rolling-shutter, sometimes also called “jello cam”. Somewhat strangely the in-camera video effects include Echo effect that deliberately creates visual trails behind objects in motion.

back of Olympus E-M5
The EM-5 has a tilt screen LCD in back

What you won’t get is a built-in flash. A detachable flash is included with the camera, but that’s something you’ll have to remember to stick in your pocket or do without if the situation arises.

The Olympus E-M5 is due out in April and is slated to have two kit configurations: A 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 for $1,100 and the new 12.50mm F3.5-6.3 lens for $1,300.

Compare to:

Olympus E-M5 vs Olympus E-5

Olympus E-M5 vs Sony NEX-7

Olympus E-M5 vs Sony SLT-A55

Olympus E-M5 vs Panasonic GX1

Cameras For a Rough World

olympus tough
The Olympus Tough TG-810 is waterproof to 30 feet, shockproof from six feet and has built-in GPS support - by Olympus

It’s not easy being a small electronic device sometimes, the world can be a rough place. Some of you might be looking for a camera for the kids that can stand up to the rigors of the playground, the park and the back yard water slide. Others may need a camera that can get bounced around in the glove compartment and may be called upon to work in any weather conditions. Or perhaps a camera that can survive a bruising climb up a mountain trail in a backpack or road trip in bicycle panniers.

For those situations, you need a tough camera. No sissy electronics will do, you need something that can take it and still deliver decent photos.

Luckily there are cameras engineered for a rough world.

Olympus Tough TG-810

Capable of being dropped from a height of 6 feet, can survive underwater to a depth of 30 feet, and can even take being stashed in a snowbank.

The 13.8-megapixel CCD chip does yield great results underwater or in low light, but overall the camera will survive the rigors of being dragged around in the field. The Tough TG-810 has built-in GPS so you’ll know where the pictures were taken.

Video specs are okay, but not great. You’ll get 720p at 30 fps.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

This rugged compact not only sports built-in GPS, but also a compass, barometer, and altimeter. It’s dust proof, waterproof down to 40 feet, and shock resistant to falls up to 6 feet. And, oh yeah, it takes pictures.

Again this camera has a 12.1-megapixel CCD type sensor, which means you’re giving up a little in low light performance, but you gain full 1080 HD video at 60 fps.

Nikon Coolpix AW100

With the Nikon Coolpix AW100 you step up to a 15.9-megapixel CMOS sensor in a camera that still has an integrated GPS transceiver, but this time coupled with internal mapping software. Video is 1080p at 30 fps.

The Coolpix AW100 is shockproof to a height of 5 feet, waterproof to a depth of 33 feet and, like the Olympus, can survive an extended period in a snowbank. Which begs the question of how much time people are spending in snowbanks? Because that seems to be a big selling point for camera manufacturers.

Life is hard, but with one of these tough customers, you’ll at least be able to get good photos while buried in snowbanks.


Olympus Tough TG-810 to Nikon Coolpix AW100

Nikon Coolpix AW100 to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

Olympus Tough TG-810 to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3