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View Full Version : E-M5 Tested For A Day


Zuiko
13th August 2012, 03:18 AM
Last Saturday I had a dayís shooting with an E-M5, courtesy of Paul (smartwombat). It was nice to experience the image quality for myself, but I already knew it would be more than good enough for my needs. What really interested me was how it handled. Iíve always regarded handling an important factor when choosing a camera; after all it doesnít matter how good the IQ is, or how many features it has, or what name it has on the front, if you keep missing shots because the ergonomics, control layout and user interface donít suit you. This factor is all the more important to me now that I have the physical effects of Parkinsonís Disease to contend with.

To help find what I need from a camera itís probably a good idea to identify what I find difficult with my existing cameras, an E-3 and an E-PL1. The controls and layout of the E-3 are actually very good and for general photography it is probably the nicest handling camera I have ever owned, although it is hard to compare cameras from different eras. The problem is that although it is relatively small and light for a professional DSLR of its class, it increasingly feels big and heavy to me. I find that just carrying it around with a couple of lenses is very tiring and restrictive. My arms and hands are nowhere near as strong or steady as they once were and using the camera for prolonged periods at an event causes problems as I tire and become increasingly shaky.

By comparison, in terms of size and weight, the E-PL1 is a joy to use and enables me to be much more mobile over the course of a day. Where it falls down for me is in the type of controls and the way they are laid out. There is only one dial, essentially to select exposure mode; everything else involves pushing buttons. And fiddly, close-spaced buttons they are, too. You would hardly believe how many times I push the wrong button by accident whilst trying to do something else and for a camera which is not fast to operate at the best of times this is a real drawback. It can be overcome with patience and persistence but it does lead to missed shots and the overall frustration is hardly conducive to concentrating on the subject, the composition and the decisive moment.

A major drawback to the handling of any Pen, not just the E-PL1, is of course the lack of a built in viewfinder. I have recently overcome this issue with the purchase of a VF-2 and it does transform the usability of the camera in bright light. Button pushing apart, I feel it has given my E-PL1 a new lease of life, but with my dexterity likely to deteriorate this particular Pen is not a long term solution.

All this points towards a better handling Pen or an E-M5 as the answer to my problems. I did briefly own an E-P3 with which I got on rather well, lack of EVF notwithstanding. The problem which led to me letting it go was financial rather than photographic in nature. At the time I was having to adapt quickly to a reduced income due to the sudden withdrawal of certain benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions (thatís another story which I wonít go into here) and to raise money I had the choice of selling the E-P3 or my E-3 and a couple of lenses. I couldnít quite bear to let the E-3 go at that stage, mainly because I perceived that the Pen system didnít quite fill all my needs. Since then the financial pressure has been eased a little by my decision to sell my car, which raised some more capital and reduced costs, but I sometimes wonder if I sold the right camera. The main problem with the E-P3 was the lack of a fast zoom to equal my Four Thirds 14-54mm and I felt the slightly improved high ISO would not be enough to compensate.

On the face of it the E-M5 could be the answer to my prayers, overlooking for one moment the small issue of finance. It has two control wheels in addition to the mode dial, which greatly reduces the reliance on buttons, and the buttons are reasonably well spaced for such a small camera. So, how did I get on with it?

The size generally is ideal for me, small and light enough for easy transportation yet big enough for me to maintain a firm hold. Incidentally, I chose not to use the accessory grip for several reasons. Firstly it adds to the size and weight and particularly if using both parts it starts to approach the proportions of a small DSLR, which I wish to avoid. Then there is the question of cost; with the introductory offer of a free grip now long past it would be well outside my budget and additional funds to spend would be prioritized for lenses anyway. In addition, I had briefly held an E-M5 with and without the grip and found the grip made it more difficult to operate the front dial. What I had overlooked, of course, is that the grip incorporates its own dial around the shutter button, which I had failed to realize and only became apparent in conversation with Paul later in the day. Doh! :o Nevertheless, I find the camera perfectly comfortable to hold with the slight integral grip surprisingly effective, thanks in no small part to the excellent thumb grip on the back of the camera.

I have to admit that I found the control wheels a little fiddly but with my unresponsive fingers I think that would be the case with many cameras, although I do fare a little better with those on the E-3. However, a large part of that is probably due to familiarity and I am aware that even these are slowly becoming more awkward. Itís a consequence of my illness that I must accept. The fact is, I found I could make adjustments to shutter/aperture and exposure compensation with the camera at eye level, something I cannot do with the E-PL1 even with the VF-2 fitted. And with the camera held away from my eye operating these dials becomes even easier, certainly compared to the copious and repetitive button pressing I have to do at present. The only buttons which I found a little difficult were the Play button and Fn1 button, neither of which are a big deal for me.

Although not affecting the handling, the shutter is whisper quiet and, perhaps more relevant, very smooth in operation. It is very sensitive too; several times I inadvertently took two shots in quick succession even in single shot mode, due to my twitching finger! The Super Control Panel is as brilliant as ever and the menus pretty much as I would expect, although I would have to turn the extended descriptions off.

My confidence in handling the camera grew throughout the day as I became more familiar with it and itís clear that in this respect alone it would be a substantial improvement over my current systems. That said, I must admit that the E-P3 was very well suited to my particular needs and could prove to be a realistic but cheaper alternative. However, the E-M5 still has a couple of aces in the form of advanced IBIS and high ISO capability. The first is of particular interest to me because of my physical condition and can only become increasingly important as time goes on. The second effectively solves the problem of slow zooms. It was obvious to me in low light that I could easily use the E-M5 at 2 stops higher ISO than my E-3 and the quality would still be at least as good, therefore f5.6 instead of f3.5 is no longer a problem.

Finally, a word about size. The E-M5 with its SLR style hump is clearly bigger (taller) than a Pen, but not when the Pen has a VF-2 fitted. I have a very handy slim-line shoulder bag for my MFT kit, capable of holding a body with lens attached plus one other lens and adequate pockets for batteries, cards etc. The E-M5 with its hump fits in easily, but I have to remove the VF-2 from my Pen. It all makes a difference to the practicality of the kit.

Itís probably apparent by now that Iíve done a good job of talking myself into needing (wanting) an E-M5, or at least some future incarnation of the OM-D concept. However, there is no rush; I can still manage with the E-PL1 (it takes fine pictures, which is always the bottom line), assisted by the E-3 when necessary for specific situations. Itís worth waiting to see whatís around the corner at Photokina in September and itís only a matter of time before either a cheaper model in the OM-D range is produced, or a more advanced model which will help drive down prices (particularly second hand) of the E-M5. The main thing is that Iím now enjoying my hobby again and although I might need to keep adapting, itís clear that with cameras like the E-M5 becoming available I do have a future in photography to look forward to, hopefully for many years.

Pictures from the day can be seen at http://e-group.uk.net/forum/showthread.php?t=22252

My thanks to Paul for the loan of the camera and making this test possible. *chr

StephenL
13th August 2012, 06:50 AM
Interesting to hear your comments. Very reasoned. My needs are a little similar to yours, though fortunately I do not have Parkinsons to contend with, just mild arthritis and shoulder impingement.

More and more I am finding the E-M5 close to being my perfect camera. Of course, nothing is IS perfect, and I find that the first part of the grip is so useful I wonder how I coped before the free one arrived.

They should be appearing on the used market soon, as early adaptors find a new toy to buy (not me!), and I hope you get sorted soon.

OlyPaul
13th August 2012, 07:27 AM
Interesting comments and I can understand your reasoning, especially the weight part. I took my Granddaughter to Drayton Manor Theme Park a few days ago and I know with my health and arthritic problems carrying around a DSLR kit for six hours in the heat would have been the end of me, but the Pen with three lenses was light as a feather and unnoticable.:)

Like you I am waiting for the next releases to see what the new Pen is like or for OMD second hand prices when the new (more expensive) one is released.:)

Zuiko
13th August 2012, 08:18 PM
It's amazing how many of us of a certain generation have health problems that can impede our photography, or at least our ability to carry the gear. I reckon that the person who first thought of Micro Four Thirds must have been from the same age group. :)

PeterBirder
13th August 2012, 08:59 PM
It's amazing how many of us of a certain generation have health problems that can impede our photography, or at least our ability to carry the gear. I reckon that the person who first thought of Micro Four Thirds must have been from the same age group. :)

Hehe. No just Japanese. They tend to be a little more compact.:)

StephenL
14th August 2012, 06:34 AM
It's amazing how many of us of a certain generation have health problems that can impede our photography, or at least our ability to carry the gear. I reckon that the person who first thought of Micro Four Thirds must have been from the same age group. :)

In which case, how about a large print version?

Zuiko
14th August 2012, 07:09 AM
In which case, how about a large print version?

I often think that about camera manuals, if you're lucky enough to get a paper copy these days. For the forum I just set my computer screen at 125%.

timg
14th August 2012, 08:05 AM
For the forum I just set my computer screen at 125%.

You can also try holding down ctrl and pressing + or - on the keypad... that zooms the webpage.

OM USer
14th August 2012, 10:43 AM
Great evaluation of the camera and I like the pictures both of you took. Did you feel restricted by your lens choice - not just photograpically but as a package to carry around? I too have the kit 12-50 which is great on the camera but feels very long (for a 50mm max focal length) when I come to pack it away.

brianvickers
14th August 2012, 12:03 PM
A great summary, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Although the OM-D is only a tiny bit bigger than the PEN....its the PEN I take out when I want to travel light....and the OM-D is always first choice for more serious efforts.
Both produce wonderfully acceptable quality.

ayewing
14th August 2012, 12:15 PM
Interesting report and it reflects a general desire to move from big heavy DSLRs + big heavy lenses to something more compact and light.

It is not just health issues but the convenience when traveling. I visit relatives in Australia regularly and have in the past had difficulty deciding how much photographic gear to take as it really has to go in the hand luggage along with the laptop and there are limits on size and weight. I am hoping that now I have the E-M5 it will be an easy decision - Camera+ kit lens + long zoom+ fast prime = weight just over a kilogram.

smartwombat
14th August 2012, 07:45 PM
We had available the Panasonic 7-14, 14-140, 45-200 and 100-300 plus the Olympus kit lens that came with the OM-D.

John was using the kit lens most of the time and despite the button pushing and ring twiddling proving a problem, he got a macro shot, which proves how good the IBIS is I think.

To be honest at times I felt a little restricted with the Panasonic 14-140 (that came in the GH-1 kit) and reached for the 7-14. I missed that little extra wide angle from the weather resistant kit zoom. Oh and I missed the macro too - that's why I bought the backup body with the kit lens!

The reason I've invested in the E-M5 is that I have probably a couple of years to go in my recovery from surgery after the car accident, maybe longer than that. I can't even lift the Canon 1D bodies, let along the white lenses attached, so I was looking for a way to continue photography.
The XZ-1 is a fantastic pocket camera and results from that outdid my GH-1 and E-P1 at night Niagara falls, so the E-M5 was the next logical step.
I now have a capable system with acceptable quality that I can use for motorsport.
Yes it has limitations, but I can work around them.
The strengths outweigh the limitations :)

Zuiko
14th August 2012, 08:20 PM
It really didn't occur to me that I was hogging the 12-50mm. My reasoning for sticking to one lens is that if I get an E-M5 that's pretty much all I will have, maybe even just a 14-45mm which I already have. I think my days of using lenses in the 100-300mm range are gone, even with the latest IBIS.

That may sound quite a restriction but when I used the OM film system I had 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 100mm lenses, exactly the range of the kit zoom. I did also have a 135mm but rarely used it. Likewise for my Bronica I had 50mm, 75mm, 105mm and 150mm lenses, which equated roughly to 28mm, 45mm, 65mm and 90mm. I also had the 250mm (150mm equivalent) but rarely used it and certainly didn't carry it around!

JonSchick
15th August 2012, 07:23 AM
John - I wouldn't trade the 14-45 for the 12-50, unless the macro capability of the latter is important to you: my copy of the Lumix lens is a significantly better performer (except from 12-14mm and 45-50mm!).

Ulfric M Douglas
15th August 2012, 09:03 AM
I have to admit that I found the control wheels a little fiddly but with my unresponsive fingers I think that would be the case with many cameras,
How do you find the control wheels on the e-P1/2/3 compared to the visually larger e-M5 ones?

I'm thinking a cheapo e-P2 would suit you fine as a stop-gap since you already have the important bit : VF-2.

Zuiko
15th August 2012, 10:08 AM
How do you find the control wheels on the e-P1/2/3 compared to the visually larger e-M5 ones?

I'm thinking a cheapo e-P2 would suit you fine as a stop-gap since you already have the important bit : VF-2.

The vertical thumb wheel on the E-P3 is great, the little dial surrounding the four-way key pad not so good. Luckily its's easy to toggle functions with the former. An E-P2 would make a good stop gap, but so does the E-PL1 and I already have that without committing any funds. To get an E-P2 I would have to sell part of my Four Thirds kit and I don't really want to do that until I'm ready to migrate totally to MFT. If my condition deteriorates to the point where the E-PL1 controls are virtually unusable, well, that's a different matter!

Zuiko
15th August 2012, 10:12 AM
Great evaluation of the camera and I like the pictures both of you took. Did you feel restricted by your lens choice - not just photograpically but as a package to carry around? I too have the kit 12-50 which is great on the camera but feels very long (for a 50mm max focal length) when I come to pack it away.

The 12-50mm didn't feel restrictive at all. It's a little longer (physically) than my 14-45mm but fits in the same small bag just as neatly. In use the extra length makes it easier to support, which helps me with stability.

Zuiko
15th August 2012, 10:18 AM
John - I wouldn't trade the 14-45 for the 12-50, unless the macro capability of the latter is important to you: my copy of the Lumix lens is a significantly better performer (except from 12-14mm and 45-50mm!).

Don't worry Jon, I'm already planning to keep the 14-45mm, it's a super lens worth far more than the relatively modest amount I would raise from selling it. If funds are really tight at the time of purchase I will forego the 12-50mm instead as that will probably save a little extra.