5.08.2012

The invitation to coffee that will almost assuredly cost me $1500.

This is the new OM-D with a Leica 25mm f1.4 Summilux hanging off the front.

I should have used caller I.D.  I should have feigned some contagious illness but I didn't.  I accepted an invitation to have coffee with my photographer friend, Frank, and now I think it's going to cost me.  Big time.  You see, I've been trying to avoid looking at the OM-D EM-5 directly.  When I go to Precision Camera I avert my eyes away from the Olympus case and chant, over and over again, "Sony. Sony. Sony."  I've been an Olympus Pen fan since the 1970's and I've been a digital Pen fan since the first day the EP-2 hit the stores.  Especially with the grace note of the elegant VF-2 electronic viewfinder perched regally but functionally in the accessory shoe.  I rushed out to buy the first EP-3 in town and it's so good I thought I'd never want to upgrade to a new Pen so quickly.

But there it was.  Unassuming but gaunt and with hip understatement.  Frank knew how to play me.  Like a sommelier showing off a wonderful vintage bottle of Petrus.  Almost daring me not to try a sample. He reached into his Domke bag and pulled out the OMD and presented it to me with the ultimate, modern Olympus lens cleverly clicked into the lens mount.  It was the 45mm 1.8, a lens that compels me to never sell a Pen body again.  Not even to make room for a new one.

I lifted the camera up, switched on the power and brought it to my eye.  I was expecting the same electronic viewfinder performance I got with the VF-2 because the specs are similar but it was nicer.  More refined.  The optics in front of the screen were clearer and cleaner.  The image was so well calibrated that I could move my eye from the finder then to one side to directly observe the object I'd focused on and the effect was almost identical.  The finder easily rivals the clarity and color accuracy of the Sony a77 or Nex7 EVFs.  

At this point you can head over to DPReview and read all the specs.  You can also read their test reports.  They'll tell you that the OMD is on par with the best of the APS-C cameras, like the Nikon D7000 or the Canon 60D.  That the high ISO is clean as fresh laundry right up to 6400 ISO.  That the buffer is quick to clear with the right cards.  That the frame rate nearly twice as fast as a D800.

But here's the one thing they won't tell you and it may make all the difference in the world to you if you are a camera sensualist:  It has the nicest and quietest sounding shutter I've heard since the Olympus e1 camera from 2004.  But it's even quieter and more refined than that high water mark of shutter elegance.  It may be the perfect camera shutter from a auditory point of view.  The sound of the the shutter is what I imagine the door of a Bentley car feels like when it shuts.  Reason enough to own the camera even if it were only as good in the files as its predecessor...

But as the web at large will tell you, the images are wonderful.  

I don't have any first hand information (yet) about the images.  But I trust some of my friends who got their cameras early and have been raving about them ever since.  No one is bothered by the much discussed noise from the image stabilization, in my crowd.  I put my ear to the camera while sitting at an uncrowded Starbucks at the end of the day and I couldn't hear it at all.  If the noise bothers people they must be living in anechoic chambers and shooting with the cameras right next to their ears.  The camera had me at......'snik'.



If you plan to get one I'm recommending the black body because it looks so stealthy with the Leica 25mm mounted on the front.  It also looks really good with the black battery grip attached. More advice?  If you don't already have a collection of Pen or Pan lenses then forego the kit lens and select the 12mm Olympus, the 25mm Leica/Panasonic and the 45mm 1.8.  You'll have the important bases covered and the whole kit will weigh less than a Canon 24-105mm L lens (without body attached!!!).  If you want to branch out you'll find a good mix of lenses between Olympus, Panasonic, Leica and Sigma. Not to mention the millions of other brand lenses you can press into service with the right adapter.  It's an amazing leap forward for Olympus.  Did I mention how much I liked the EVF?  Oh?  I did?  Okay.





52 comments:

Paula Thomas said...

Yup I think you are the first person I've seen mention the shutter sound. I decided to go with the silver body. Both looks nice though and I might cave and get the black body if I have to wait much longer for the silver. I'm borrowing the 12mm and 45mm for a couple months and they are mighty fine lenses and I will mostly likely end up buying the 45mm but the price of the 12mm might have to wait.

Ed Lara said...

Aww, c'mon, this is why I asked you about getting the E-P2 now that it can be had for $225 band new---I figured it would stave off my hankering for the E-M5! :) I actually did pre-order an E-M5, but thought better of it and cancelled the order. Very funny and insightful post. It sure looks good, but I've been able to fight off the desire to get one-----then you bring up the sensual benefits of this beautiful camera---the one thing I have not liked about the digital Pens is the shutter sound; does the E-M5 sound anything like a Leica M3?.

I better spend some time handling my OM-1 to stave off the cravings........

Unknown said...

I was surprised that you jumped on the Sony system with the E-M5 on the way - you were the one who sold me on m43 in the first place! I got the single black E-M5 kit that arrived at my local shop on April 18th (had already had the grip for a couple weeks by then), and knew pretty quickly that my decision to sell off most of my Canon gear had been the right one - this little setup is wonderful!

While the kit 12-50 isn't fast, it is a useful range for a lot of what I do, and when combined with the 9-18 Oly (for when I need even wider), the Panny 20 1.7 (I prefer a bit wider than 50mm equivalent, so no 25 1.4 for me), and the Oly 45 1.8, I can cover just about anything I run into on my typical jobs. I'll add the Oly 60mm macro and 75 1.8 for my personal stuff, and am currently deciding between the Panny 100-300 and Oly 75-300 for wildlife - m43 certainly isn't ideal for birds, etc, but that makes up a very small part of what I shoot any more, and I'm willing to work a bit harder in return for all of the benefits m43 brings to the table.

I've been carrying my 5D Mark II/24-70 2.8L combo in the trunk of my car since I got the E-M5, just in case, but I honestly am running out of reasons to keep the rest of the Canon gear. The E-M5 has not disappointed me in any way, and I honestly feel more comfortable with its low-light performance (both noise and AF) than the 5D II (as you said, the E-M5 is very useable to 6400).

My only concern is that Olympus can't make enough cameras to satisfy demand - it's going to take a while just to work through all of the preorders, let alone build up stock in stores. I was at B&H in NYC over the weekend (looking for a smaller camera bag for when I really want to travel light), and could probably have sold several E-M5s on my own, just to people who saw mine and asked to try it. Unfortunately, B&H had no stock to sell.........

Frank Grygier said...

After reading this I may have to pre-order another one. I've never thought of shutter in quite that way. I'll go listen again....sweet.

kirk tuck said...

I haven't "pulled the trigger" yet either. I may yet conquer my need to conquer the (digital) world. One camera at a time...

Ed Lara said...

I can almost hear it.......

Robin Wong said...

I was wondering if you would ever start to mention OM-D here !!! I can hear thousands of your fans said in unison "Finally"
Awaiting more insights and thoughts from you eagerly.

Michael Ferron said...

I happened into your favorite camera store a short while back and the Oly rep had one to fondle. I asked if he had one for sale and he said the only available body in Austin was sold two hours prior. I probably would have pulled the trigger in one was available but now I'll wait until I hear new owners pros and cons.

Boneoh said...

Hi, Kirk. If it's any consolation, I've blown the budget and got the EM5 with the 12-50 and the PL 25 and the Oly 12 and 45. The only good thing is that the 75mm isn't out yet.

We've all got to do our part to keep the economy going!

Ron Nabity said...

"The blog post that will almost assuredly cost me $1500."

As excited as I am about this model, for some reason I am not compelled to buy one. At least not until Someone mentions the shutter sound.

Rick Baumhauer said...

Just a quick reply to de-anonimize myself - hadn't set my name on my Blogger profile.

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

Oh wow. I can hear its siren song, it's calling me. And yes, I heard that incredible shutter sound in some video on Youtube or so. But first I'll get that VF-2 for myself (hopefully on Friday), and maybe also that PanaLeica 25mm - I cannot always borrow my wife's 20mm.

JFGilbert said...

I was wondering how long you were going to pretend you were not even a bit curious...
I needed something to replace my M8 because my eyesight does not allow me to focus it reliably anymore. I was already convinced of the inevitability and irrefutable logic of the EVF, so you could have talked me into the rebranded Minolta system, but I promised myself some time ago that I would not buy anything from that company. Olympus came through just in time, my OM-D arrived a week ago and I am having a ball. The Nocti does not work well on it, but the 75mm Summarit is delightful for portraits.
We are very happy you will be joining us (resistance is futile).

atmtx said...

Yup, Frank has been tempting me to. Lucky I'm out of the state right now so I'm safe, at least until the weekend.

I also noticed that beautiful shutter sound over at Precision. Completely solid sounding without being loud. I don't know what at Bentley sounds like but I thought Mercedes when comparing the satisfaction in sound.

Richard P said...

It seems like a tremendous piece of kit. With the great technical image quality and range of glass, it sounds like it'll be a sure winner. But I can't help but feel it's a missed opportunity to rethink classical camera design. It's a shame neither Fuji or Olympus, with their nice, simplistic outsides can bring the same refinement to their controls. I'm wondering, Kirk, what your take is on the retro love-affair that's going on at the moment? To me, it sort of says "we reached the apex of camera design 30 years ago" and we don't need to develop any further.

The joy of shooting an OM-1 (what I had) was its simplicity. This retro love-affair may bring the looks, but it doesn't bring the simplicity. For the sake of progress, I'm glad Oskar Barnack was asthmatic and didn't merely say "giant view cameras are the height of photographic design" and necessity, in some way, became the mother of invention. This aesthetic return to the 1960s and 70s may be worthwhile if it meant a functional return also, but surely the OM-D is the photographic equivalent of a base-model sedan with racing stripes, body kit and fake twin exhaust? Sony seem to be the only camera company (heh) thinking marginally outside the camera design box with the NEX and its "tri-navigation" system.

This isn't intended as digital bashing, I have an X100 and love it to pieces, but I'll almost always first reach for my M4. That said, this OM-D and the 25mm would no doubt rock my photographic world.

Mr said...

i was so bummed they didnt call their preorder people to let them in on the rep fun!

emde said...

When reading your post I could remember my thoughts. When I went for the E-P3 I was so satisfied that I thought no nee to replace thic camera quickly. Even when the E-M5 was announced in February I was relaxed and said I will wait and certainly not be amongst the early adopters.
Then there was a small fair at a local dealer and I could touch and see the camera (forums were already going wild about the cam - but forums...). And what happened? This visit during my lunch break cost me 1300 EUR...
I went for the silver one, which looks great (in my eyes) with silver and black lenses as well.
And I could not agree more to your comments on the shutter. This definetly is the most decent shutter sound I ever came across with digital cameras...

punkastronomy.com said...

I just got my black E-M5 two days ago and am loving it. Great controls (complex menus though), great EVF, yeah, nice shutter sound, build and size reminds me of my old Pen D3, a little jewel. It's very small and to me feels much more like a new version of the Pen, and not so much an OM. But who cares? It feels great. I know Kirk is big on the EVF as augmenting the shooting experience, but I'm perhaps a bit more excited by the touchscreen interface for focusing and shooting. Movable AF points were always too clunky for me...I'd forget where I set it and it would screw up my next shot...but with the LCD you just tap where you want to focus and it shoots. It's fast and precise and tons of fun. Usable ISO 6400? 3200 would be my limit for most things, but 6400 would work in a pinch. That's a huge jump from the long-running 12mp sensor's performance. Kirk, you won't resist long!

Just A Guy With A Camera said...

For anyone looking for the E-M5 try CameralandNY for availability. They have been averaging about 20 kits per week and have sold out everyone very quickly. I'm currently renting the 75-300 and that will be my lens of choice for wildlife. The E-M5 is one fantastic camera. I don't regret dumping all of my Canon gear to get it one bit.

Simon Lupton said...

I was fairly unmoved by the E-M5 until you mentioned the shuuter sound - it's the only bit about my GF-1 that I don't care for.

Michael Connell said...

Kirk, whatever you do don't play with the Fujifilm X Pro 1 at Precision. I went in the other day to look at the E-M5 and thought it was pretty neat. Since I'm shooting a X100 now, I had to ask to see the X Pro 1 while I was there. Big mistake. After a few minutes...Olympus...what...OM-huh, E-who...and you are? I may have to sell a kidney to Fuji's new kit. Different market segment I know and it feels like twice the size of the E-M5, but damn that Fuji sensor is amazing. Couldn't believe how clean the images were at ISO 6400 and the 35mm glass was beautiful. The E-M5 high ISO images looked kind of muddy in comparison. Still a great camera with wonderful lens selection and hard to beat that cute little size. I'm still somewhat torn since a compact kit is very desirable. Some great choices in the market these days! One thing is for certain, my Canon 5D is starting to look rather fat and long in the tooth.

kirk tuck said...

I've played with it and while I love the design and the lenses I found the finder somehow reminiscent of my old Contax G2 finder, which I grew not to be fond of....

Fletch said...

I can relate and bit the bullet after trying one at a promo stand in Jakarta last weekend.

I don't have a point of reference for micro 4/3 lenses but my setup is similar and cheaper and I'm very happy:

Lumix 14 f/2.5
Lumix 20 f/1.7
Oly 45 f/1.8

12-50 kit lens as well as I had to get the bundle. Thought I'd trade immediately but I'm being swayed by the macro which is surprisingly good and the option of being water resistant... yet i'm still not sure I'd have the guts to expose it to heavy rain... that's my paranoia i'm sure.

Very happy with all lenses and the used 14mm I got was by far the cheapest ($120) and the lens that's on most of the time which is a surprise.

Now I really want the grip...
I have a very persuasive devil on my shoulder who is out shouting the angel on the other shoulder who keeps arguing I really don't need another camera system...

Oops

P.S. I don't think the menu system is very good out of the box but it can easily be configured to something much more useful. A well known website which is flooded with trolls has a useful article on how to configure it.

Brad C said...

Don't think of it as $1500, think of it as 750 coffees :)

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Ken, Ken, Ken. After your excellent article about how people could essentially get an E-M5 for half price by buying a G3, I never thought I would see this posting. :-)

Glad you are joining us on the dark side. By which I mean, black body and black 25mm lens.

Mike said...

I've been very close to dumping my X100 for the OM-D w/ the 25mm P/L lens. The OM-D autofocus is just amazing and as much as I love my X100, I've missed a lot of great shots b/c of missed focus. Only thing holding me back from pulling the trigger is the aperture chatter issue with the P/L 25mm on the OM-D. Seems like it only affects some users, but I know I'd flip out if I spent $1600 and had that problem:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnVuYfVYUsU

Charles said...

Kirk, I've been waiting for this post. I picked up my silver E-M5 almost six weeks ago now and I love it more everyday. Two of the first things I noticed upon turning it on was the improved EVF and beautiful shutter sound. My friends laughed, but I'm glad to hear you like it too. It seems like Oly took everything good about their cameras, put it on one beautiful body and made everything a little better, some, like the IS a lot better. Stabilized view in the EVF? Love it. It works miracles in videos too. I'm amazed with what they did with the higher ISOs.

My friend ordered one after playing with mine a couple times. He got it last week and loves it. I've got another on order for a present.

We are all waiting for your review, it's a forgone conclusion. I think your Sonys might very much be in danger when you get an E-M5.

Gregg Mack said...

Kirk, please don't rub it in... I ordered mine - in silver - from our favorite Austin camera store on back May 1st. Ordered it with the 12-50mm lens, but also ordered the 25mm f/1.4 Summilux. I walked out of the store with the 12mm f/2.0 and the 45mm f/1.8 lenses in a bag. Those two lenses now sit quitely on a shelf in my study while I endure your tormenting comments that my camera is nowhere to be found. Thanks....

Frank Grygier said...

Greg, I know how you feel. I received the battery grip a week before the camera. I had all the lenses lined up in row along with the empty batter grip. I can almost guarantee you it will be worth the wait.

Zyran said...

Had a chance to play with the X-Pro 1 a few days ago indoors in decent to low light. I have to say the AF is abysmal. It hunts for awhile and then it incorrectly focuses consistently. Missed loads of shots.

The IQ is quite a fair bit ahead of the E-M5 I must say. It really depends what you mostly do with the camera.

Marcelo Guarini said...

Kirk, I just have those three lenses, the 12mm Olympus, the 25mm Leica/Panasonic and the 45mm 1.8 and use them with my E-P3. As you say they are superb. Sometimes I also use a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit and a 135mm f3.5 Apo Telyt with Leica to M4/3 adapter. They are also great lenses, specially the Apo Telyt.

Yohan said...

Just click your heels together and say, "The G3 is half the price. The G3 is half the price." ;)

Looking forward to your inevitable E-M5 review after you get yours.

Gregg Mack said...

Frank, I wanna believe.... I am very curious to hear what the general consensus is about the HLD-6 battery grip. I see in Kirk's photo that you have both pieces attached. Some like just the "horizontal grip" piece attached. I thought the camera felt fine in my hand without any additional grip area needed. $300 for any/all of it, and you have to order a different camera bracket from RRS whether you use the battery grip or not (and no, they don't have either version in stock right now, but I pre-ordered the version for use without the battery grip).

Michael said...

Great people to do business with. Ordered a silver 12-50 Saturday, received it this morning, could have has it sooner if I had wanted to pay for faster shipping.

212-753-5128, www.cameralandny.com

I talked to Joel Paymer.

Don Schulte said...

I succumbed early; back in March but still awaiting delivery. It's on order with two of those lens choices (12 and 45).

Frank Grygier said...

Gregg, I am sure I will use the first piece of the battery grip all the time. The two control dials for shutter speed and aperture fall right into place with this setup. On a tripod I could go with or without the grip.

Frank Grygier said...

Gregg, I have the Really Right Stuff release plate for my E-P3. They did an excellent job of matching the body and I leave it on all the time. I will get the one for the OMD as soon as I make up mind on the battery grip L bracket or just the body L bracket. It is so much fun spending money on camera gear. I can't wait for the E-M6! (Hope the release plate will fit)

kirk tuck said...

Who is this "Ken" you refer to?

Gregg Mack said...

Frank, the Really Right Stuff L-bracket for the OM-D E-M5 is a 2 piece affair - whether you go for the one for battery grip or the one just for the body. They screw together. You can use the first piece as just the camera base plate, and you can later order the 2nd piece, which makes it an L-bracket. Since niether version is available yet, I ordered the BPnS (Point and Shoot Platform) from RRS, just so I could use my OM-D with my existing RRS ball head (until the custom, pretty one is available). Just type BPNS in their search box. $38 for a temporary solution, better than no solution.... flush.

John F. Opie said...

As I mentioned on TOP, I saw, I drooled, I ran. My younger daughter is heading to college and my buy-it-now reflexes were a'twitchin...

No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years. No cameras for the next four years.

This is gonna be hard. :-(

Scott said...

Kirk, You didn't even mention the little thumb rest on the back that is so perfectly shaped and placed that it just disappears. You wouldn't think a thing like that would be hard to do, but as far as I know no one else has done it quite as well.

My OMD is actually a little quieter than my M3, but the quality of the sound is so similar that I suspect it was by design.

And finally, where are you folks getting the battery holder/grip? I can't find one in stock in the whole USA.

George said...

The G3 is twice the volume
The G3 gives you awful Panasonic JPEG skin tones that make people look ugly orange
The G3 has no IS in 5 axis
The G3 shutter is loud

Michael said...

Ooops, sorry.

I meant to say:

Kirk, Kirk, Kirk.

Michael said...

I think it only happens in P more or S mode. I shoot exclusively in A and M and have never heard it.

Steve said...

I love my E-M5, in fact I've ordered a second body (due later today, I hope). Although I like a light, small camera body, the first-stage grip does make it even more comfortable to use, and the extra controls on the second grip are useful. The only negative things I have to say so far is that I find it difficult to get the set-up options right (I really prefer the buttons/dials on the GH2, which rely less on going into the menus), and the buttons are tiny, even for someone with small/middle-sized hands. The second body is as a reserve and/or alternative lens - I have other cameras, but having identical bodies with identical controls is something I value in many situations. I think the only time I've had more than one identical body before was with the Pentax MX (sorry, when I went to buy an original OM, I also tried the equivalent Canon and Pentax, and the message in the 'just hold a Pentax' slogan made the Pentax a no-brainer choice for me - sad that Pentax lost their way so much, some very good cameras, and some are *?!*).

Great web site.

Steve said...

I love my E-M5, in fact I've ordered a second body (due later today, I hope). Although I like a light, small camera body, the first-stage grip does make it even more comfortable to use, and the extra controls on the second grip are useful. The only negative things I have to say so far is that I find it difficult to get the set-up options right (I really prefer the buttons/dials on the GH2, which rely less on going into the menus), and the buttons are tiny, even for someone with small/middle-sized hands. The second body is as a reserve and/or alternative lens - I have other cameras, but having identical bodies with identical controls is something I value in many situations. I think the only time I've had more than one identical body before was with the Pentax MX (sorry, when I went to buy an original OM, I also tried the equivalent Canon and Pentax, and the message in the 'just hold a Pentax' slogan made the Pentax a no-brainer choice for me - sad that Pentax lost their way so much, some very good cameras, and some are *?!*).

Great web site.

Unknown said...

Yesterday in New York at the Blue Note with my E-M5 and just two lenses: the M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 and the Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 I got to experiment for the first time ever with auto ISO in A-mode.

It works flawlessly. Set up max ISO to 6400, noise reduction low, contrast -2 and sharpness -1. All shots came out pristinely clear, noise free and with ample dynamic range.

We finally have an Olympus body that can handle low light shots properly.

Frank Grygier said...

I preordered the Grip in Feb. along with the camera. Actually received the grip before the camera.

FrugalFilmmakers said...

Kirk, I have used the same arguments for buying the Panasonic GH2. After using it, I could not go back to using my Canon system so I sold it. I bought the Oly 45mm and Panny 25mm and a few other lenses for the GH2. I will put their lenses against any of the L-Glass that I had.

I reposted a link to your article at my blog: http://frugalfilmmakers.com/2012/05/10/kirk-tucks-take-on-the-olympus-om-d/

Thiru said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RetiredDP said...

I'd recommend that you skip the Olympus grip (too bulky) and get the E-M5 grip from reallyrightstuff.com instead. It costs $120, and includes a 1/4-20 thread on its edge for doing portrait work on a tripod. I like mine because it has an undercut on the handgrip that really helps in wet handholding situations.