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.