Olympus OM-D E-M5

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The Olympus E-M5 is the first of the new Olympus OM-D (OM Digital) series of Micro Four Thirds cameras, built upon the legacy of the OM SLR film cameras.

Evoking the classic design of the original OM series introduced 40 years ago (ohmygosh, I remember that!), the OM-D series is described by Olympus as “a new and entirely unique Micro Four Thirds camera system.”

It combines features found in the E-System DSLR line with those of the Pen Series.

The camera has:

• A built-in 120-fps (frames-per-second) refresh rate, high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) with outstanding image quality, eye detect and intuitive functionality.

• A 16.1-megapixel Live MOS Sensor and TruePic VI image-processing engine delivering what Olympus claims is “superior image quality and high sensitivity.”

• The world’s first 5-axis image stabilizer to compensate for multi-directional camera shake during both still photography and HD moviemaking.

• The world’s fastest autofocusing system (FAST AF) plus new 3D AF tracking for improved performance following moving subjects at up to 9 frames-per-second sequential shooting.

• A lightweight magnesium alloy body enhanced with the same dustproof and splashproof durability of the E-5 DSLR.

• A tilting 3.0-inch touch screen OLED.

• New Movie Effects: One Shot Echo, for a semi-transparent frame, and Multi Echo, for a multi-motion trail effect.

The E-M5 is the first Olympus interchangeable-lens camera to incorporate a 120-fps refresh rate, High-Definition electronic viewfinder with an eye sensor to seamlessly switch the display between the tilting, 3.0-inch touch screen OLED and the electronic viewfinder. It has a 100 percent field of view, maximum 1.15x magnification and an eye point of 18 mm for fatigue-free viewing.

Camera setting information, such as shutter speed, is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder. It will display the effects of various exposure adjustments and Art Filter effects – all without having to take the eye away from the viewfinder.

There’s a new 16.1-megapixel High-Speed Live MOS sensor offering improved performance and exceptional clarity and speed in all aspects of image capture, says the company. The TruePic VI image-processing engine “dramatically improves image quality in low-light environments,” Olympus contends.

The camera’s sensor allows for a maximum ISO of 25,600, and the dynamic range has been expanded for more faithful colour reproduction.

Okay, what about this 5-axis image-stabilization mechanism? Olympus says it is capable of reducing the effects of camera motion and image blur from five directions on stills and video, even including motion blur caused by the photographer walking or running.

Previous IS mechanisms compensated for camera shake by addressing only two kinds of movement along the vertical and horizontal axis, notes the company. However, camera shake can actually be caused by five different kinds of movement: horizontal shift, vertical shift, rotary motion, as well as yaw and pitch. While some technology has attempted to correct for camera blur by building the image stabilization mechanism into the lens, the E-M5 IS mechanism is incorporated into the camera body itself. All lenses mounted on the body can take advantage of this technology, whether shooting stills or HD video.

The new camera employs the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF system, introduced in the Pen E-P3, but with even greater speed.

The Live MOS chip drives image data off the sensor at 240 fps, a 2X speed increase in Continuous Autofocus, with reduced image blackout, enabling photographers to track fast action, says Olympus.

Maximum frame rates in sequential shooting have also increased more than 2X with a max frame rate of 9 fps in Single AF.

A new 3D tracking AF system can follow the subject through the X-, Y- and Z-axes to dramatically improve focus on moving subjects.

A 3.0-inch tilting OLED touch-screen offers intuitive focus and release of the shutter and review and enlargement of images in playback with the touch of a finger.

The new Live Bulb feature updates the Live View image on the OLED screen at pre-set intervals during long exposures and enables the user to preview continually unfolding action such as fireworks or waterfalls and adjust the exposure time accordingly while capturing the image at the desired moment.

An innovative new interface, EVF Creative Control, produces a tone curve overlay on the viewfinder screen to enable separate adjustment of highlight and shadow brightness, while white balance, magnification and aspect ratio can also be manipulated via the EVF.

A new Key Line art filter joins 10 other available filters on the E-M5, enhancing the edge lines of the image to make it look more like an illustration.

New Cross Process II and Dramatic Tone II filters provide variations on the popular existing filters, and the two new Echo effect for movies leaves a momentary residual image of a subject’s movements when activated during movie recording.

The Full HD 1080i movie recording function adopts the MOV format (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264).

The camera’s magnesium alloy body is rugged enough to stand up to severe environmental conditions like heavy rain and blowing sand, the company says. The E-M5 employs internal seals extensively.

When the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50 mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens is attached, the combination delivers an integrated dustproof and splashproof camera system.

The electronic viewfinder section of the body is also made of magnesium alloy, and the FL-LM2 electronic flash that ships with the camera features the same dustproof and splashproof construction.

The HLD-6 power battery grip, in the same dust- and splashproof construction as the E-M5 body, is an adaptable, two-part grip that can be used either as a landscape grip for easier handling or as a portrait grip with an additional shutter release.

The portrait grip accommodates an extra lithium-ion battery to supplement the one in the E-M5, thus extending battery life.

The FL-600R electronic flash (GN 50 at ISO 200 or GN 36 at ISO 100) offers improved recharge time and enhanced flexibility and operability for movie recording, and with a wireless control option. Equipped with a built-in LED, the FL-600R can be used to light movies and as a brighter AF auxiliary light.

The MMF-3 Four Thirds mount adapter is designed for mounting a Four Thirds lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera body. The MMF-3 is also dust- and splashproof.

The Olympus E-M5 will be available in April. Estimated street price, body only, black or silver, $999.99. Body with black M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50 mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens, $1,299.99. Body with black M.Zuiko Digital 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens, $1,099.99.

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