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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pondering Olympus OM-D E-M5

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is an interesting camera. Initially I wrote off the whole micro four thirds segment and thought it just a more advanced "Point and Shoot" camera. In my mind I placed them just below the entry level DSLR's. To be honest, I haven't given it much thought since.

Enter this week's guest interview on This Week in Photo podcast. Scott Bourne who was an original host of the podcast and has been an inspiration of mine for years. Now Scott is onto other things but as I was browsing my podcast feeds, I noticed he was making a guest appearance. Scott mentioned a lot of interesting things about this Olympus camera, many of which got me thinking.

It should be noted that at this point I have never used the camera and so these are just my initial thoughts on the subject. Scott mentioned that the OM-D has excellent image quality especially when paired with some of the high quality prime lenses. The Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 has been getting rave reviews. So have the 45mm and the 75mm. In fact, Scott mentioned that the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 may be the sharpest lens he's tested, and believe, he's tested everything. See the full blog post at Photofocus.com. What makes this even more interesting is a kit with some of these lenses may cost less than a DSLR set up.

So begins my internal dialogue. If a micro four thirds camera, when paired with the correct lens, can have as good of image quality as anything... Certainly it must be as good as my Nikon D7000. If that's true, what new possibilities could this smaller camera offer? The more portable frame is much more likely to be with me. I can't tell you how many times I've brought my camera bag, but end up leaving it in the car. For me, bringing a camera means bringing a backpack.

Thinking of those great prime lenses, I could do many types of photography at professional quality. I could photograph my son (1 year old), do other portraits and landscape photography, plus the added portability.  As someone accustomed to DSLR's, having a quality electronic viewfinder is a nice benefit. Shooting video through a viewfinder is more natural for me and offers better stability. Currently, I use a LCDVF which works well but adds even more heft to the rig. Whether it's casual video of my son, or wildlife or nature video for this website, I think it's an advantage over DSLRs.

As with everything there is a negative. I've seen multiple reviews that mention that although the autofocus for static or slow moving objects is very fast, however, tracking fast moving subjects, such as sports and wildlife is problematic. Scott mentions in a recent blog post on his personal website, ScottBourne.com that the AF can be a bit dodgy tracking wildlife, but his conclusion was that it is possible.

But there is benefit with mico four thirds system and wildlife photography. A 2x crop factor. This means I could use the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8 which would be a 150-600mm equivalent on a 35mm format. If only somebody would make a 300mm f/4 on the micro four thirds system. This would be a 600mm f/4 equivalent. It would likely be a fraction of the price and a fraction of the size.

I also want to mention the added benefit of having a new camera to get excited about photography. I know we all probably focus too much on gear, but lets be honest, for some of us, it's part of the fun. I've heard it before, if your creativity gets stale, or your passion fades, a new toy can give it a spark. I have to say, whether I buy the OM-D or not, I like the idea of it, what it brings to the table, has indeed sparked my interest.