Olympus OM-D E-M5 at a glance:

  • Four thirds (17.3x13mm) sensor
  • 16.1 million effective pixels with 4608×3456-pixel output
  • Weather-resistant magnesium-alloy build
  • 3in, 610,000-dot, tiltable LCD touchscreen
  • 1.44-million-dot EVF
  • Up to 9fps or 4.2fps with continuous AF
  • Street price around £1,150 with 12-50mm kit lens

Since the introduction of the Olympus Pen E-P1 in June 2009, the compact system camera (CSC) has taken the world by storm. The compact-sized Pen E-P1 was a clear homage to the original Olympus Pen series – a half-frame camera that spanned more than two decades – but with the added benefit of digital imaging technology. The CSC has rapidly become one of the fastest growing areas in the camera market, although many of the more recent models have a much more contemporary style than Olympus’s original offering.

Now, with the OM-D E-M5, Olympus has once again tapped into the style of one of its past camera systems. As its name suggests, the OM-D E-M5 is heavily influenced by the styling of the company’s hugely popular OM range of 35mm film SLRs. However, whereas the digital Pen series emulates the half-frame format of its film predecessors through its (half-frame) four thirds format, the new OM-D E-M5 does not feature the 35mm full-frame format of the original OM cameras, instead making use of a four thirds sensor.

Olympus states that the E-M5 is the first of the new OM-D series. As with the Olympus Pen range, and indeed cameras like the X-Pro1 in Fujifilm’s X series, the reaction of press and consumers to the E-M5’s launch show there is much enthusiasm for the style and charm of film cameras with digital technology. By these standards, the E-M5 looks as though it might be a resounding success, as it is a beautiful-looking model.

However, a camera must be judged by its performance and not solely by its looks. After all, you can’t just look at it – you have to take pictures with it. The camera’s high build quality and specification mean that it sits at the top of Olympus’s micro four thirds range, which is a good start, but I am keen to see whether the E-M5 is capable of producing images to match the high quality of its construction.

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