Mirrorless cameras strive for big-camera quality in a little package, and reviews say the Olympus OM-D E-M5 does this better than any other camera. Like big digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, the Olympus dishes up terrific image quality, a pro-grade metal body and plenty of interchangeable lenses. But since it's a Micro Four Thirds camera, those lenses -- and the Olympus' slim, retro-styled body -- are substantially smaller and easier to carry than a bulky DSLR.
Throwback style with modern conveniences. Retro style sets the Olympus OM-D E-M5 apart -- it looks like an old-fashioned film SLR camera. This throwback styling conceals two modern conveniences: an electronic viewfinder and a tilting, 3-inch OLED touch screen. With a body about the size of an index card and just 1.7 inches thick, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 saves a lot of bulk over a DSLR. There's still room for plenty of physical buttons and dials (which some consider to be too small), much to the delight of professional testers who demand full controls at their fingertips. One drawback is that even pros find the Olympus time-consuming to set up, partly because you can customize just about every button on it.
DSLR-like image quality. If you want significantly better images than the Olympus OM-D E-M5 can crank out, you'll have to shell out twice as much for a full-frame DSLR, say experts -- it's that good. Vibrant colors and low-light prowess rival DSLRs, even in low light and without an ISO 100 setting. Full 1080i HD video looks clear and steady in tests, thanks to the Olympus' 16-megapixel image sensor and sophisticated image stabilizer. Speed mostly impresses experts, too. Olympus claims the world's fastest autofocus with the E-M5's kit lens. Burst shooting races along at 9 full-resolution frames per second without image stabilization. However, tracking a moving subject with continuous autofocus is "distinctly unreliable" in one test.
Splashproof, dustproof, tough metal body. Experts count the Olympus' sturdy body as a major asset. It's crafted of magnesium alloy (not plastic), and the whole package -- camera, bundled lens and flash -- is "rigorously gasketted to help keep water and dust out," writes Richard Butler at DPReview.com. The optional battery grip and lens adapter are, too (so you can use sealed Four Thirds lenses). In fact, it's just as dustproof and splashproof as Olympus' top-of-the-line DSLR, the E5 (Est. $1,725 body only). "Just holding the camera tells you there's something different about the E-M5," Shawn Barnett of Imaging-Resource.com writes. "It's solid with or without the grip, and it has a more professional feel than most cameras in the category."
Biggest selection of lenses in its class. Lack of lenses is the downfall of many compact system cameras -- but not the Olympus OM-D E-M5. It accepts a plethora of lenses from Olympus, Panasonic and Sigma. It's "easily the largest lens range out of all the compact system cameras on the market," says Phil Hall at WhatDigitalCamera.com. There's no pop-up flash, but a small, separate flash that slides on to the hot shoe. It's "surprisingly weak," Imaging-Resource.com reviewers say, but it can control multiple other flashes wirelessly. The OM-D E-M5 sports plenty of special effects (you can make your photo look like Pop Art, Grainy Film, etc.) along with 3D shooting, sweep panorama and handheld night modes. There's a built-in microphone, but no microphone jack; you have to buy a $90 adapter to use an external mic.
"Arguably the most likable mirrorless model yet," the Olympus OM-D E-M5 wins DPReview.com's rare Gold Award. It's not as good at capturing fast motion as a DSLR, but that's really its only downfall.
Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review, Richard Butler, April 2012
Imaging-Resource.com tests fewer point-and-shoot cameras than other sources, concentrating instead on impeccable reviews of advanced cameras. After testing every aspect of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 in elaborate detail, experts here conclude that it "will remain one of our favorite digital cameras for some time to come."
Review: Olympus E-M5 Review, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins and Zig Weidelich, June 15, 2012
In another rare feat, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 captures PhotographyBlog.com's 5-star Essential award. Mark Goldstein's only complaint is that it's expensive. Otherwise, he says, "The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is simply our favourite compact system camera to date."
Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review, Mark Goldstein, May 14, 2012
4. What Digital Camera
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 wins yet another Gold Award here. Phil Hall wishes the ISO range started at 100, but otherwise, it "has to be one of the best compact system cameras we've seen."
Review: Olympus OM-D Review, Phil Hall, March 28, 2012
A 4.6-star average rating (out of 5) in over 240 owner reviews makes the Olympus OM-D E-M5 a top-rated digital camera here. In fact, only a handful give it less than 4 stars, usually because they got a dud. Some of the reviews are extremely detailed.
Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 16MP Live MOS Interchangeable Lens Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of May 2014
This retailer posts separate owner reviews for each color and lens configuration of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 -- and all versions earn extremely high marks. The black kit lens version gets the most reviews (over 130), all rating it 4 or a perfect 5 stars. Several reviewers identify themselves as pro or semipro photographers, and several post sample photos shot with the camera.
Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-50mm Lens (Black), Contributors to BHPhotoVideo.com, As of May 2014