Besides the telephoto reach and macro capabilities made possible by the smaller sensor, OM System has set itself apart with computational photography. Live Composite layers star trails and light painting without Photoshop. Handheld High Res adds more detail by merging multiple shots. Starry AF finds and focuses on the stars without guessing on the tiny screen if those tiny dots of light are exactly in focus. But, those features have largely been reserved for the brand’s high-end models, until the OM-5.
Announced October 26th, the OM System OM-5 brings several features from the company’s advanced bodies into a compact, $1,199 body. This is the first time Handheld High Res, Live ND, and Starry AF are brought to the mid-tier E-M5 series (now renamed as Olympus becomes OM System). But, while those advanced features have trickled down to a more affordable body, the OM-5 lacks the advanced autofocus system of the E-M1X and OM-1.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
By bringing some of the biggest features of the OM-1 series to the E-M5 series, the OM System OM-5 excels at landscape and adventure photography. The OM-5 is a durable little camera that can shoot some types of long exposures without a tripod. It can autofocus on the stars and capture star trails without Photoshop. Or, capture high-resolution composites in-camera, also without that cumbersome tripod. Its body is tiny, yet it has a sweet retro look and IP53-rated weather-sealing.
But, while the OM-5 gains several features of the more advanced series, others features are still lacking. The sensor is around six years old because it’s the same as the E-M1 Mark III. It lacks animal Eye AF, and the autofocus isn’t sports-ready. The battery is also showing its age and is only rated for 310 shots.
There’s a lot to love about the OM-5. The durability and wealth of long exposure and astrophotography features lend themselves well to adventure and travel. But, parts of this camera feel half-hearted. It really should have had animal eye AF and a better battery. It’s OM System’s mid-tier model, but the lack of those two features makes the camera feel a bit more entry-level than mid-level, and the price doesn’t reflect that. Ultimately, the shooting modes and durability will make the OM-5 a good choice for travel and landscape photography. But, the lack of upgrades elsewhere limits the camera’s use across more genres.
For what it’s worth, the Canon EOS R7 isn’t much more pricey and is more capable. It boasts their flagship camera’s autofocus, a larger sensor, and AI scene detection modes. Plus, it shoots really, really fast.
I’m giving the OM System OM-5 three out of five stars. Want one? Check it out on Amazon. The body only is $1,199 or $1,599 with the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO.
- A ton of built-in shooting modes, including multiple exposures, handheld high res, live composite, and focus stacking. You can do a lot with this little camera.
- Autofocus for astrophotography
- Live View ND
- Max 1/8000 shutter speed, 1/32,000 electronic
- Stabilization up to 6.5 stops (7.5 with some lenses)
- Compact design
- IP53 rated weather-sealing
- No Animal AF
- Autofocus isn’t made for sports
- The compact design doesn’t leave room for a good grip, joystick, or second SD card slot.
- Limited battery life of 310 shots
- Same sensor as the E-M1 III, which is now about six years old
I used the OM System OM-5 with:
The camera and lenses are all loaners provided by OM System, and the Panasonic Leica lens is on loan from Panasonic. The camera tested was a pre-production sample with final firmware.
What’s exciting about the OM-5 isn’t what’s new, but what’s new to this mid-tier, more budget-friendly line-up. OM System already had handheld high-res, live composite, and Starry AF. But, now those features have trickled down into a smaller, more affordable camera. Hardware-wise, this camera has an older sensor but a new processor.
The OM-5 is a tiny camera that weighs less than a pound. The body sits less than two inches deep, making it a very compact option for travel. OM System says that they see this camera paired with the compact f4 Pro series lenses, and I agree that would make a very travel-friendly mirrorless system. Micro Four Thirds wide-angle primes are also fairly compact and would work well with this camera. It’s easy to carry around with an f4 zoom or a brighter prime lens.
The top of the camera houses two lovely silver control wheels: the front one of those also houses the shutter release. Nearby, there’s an exposure compensation shortcut, a video record button, and a mode dial. Jumping over the viewfinder bump, there’s a raised on/off dial with shortcuts for burst mode and the quick menu on top.
The back is dominated by a three-inch touchscreen flips to the side for vari-angle viewing. Buttons for ISO, AE-L, and menu and playback options are also found here. Sadly, there’s no joystick, but admittedly I’m not sure where they would put it. There’s a dedicated notch to rest the thumb, and that doesn’t really leave room for another control without displacing that thumb rest.
The remaining sides are simpler; there’s a single SD card slot near the right hand, headphones, power, HDMI, and micro USB ports near the left, and just the depth of field preview button and lens release on the front. There’s a battery door and tripod mount at the bottom.
The OM-5 isn’t just weather-sealed, it comes with an IP53 rating to indicate just how sealed, so there’s no guesswork here. That means it’s dust protected but not dust-tight. The three means it’s protected from spraying water, but not water jets or immersion. I took the OM-5 into the rain without issues, even sitting it down in damp leaves.
As a more budget-friendly camera, the OM-5 sits in the middle of magnesium alloy and plasticky. It doesn’t feel bad in the hands, but there are nicer builds out there. Since the OM-5 is reasonably priced, I’m more than okay with this happy medium.
The OM-5 is more of a traveler’s camera than that for a sports or wildlife photographer, and the autofocusing system reflects that. It houses a 121-point phase detection and contrast detection system, the same number of points as the E-M5 Mark III. The autofocus is plenty sufficient for travel and street photography. It also locked focus pretty well indoors in limited light.
But it’s not made for action. Pointed towards a toddler on a swing, the the camera had a few misses. Similarly, it couldn’t keep up with a dog running toward the camera. The first several shots would be in focus, but then focus would drop off and wouldn’t pick the dog back up again.
What’s most disappointing about the OM-5, however, is the lack of animal eye detection. OM System already has the software for this. And the OM-5 has a new processor, so it seems like A.I.-based autofocus would be manageable. Of course, the OM-1 has dual processors, so it has much more computing power. But both Canon and Nikon’s budget-friendly cameras fit in animal eye AF. The OM-5 is being billed as an adventure camera, and my adventures often include snaps of the local wildlife. Animal Eye AF would have made those shots easier, particularly for a camera at a level designed to be beginner-friendly.
Thankfully, there is still eye detection for humans. The OM-5 will pick up faces and, when close enough, eyes. It performs sufficiently when the person is facing the camera. But, it won’t grab eyes from a profile view and only occasionally finds the eyes of someone looking down. It also won’t lock onto the eyes or face if one eye is covered.
What’s new to the entry-level series is Starry AF. This feature has trickled down from the high-end E-M1 Mark III. With Starry AF, the AEL button will focus on the stars, with options for accuracy priority and a faster speed priority. Using accuracy priority, I could watch the camera bring the stars in and out of focus, then lock on. This mode had a much better hit rate than manual focus and focus peaking. Starry AF is a huge advantage for both experienced photographers and novices who’ve tried to photograph the stars and ended up frustrated.
Ease of Use
OM System is known for its stabilization and, luckily, the OM-5 keeps that reputation intact. The stabilization is rated for 6.5 stops (7.5 with certain lenses). I shot handheld long exposures at one second with a wide-angle lens. The Live ND also made those long exposures easy to do during the day. Live ND will also blur the view from the viewfinder, so it’s possible to see how the long exposure will look before taking a shot. The ability to get a bit of motion blur to waterfalls and traffic without a tripod is a big plus for any travel camera.
The OM-5 is a camera that beginners can grow into. There’s the green auto on the mode dial, the scene modes or art filters, and the full suite of manual controls. There’s a mid-level amount of controls, so it shouldn’t be too daunting, while more experienced users will have enough physical controls. (The exception is the lack of a joystick, using the arrow keys instead for moving the focus point.)
What the OM System typically excels at is making complex photography simple. The shooting modes that trickle down from the E-M1 series now bring those features into a more accessible camera. While these modes will often take a quick tutorial, they make tricky shots easier. I love Live Composite (which can be used for star trails and any moving light sources) because it makes shots that are otherwise only really done with Photoshop possible. It also has handheld High Res for when that 20-megapixel sensor isn’t enough; the previous generation required a tripod for the high res mode. And Starry AF makes astrophotography simpler as well.
What’s not adventure-ready is the battery life. It uses the same battery as previous generations, which leaves the battery life topping at 310 shots or a 60-minute video. If your definition of adventure means roughing it in tents without electricity, you’ll need to pack extra batteries.
The menu, at first glance, appears pretty simple, with just two pages for photo options. But there are many options tucked away in the custom menu. It sometimes took digging to find the settings I was looking for, even with previous experience with Olympus cameras. That previous experience also worked against me, however, because a few options have been relocated. For example, there’s a Bulb mode on the mode dial, which is how you find Live Composite, unlike other models where Live Composite was found by dialing the shutter speed past Bulb. The menu also isn’t touch-enabled.
For the record, the photo above is what the newer menu on the OM System OM1 looks like. It’s far sleeker than the one on the OM5.
The OM-5’s metering system is fairly accurate. Following the Sunny 16 rule created a well-exposed image and pleased the meter. In even lighting, the meter is reliable for an accurate exposure.
The OM-5 has the same sensor as the EM-1 Mark III, which means it uses a 20-megapixel sensor that is about six years old. Increasing the resolution on a Micro Four Thirds sensor, however, would increase noise at high ISOs, so the age of the sensor doesn’t bother me as much as it would a full-frame camera. It does mean that, while shooting modes have greatly improved, image quality hasn’t changed much since the Olympus E-M1 Mark III. A new processor aids in noise reduction a bit, with less color noise than we spotted in the previous generation. And the Handheld High Res mode can increase detail on non-moving subjects without a tripod.
Straight out of the camera, images are on par with what I expected. Photos are Instagram-ready, and there are a lot of art modes to choose from. Colors are decent and, when properly exposed and white balanced, feel true to the scene. Images are not as detailed as high-resolution sensors and get noisy faster than full-frame sensors. But, for the adventure and travel photography the OM-5 is made for, image quality is more than enough.
High ISO Output
On the E-M5 Mark III, we advised keeping it under ISO 6400 because of color noise. On the OM-5, color noise is minor at ISO 6400 and edits out easily. But ISO 6400 is still pretty noisy, and that’s likely the top setting I would use. Images are still noisy at this point and details are a bit muddled, but the updated processor seems to help with color noise. I printed a 13×19 photo at IOS 10,000 that looks pretty noisy, and the colors feel much more muddled. But, if you’re photographing a dark dance floor and only sending it to Instagram or making small prints, there’s some wiggle room.
RAW File Versatility
There’s a good amount of wiggle room to the OM-5 RAW files. I could bring up the shadows by two stops without wreaking havoc on the overall photo. Plus, using RAW, you can choose your color profile later. With RAW, I could reduce the noise a bit and play with the contrast.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the product can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy It?
If you want a portable camera to shoot landscapes and astrophotography, buy the OM System OM-5. The ability to shoot the stars with autofocus, create star trails without Photoshop, and even blur a waterfall without a tripod are all big perks that are nearly impossible to find elsewhere (or at least not on another $1,200 camera). Plus, the body is compact and durable.
However, the OM-5 isn’t a one-size-fits-all camera. It lacks animal eye AF, and the autofocus isn’t built for action. Nikon and Canon’s budget-friendly models include animal eye AF, making wildlife and pet photography easier. The Nikon Z30 and Canon R10, however, lack the stabilization that the OM-5 does so well with. If you want the stabilization, the extra reach of a Micro Four Thirds sensor for lighter telephoto lenses, and wildlife-ready autofocus, the pricier OM-1 still has the advantage over the OM-5.
OM System lists the following specifications for the OM-5, condensed for brevity:
- Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
- Image Sensor: 4/3’’ Live MOS sensor, 20.4 Megapixels
- Engine: TruePic IX
- Filter: Dust reduction filter, Supersonic Wave Filter
- Viewfinder: OLED Electronic Viewfinder, 2.360 K dots, -4.0 – +2.0 diopters; Angle of view Approx. 100%; Magnification Max. 1.37 x with a 50mm lens set to infinity at -1 dioptre
- (depending on selected viewfinder style)
- Image Stabilizer
- Type: Sensor shift
- Modes: Five-dimensional, vertical or horizontal activation, automatic
- Effective Compensation Range: Up to 7.5 EV steps Sync IS; Image Stabilizer Up to 6.5 EV steps, Based on CIPA measurement conditions
- Live View stabilization
- Lens IS priority
- Focusing System
- TTL phase difference detection system, contrast detection system (when non high-speed contrast AF compatible lens is used, it works as MF assist)
- Focus areas
- 121 points
- 121 points contrast AF
- All target, single target (normal / small), group target (5-area / 9-area / 25-area), custom target 1-4 (AF area and its increment steps selectable) * All cross type
- AF lock: Available Locked by first position of shutter release button in single AF mode, AE/AF lock button (customized)
- Modes: Manual focus, Single AF*, Continuous AF*, Preset MF**, AF* Tracking, Stacking, Starry Sky AF* incl. manual override ** Distance setting values are rough estimates and only AF lenses can be used.
- AF illuminator: Equipped
- Manual focus: Available, with enlarged focusing area, focus peaking and focus indicator
- Face Detection extension
- Eye Detect AF: Off, Left side priority, Near side priority, Right side priority
- Predictive AF
- AF tracking
- Focus peaking
- Focus Bracketing Mode Compatible with: All Micro Four Thirds AF lenses
- Focus Stacking Mode Technology: 8 shots are taken at different focus points and automatically composited together into a single image. Compatible with: 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 8-25mm F4 PRO, 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II, 12-45mm F4 PRO, 12-100mm F4 IS PRO, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO 40-150mm F4.0 PRO, 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS, 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO, 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO, 30mm F3.5 Macro, 60mm F2.8 Macro, 300mm F4 PRO, 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14, 2x Teleconverter MC-20. Angle of view becomes slightly smaller
- Exposure System
- Modes: Program automatic, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Bulb, Time, Movie, HDR, Custom shooting
- Exposure compensation: +/- 5 EV (1, 1/2, 1/3 steps) Note: Monitor and EVF displays only up to ±3 EV.
- Exposure bracketing: 2 / 3 / 5 frames, ( +/- 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV steps)
- 7 frames ( +/- 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 EV steps
- ISO bracketing: 3 frames (1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps)
- Built-in LiveND: ND2, ND4, ND8, ND16 (+1, 2, 3 or 4 steps)
- HDR bracketing: 3 / 5 frames ( +/- 2 / 3 EV steps) 7 frames ( +/- 2 EV steps)
- Multi-Exposure Max. number of frames 2 frames (shooting) 3 frames (editing)
- Light Metering
- Method: TTL open aperture light metering
- Zones: 324 zones
- Multi-pattern Sensing System
- Detection range: -2 – 20 EV (17mm f2.8, ISO 100)
- Modes ESP light metering, Spot metering, Centre weighted metering, Highlight, Shadow
- Auto: (customizable, default ISO LOW – 6400)
- Manual: ISO LOW – 25600 in 1/3 or 1 EV ISO steps
- Shutter type: Computerized focal-plane shutter
- Self timer: 2 s / 12 s / Custom
- Shutter speed range: 1/8000 – 60 s (in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps)
- Electronic shutter 60s to 1/32000
- Handheld high res shot up to 8160×5760
- Burst shooting 10 fps up to 149 RAW, JPEGs to card capacity; 6 fps low burst speed with RAW until card is filled
- Electronic shutter burst 30 fps
- Flash sync speed 1/250
- 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen
- Image size: 5184 x 3888 (RAW and JPEG Fine)
- MOV and MPEG-4AVC/H.264
- Flat, OM-Log400
- Sensor shift stabilization
- 4K at 24p
- Full HD at up to 60p, 120 fps slow motion
- Maximum recording time: Up to card capacity
- Li-ion battery rated at 310 shots (60 minute video)
- Weight: 414g
- Dimensions: 125.3 / 85.2 / 49.7 mm
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