Eric L. Woods

Revisiting Old Gear: Olympus OMD E-M5 ($132)

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Obvious statement ahead. Gear can be really expensive. I have bought used vehicles that cost less than some recent camera and lens releases. This latest round of camera releases has gotten me to thinking. Below is a recap of an earlier Revisiting post since this involves the camera in question.

Are the new releases better? Objectively yes. Higher MP. Higher video resolution. Better in low light. Faster fps with less or no noticeable viewfinder blackout. So on and so forth.

Are they worth it? Subjectively yes. If your use case demands or would be greatly benefited by these top tier bleeding edge devices then yes. These high specs may scratch a long struggled with technical itch for some. May. To true videographers these cameras are a blessing that could save them from purchasing even more expensive gear.

Are they needed? Want is a valid justification. We are all grown. Have at it. But if the use cases alluded to above do not apply to you then no, they are not needed.

I personally do not need these cameras. It may be the dooms day circumstances unfolding around me talking but I cannot say that I want them either. The cameras I have more than meet my needs as is likely the case with many others. I recently wrote a post about what gear I would start with if building a kit from scratch. But this raised a question for me. Do I really even need this kit that I have? What if I went even lower? Far lower price and spec wise in fact.

This matches up with current times because who would want to think about spending thousands in these uncertain times. The ask. Could I build a viable kit in the hundreds instead of thousands?

What if I started from scratch with an eye towards the absolute minimum spend. Ground rules:

I decided to go for the absolute least expensive camera body that I could see myself using. The camera I chose was the Olympus OMD E-M5.

Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5

And to save even more I chose to get a slightly scuffed bargain grade model. First thoughts: I really like this camera. This comes as no surprise. Why, you may ask? Well this was my dream camera after I walked into SE Camera the first time years ago and Chris recommended it. Why didn’t I buy it back then? Simple. Price. This camera cost $1,000 back then. Way over my budget at that time when I was starting out. So I picked up an E-PL 5 instead and it was great. It was the subject of one of my first camera blog posts.

The Thanksgiving Set Up.
Olympus E-PL5
UNC Bell Tower
Rehearsal.
Co-Op City, The Bronx
Co-Op City, The Bronx
Harlem
Harlem
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station
Co-Op City, The Bronx
The Bronx
July 4th 2013 at Wet & Wild Water Park

This led me to move to an E-P5 when a clean second hand model showed up at the camera store.

Old and New Olympus PEN
Blooms
Camera shop. Trying out the Olympus 25mm f1.8.
dinner rush
Grace Photo Shoot
Grace Photo Shoot
100 Men In Black at UNC Pembroke
100 Men In Black at UNC Pembroke
Duke Chapel
Duke Chapel
Benjamin Jealous
Benjamin Jealous

Great camera. I soldiered on with an add on hot shoe EVF but I eventually left Olympus when I wanted to explore dedicated on camera flash photography (instead of the built in flash) with an EVF and Olympus’ in camera EVF models were still more expensive than I was willing to spend at that time. So I moved on from Olympus for a while. Was always tempted by MFT and a brief stint with a ridiculous sale price Panasonic Lumix G7 (Did not have long enough to write a review, but here is a small gallery from my grief time with it. Capable, but I rate it a solid meh overall.) somehow landed me back in Olympus town when a clean second hand Olympus PEN-F showed up at the camera shop (Definite pattern here.)

Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro
Olympus PEN-F
Random
Viva Mexico Restaurant
Olympus 75mm f/1.8
Olympus PEN-F
Olympus PEN-F
Olympus PEN-F

But that camera did not last long. I have a film PEN FT and it was clear that the digital PEN F was a cosmetic exercise only. A bit large, expensive, and digital samey once you got past the aesthetics. So I traded it all.

So what brought me back to the Olympus OMD E-M5? I was curious how much that $1,000 dream camera years ago was going for nowadays.

$132. For the one I bought anyway. That is nuts.

You can pay a bit more and get a cleaner copy but Bargain grade (KEH’s designation for a camera that may be a bit rough around the edges, if at all, but in fully functioning condition.) is a go to for me. So how does it stack up on my shopping spec sheet from above? Very well:

  • Would not feel like a penalty box.
    • Check. It is not just nostalgia. This camera’s specs stack up very well as demonstrated below.
  • 4K is off the table.
    • Check. Shoots video. Not 4K. Well placed record button is a nice touch.
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
  • Better than 5fps shutter speed.
    • Definite check. 9fps… 9fps! My A7II tops out at 5fps. Brand new Nikon Z5 tops out at 4.5fps. Heck, even my little old E-PL5 managed 8fps.
  • Acceptable low light performance.
    • Check. Same sensor as my old E-PL5 and that was sufficient.
  • EVF.
    • Check. And a very good one that switches on and off swiftly. My copy was missing the little rubber eyecup but I have already purchased a replacement for all of $9.70.
  • Tilt screen.
    • Check. And quite a sturdy tilt and swivel mount. Feels more robust than the Sony screen mechanism.
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
  • IBIS.
    • Check. Known Olympus strength. Very effective 5 axis IBIS.
  • Decent looks not required, but would not hurt.
    • Check. I have always like the looks of this camera. Even more so in all black.
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5

Bonus round. Below are items above and beyond my base expectations.

  • Great Autofocus.
    • While not Phase Detect the Contrast Detect system on this camera is extremely effective for stills.
    • Great Tracking. Tracking has been great on every Olympus camera I have used.
    • Face Detection works very well and tracks faces perfectly right out of the box.
  • Weather sealed all metal build.
    • A nice to know. Would require me to purchase a weather sealed lens which I have no plans to do however. I have only ever owned one. The Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro. A fine lens.
  • Separate SD Card Slot.
    • A nice touch. The E-PL5, E-P5, and PEN-F all shared the same compartment as the battery.
  • Two well placed control dials.
  • Great ergonomics.
    • Very effective thumb grip and the nice camera texture and front grip make this a very easy camera to hold on to. Much better that the bar of soap E-PL5 and E-P5 and even better than the much newer PEN-F.
    • Hitting OK gains quick access to all of the main camera functions.
    • Even though this cammera clearly has some miles on it the buttons still have a great, solid feel to their actuation.
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
  • True mirrorless gain of compact size.
    • With a small sensor small lenses are possible with their smaller cameras and lenses.
  • Image quality.
    • This camera shares the same 16mm sensor that all of their models used at the time. Still a solid performer.

With the ever dropping cost of entry for APS-C and Full Frame cameras brand new MFT bodies are a hard sell right now. But older models are a great value right now for those looking for solid AF and IBIS performance and are willing to forgo the more recent features that may not be needed.

And there are other MFT perks.

  • Lenses.
    • Price. MFT has been out long enough that there are plenty of good second hand lens deals to be had. All of the lenses I selected cost less than $200 and were closer to $150. A new lens coming up was listed for less new on sale than used. One lens was less than $100 new or used.
    • Selection. Both Panasonic and Olympus make compatible system lenses and other 3rd party companies like Sigma and manhy others make MF and AF lenses for MFT.
    • Quality. I have not come across a bad Olympus lens at any price and the few Panasonic lenses I have tried have been great also.
  • Accessories.
    • Items like my favorite Godox flash system have MFT supported accessories.
  • Fun Features.
    • Art and Scene Modes bring fun filters and features like Panorama and Fireworks.
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5

A day or two under my belt with it and I am having a great time.

Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5

Below are some samples so far.

Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ

And those are with the little humble EZ pancake zoom.

Shot for Blog Post

A solid little lens but I am looking forward to getting out and about with some of the others.

A solid little camera. Once the top of the Olympus heap a few years ago and is now a very accessible camera that is still very capable and a great bargain. Consider this. With only one selection this camera cost less than any of the already inexpensive lenses listed.

There are more posts to come in this series and this gallery will be updated with images.

I love a good deal. I once wrote a series on not having to break the bank in order to get into 35mm film photography for KEH (Part 1 and Part 2) and more recently I wrote a post on film camera recommendations for less than $150. Here we have a great digital camera that also came in for less than $150. That is a great deal in my book.

Pics for Blog Post - Olympus OMD E-M5
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