The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Elite Black Review for Travel Camera


Disclaimer : This review is not sponsored by anyone except my own money to buy the camera.

I didn’t buy the camera when it’s first launch in 2012, because it ships with the 12-50 f/3.5-6.3 lens, which i heard (and also tried my friends’s) as medicore in performance.

It’s took almost two years for Olympus to figure out and make the equivalent 24-70 f/2.8 lens for micro 4/3 system. That brick is called 12-40 f/2.8 Pro. And paired with the new EM-5 with few improvement, it’s called OM-D E-M5 Elite Black PRO Lens Kit  (phew, that’s long!).

Olympus OM-D EM-5 Elite Black
Bajo Kids Portrait. 40mm, 1/640s, f/3.2,

The elite black EM-5 difference from the old em-5 is the following (from olympus website) :

  1. A traditional camera feel is portrayed with black leather-tone coating
  2. A leather-like design is also used on the grip for excellent texture (plastic-like-leather)
  3. The main dial and sub-dial have been refined for improved design and operability
  4. The new firmware Version 2.0 brings support of ISO LOW (equivalent to 100) and Small AF Target to the camera (a smaller focus box for improving accuracy)
  5. Bundled with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO, which is highly evaluated by many professional photographers.

So there it is, it’s my main camera right know. I still love my Ricoh GR but OMD is so much versatile!

Unfortunately i cannot afford the E-M1, because actually the 12-40 is the ‘kit’ with E-M1. Olympus should be make this lens f/2, or at least f/2-2.8 because the sensor is much smaller.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 elite black review
Cave in Maratua Island — 12 mm, f/2.8, 1/125
Olympus OM-D EM-5 Elite Black
Zoom in — 40 mm, f/2.8, 1/125


You can see the specification directly on olympus website. But the highlight are these one:

  • 16MP MOS Four Thirds format sensor (16 mp is a sweet spot for my taste)
  • Weather-sealed body . Can be used for shooting in light rain. And you can washed them in tap water if needed.
  • Twin control dials
  • ‘5-axis’ image stabilization ( i can get 1/2 sec sharp handheld)
  • Shoot at up to ISO 25,600 ( well, 6400 iso is the max i used)
  • Up to 9fps shooting (4.2 fps with continuous AF, which doesn’t really work)
  • 800×600 pixel (1.44M dot) LCD electronic viewfinder, great for daylight. Do not have rainbow tearing like panasonic GX7.
  • VGA-equivalent 3″ OLED touchscreen display – tilts 80° upwards and 50° downwards ( all camera should have this)
  • Flash sync speed up to 1/250th sec ( i rarely used flash but the speed is good enough)
  • Body Weight 425 gram with batteries.

The 12-40 specification is following.

  • Splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof (up to -10 degrees Celcius)
  • Internal focusing mechanism, does not move when focusing
  • Snap Focus mode. Just pull the focus ring back to activate manual focus and distance scale
  • Impressive macro shooting capability, going as near as 20cm closest focusing distance.
  • Fixed Aperture of F2.8, versatile zoom range of 24-80mm (in 35mm equivalent format)
  • Small and light (382 gram), in comparison to competition (Canon 24-70mm F2.8L is 950g and Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 is 900g). But comparing to other m4/3 lens, it’s huge!
Olympus OM-D EM-5 elite black review
Mt. Papandayan, 12mm, f/6.3

Autofocus Performance

From my experience testing different brand of camera, olympus is still the fastest for static AF, not continuos AF ( mirrroless AF still doesn’t track things well).

Point to point shot in good light, it’s instantaneous. In low light light like indoor, it will hunt a bit (like 0.5 sec) but it will lock. It rarely miss for static subject.

The 12-40 is speed demon. Use the small central AF, as long as you point it right, it will focus before your eyes.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 elite black review
Old market of Tangerang Chinawotn — 12mm, f/2.8, 1/200
Olympus OM-D EM-5 elite black review
Minahasa portrait — 40 mm, f/2.8,/ 1/640

Image Quality

For the sensor this small, I really appreciate the performance because i wasn’t really notice the difference too far than my APS-C or full frame camera. Yes i know the bokeh is deeper than the full frame camera because it’s half the size. To acheive the same f/2.8 full frame bokeh on this camera, you need a f/1.4 lens. And the 12-40 f/2.8 lens on this system is actually equivalent to 24-80 f/5.6 on full frame camera. (only the bokeh, not the light. The light opening is still 2.8).

The noise performance is good enough for these days. I can use iso 3200 for milky way shoot with noise reduction off and still get decent photos. Iso 6400 is my limit, but i rarely use above that. And if you use the prime like f/2 or f/1.4, in real world usage there will be no need for using crazy high iso.

But if you are crazy enough to get handheld milky way shot, this camera is not for you. Just get the sony A7s.

The jpeg is slighly warm, punchy color out of the box. I rarely using raw unless the light range is too far. For the raw, you can underexpose up to 3-5 stop and can still recover it through photoshop without too many noise and color shift. That’s what i call crazy.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 elite black review
Derawan Island. 12mm, f/6.3, 1/1000sec, polarizer
Olympus OM-D EM-5 elite black review
Pagaruyung Palace — 12 mm, f/4, 1/1000


The camera itself is small. Forming like old olympus OM. It doesn’t have a proturding grip like modern DSLR. For using it with small lens like 12 or 45, it works perfectly with one hand. But if 12-40 is attached….well, you should using it with two hands. Total weight of the kit is around 800 gr.

There are grip to give better handling of OMD. But for the sake of compactness, i dont really use it.

The 5 axis stabilization

Olympus OMD series is famous for it’s stabilization. Which means you can use lower shutter speed without blurring. In my experience, i can safely use half a second without shaking if i brace myself carefully. Hey, i can shoot smooth waterfall without tripod!

Which mean, so can use lower iso to get lower noise without blurry picture. Once you get used to it, you won’t never want to get to other camera again.

Olympus 5 axis stabilization
I took this handheld without tripod! 1 second, f/5.6, 12 mm

What’s the not so good.

I wish it has a wifi. But now i use toshiba flash air and it works perfectly with OMD.

The screen could be better. When i transferred the photos to iphone, my photos looks so much better than the camera LCD. The LCD is washed out when the sun is strong. Thanks god it’s has usable (EVF) Electronic Viewfinder.

The EVF could be bigger. And the eyecup is really slip easily when bumped! I lost mine because it’s too easy to slip.

The video is good, the stabilizer works (with some bad jello effect if you move it too fast) ! But it only do 1080 30p and limited settings (manual exposure is available, though).

Below is video i take with this camera.

OMD EM5 versus GX7

Panasonic GX7 is direct competitor to EM5. Actually, you can go wrong with both. GX7 takes better videos if you need that. But I love the 5 axis stabilizer, the color rendering,  and weather proof body; so i go with the EM5.

Also, the GX7 viewfinder is 16:9 shape, great for video. But if you want to use it for 3:2 or 4:3 photo, it will crop the both side and make it small. There are also a

Panasonic also has 12-35 f/2.8 lens, which is cheaper but not as good built as the olympus 12-40.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 elite black review
My EM5 with my friends Barry Kusumas’s GX7

OMD for traveling?

For those who want to travel light but don’t want to sacrifice image quality, i reccomend you to use mirrorless camera. There are a lot of choice. But for now, i am stick with OM-D E-M5 with 12-40 lens. It’s light, weatherproof, fast response, and take great picture. My wish list next is Olympus 75 f/1.8!

What about you, still using that big chunky DSLR? *ups*

Feel free to ask in the comment if you need to know about this camera.

Thanks for reading!


  1. om ane baru nebus omd e m5 niih,,reviewx donk,,
    masih bgung makex,,kalo moto malam juga untuk objek bergerak masih noise yaaah

  2. halo mas wira. salam kenal :)

    saya lagi baca2 blog nya sampeyan. kebetulan saya lg menggalau antara membeli OMD 10 atau OMD 5. overall saya sudah baca spec dua2nya.
    beberapa pertimbangan saya, saya kebetulan suka jalan2. lg seneng2nya moto landscape. cenderung “ngasal”. so saya pikir butuh camera yang setidaknya weathershield. syukur2 yg agak bandel. dan sepertinya OMD 5 memenuhi kategori tsb. but OMD 5 keluar 2012. sedang OMD 10 itungannya masih dibawah 2 tahun. kira2 kl menurut mas wira, mending mana ya? yang jelas saya bukan photografer pro heheh. dibilang hobby jg angot2an. biasanya moto cuma kl lagi travelling. amatir lah mas.
    baca juga sih sudah keluar OMD 5 mark ii tp kok ya dompet treak heheh. pilihannya ya ujung2 mengerucut kesini.
    ada saran dan masukan mas?
    anyway thank sebelumnya.

    dan senang baca blog sampeyan :)


    • Maaf baru baca…saya pribadi lebih suka EM5 daripada EM10. Tapi karena butuh wifi, akhirnya punya dua-duanya. Bagus kok semuanya. Tapi sekarang lagi pindah ke fuji hehehe.

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