Olympus tugs on your film-nostalgia heartstrings with the design of the OM-D E-M5.
Faithful to film
A little bit bigger than the Sony Alpha NEX-7, the E-M5 retains many of the design characteristics of the original OM film series. Those include the pyramid-shaped viewfinder protrusion, which in the digital version houses an EVF. Instead of a built-in flash, the camera comes with a small add-on unit.
The E-M5 falls into that class of mirrorless cameras that's smaller than a dSLR, but not small enough to be considered compact--especially when equipped with a zoom like the 12-50mm kit lens. I like the new lens design, though, with its programmable function button on the barrel.
Except for the design of the power switch, the thumb-operated controls have a pretty standard layout. The camera also has a well-defined thumb rest, for easy holding despite the relatively shallow front grip.
The camera has Olympus' typical mode dial, with the usual set of manual, semimanual, and automatic exposure modes, as well as a dedicated movie mode and Art Filters mode (with expanded options over previous Olympus cameras). There's also a function button, which can bring up Olympus' novel in-camera curve adjustment.
The camera has the now-common quick-access interactive display. In the bottom right, you can see the icon for the in-camera curve adjustment, which allows you to manipulate the exposure-compensation highlights and shadows separately. That's a clever idea that could either be a really useful feature or try-it-once-and-never-again tool.
Olympus also announced a new full-size flash unit (FL-600R) that seems designed more for the E-Series dSLRs than the OM-D models; it dwarfs the E-M5. It does have an LED light on the front for continuous illumination while shooting video.
Olympus will also be offering a novel two-part battery grip for the E-M5. Without the bottom, it's just an extra-deep grip for landscape shooting; with the bottom, it becomes a vertical grip. Because the horizontal grip is so deep, there's a duplicate control dial and shutter button for easy access.