The OM SYSTEM OM-5: A Great Travel Companion, Even if You Aren’t Traveling

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The OM SYSTEM OM-5: A Great Travel Companion, Even if You Aren’t Traveling

The professional-grade OM SYSTEM OM-1 made a huge splash upon its arrival—single-handedly reviving the Micro Four Thirds market. Following up on that high bar is the OM SYSTEM OM-5 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, representing OM SYSTEM’s mid-range offering that incorporates some, but not all, of the OM-1’s stellar features in a smaller body—the first camera with “OM SYSTEM” branding. For those familiar with the successful Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, the OM SYSTEM OM-5 is positioned as a worthy upgrade to that system.

Photographs © Todd Vorenkamp

The OM SYSTEM OM-5, like its predecessors, is designed as a travel camera—small and light enough to not weigh you down, but packed with great features and image quality. To see what the new camera offers, I spent a couple of winter weeks with the new OM-5 and the OM SYSTEM M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4 PRO Lens.

Watch Hill Light

Watch Hill Light

Notable Upgrades

While the OM SYSTEM OM-5 is a new camera, technically, from a new company, it is the successor to the aforementioned OM-D E-M5 Mark III. The OM-5 is identically sized, the same weight, and carries the same 20.4MP Micro Four Thirds MOS sensor. The biggest change, aside from the branding, is the processor, with the new camera featuring the upgraded TruePic IX processor that allows it to get more from the sensor while adding some additional bells and whistles.

The OM-5 is the first-ever camera with OM SYSTEM branding.

The OM-5 is the first-ever camera with OM SYSTEM branding.

The new processor allows the camera to employ some computational photography-related features that were not previously available in Olympus’s mid-range offering. The OM-5’s Hand Held High Res Shot Mode lets it capture 50MP multi-shot composite images handheld, whereas the previous system required the camera to be tripod mounted. 80MP multi-shot composites are available while the camera is tripod or alternative support stabilized. OM SYSTEM’s LiveND simulated neutral density filter is also available on the OM-5, for slow shutter speed effect images without the need for an added ND filter. Face Detection AF is improved. The OM-5 also brings the OM-1’s Starry Sky AF, designed to do the challenging work of focusing and locking focus on dim and distant stars for astrophotographers.

Beachcomber

Beachcomber

One improvement, lauded in the OM-1, that did not make its way to the OM-5 is OM SYSTEM’s improved camera menu system. I’ve never disliked the legacy Olympus menus (they are better than some other camera company’s menus), but it would have been nice to see the OM-1-style menu on the new camera. If this is a possible future upgrade via firmware, it would be nice to have it added soon.

Handling

Besides the amount of cool tech packed into the cameras—like 6.5 stops of 5-axis stabilization, multi-shot high-res performance, and other goodies—the magic of a Micro Four Thirds camera is its size and weight. The OM-5’s composite body with battery, sans lens, weighs less than a pound. While there are full-frame pundits that revel in the lighter-than-DSLR world of mirrorless cameras, few cameras in the interchangeable-lens market—especially mid-grade prosumer level cameras—can match Micro Four Thirds bodies and lenses for pure portability.

The small OM-5 has a surprisingly substantial handgrip. While it is not meaty like a DSLR, it certainly gives you more to grab than some retro APS-C camera bodies, and definitely more than the film SLRs of old. Bottom line: it feels great in the hand and its form factor speaks to its ease of carry.

Foam

Foam

While the OM SYSTEM OM-5 has a decidedly retro look with the top dials, those in the modern photography world will be right at home with the PASM dial. The front and rear selection dials are fully exposed—instead of being buried in the camera body—and have a great feel to them. In fact, all of the controls give great tactile feedback.

An oddity in the OM SYSTEM world—the on/off power switch for the camera is on the top plate lefthand side. While I rarely take a photograph holding the camera with only my right hand, the location of the on/off switch demands that my left hand get involved immediately—there is no holding the camera (powered off) with your right hand and turning it on while bringing it to your eye to look through the viewfinder unless your left hand comes to the party.

Weatherproofing

I would say that most cameras and lenses on the market today, at least the prosumer-grade versions and professional models, feature “weather sealing” as part of their marketing. OM SYSTEM gives you that weather sealing with the added confidence of a true IP rating.

Retro dials. Modern PASM.

Retro dials. Modern PASM.

Like its big brother, the OM-5 and the 40-150mm lens I tested are rated at IP53. This means the camera and lens are dustproof and protected against spraying water. OM SYSTEM’s testing gives the photographer a good bit of confidence in the gear when out photographing in the elements. I certainly wish the gear I usually carried came with the peace of mind that the OM SYSTEM IP rating gives.

Image Output

When exploring local beaches with the OM SYSTEM OM-5, I set the camera to capture raw and JPEG images to see if one file type had a decided advantage over the other from the OM-5’s sensor and processor combination. Interestingly, I found that the JPEG files produced cleaner sky texture in the beach shots. I tinkered with the raw images to see if I could smooth the texture, but had mixed results (likely due to my pedestrian post-processing skills). The standard out-of-camera JPEGs were not over-sharpened, nor were they much more saturated than the raw images. OM-5 shooters can confidently shoot JPEG files and get some great results—saving space on memory cards and hard drives—if they want to skip the raw files.

Keeping a weather eye on the horizon

Keeping a weather eye on the horizon

OM SYSTEM M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4 PRO Lens

This is one very, very sharp lens! Added bonus: it is light and portable!

The OM SYSTEM 40-150mm f/4 PRO lens

The OM SYSTEM 40-150mm f/4 PRO lens

If you are looking for a telephoto travel companion to the OM-1 or OM-5, look no further than the OM SYSTEM M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4 PRO lens with its 80-300mm (35mm equivalent) focal length and f/4 straight-through light gathering. This is an all-new lens from OM SYSTEM—not a carryover from the days of Olympus―and it is a fantastic piece of glass that weighs about half of what its bigger sibling, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens, weighs.

Sharp sea glass and cropped image

The lens remains relatively compact until needed. When you twist the zoom ring, the inner barrel extends from its retracted position to its operational length. Once there, all focal length changes are internal. The lens is the same size at 40mm as it is at 150mm.

There are several advantages to this. First, the moving parts are all inside the lens body, so no worries about getting dirt, moisture, or dust inside a telescoping lens body. Also, internal zooming keeps the lens from sticking its nose out farther than you might want it to—it helps with discretion when zooming out to distant subjects.

Not macro, but pretty darn close-up

Another highlight of this new lens is its close-focus capabilities. Minimum focus distance is 27.6" with a magnification of 0.41x.—close to a 1:2 macro. As you can see from the photos, getting up close and personal with this lens was a blast, and a very nice option for the travel photographer to have built-in to a telephoto lens.

Lens Pairings

While I was only provided with the new 40-150mm f/4 lens for this review, I did do some serious thinking about which lenses I would pair with this telephoto and the OM-5 for travel adventures.

The OM SYSTEM M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO II lens would be the obvious choice since it is a professional grade, mid-range, all-purpose zoom with a nice, wide f/2.8 aperture. If the f/4 of the 40-150 starts to handicap you in low light, you could switch to the 12-40 f/2.8, shoot a bit wider, and gather more light. I have personal experience with the Olympus precursor to this lens and I can tell you that the optics are outstanding.

OM SYSTEM M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO II Lens

OM SYSTEM M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO II Lens

If you want to keep your gear lighter, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4 PRO lens will be a great option, as well. Although you lose a stop of light, you can easily compensate for that with the OM-5’s excellent image stabilization system. And, what you lose in light gathering, you gain in lightness—saving 4 oz. with the f/4 lens.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4 PRO Lens

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4 PRO Lens

If you’ve read my articles on B&H, specifically this one on 50mm lenses, you’ll know what else I bring along on my travels. If you don’t, I will share that the one OM-5 lens I would not leave home without is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 lens. Paired with the zooms, this will be your go-to option for when you want to just throw the camera, sans camera bag, over your shoulder and head out for some awesome photographic adventures. Extremely portable, the OM-5 and this lens together weigh just over a single pound! And, at f/1.8, this lens will be your low-light machine!

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 Lens

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 Lens

If I am cool with some extra heft to the camera bag, I would, as an alternative to the 25mm f/1.8, carry the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens—a lens that, I believe, has the largest number of elements (19) of any prime lens on the market today. While I would brag to my friends about that factoid, I would enjoy the fact that this f/1.2 prime lens weighs almost the same as the camera—making the balance of the two superb.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO Lens

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO Lens

Travel Companion

Designed with an eye on travel, the OM SYSTEM OM-5, plus the 40-150mm f/4 lens, makes a lightweight and compact powerhouse pair that allows for fantastic image quality without the size and weight of other kinds of digital cameras. The telephoto 40-150mm is not an all-purpose lens, so plan on bringing more glass, but even when you are traveling locally, the OM-5 makes a great staycation companion!

OM-5

OM-5

Do you have any questions about the new OM SYSTEM OM-5 and new 40-150mm f/4? Are you already in the Micro Four Thirds universe and thinking about upgrading? Let us know in the Comments section, below!

4 Comments

Great article!  This camera is very tempting; video specs a more bit basic but a great off grid camera (backpacking and hiking) 

Great article!  Have been considering the OM5 for sometime; possibly a little Iight on video features (but does the basics well enough) and on sale right now at B&H…tempting.  For me more use on long hikes and  the odd backpack trip and some occasional talking head video work.  

A really obvious companion lens for travelling is the OM System 12-100 f/4 PRO.  This supports Sync IS which gives an extra 1/2 to 1 stop of stabilization and with a constant f/4 aperture it's fast enough.  The image quality is excellent and this lens has become my favorite lens, it lives on the front of one of my bodies or the other pretty much all the time.

Hey John,

Thanks for reading and sharing your pro tip. I won't argue with you there! Unfortunately, OM Systems only equipped me with their latest and greatest glass, so I didn't get a chance to test some other lenses with the OM-5.

Thanks for reading!

Best,

Todd