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Thursday, 05 July 2012


Will we ever see a digital camera without a menu?
That would be wonderful!!

Yes! All these electro gadgets need to have an "E-Z" setting where only a few menu items and controls are necessary to run the thing. What do I need on a camera: ISO, shutter, aperture?

Even my crappy little (new) dumb phone has such a setting override. It's not perfectly designed, but that feature alone makes it worthwhile.

It always helps when a manufacturer focuses all their money, time and talent on one product - like the EM-5, Leica, Phase One, the iPhone and MacDonalds.

I would have actually preferred the EM-5 in an E-P3 body. But there's always scope for a sequel.

Glad you like the E-M5. It is somewhat complicated to set setup at first. I just took mine to the Four Corners along with my 60D. The Olympus turned out to be a superior travel camera. Got some nice shots of Monument Valley in late afternoon using the 20mm 1.7 lens. Too much good stuff to mention.

Now that I have settled in with E-M5 it will be hard to go back to using anything larger. The IQ is good enough and the handling is excellent.

Camera manufacturers already have the main/lite version hierarchy to a certain extent, e.g., Lumix GHx and Gx models.

This is one heck of a great camera, the first one that I'd switch my K-5 against without ANY second thoughts. The mFT lens lineup is also good enough - get the 9-18 plus the 45mm and you have a killer kit.

The 12-50 "kit" lens is also worth having - extremely versatile, and does amazing macro shots.

I've told people it took me 2 days to figure out the EM5 (and I've owned the E520 and E620 before that!) and only 2 hours to figure out the Pany GH2.

Welcome back, Mike.

I once, while on my motorcycle, did a hand signal to show that I was taking the slip road off the dual carriageway. I stuck my left arm straight out, then found that I couldn't get my hand back on the bars. It was the wind at 80 mph that stopped me.

I had to drop the arm down, then tuck it in front of my body to slide up the tank and back on the bars, ready to brake for the roundabout at the top of the slip road.

Riding the bike at 80-85mph all weekend used to make my neck ache until Tuesday evening. No fairing, you see.

I hope that in the future, it will become standard practice for companies to issue two versions of every camera: the main one, with the 40,000 features and the menus carefully engineered to turn peoples' hair gray, and a second "Lite" version that simply has all the features people need to take pictures. That's all some people want to do with cameras, strange as it may sound.

C'mon Mike, you can't do that. Consumers will never go for elegance and clarity of design in a device, they want a device that checks every possible box on a features list. Remember when Apple released a tablet computer that didn't even have a USB port? What a disaster that was...

Mike, great to have TOP back. I second your views on the IS and the menus and the IQ.

For me as a whitebeard, for whom grey hair is just nice memory, driving this wonderful camera is maddeningly difficult. The first person to sell a really well-thought-out pocket guide will do well, I think.

Sounds good. I'm sure that DPR guide will help. I haven't had the frustration experience with Olympus, perhaps because I was just getting into photography and bought a 420 as my first dslr, so studying the manual for a week and learning the menu system front to back seemed like what I should do. Now, switching systems, I'd likely be less patient. If I pick up a Nikon I feel like an idiot looking for various settings. Looking forward to further findings.

Don't apologise for the haze. The shot has that je ne sais quoi *because* of the haze. I wish digital shots looked like that more often. But to me, they don't (they're too much like "real life"), which is why I went back to film.

I too have the OM-D. I too was frustrated with the user interface until I decided to just jump in and spend some time going through every option. I really like the super control panel and use it for verifying settings are what I expect. The one thing I dislike very much is having to hold the special buttons down while shooting to get the custom settings invoked. I wish it was a toggle on/off function. BTW, I'm an embedded software engineer who would love to get his hands on the tools and source code just to change a few little functions. :-)

Wow, Mike! Love those first two photos (and their color and composition coordination :) ). Judging from these and the tub torture test, the MJ-OMD combo seems well worth the extra-complex learning/setup period.

And, btw, welcome back to the... well, whatever we're calling the internet/web blog/zine channel these days!

Yehhhh.... TOP is back. I missed you.

For me the most frustrating thing was to change the size of AF box (I like them real small & centered), and have it stick ;-(

One of my favourite jokes: South Dakota is very windy and has a lot of chicken farms. One day, the wind stopped. All the chickens fell down.

It's been 30 years since I heard it, and I still giggle.

Your observations about overly complicated controls on SLR and EVIL cameras are on the mark. Kirk Tuck just a few weeks back made the same plea for a more basic camera with direct control of; Shutter speed, aperture, focus, WB, and ISO. I think that was the complete list. The rest of the Buck Rogers stuff could be accessed under a covered panel. A panel that might be opened....oh I don't know...maybe once a year by Mike and Kirk and other 'people like us'.

Any time you have to dive into the menus it is indeed a disaster. The good news is that when you get the camera set up the way you like it is pretty rare that you have to go spelunking anymore (unless you like that kind of thing).

If you need a few well-defined camera setups then you can save them as "my sets", which is only slightly painful to switch between (unless you map it to a button). I mostly just adjust the aperture and shutter speed via the dials, occasionally use the zoom feature for focus, and leave the camera on auto ISO. Everything else just kinda stays out of the way.

To Pteoh and any others who comment that cameras already have "easy" modes or models; the problem with current "easy" modes is that they go in the wrong direction. Instead of de-cluttering the options and just leaving the basics of photography (ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, exposure comp.) they go into "idiot mode" where the photographer has LESS control over the camera's functions.

I don't want the camera to decide everything for me. I want it to make it easy for me to decide. Easy adjustment of the things I just mentioned. Easy switching from viewfinder to LCD mode. That's really all I want.

enjoyed the Muskegon ferry shots. as I write this we're at our "lake house" at Pentwater MI, 40 miles N of the Muskegon boat. took it last year for a day trip to the Milwaukee art museum. Try the Ludington boat sometime...last coal fired steamship in N. America! will wright

I agree, digital cameras are much too complex - why make photography such a challenge?

By the way, internet talk is saying the EM-5 has a Sony sensor instead of Panasonic. Don't know though if this has ever been confirmed by any reliable source.

Nice to see TOP return from hiatus with your initial reports of the E-M5. I just got back from my vacation in Krakow (your hiatus was excellently timed) and today I fondled an E-M5 for the second time, right before taking in a Sally Mann exhibition and then jumping on a train for my final leg of my journey home.

I'm a bit apprehensive about the technical complexity of the E-M5, but I think most modern cameras (my Nikon D40 isn't modern anymore, is it?) would do the same, if maybe not all on the same level. Still, there are several reasons why I want to go over to M43 and the E-M5 feels like the tipping point for switching. I'm extremely pleased to read your assessment of highlight transition, a thing that has seemed like a weak spot of the Panasonic cameras I had been considering before the E-M5 arrived. I guess Olympus will be getting my next paycheck then…

I'm gonna go with Kevin on that second picture.

To hell with the "rule of thirds", that's just gorgeous.

I agree that the camera's control menu system is Byzantine, although coming from the PEN it was less unexpected to me than it may have been to you.

After a month or so with the camera I've done what most probably do; I've settled into settings that keep me out of the menus. The quick-setting screen (which you'll learn when you read the dpreview guide) is a helpful shortcut, too.

I, too, don't understand why Japanese camera companies struggle with user interface designs so badly. I think, with some direct knowledge of their culture, I can safely speculate that it's their consensus-oriented culture that ultimately ruins stuff. Ironically, as individuals the Japanese love streamlined designs.

BTW, I also like that harbor breakwater image very much. I know exactly where you took it. Lovely color and second-shoe revelations.

I was just wondering this morning why there wasn't a digital equivelant of the Pentax K1000-- super basic camera with all-manual shooting mode and nothing else.

Unfortunately, I suspect any efforts a camera maker would expend in that direction would quickly suffer from feature creep, and we'd end up with the same frightful array of menus and bad art filters.

Mike, second shot is really nice. Agree with the other admirers. Can't put it better than David Me.

I just don't understand all the issues these companies have with menus and controls. It's just absurd.

The a850 has a brilliant layout and great get-to-the-point controls. The NEX 5n is the exact opposite.

Would love to see the OM-D/a900/Portra shoot-out. You can do it Mike! Give us a little pixel peeping on TOP.

The best way for you to get what you want, is for camera vendors to open-source their firmwares. Then people like me (engineers) can trade away some free time to benefit the community, with these minimalist firmwares. We could also innovate in ways that possibly would never generate income but still improve photographers' lives.

After about a month with this camera, I've learned to love it. I had the same maddening experience with the set-up as everyone else reports.

Now, what really annoys me is the fact that it's impossible to have both the minimised size focus rectangle AND the live histogram in the VF at the same time. You have to keep stabbing at the info button to cycle through the options. The hair-trigger Fn buttons had me bamboozled for a while too.

The live histogram is brilliant, how did I live without it? Just as well it's there as in matrix metering mode (or whatever Olympus call it) this camera is absurdly pessimistic and underexposes most of the time - frequently >1 stop.

My D700 now seems even heavier. Do I really need it?


Maybe we could send your OM-D and my X-Pro 1 somewhere to "mate" and exchange firmware as part of their vows. Thus you would get Fuji's simple menu system and I might get fast autofocus!

Nice to hear that the highlight retention of the OMD is that nice. I am a bit concerned as to why DXO has the overall image quality rated about the same as all of the other M4'3 offerings and well behind many similarly priced DSLR's?

Also a camera with buttons for ISO, AF settings, WB, Exposure compensation, flash and erase and format would be fine by me. Save the menus I don't need the date and clock.

My dad recently bought an EM-5 and I got to try it a few weeks ago. My initial impression is that I love it with the additional grip, not the whole vertical grip but instead the bigger front grip and the extra baseplate. Makes it much more comfortable to hold.

Also the IS truly is amazing and it's especially noticeable when shooting video. Unfortunately none of the video that I shot has sound because I couldn't find the "Turn video sound On/Off" in the menu until it was too late. I liked the EVF but the LCD screen on the back is also fantastic. The quiet snick of the shutter is delightful--completely unlike the loud bang of my D200.

I would have expected you to book on The Badger as opposed to the more expensive alternative crossing...

As to the easy versus the difficult cameras; have now gone full circle for me the circle being 40 years in length. The Nikon F100 is now boxed for along with the two Nikkor lenses. Anybody interested?
Might do a KEH although have not yet decided.

I have very a lightweight, very easy to understand Pentax K-z with an 18 -> 135mm lens. My feeble brains is quite accepting of this new device.

Started my photography actually with an Exa, then a Petri half-frame then Pentax then Nikon and now back to Pentax.

My photography desires are close to nil these days, so the K-X is set to manual and for me just fine.

Why didigtal? Responsible E-6 processors are few and far between here in Southern Ontario. I could take it to two different labs in Toronto however the chore of driving there, parking and delivering the film to the lab, and then waiting five to eight days, is no longer for me a viable alternative.

Digital for me is all I need, too many slides, not enought people remaining to view them.

I have had my OM-D for a week now and am very pleased with the image quality, the lenses I purchased, and much of the handling.

But I certainly do have complaints about handling. First, I thumb-button focus, which is possible with the camera and easily enough accessed in the menus. But, if you used FN 1, it is actually quite difficult to access with your thumb unless you have an extra joint somewhere about the middle of your thumbnail. My Canon 7D has perfect thumb button focus; I can focus it with frost-bitten hands.

Second problem is bracketing. To bracket you have to wade into the menus and once you get there you find you can not bracket more than a stop. Bracketing should be either available directly from a button or at the top level of the back live menu or whatever they call it.

Third, for me anyway, is the main dial is too much of a reach for my thumb when the camera is at eye level. The dial used for changing the main exposure parameter needs to be easily accessible.

And, like everyone else, the menus are a bit dense. However, most of the time a person should not have to wade in there more than once in a while. Bracketing and changing focus mode are the two main reasons for me to go back into the menu now, and they should both be accessible from the back lcd menu. That complaint is tempered a bit by continuous focus not being worth much and will not be until the camera makers put phase detect focus on the imaging sensor.

Image quality is better than I had expected and my two fancy lenses, the Panny 45 2.8 macro and 25 1.4, are spectacular optically. Even the 14-42 kit lens is better than I expected; it is an F8 and be there lens. With care in processing, I expect I will be able make 20x prints which will match what I can get out of my 1Dsiii, if the best lenses are used.

Nice photo with the tower. The bathtub photo really did reveal the strength of this sensor - and my personal findings concur with your observation. With the red/blue white/black clipping warnings enabled, it really takes an extreme scene to get them to clip. Since you've probably not fiddled too much with the settings, I am guessing you are still running with "Gradation Normal". Set it to "Gradation Auto" and watch the same magic on the dark side of the histogram.

Do read the dpreview's guide soon. Your usability complaints will go away once its setup as per your preferences. Their default settings are very enthusiast unfriendly, the main reason I think dpreview felt compelled to write a guide for it.

OMD images look nice. I agree with Sareesh, I can't wait to see this Sony sensor in an EP4, preferably with a built-in EVF (like NEX 7). No more hot-shoe-mounted, always-slipping-off, bell-tower-like, $300 EVfs, please. (OK, the tilting feature was handy at times.)

John Robinson, you should look into the X100. I never go into the menu. Heck, even with my NEX-7, once you set it up, you don't need to ever go into the menus, either, although the unlabeled buttons and dials may be confusing for some.

Glad you're back Mike!

Thanks for the OM-D insights. I am debating buying this camera as a replacement for my aging Canon 5D classic. Funds are tight at this house and I want to make sure that whatever I purchase is a good value. My 5D has been a workhorse for 5 years and it's paid for itself six times over. My 5D hasn't really show much age until this year. The IQ of newer cameras is starting to make my 5D look dated (IMO). How do you think the OM-D will hold up over time? Is the IQ something you'd be happy with for the next few years? I realize that's a tough question.

The nice thing about analog cameras was that, for the most part, everything was in the same place. You didn't need to re-learn how to load film when you changed cameras (Leica excepted 8-0 ). I've been using Canon DSLRs since the mid-00s and they all have a preview button, for those that like to chimp, the Sony NEX 5n doesn't have a preview button (chimping must be in some obscure menu 8-0 ). Me, I learned photography during the last Ice Age, so I don't chimp or use histograms :-).

Maybe someday we will see standardized menus, but not in my lifetime.

Just as digital cameras were beginning to hit the market, Galen Rowell wrote that he thought the "simplicity" of automatic-everything cameras would make them more difficult to use. How right he was. It's interesting to see how many experienced photographers (we gray hair types) long for an advanced digital camera with straightforward controls for the essentials (remember diaphragm rings and ASA/ISO dials?). Not wanting to drop $15K for an M-9 with lens, I went for the Fuji X-Pro 1. Its great innovation is the "Q" button that easily lets you set the essentials without diving into the menus. The lenses even have diaphragm rings!!

"…this camera gives me the feeling that lots of smart people worked really hard trying to complexificate it as much as humanly possible."

My feeling is that the menu system and the manual were designed/written by software engineers rather than photographers.

I have difficulty finding some things in the menu system, even 9 months after getting my E-P3 and the E-M5 has even more options. Why can't we have separate menus at the top level structured like Focus, Shutter, Exposure, Buttons, information, Display Screen, Viewfinder, Photo Review, Setup? That, for a start, would give me some better clues.

As for the manual. I don't know if the original Japanese version is clearer but I think it lost something in translation and while it tries to tell me what all the menu options are, it often leaves me in the dark about what they're intended to do as far as taking photographs goes. I'm sure there are features I'm not using that I could use, if only I knew what they were intended to do and sometimes a little more on how to use them.

The big godsend, the one thing that makes both my E-P3 and E-M5 really useable in my opinion is the Super Control Panel. That lets me control everything I need to control when taking photos. I think there are probably a few other things not on the SCP that would be of value to me and I hope that a photographer who actually uses an E-M5 brings out a book that can demystify the Olympus menu system for me. Sadly there is a reason that a market exists for third party manuals for technical products.

I don't understand the confusion, the Super Control Panel is still there and all you need to do is enable it via the info button (it remains persistent); after that, every important function is available by pushing the OK button. It's fast and easy.

Having started shooting DSLRs with Olympus, I can't say I find the E-M5 menus particularly difficult. Menus on other brands sometimes baffle me. I take this to reflect familiarity (or lack thereof).

What I do appreciate about Olympus are the extensive customizability they allow their users and the Super Control Panel. Being able to do things like set a different metering mode for AEL is just wonderful: set AEL metering to spot and, used in conjunction with exposure comp, zone placement is a breeze! Once I have the camera set up to my liking, I rarely need to enter the menus: almost every setting I regularly use is available easily through the SCP. (Four exceptions spring to mind: live view boost, bracketing, RC flash, and My Sets — only the first is a real pain to change.)

Having graduated from the EP2 to EP3 to OMD-EM5, I guess I am accustomed to Olympus menus. I do miss the simplicity of my Nikons though.
Didn't someone say that Canon is for Sports Pro's; Nikon for Photojournalists; and Olympus for people who don't have any friends?

Mike,regarding point two. I've had my OMD for 6 weeks now and at first was slightly confused by the buttons and menus too. But a few minutes spent reading the owners manual, combined with DPReview's guide, made all the difference in the world. The Super Control Panel is great - all the settings I might want to change all in one easy access menu. This covers any setting beyond the two dials used most often. I am very impressed with the metering - it does a better job than my 5DMkII in nailing exposure. It certainly is a game changer for me. The desire to upgrade the 5DMkII is gone - it's good enough for full frame, but the OMD is the one I carry everywhere. Good glass just makes it shine - the 45mm 1.8 is simply stunning. And for those of us no longer in our twenties, it's makes for a very compact kit that can be carried all day.

I just wnet throught his last night trying to shoot July 4th fireworks with my Nex-7. I only needed to do a few things: turn off IS, turn off auto ISO and select 400 for dark noise control and change to remote firing for tripod use. Turns out you can't get there from here. Once you change some of those settings, others aren't available; once you change some of those settings certain options have migrated to different controls. It was bad enough getting set up for the fireworks; it took me twice as long to get things back to where they normally are cursing and stumbling through the dark. If it's not too boring (and self-=serving) here are some of the successful shots (including some gratuitous panning in the dark with the shutter open): http://obblogato.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/july-4th-fireworks-in-ny-2/

Most mid level dslrs like the canon 5dmkII have a setting that I call the "hand your camera to a twelve year old" mode aka idiot mode / Sasquatch mode ( as in you're taking time exposures of waterfalls and Sasquatch runs by and you don't have time to change all the settings ) It's the green setting.
A friend calls it Cruise control for when you see Tom Cruise at the Burger King.

Hi Mike, Rumour has it that the E-M5 uses a Sony sensor rather than the usual Panasonic ones. Maybe this explains the film-like quality of the files, given Sony's recent advances. Personally, I'm hoping they transfer this sensor into the E series (? the upcoming E-7) as I have a collection of 4/3 lenses that would love this sensor very much. Cheers, Kevin

"Riding the bike at 80-85mph all weekend used to make my neck ache until Tuesday evening. No fairing, you see."

That's what's great about clipons. They are a lot less great at low speeds.

Phew! TOP is back! That felt like forever! I'm glad you're warming up to your new EM-5. I'd like one too, but it's not in the cards for me. I do enjoy your commentary on the experience.

You're a great guy, Mike. Don't stop writing.

Will and Bryce,
I've taken the Badger many times, starting when I was a boy. But the Lake Express is much faster and drops us virtually at our doorstep, whereas when the Badger gets to port we still have 100 miles to drive before we're home. So it ends up being a much longer trip for us.

It's true that the Badger is a much more "nautical" experience, with much more flavor.


Isn't the Leica S2 supposed to be pretty bare-bones, with few adjustments and only a handful of buttons?

I agree with the others that the SCP is the best control method once you figure out how to enable it. It's not very easy to navigate with my E-PL2, but a touchscreen must make it easier. I have also learned to use the MYSET function to reset everything back to my usual starting point.

I have had my OMD for a couple months now. I have not got to spend enough time with it yet to start to get comfortable. I have the EP1 as well, its familiar, but just a lot MORE menus and controls.

I used the DRP write up but also found these to be helpful too. I especially like the first and how he breaks down users into 3 groups, traditional, the ipad generation and casual.



In the above site is this little gem which is a master chart of the function buttons. When you add the grip you have a LOT of options available:


I think I am going to like this camera, its just going to take some time. Right now I have a lot of pics of my home office desk and the surroundings, from trying out all the options.

Thanks for your thoughts on this, I hope to hear more.


I've never complained about camera setup difficulty... but the Olympus is terrible. The tiny buttons on the back don't help - but at least you don't have to use them often once it's set up.

I've got the Panaleica 25/1.4 and Olympus 45/1.8 for mine, saving for the 12/2. I can't imagine what a similar Nikon setup (D800 w/ 28/50/85) would do for me that this can't, for now, aside from cost several thousand more. The OM-D is a great camera and the top of the line m43 lenses are steals.

"In fact, I might go so far as to say that the OM-D is the very first digital camera I've ever used that has truly natural highlights—as good as that of some films. I reserve the right to modify that opinion after the honeymoon's over, but that's my impression now."

To me that honor belongs to the Fuji Film S3 Pro from years back.

What? No real improvements in menu over the EP-3. Perhaps the overly complex menu design is Olympus' of getting back at troublesome foreigners for ex-CEO Woodford causing "confusion." But then again, it's the same menu as the Japanese version, and the user manuals usually have no more detailed information in Japanese than they do in English. Sometimes, less.

Coming from one brand to another is always tough, especially for those who come from mid-level or higher dSLRs of other brands to something like an Olympus EP3.

When I first got my EP3, I had been using Nikon dSLRs since the D70 was introduced. The D300 was my latest and although the menu was complex, I had experience with the D70, so it was not a painful switch. A bonus was that the D300 was better thought out and many important functions were available on buttons or switches which required zero menu diving.

The EP3 was an adventure. It took me a month just to learn to use it somewhat quickly. Wanna change ISO? Go to the "quick menu" and do it there. Wanna change ISO and focus point? Go to the Quick Menu, change ISO. Then, since the "quick" menu goes away with each change, bring up the "quick" menu a second time and change focus point location. Oh, wanna change from single focus point to multi? Cool. Go to the regular menu and dig through that, then go back to the quick menu to make other changes you may need. 'twas great fun for me and I had many decisive moments---decisive moments being whether or not to wrap that thing around the nearest phone pole. Now I avoid Quick Menu changes if at all possible.

Still haven't figured out how to get the world's fastest auto focus.*

Anyway, it is good to see Oly with another hit. They need a few extra yen to pay one of their whistle-blowing Japanese employees after losing yet another court case (appeal).

This menu thing is common to most electronic devices, with the DVR/cable box remote being the worst. When one car company put a controller on the console, they originally had over 700,000 possible settings?
When I bought my first Oly Pen camera, I corresponded to a "real person" at Oly USA looking for some accessories. I shared with them my suggestions for menus, including linking the electronic version of the manual to allow customizing the camera, adding custom "soft buttons" to the display and having custom "setups" for uses. The person liked my ideas but told me they never send ideas like this back to Japan because they were afraid that if some ideas were used, they might get sued. If you follow tech litigation, you know this is not a trivial worry!

@Roy, In case you aren't aware, you can bias each metering mode under custom menu K, Exposure Shift.

@Steve, I agree with you regarding using the thumb to manipulate the rear dial. I've switched to working both dials with my index finger, which works quite well for me.

The bathtub shot is impressive. May I assume you're shooting RAW, or are you seeing these results from jpgs?

I took the new E-M5 on a trip to the UK as some of my photos were in the London Photography Festival, and I didn't feel like lugging the 5D and lenses around such a large city. With the exception of not playing well with Panasonic's 20mm lens (basically, the "on-off switch" becomes the battery door when using that lens), the camera performed well, especially at night when the image stabilization really helped.

MJFerron - The DxOMark website has not published a full review of the EM-5, so anything you've seen rating it would be a guess. Based on everything I've read, it eventually should come out somewhat ahead of all the other m43 sensors.

I feel pretty much the same way about the highlight gradation of the E-M5, although I'm not sure how much credit to give the E-M5 and how much to Adobe Lightroom, which took another big step forward with highlight recovery in version 4.

Here's a fireworks shot from yesterday where in the default rendering the highlights are well blown, and the shadows are near black:


Pulled a few sliders in Lightroom to bring up the overall brightness while pulling back those highlights and came up with something I liked a lot more:


Whatever the reason, the E-M5 files are just incredibly nice to work with in Lightroom.

It's kinda hard to photograph wind

Actually, it's impossible :-) Sometimes there's a comic lightbulb-switching-on expression when I tell newbies to stop trying to photograph the wind and instead photograph the story-telling effects of the wind.

Gratuitously, here's my favourite wind photo:

c.d.embrey, the NEX-5N has a chimping button. It's the button with the "play" icon on it, near the top of the camera.

Blown away... by the wind or by the OM-D E-M5?

The E-M5 menu is a doddle compared to a Fuji X10. I'm sure when you have it set Mike you will find there is very little else to do other than shoot away. When you narrow down your settings save them as a 'My Set' and they can be instantly recalled.

It is more than a rumour that the sensor is made by Sony. I take two good points from this. One is that Sony have enough confidence in Olympus to make a bespoke sensor for them. The second is that Sony clearly aren't going to be giving Olympus cast off's like Panasonic did (like why did the GH2 sensor never make it into the E5). They also seem to harbour no grudges that the E-M5 seems to perfom better than the NEX-7 regarding image quality (DR, high ISO, resolution etc), or perhaps because of development lead times we are seeing a new strategy in sensor design from Sony that just happens to have its first flourish with Olympus.

There is a simple and obvious reason why nobody makes a digital camera that only supports completely manual shooting: there is no market for such a thing. Not within three orders of magnitude of how many they'd have to sell to make it worth building.

On my EPL-2, beyond basic manual camera controls, I routinely mess with metering mode (using all of spot, center-weighted, and matrix), ISO (auto or some fixed value), auto-focus mode (face-detection, single vs. continuous), format (4:3, 2:3, or 16:9), and no doubt things I've forgotten. And this is just for simple stuff, I take the D700 for serious stuff.

And while most manual cameras had basic controls in roughly the same places (aperture on the lens, shutter speed on a dial next to the shutter release, focus on the lens, ISO tended to wander a bit), one of the major violators of this standard was...Olympus, which put the shutter speed concentric with the lens mount on the OM series film SLRs. I know people who loved it, but I felt that moving a major function from the right hand to the left hand was a mistake, as the left was overloaded as it was.

We have people producing open source firmware for all kinds of devices, such as wifi routers? Why can't someone deliver us from evil (heh...couldn't resist) and hack camera firmware? Is it because the chips are proprietary?

This c. 1912 tub is under a skylight, so this is bright sun on white porcelain

Why the three taps? Hot, cold and...?

@MJFerron: Where did you see DXO results for the Olympus OM-D E-M5, not on their site that's for sure. I've been looking out for those for quite some time, unfortunately they haven't tested it yet.

But the bathtub does indeed give rise to some expectations, so thanks for that.

(What on earth is a Sasquatch? I mean I've heard of Tom Cruise, though I avoid Burger Kings as a rule.)

Hey there & welcome back.

> so humid I had the sensation the air was wet.

Come to Japan, where, if Zander pulls his trick, Kristen can swim to the ground.


I like the first photo, too. Its layered dimensionality reminds me of Sam Abell's cattle branding photo in John Kennerdel's post, albeit less dramatic. This take of relaxed folks actively listening above the wind to what their interlocutors—who are either hidden or out of the frame—are saying, makes the ordinariness of the scene compelling.

The well-resolved windblown hair of the woman in the foreground, the unclipped white-on-white livery of the ship in bright sunlight, the haze which redacts an otherwise scenic background into shades of gray, amply demonstrate the lofty IQ of the OM-D E-M5—in the right hands.

Small talk, big picture.

Which can be said also of Mike's first impressions of the OM-D.

This decides it for me, then. The OM-D is too sophisticated for me. Its chock-full features will be wasted on me. I think going manual focus is the best way for a point-and-shooter to learn serious photography.

I'll go with the Ricoh GXR + Mount A12 after all. With a fast MF normal prime (and maybe a short tele) from Zeiss (Cosina) and Ricoh's native GR 28mm e AF, I'd be set for landscape, portrait and candid (street) photography. (And a legacy C/Y Tele-Tessar for the birds, later.) But with no IS, I have to learn to use a tripod for low-light shoots, also. With enough practice, I should be able to zone focus manually just as fast as the contrast-detect AF of Ricoh and other large-sensor compacts.

Money is an object so it will take me some time to complete an outfit. Or maybe—if instant gratification proves irresistible—I'll buy the fixed lens DP2 Merrill instead, and not have to agonize over lens choices. But the new Sigma is pricey! (And apparently no IS.) Decisions, decisions... Sorry, just thinking aloud.

Thanks for the preview, Mike!

Nice return post! Personally, I prefer the 3rd (tub) image to the others. Not due to the subject or composition, but how it captures the scattering and dispersion of light. Perhaps that's a product of the sensor... though I don't care from whence it came.

I've been an EM-5 convert for about 4 weeks. The dynamic range is stunning, and it is a very photographer friendly camera, once set-up to suit the user. I'd recommend the following website for further set-up information which goes beyond the excellent DP Review guide:


See Basic and Advanced set-up, Tips & Tricks etc. Thanks very much to Siegfried for the work that he has put in to that site, it helped me tremendously.

"The bathtub shot is impressive. May I assume you're shooting RAW, or are you seeing these results from jpgs?"

Right, Raw and ACR.


"Why the three taps? Hot, cold and...?"

The middle one opens and closes the drain in that tub.


I guess I am using the camera incorrectly! I just picked up the OM-D, my first digital camera - decided to give my 8x10 a rest for awhile. I read Carl Weese's article on TOP concerning white balance, pretty quickly figured out about the aperature/shutter priority. Played around with some other stuff - ignored most of the rest, made bunches of images and then a few prints (that is the point after all), and things look fine and I am enjoying this machine. I did try a highlight shot: chaise lounge in full sun. My eye could see the slight pattern of the white material, couldn't get it in the camera. Maybe will look at some more buttons!

@ will wright:
Sorry man, there is at least one other coal-fired steamship operating in N America: The Sabino at Mystic Seaport in Mystic Connecticut. So maybe there are just two.

Hey, I became quite inflarious when I saw that 'complexificate' word. I had to look it up. And .... it really is a real word!

I would love an OM-D for so many reasons, but it would be a real chore to give up the brilliant manual control setup on my GH2. The top of the camera has dedicated switches, which you can operate with your eyes closed, that control power, metering mode, focus mode, bracketing, burst mode, shutter delay, shooting mode including three customizable presets, and a dedicated movie button. Add the brilliant implementation of focus zoom (it auto-zooms when you MF a wired lens; pressing the thumbwheel engages and disengages it when using a 'dumb' lens) and the couple of 'fn' buttons have to pull very light duty. One controls flash compensation and I can't even remember what the other one does.

If the GH2 came with IBIS I would keep it until the knobs fall off. As it stands the old Nikkor 180/2.8 sits on a shelf, taunting me and gathering dust until I switch back to Olympus.

Thanks Mike, for your 1st impressions. I have also found the highlights very natural with subtle gradations and the overall IQ excellent. I agree that the menu system is very complicated, but I am willing to accept that in exchange for ability to customize so many functions. Still I can not help but feel that they could have done a better job with the menus and clearly the PDF manual could be better. Overall, after 2 months I am extremely pleased with my OM-D. By the way, I love your photo of the tub. The light is sublime.

I returned a Canon G9 because I hated the menu system. With the exception of the mirror lockup function (anti-shock) the menus are just fine on the EM-5.

Regarding overly complex menus and controls, it seems to pervade Japanese design on electronics and software of all sorts -- not just cameras. Look at the manufacturer-provided utilities on Japanese brand laptops, which make the simplest tasks needlessly complex. Or the million tiny buttons on most car stereos from Japanese manufacturers. I've never understood it, considering how minimalist and functional Japanese design can be in other areas (e.g. furniture).

Minolta seemed to be one of the few Japanese companies immune to that, which probably explains the jarring difference between the high end Sony dSLRs and the NEX line -- the former coming out of Sony's acquisition of K-M's camera business, the latter being driven by Sony's consumer electronic folks.

What I'd love to see would be a Micro 4/3rds camera with the image output and anti-shake Olympus gave the OM-D and a user interface designed by the ex-Minolta folks. Throw in video features done by the folks responsible for the Panasonic GH line and I'd never need another camera. (I know a lot of TOP readers don't care about video, but it can be done without making the camera any less suitable for stills.)

Only issue I've had with it, now that my Photoshop is FINALLY set up to do RAWs out of the EM-5 (and that's another story) is this:

Shot a show where the singer(against a black background)had black hair and a black skirt. Using the EVF, I comped the exposure in Program mode (about -1 and 1/3)till it looked right. Was aiming to make sure the exposure on her face looked good. Swore there was shadow detail in the hair and the skirt.

But when I brought the shots up on my computer, they looked a lot darker than they had in the camera, and there was no shadow detail--just black areas where the hair and skirt were supposed to be. Kicked up the exposure per Photoshop Camera RAW, which brought back the detail--albeit with noise.

I don't know whether this is because the Photoshop DNG Converter I'm using (Version 7.1) might be mistranslating some of the EM-5's RAW data in the transition process, or whether this might be because I'm not yet used to working with an EVF--even though supposedly what you see in it is EXACTLY what the sensor sees. I think the trick might be to concentrate on the shadow detail when setting exposure, even if the other tones look slightly overexposed.

Other than that, the EM-5 is a killer camera....

Guess I'm an outlier; I picked up the OMD (E-M5) and was so pleased by the feel and the sound that I put it on "A" and started taking pictures. Front wheel is exposure, back wheel is aperture.
Piece of cake.
As I needed other functions, I looked them up. Perhaps it helps that I've been using Olys since the E-420, so the arrangement of the menus doesn't seem strange. The "Super Control Panel" makes menu diving unnecessary for common adjustments.

Overall I found the E-M5 the most transparent and un-annoying new camera I've used in some time.

The complaints here seem to go in two opposing and incompatible directions: Either it's too complicated, and ought to be more like a film camera with fewer options, or "I can't get somewhat obscure and specialized digital option A, and somewhat obscure and specialized digital option B at the same time."

Or "I can't get them in the same way I did on Brand X."

As a (very) old software engineer, this mostly sounds to me like "I just don't like learning anything new."

The E-M5 is really a very nice camera. You don't need to mess with the complicated stuff at all. But it's there if you need it.

One other thing, now that we're talking about overly complex digital cameras...I wish someone would make a totally manual focus DSLR, kinda like the Leica M9 is totally manual focus.

Yeah, yeah, I know that you cam switch over from Auto to Manual focus, and maybe check with focus confirmation, but that's not quite the same thing. Case in point:

Over the Fourth, (using my Olympus E-3 with 14-35mm zoom lens) I was asked to shoot a Fourth of July concert, and "grip and grins" at the after party. The latter took place in a pretty dark room. I found my camera was having real difficulty focusing and--as I found out later, even when the focus confirmation finally came on , it was either losing focus when I took the shot, or focusing elsewhere--or something--as a good number of the photos came out out of focus--some pretty badly.

Now, if I'dve had a straight manual focus DSLR with a big, bright viewfinder--a la the OM-2 or the Leicaflex Sl-2--I think I woulda got those shots...

@PWL -- my advice is, don't use exposure compensation to make the scene "look right"; use it to ensure that the camera captures the detail you want. If the photograph then looks too bright on your computer, you can safely darken it.

I have been using the OM-D for a couple of months now, and I love it. There are numerous weirdnesses and outright idiocies in the firmware, though, and I do hope that Olympus gets around to fixing them at some point. For example, I'd love to be able to turn off the eye sensor, which works poorly in my experience, without being forced to use a different EVF mode from the one I want. And it takes a lot of customization to make it easy to switch from AF to MF.

Ned, I was going to tell you how to lock the mirror easily via the control panel, but then I remembered that there is no mirror. But if there is still some kind of shutter cock option, try turning it on, then select the frame rate option and dial back.

If you have got used to 1/1.5 (APS-C)and aren't sure about 1/1.33 (MFT)have a look at this easy to use alternative to the Olympus.

So what you're really saying is that the OM-D should have an OM-1 and OM-2n mode? Yup, just as I thought.

I rather take exception to the idea that the Oly interface confusion is particularly a Japanese thing. If you'd even used a Pentax K5 you'd realise just how simple a complex camera can really be.

To the poster who wrote;

For me the most frustrating thing was to change the size of AF box (I like them real small & centered), and have it stick ;-(

You can, and it will stick even after the camera has been turned off, too. How:

Set the Fn1 button to the magnifying glass symbol in the cog menu, and pressing that briefly (!) will bring up the last focus rectangle setting used (and it remembers both the magnification and the location). Any change to size or location in the present session will be remembered similarly.

As well: to avoid camera freezes, set the Auto Power Off to "OFF". Then the sleep mode will work as expected; I left mine on all day yesterday after doing this (and with the 20/1.7 mounted) and it woke from sleep immediately each time, regardless of how long I left it sitting on the table. Prior, the occasional freeze would occur—necessitating removing the battery.

I have sold all my FF gear now, and will be selling the GXR, too. Sold the NEX 7 a few weeks ago. The OM-D is a decent camera, with a learning curve. The best Panny and Oly primes are really good, IMHO.

But aside from initial setup (for which there are guides) the only thing that is needed to operate the E-M5 in simple mode is the Super Control Panel which appears with a press of the 'OK' button. The only thing that is confusing is why access to the Super Control Panel is not default but needs to be set in the menu system. The camera is like Photoshop or Lightroom, nobody uses all the functions, so you don't need to understand all the functions.

One of my favorite beaches in the world is just south of that lighthouse -- at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. You can easily get away from the crowds there. But don't tell too many people...

Paul Crouse
Kyoto, Japan

Thanks Kit Laughlin for the nice tip.
Mine has frozen twice. Once it didn't wake up from a deep sleep, and the other time during (touch) playback.

The camera is very very complicated.

Be careful, if you're changing a setting in menu, it might have an effect on some thing else, and often you won't even know about it. Just to illustrate, if you put the camera on continuous shooting mode, it will loose the IS, unless you go to custom menu and set it that way. I recently shot in Europe whole day without IS.

And beware If you use the camera for few days, continuously setting it up for your preferred shooting style...it will suddenly throw a surprise at you and you won't know the cause...because you have changed so many things and don't remember which. To illustrate this point, in Venice, i suddenly lost the touch-shoot feature. I could playback images by touching but just couldn't shoot that way. I tried everything possible, but no luck. I almost thought i lost that feature. Later in the day, i reset the camera and it came back.

As complicated at it is, it does give a lot of customization choices...way more than one can ask for. It does surprise me every time i discover a small but great feature.

Speaking of IS, its really really good. The thing almost resists the hand movement.

There are 54 synonyms/words for (a woman's) 'beauty' in Sanskrit. One of them is 'Laavanya', which basically means that there is a quality above and beyond just the physical features...'the salt'. Even the best features put together can't match a woman with mediocre features but with 'salt'.

This camera seems to have this, the 'salt', the ethereal quality that makes you love something despite limitations.

Ben Rosengart you can turn off the eye sensor... I have mine turned off permanently and it is fantastic. It even seems to know when I want to use the back screen, ie for reviewing, and accessing the menus.

For me the key has been to get the super control panel set so that when I hit a button it comes up, then I can select the change with my finger on the back and make the relevant changes... this functionality is fantastic.

Lastly I have turned off the record button. If I want to record a movie, I select movie on the control wheel and then use the shutter to start and end the video recording..

I do love this camera... the prints are stunning...

I had a D7000 with four lenses and bought the EM-5 with the 12-50 as a portable solution for hiking and travelling. I took dpreview's comparometer with a grain of salt, having hard times believing the tiny Oly could produce better results than many mid-range dslrs.

After using both cameras for a couple of weeks, I realized there is no valid reason to keep the Nikon. For my needs, the E-M5 does almost everyhting better. Of course there is a learning curve but it is worth the time.

The D7000 ended up on ebay and I could not be happier.

Sorry if this nutty(?)question has been asked before.Voice recognition for camera changes and commands."iso 400","1 stop over","make this look like art".Sound possible?Learning the OMD E-5 is time consuming-especially when you learn the same thing a dozen+times.

So there's the Nikon V1. Faster even to focus and shoot than the OM-D, compacter with the three main lenses, outstanding results... and to your point:

Very simple controls... as long as everything is set to automatic. And if you set things to automatical, spend your time to look at pictures rather than camera fussing the machine is uncanny in its ability to consistently deliver outstanding results.

And yet it has been panned for being too simple, insulted as being a beginner's camera (what's bad about that?), a soccer mom's camera (why is that bad?), good for someone moving up from a compact camera (why is that a negative)?

Seems people don't like- or at least say they don't like- a camera that sets out to make things TOO simple.

Len Metcalf, Ben was talking about being able to turn off the eye sensor and still use one's preferred EVF mode, which you can't do; it makes you use the mode with all the info overlayed on the shot.

Also, turning off the auto-off doesn't really solve the problem, with the 20mm the camera still needs a battery removal after sleeping.

Poagao, Len & Ben

Yeah, it's weird that you can't get the EVF mode you want with the sensor turned off. To keep data overlaid on the image to a minimum, the following settings work pretty well.

First: go to the custom menu settings at "J" labeled Built-In "EVF"

Second: open it and select the Info Settings and turn off the first three choices, leaving only the "Image Only" choice set to "on".

Third: in "J" agin, choose Displayed Grid and make sure all are turned off.

Fourth: make sure eye sensor is turned off and EVF is the selected option for viewing by holding the viewfinder button until the menu pops up to turn off the sensor. Use the same button to toggle back and forth between the LCD and the EVF.

Ok, now you are all set up. If you turn off the camera and turn it on and look through the EVF you do see all the info for 2-3 seconds (which gives you a quick visual confirmation of your settings, and then it goes away to a blank viewfinder showing only the image. Touch the shutter button and the f Ftop/Shutter Speed, exposure compensation and ISO pop up so you can adjust exposure. The focus confirmation light blinks as needed. Remove your finger from the shutter and they go away again and leave nothing but the image.

Cheers JD

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