M mount comparison (2): Olympus OMD EM5 M for mount street photography

olympus omd with m mount adapter and voigtlander 35 1.4 front


[R]etro looking cameras are in and very popular, Fuji opted for a rangefinder style while Olympus chose the retro film slr look. The marketing for the OM-D is the best I have seen for a long time, they played all of their cards right, so well that many suppliers were out of stock for a long time. It really looks like a film Olympus camera, but has crazy good FPS, ISO handling upon others. It has some good glass on its own (even though they look wimpy and plasticky) but I really wanted to handle it with M glass on the streets, here are my findings.



Olympus OM-D




olympus omd with m mount adapter and voigtlander 35 1.4 top view


[Image quality]

I had the original Olympus EP-1, and the camera had sub par image quality, it kept me at bay from micro four thirds for a while. I was sceptical at first, but the OM-D's image quality is very good even at higher ISO's… very impressive compared to my initial experience with the original PEN. All of the cameras of the comparison can create great images, and I am leaving the image quality judgement to you, below are some full size jpgs, and way below are some RAWs for download.


olympus omd full size jpg 1



olympus omd full size jpg 2



olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm back view


If there is one chief rule in design, it is that good design is invisible, think about it, the only time that you think about design it is when something is off, like a faucet that is put at chest hight. The OM-D is the only camera that I ever doubted the design choices that the engineers made. Don't get me wrong, the camera is very good-looking, but the camera is weird to handle. The camera really needs a grip, the material in the front is slippery, and the raised right side simply is not enough. I would not feel comfortable  handling this camera naked at all, I would be afraid to drop it, but the optional grip/double battery is an extra $300 purchase. But the real downfall of the camera build is the back of the camera. The ON/OFF lever is oddly placed, it's in the bottom right below the directional pad…. this breaks the predictability rule of design, that you do not mess with what users already expect to be there. I really do not like the camera build at all, even though the camera's looks are sexy. The rangefinder glass looks like it belongs with the OMD, unlike the small plastic lenses from Olympus.



olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm lens over the shoulder view



olympus omd with m mount adapter front view
Speaking of the D-pad, it has that weird mushy feeling when you press it, like there is nothing under it, I tought it was just me being too critical but my wife noticed it too. There is no feedback on the buttons, there is no little “tick” when you press them leaving you with no feedback of pressing them. The playback and function buttons have this weird placement, it's over to the right of the screen, but they are below a raised part making it harder to reach especially for large fingers. The screen can be flipped and you can use a TLR (twin lens reflex) mode, with the camera at your waist level and focus head down.



olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm lensand sensor



olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm bottom left view


[The Viewfinder]

The viewfinder is bright and easy to use. Focus on something like 1.4 is easier than the X-pro with the EVF but not as accurate with something like focus peaking. EVF is still a far cry from OVF but it does the job well enough to be able to allow shallow DOF focus. You won't be able to do this on the fly though, only on static subjects.


olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm right side view



olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm close up view



I believed that the OM-D focusing experience would be the same as the X-pro but it is actually better. Thanks to a great viewfinder, nailing 1.4 is actually easier to my great surprise. Of course in the streets, you won't be able to judge the depth of field from the EVF but it is good enough to focus on something specific like a pole or something. Besides that you are stuck with zone focusing. You can flip the screen and also try to focus with it like a twin lens reflex, allowing you not to look at your subjects in the eye if you are shy.


olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm lens top view


[Street handling]

The OM-D is the greatest surprise of all the cameras that I had to compare, it actually rocks in the streets, if you don't mind some zone focusing. The fact that the OMD has 9 fps and has a generous buffer  really makes a difference in the streets, quick focus bracketing is a breeze. For static subjects like the man and the woman in the “taken with OMD” section below it is easy to nail 1.4 with the EVF, but when it comes to more mobile subjects like a busy street scene you have to zone focus. Even a f/16 I had to rely on the sayings of the lens barrel, I could not judge Depth of Field with the EVF alone. Apparently you can magnify the image but I do not like the magnification because it always create a surprise by going back and forth magnification and non magnification.


Having to use f/16 I had the same problem as the X-Pro, I had to use reasonably fast shutter speed but had to bump up the ISO. The whole fancy touch screen is worthless with manual focus because there is no motor action going on. The OM-D is light in the hands so you can walk a while in the streets and not be tired like you would be with a regular sized DSLR camera. I wish it had focus peaking because it would absolutely be a street beast, without it you have to use small apertures for lots of situations because you will not be able to judge the amount of depth of field with the EVF.


olympus omd with m mount adapter and voitlander 35mm lens top down view




Sample RAW files

olympus omd sample RAW file 1



olympus omd sample RAW file 2



olympus omd sample RAW file 3



olympus omd sample RAW file 4



Taken with the Olympus OM-D

I saw this man as I was walking by, I was at f/16 on infinity but I was too close, so I rapidly put it in the other zone {0.7-1.5 meters} and snapped a frame.


miami street photography with olympus om-d 1



I did the exact same thing with this one, I put it in the other zone and photographed this man smoking.


miami street photography with olympus om-d 2


This couple was there and I previzualised the shot, I rapidly put the glass at 1.4 forgetting that I had high ISO because I was at f/16 and blew the exposure. I rapidly lowered the ISO and waited for the perfect shot. For some reason I am nailing 1.4 way easier on the OM-D without magnification or focus peaking.


miami street photography with olympus om-d 3



fort lauderdale street photography pattern with stairs



fort lauderdale street photography in a restaurant



fort lauderdale street photography man in a store


Strengths / Weaknesses


+ Very fast fps

+ Generous buffer

+ High rez EVF

+ Great LCD

+ Small but packs a punch


 Bad grip

 Bad button feedback and placement

 No focus peaking






f/8 maybe
The Olympus OM-D is a great camera, but since it has no focus peaking, it is a bit like the X-pro1. But unlike the X-pro 1 nailing the focus is easier with the OM-D's EVF, maybe because it is higher resolution. If you are comfortable with zone focus  and do not mind quite knowing what is in focus, get it. If you want something easier get the NEX7 or GXR M, they have focus peaking.


[Where to get it]

Get it here from Amazon


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6 thoughts on “M mount comparison (2): Olympus OMD EM5 M for mount street photography”

  1. Pingback: thef8blog: Life with a camera in hand » M mount comparison (1): Voigtlander 35 + Fuji Xpro 1 for street photography

    1. Actually, no. What I really wanted was everything in focus, I didn’t really mind diffraction because of the way I post process. I really missed my GRD in the streets because I do not have to worry about dof that much.

  2. Did you not use the touch focus on screen, where you can select area of focus quickly and even release the shutter at the same time?

  3. Pingback: Die X-Pro1 & der M-Mount. Adaption manueller Leica Linsen. | leichtscharf.de

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