The Olympus OM-D E-M5 – One year on. By Neil Buchan-Grant

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 – One year on. By Neil Buchan-Grant

Hi Steve,

It was last August when I told your readers how little use my Leica M9 was getting since I bought the Olympus OMD-EM5 in March. I have now had nearly a year with the OMD and I thought I’d fill you in on my progress.

So my M9 has, I’m afraid, had even less use since August. It is currently the most expensive paperweight I’ve ever owned. It is of course a camera capable of stunning results but the rangefinder/manual focus system has lost out to the infinitely more useable but equally compact OMD. I have found its snappy, accurate auto-focus and well-engineered, flip-up screen to be a winning combination for shooting subjects quickly and from fresh viewpoints. In so many situations the OMD has proven to be a more useful and versatile camera.

As fine as the images out of the Leica M9 are, I feel sure the new M will be a considerably more ‘useable’ camera with all the advantages of an articulating electronic viewfinder, (hopefully the new high res Epsom) and a sensor that shoots well in lower light. I can’t help thinking however, that I’ll still be wishing it had a flip-up screen like the OMD, perhaps that will be featured in the M2.0.

Here are some of my favorite shots from my first year with the Olympus OMD EM5.


















  1. These photos are stunning! can i ask what lens did you use for these photographs? I’m more certain of getting a Olympus Om-D E-M5 after reading your blog!

  2. Great shots……………….as usual.

    And I agree, I think the new Leica M Type 240 will at last make the Leica M something wonderful (as you know, up until now I have always regarded the Leica M as something of a primitive joke). When the new M is widely available I suspect that you will find it hard to resist. :o)

    Well, I don’t need to heap praises on the OM-D as I pretty much agree with all the priase heaped on it already.


  3. lol. A Leica M with a flip screen….
    In all seriousness though, great images!
    Whatever works right?
    Though personally, I think you’re crazy :p
    The m9 is just too stunning not to use…

  4. I really like my E-M5 for the powerful small package it represents but after 6 months of use my initial enthusiasm has faded. I use the same lens setup on any system: UWW zoom and a nice 35&85mm (analog to film). Now the 7-14 has proven to be very prone to magenta flare with a light source within the image ruining lots of shots. The 45mm though optically great shows signs of wear not even one of my Canon lenses has after 10 years of heavy use. I wonder if the 45 will see another year or if I have to buy a new one every other year. The Panasonic 20mm and the Olympus 17mm 1.8 do simply not allow enough control over DOF for my applications. Was to be expected but I hoped I could compromise on it.

    That leaves a powerful package with quite a lot salt in the soup at least for my needs. It does not help either that Olympus really got crazy on the ergonomic side with the E-M5. Things which just seemed suboptimal in the beginning now start to really annoy me in everydays use. Increasing the body size 1cm, removing the upper retro design edge which drives the Play and Fn1 as well as the Shutter button into an arkward position, moving the thumb weel to a position where the thumb is (and my glasses on the EVF are not) would have gone a long way and the list could go on for a while. Anybody using the braketing or mysets without hating to dig into the menu every time?

    So in the end despite of size and power of the E-M5 it keeps surprising and frustrating me at the same time. Unfortunately neither Fuji nor Sony can really help me right now. Both lack behind the E-M5 in one way or the other. what would it be worth to exchange one compromise by another?

  5. Great shots as we are used from you. I have an OMD with the 12-50mm, since June last year. I used it once, it’s fiddly, the EVF is misplaced, the files look digital and even quite some PP does not eliminate that digital look. On the other hand, it’s such a capable and versatile tool and Oly’s 12, 45 and 75mm primes could almost be enough reason to keep and use one. I just struggle to connect with the camera. If the XE1 had the Oly’s AF, a wider lens selection and decent RAW processors were available, the OMD would be history. Yet despite all my issues with the OMD, I’m considering to sell the Fuji and its lenses and get the Oly primes as the Fuji’s AF, particularly with the 60mm, drives me nuts. And I don’t see the point in having a system camera which too often does not get the shot.

  6. Always love your work.
    M is better for some things and Autofocus smaller sensor is better for other things. I love both. I was trying to take pictures of a painting today and the DOF is just too shallow. I miss my EP2 at moments like that.

  7. I also love the OMD…I have the two Sigma primes along with several Olympus lenses, and they are great lenses for the money. Right now you can get the pair at B&H for $199

  8. Great Photos!

    I have the OMD as well as my M9P and the M9P gets used most of the time. IQ wise it blows the OMD out of the Water and I love the Rangefinder.

    But I also love the OMD for what it is – a beautiful, little, highly sophisticated Camera which punchs very well above its weight. However it lacks the necessary Lenses. Primes are great but that’s what the M9P is for. the OMD is for AF, Liveview and Video and Zooms and thats why I need the 12-60 for m4/3 as well as a 300mm F4 plus EC14!


    • The OMD certainly does the zoom thing especially with the 2 recent X zooms from Panasonic. but it can do the ‘prime lens/thin depth of field’ thing surprisingly well too. Its probably the biggest misconception about m43 that it can’t do that as well as APS for example. It does and the primes it does it with are high class optics:)

  9. Great photos!! Very inspiring. Coincidentally, my M9 has also not seen any action since I got an OMD last April (and a XE1). Although I have now sold the XE1 as it too was not getting used.

  10. Wow, those are nice photographs! I thought about buying an EM5 too. Now that the E-PM2 is out I’m happy that I waited a while. That same great image quality as the EM-5 in a smaller, lighter and cheaper package.

  11. I enjoyed the photographs and the way you see -particularly the last one.

    I tried the OMD but found it was awkward and fiddly to use and did not feel right in my hands- especially compared with the Fuji X-E1. The trouble when you get older is that eyes, fingers and hands don’t operate as they used to and when arthritis kicks in in the fingers… a camera that feels comfortable becomes far more important. The nikons fit well and are straightforward to use but the weight means they only go out for planned work.

    Please can Leica invent a M series lens with autofocus that reads one’s mind and focuses accordingly – so I will have a reason to go back to Leica digital as my M8 became a shelf item before I sold it.

  12. These images are SPECIAL! The best ones from you are the landscapes here. Like some one said already, almost like a dream. But yet very real. You got a fan. Thanks very much for posting.

  13. I too have the OM-D and the M9 but I tend to use each about 50% of the time. Horses for courses but the OM-D with its superb range of lenses (I use the same primes as you) is a great walkabout camera. Thanks for showing your photos.

  14. I like the mother + child image at the harbor. The light is so strong yet subtle and brings out the textures of the stones very nicely. The people are accentuated very well by shooting towards the brightly lit sky.
    Are there any types of shooting for which you still grab for the Leica? There must be..

    • Hi
      If I had lots of time on my hands and I had shot all I needed with the OMD I would gladly whip out the M9 and 50mm 1.4 for some great shots! And I know there’s a good chance they could easily be the best shots of the day:)

  15. Mindblowingly great images, Neil!!! Just shows to go you what the right tool in your hands can inspire you to produce…amazing images through and through

  16. Fantastic images Neil !

    I was wondering if it is mainly the speed and facility of operation that draws you more to the OM-D than the M9 or is it the overall quality of the files? Are the files robust enough to work them as one can with the M9?

    Love the B&W quality you getting out of the files. Are you using Silver Efex Pro for conversions?

    Warm Regards

    • Hi Jorge
      Thanks, please excuse my delay, I have been away. I know the M9 files are better, I know the Leica lesnes are better too. But the OMD is more capable at getting many shots that I would be struggling to get with the M9. The OMD is fast to use, you may not come away with that feeling of empowerment one gets when using a camera like the M9 where you have to manually focus, but you come away with more shots. The screen makes it a lot of fun to use and I have never had any issues with the files. I use auto ISO up to 1600, Yes I am using Silver Efex Pro 2

      • Hey Neil, have a safe journey and good shooting wherever you are.

        I think that your enjoyment of the camera and the great images you are getting is the important thing. Leica is a great camera and the lenses second to none (mostly), but at the same time the “ones that do get away” through slower user speed are always what pisses me off sometimes with the Leica (buffer etc). But, then again, I always wonder what the Leica could have given me if I had used it for a shot captured with a “quicker” auto focus camera (like 5D M3 for e.g.).

        “Get it or loose it” , the trade off is always tough to decide on. For pro/commissioned work there is no question that “Get The Shot” is the deciding factor always – I try to shoot with the M9 as a personal second camera (cover) and it never fails to amaze me as to how good that CCD sensor really is with good light, also how the compositions seem to always come out “more interesting” through the Leica optical rangefinder – I think my mind is more organic with that M style of shooting.

        But your images are inspiring me to get into that OMD… so many options and so little time.

        Warm Regards

  17. Fantastic job !!

    i think not about the tools – OM D or the M9 – i think about connection between the photographer with the gear, like did steve right now, with his new RX1, give him fantastic result, coz the gear had the chemistry, and inspire steve to shoot … 🙂 – coz without shooting u cant get result right? – , with this case, OM-D did more “inspire” than the M9 …

    best regard Denie

  18. Added two E-M5’s at the expense of my D700 kit with a similar experience! 12/2:0, 25/1:4 PL, 45/1:8, 60 Macro, P 100-300. Then…along came the Pen Mini E-PM2…and it has become my everyday camera of choice w/ the 12 and 45…the E-M5’s ride the shelf ; ] I would have preferred a stellar 14 or 17 pancake over the 17/1:8…go figger that one?

  19. hi there, fantastic images with the om-d – can you tell us what lenses you used?
    interested to know about the pool image and the dog (lovely dog and lovely dof 🙂

    • Hi
      Thanks for the comments! The pool image was taken with the Olympus 12mm lens using a polariser and a B&W 10 stop ND filter. This gave me an exposure of 25 seconds at f4. The idea was to get some movement in the trees but there really wasn’t enough wind to produce that effect. It still worked out nice though. The pool was slightly lit up too which helped.

      The dog was just walking by and his owner said he had an itchy ear. I used the flip up screen to get a low and direct shooting angle which really made the shot. Using that screen is so easy and so fast, that would have been near impossible with a rangefinder given the fact he was off the second after I shot it:) I used the Pana Leica 25mm at f1.4 and processed this with Nik Silver Effex Pro 2 software

  20. These photos are awesome. Thanks for sharing. Now I really want to get that OMD and I’m afraid for my M8. At least my (future) paperweight will be cheaper than yours 🙂

  21. thanks all for the kind words, I have limited internet at the moment but just wanted to put my lenses down before I turn in. In order of preference, the PL 25, the Oly 45, the Oly 12mm the Oly 75mm and the Pana 12-35 and 35-100 but I’m still not sure when I will shoot those last two:)

    • I know you’re not asking me, but I in order, my faves are: Oly 17 1.8, Oly 45 1.8, and the Pana 25 1.4.

      Love the manual focus ring on the 17.

      I hope Oly comes out with a 25 of their own…

  22. Great photos. The more I use the OMD, the more I like it, and I am getting to like it a lot. Like you, I have an M9, and I have been picking up the OMD more and more. I do still prefer the manual simplicity of the M9 and usually the results too. I can shoot the M9 quickly and there are cases where it can be much faster than the OMD (low light with autofocus hunt – it can go the other way too). However, there are times I shoot both side-by-side and have been surprised at the number of times I prefer the OMD result – not a majority, but more than I expected. I have always had a soft spot for Oly equipment and it has performed well for me, I have also always felt that Oly glass is a close number two to Leica (non-scientific, just me) and have gotten many photos that are my favorites from a Oly kit. It does lack the DOF of Leica, but that’s not everything every time.

    If Olympus built a camera like this with aperture rings on the lens, and manual control similar the the Leica… Who knows.

  23. Wow Neil, your photos are absolutely superb! I love the OMD its the best camera I have ever used! Your results are stunning!


  24. Neil very nice photos. I feel very much the same way about the OMD. Its versatility has made it so enjoyable and provided new ways of looking at things with the flip screen.

    I’ve got an M6 as a film camera so enjoy using the RF in this format.

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