USER REPORT: Wedding Photography with the Olympus E-M5 by David Charlwood

USER REPORT: Wedding Photography with the Olympus E-M5 by David Charlwood

This year I switched from photographing weddings with my full-frame Nikon gear to the Olympus EM-5. The response from my clients has been entirely positive. The very first time I used the camera for a couple’s engagement photo shoot, the groom looked pleasantly surprised when I pulled the EM-5 out of the bag and said ‘I’m so glad you didn’t bring one of those massive paparazzi cameras!’ That is the biggest advantage of the EM-5 at weddings: it is so small that people barely notice it, especially on a day when there are so many cameras around.

From a professional perspective there are a few things that could be improved: small buttons mean the camera can feel a bit fiddly in operation and because the base ISO is only 200 and the shutter has a maximum of 1/4000 of a second using a bright lens on a summer day requires a neutral density filter. (Both complaints fixed with the newly released EM-1, I should add.) The reduced battery life takes some getting used to, but overall the EM-5 is wonderfully intuitive and offers so much customization that I have found I can operate the camera completely one-handed. One advantage of that is that I no longer have to carry an extremely heavy camera bag.

The lenses available for the EM-5 are simply superb. I used to shoot with Zeiss prime lenses and to all intents and purposes, the Voigtlander and Olympus primes I now use are just as good, not to mention a quarter of the size! I mostly use the excellent Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 and the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and 17mm f/1.8.

Many professional photographers are wary of moving to a smaller sensor, but an f/0.95 lens gives excellent depth of field control, as well as enabling shooting at a lower ISO. Almost all my clients will buy the full size digital files and not a single one has questioned the image quality. In short, the Olympus EM-5 is definitely up to professional use, just take a deep breath and go for it.

Black and white image shot with the Olympus 17 f/1.8 all other images on the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95.

Many thanks
David Charlwood
Wedding Photographer from Windsor, UK





  1. David, Your post and Steve’s enthusiasm has me taken a second look at the E-M1. For wedding photography? Pretty awesome and gutsy, to say the least. But here is my question: How would the photos look with an 11″ X 19″ print? Isn’t the sensor too small if wanting to make large prints?

    • 11×19 prints are no problem. I’ve done 30×20 and they came out just fine. No digital camera will every be good enough at 100%. Pixel peeping should be avoided for this reason. Have prints made and you will see that even a 8mp camera can do just fine for most anything.

  2. “. The very first time I used the camera for a couple’s engagement photo shoot, the groom looked pleasantly surprised when I pulled the EM-5 out of the bag and said ‘I’m so glad you didn’t bring one of those massive paparazzi cameras!’

    This is so spot on. People generally nowadays I find feel uncomfortable infront of big dslrs
    especially when people are pretty much clued up on small cameras.

  3. I have come full circle with trying small cameras for weddings, in my case I used a Fuji X100 and Fuji X-Pro1 for over a year. In the end I have come back to a full frame DSLR and only use the X-Pro1 occasionally. I now use a Canon 6D which I find small enough to not be intrusive and it has a quiet shutter. Best of all the 6D is amazing at high ISO and has quick auto focus.

    • I like the candidness of your comment. I own an X100S but I kinda see what your saying. Mirrorless cameras always seem to be almost there, but not quite. Just a nudge here and there, yes, but still not quite good enough.

  4. Nice to see David. I could not agree more closely. The last 5 weddings I shot were with a pair of em-5’s with the Lumix 12-35, 45 1.8, 25 1.4, and 75 1.8. I really, really love how they handle and then weight differential is amazing. Can’t say I can complain.

  5. I find it amusing when people, after a review of a sub-135 format camera as a “pro” tool, still say “…but you can’t really do pro work, because the sensor is smaller.”
    Just they said “…but you can’t really do serious travel with this “airplane” thingy, ‘cos it is heavier than air.”

  6. Gotta love that first shot; just proves again that originality in composition is far more important than the camera you use!

  7. This shows that no doubt the camera is capable. I like the first image although I would square crop it so the figure on the right is deleted. The last picture has rather busy and distracting bokeh and purple fringing (what lens?). The focus seems to be on her back rather than on his or her face.

  8. David

    I like your website/blog very much as well as your personal flicker account work.

    I have seen many great images from this camera on the web and have no doubt about its capabilities under ideal lighting conditions and proficient user ability. I just wonder how good it really is in almost uncontrolled situations where one has to deliver a pre-agreed upon set of images with superior quality and creative flair.

    What backup camera are you using, or are you carrying two E-M5’s for your professional wedding work ? I would understand using the E-M5 as a creative candid off-the-cuff second camera, but would be nervous to rely on it for casual as well as formal shots in difficult lighting conditions where the white dress and shadowed faces are of importance to the client. I would have thought that a FF with its more flexible files and dynamic range would be a more prudent tool to use or a combination of FF and 4/3 – specially if one wants to avoid fill in flash and other complicated supplementary lighting setups. Do you feel that the M-E5 is reliable and capable enough to risk a one-camera in your bag set-up?

    I am curious to hear your view and experience about the E-M5’s DR and file manipulation flexibility with high contrast ratio lighting compared to the Nikon 700 you used before, specially seeing that you seem to use mainly natural/available light in your wedding work.

    Regards and thank you for sharing

  9. haha ‘purple frigging’
    – yep that’s what I say when I see purple fringing; thank heavens for software correction.
    Nice tones in the B&W BTW

  10. I do believe these are nice pictures but honestly, from a professional point of view, I don’t seem to find them of really high quality wedding material, (If they were for me, I wouldn’t be satisfy). On pictures one and two it gives me the sensation of been hidden or taking the pict as i was a spectator not the wedding photographer. And on the last picture which has a beautiful mood, the focus is not close to any of the eyes and the purple frigging is an easily corrected issue, that shouldn’t pass unseen… (I did check your website and found a bunch of beautiful material that i will have rather shown instead).

      • Sorry that comment was not for Dr. Nick although now it does end up looking like that. It was meant as a reply for ailukewitsch 🙂 and no offence. I just find it a bit rude when people comment about art like that cause art is beauty and the same image get get varied response from different people.

  11. Brilliant photos and another great review and p.o.v. of the E-M5.

    It’s reports like this that really help further backup just how good MFT is and in particular the E-M5… which I also own and use for professional work.

    Looking forward to eventually owning a new E-M1.. I don’t believe the IQ will necessarily be that much better.. not leaps and bounds, just in some fine detail areas and the way it optimizes image correction for each lens.. but like you wrote, the controls are good and plenty, but a bit tight and can be fiddly… I welcome the better spaced and placed control layouts of the E-M1 with even more overall customizable control of the essential functions often used… and I think the larger, brighter and more detailed EVF will make the process of picture making that much more pleasurable.

    Thanks for your insights and review!

  12. Using a mirror less for event photography still looks to me than buy a small size car to start a transportation business. Yes there will be opportunities that allow this, but I wouldn’t be feeling very safe and most of all: the flash technologies available for this kind of work are almost non-existing. I tried the same, and will never do it again.

    • ” the flash technologies available for this kind of work are almost non-existing”??? Are you actually a pro? Someone who actually understands how flash works would not say anything like this. If you can pop a flash on the top (check) or can mount a trigger (check) you have flash. If you are experienced or you choose to learn you will then have professional grade lighting. Yes, I know a lot of pros use TTL flash but that is still a substitute for real lighting knowledge and expertise.

      • All of the Flash abilities and even better(like syncin the X100 @ 1/500th and faster) is allready there. Also the TTL flash is avaible for Fuji X cameras at least 🙂 Probably for more.

    • Well, continue practicing and learning, and you’ll feel confortable even with non-TTL flashes. BTW: THERE are already great TTL flashes for this camera, so you can take shortcuts and use it, if you want.

  13. Beautiful pictures! I can’t see anything technical in these shots that would prevent me from enjoying them. They are a reminder that composition, imagination, and timing are what makes these shots. Mastery of the technical is also there, and required, but would come to naught without the former attributes.

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