Readers stories: 7 Reasons Olympus OMD-EM5 is the Best Travel DSLR (Chris Vervaeke)

This is the next 43rumors story posted by Chris Vervaeke ( The usual reminder: If you want your story to be published on 43rumors contact me (Ale) at I like to see real on field tests, funny experiments, weird accessory review and everything else that usually don’t get posted on big review sites :)


Chris Vervaeke:

The OMD-EM5 might not have as many pixels as a Canon 5DMk3 or the Nikon D4, but after using my EM5 for the past 6 months traveling, I truly believe it’s the best travel camera.

My previous travel camera was an Olympus E-500. I’ve used an older Canon film camera and a very old Minolta film camera. I’ve also owned Nikon and Canon digital point and shoots. My favorite, so far, being Canon ELPH (IXUS) line of cameras. I’ve used many of the IXUS line over the years at work. So while I like Olympus, I’m not married to the brand.

When I decided I was going on a world trip, I realized cameras had come a long way since my trusty and durable E-500 (I’ve dropped it no less than 3 times, once rolling down an embankment almost into a river). My skills and demands as a photographer had also matured. I wanted something I could do more with than just point and press.

The OMD is Small (But Not Too Small)

I’m 6’ tall and have fairly large hands. To be honest I was actually concerned that the OMD might be too small. I nearly purchased the HLD-6 battery grip for it, but in the end, decided to forego and I’m happy I did. Despite its diminutive size, the OMD is actually really comfortable to hold and use for shooting all day.

What I think I like best about the size though is, that with the 20mm Panasonic lens attached I can drop it in a jacket pocket or just about anywhere and carry it around for the day. I would have preferred the 17mm f1.8 Olympus but it wasn’t available when I left the country.

Take a look at this link to to get an idea of how small the OMD-EM5 actually is, compared to a compact camera and a variety of other DSLRs.

The OMD is Light

Ok, so the camera itself isn’t as light as a Canon Rebel, but I wouldn’t consider that its competitor. I’d hazard to put the OMD (652g) up against the likes of the Canon 60D (755g) which weighs a fair bit more and is also significantly bigger.

When one starts to take into consideration the bigger camera bag, bigger filters, and other accessories, the true kit weight really starts to add up.

All this doesn’t take into account the lenses which can be double, triple, quadruple, and even more times the weight for an APS-C or “full frame” system. A 17mm F1.8 Olympus (136g) vs 35mm F2.0 Canon (210g) or a 45mm F1.8 Olympus (116g) vs. an 85mm F1.8 Canon (425g)

What this means is that if you insist on a DSLR (or ILC) as a travel camera, yet are still trying to follow a mantra of traveling light, the OMD or a similar m43 camera would be your best option.

Photographic Quality

I did a lot of research on DPreview and other review sites before I bought my OMD, as I knew Olympus has not had a great history with their sensors (my E-500 was quite noisy). I’m happy to report that Olympus has finally cleaned up their act and the quality I can get out of the OMD at even fairly high ISOs has really impressed me.

I can see very little reason I’d want to upgrade beyond the EM5 for the foreseeable future. I’m that happy with the quality and features. With the E-500 I was always looking at what came out next, hoping for a camera like the EM5.

Lens Quality

Many of the Olympus lenses, particularly the 12mm f2.0, 45mm f1.8, 60mm f2.8 macro and 75mm f1.8 have been rated some of the highest in their class. A quick look through DxOMark will show you these lenses are higher quality than nearly all but the most expensive of glass from other manufactures.

There are occasional compromises as you’d have with any system, but by choosing the m43 diminutive system, you will not be sacrificing on lens quality.


One big factor in my choosing the OMD-EM5 was the controls. I can change f-stop and shutter speeds on separate dials, with ISO just one more button away. The ability to have quick and accurate exposure control has made an amazing change to the way I do my photography. I’ll admit, that before with the EM5 I used one of the auto settings more often than not.

The electronic viewfinder is good enough that I honestly forget that it is digital sometimes, until I seamlessly transition to using the LCD for composition in a tough situation.

The dust reduction system has kept the exposed sensor clean, which was a big concern of mine with a mirrorless camera system.

Video Quality

I’ve just started to use the video feature on the camera and I’m already pretty impressed. Even the built in microphone seemed to be of reasonable quality. At a gig for a friend of mine I ended up doing some impromptu shooting with just a 20mm Panasonic lens and the built in microphone. It doesn’t rival the GH2 or GH3 as far as I know, but it’s still sufficient for my needs and should work for upcoming travel videos.

I will be getting the SEMA-1 microphone attachment for the OMD shortly so I can start shooting some more video and have the ability to put a dead cat or foam over the microphone for outdoor shooting. Without a muffler the microphone, built in or not, is useless outside.

Weather Resistance

At the moment the numbers of m43 lenses that can combine with the OMD-EM5 to form a completely sealed system are few and far between (not counting the 43system lenses), but even just the body itself being sealed has its advantages.

I remember in New Zealand leaving my E-500 in the car while headed to go sand dune boarding knowing the inevitable. I then spent the evening disassembling and trying to clean a friend’s compact camera of the sand it had acquired to no avail.

My OMD-EM5 with the 12-50mm lens attached has already made a number of trips to the beach and various misty waterfalls without incident. It nice to know a little bit of adverse conditions won’t leave me without a camera for a multiyear trip.


If you’re looking for a high quality camera system that will give you the photographic quality you demand but not weigh you down, I’d strongly suggest you take the OMD-EM5 into consideration. If the EM5 is out of your budget range, there are still a variety of other cameras in the m43 system that are very good and can utilize the excellent lenses.

My Current Kit

Olympus OMD-EM5 Olympus 12-50mm f3.5-6.3
Olympus 45mm f1.8 Panasonic 20mm f1.7 Lexar Professional SDHC 32GB U1
Trancend SDHC 16GB Class 10
Aftermarket Hood for 45 mm
Aftermarket Hood for 12-50mm
2 extra Aftermarket batteries
B+W circular polarizer for 12-50mm
Tamarac bag

Fusion Universal Battery charger (not considered in the kit)

Chris Vervaeke is a traveler, hiker, photographer, blogger, and friend to a penguin named Pedro. OK Pedro’s a puppet, but he’s still cute. Follow Chris and Pedro on as they share stories, mishaps, and advice on travel.

Triple Photozone MFT lens review and Sigma DxOmark test.

Image courtesy: Photozone.

We have five new MFT Lens test reports:

1) Olympus M.ZUIKO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R at Photozone (Click here): “may be an unexciting lens for advanced users but many newbies start their journey with the Olympus system just right here.

2) Panasonic Lumix G 45-150mm f/4-5.6 OIS at Photozone (Click here): “may not be able to touch the very best lenses out there but for a tele zoom lens that is usually sold as part of camera kits, the results are impressive.

3) Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm II at Photozone (Click here): “Panasonic has developed a real winner here and it even won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get it.

4) Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN A MFT at DxOmark (Click here): “In fact, it’s really only an average performer, but at $199, it’s sensitively priced and suitably complements some of the more affordable MFT camera models.

5) Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN A MFT at DxOmark (Click here): “As for the optical quality, the 60mmputs in a solid a performance. And, at $239, it‘s not inaccessibly priced.


Links to the current Sigma MFT lenses:
Black Sigma 19mm f/2.8 lens at Amazon and Bhphoto.
Silver Sigma 19mm f/2.8 lens at Amazon and Bhphoto.
Black Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens at Amazon and Bhphoto.
Silver Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens at Amazon and Bhphoto.
Black Sigma 60mm f/2.8 at BHphoto.
Silver Sigma 60mm f/2.8 at BHphoto.

First full Panasonic GX7 reivew posted at ePhotozine (with RAW files).

And finally the first Panasonic GX7 review has been posted at ePhotozine (Click here). They also posted the first RAW files (but how the heck open them?). The conclusion is:

The Panasonic Lumix GX7 introduces a truly unique experience thanks to the tilting electronic viewfinder, and with a new sensor the camera delivers excellent image quality, with particularly impressive noise performance beating the previous class leader at high ISO settings.

Great cam. Let’s hope the new E-M1 has some surprise we are not aware of yet. Otherwise it’s the Panasonic that will that run as best new MFT camera.

GX7 preorder list (Click on store name to open the GX7 price, specs and preorder page):
Silver GX7 body at Amazon US, BHphoto, Adorama, Samys, Henrys and Wex Deutschland, Wex UK ,and Amazon JP.
Silver GX7 with 14-42mm lens at Amazon, BHphoto, Adorama, Samys, Henrys and Wex Deutschland, WexUK.
Black GX7 body at Henrys, Wex Deutschland, Wex UK and Amazon Japan.
Black GX7 with 14-42mm lens at Henrys, Wex Deutschland, Wex UK.
Black GX7 with 20mm lens at Henrys, Wex UK and Amazon Japan.
Silver GX7 with 20mm lens at Henrys, Wex UK and Amazon Japan.

Barney Sykes about the GX7. And first Full size ISO image samples!

Panasonic Lumix GX7 vs GX1 Camera Comparison with Barney Sykes (Lumix G product manager).

GX7 preorders are still high at Amazon (ranking here). But let’s take a look to some interesting new GX7 info: On top you can watch a nice interview with Barney Sykes from Panasonic. Barney says this is the best sensor in the area “we are competing” (I guess he means MFT). And if you want to check if what he tells is true check out the first ISO Full Size image sample posted by ePhotozine (Click here). To make it easier for you I linked you to the direct E-P5 and GX7 Full size ISO images:

ISO 100 E-P5 and GX7 (actually 125 for the Panasonic).
ISO 200 E-P5 and GX7
ISO 400 E-P5 and GX7
ISO 800 E-P5 and GX7
ISO 1600 E-P5 and GX7
ISO 3200 E-P5 and GX7
ISO 6400 E-P5 and GX7
ISO 12800 E-P5 and GX7
ISO 25600 E-P5 and GX7

Of course these are JPG results and we know Olympus usually is a tiny bit better here. That said..

what camera delivers the best results?

View Results

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GX7 preorder list (Click on store name to open the GX7 price, specs and preorder page):
Silver GX7 body at Amazon US, BHphoto, Adorama, Samys, Henrys and Wex Deutschland, Wex UK ,and Amazon JP.
Silver GX7 with 14-42mm lens at Amazon, BHphoto, Adorama, Samys, Henrys and Wex Deutschland, WexUK.
Black GX7 body at Henrys, Wex Deutschland, Wex UK and Amazon Japan.
Black GX7 with 14-42mm lens at Henrys, Wex Deutschland, Wex UK.
Black GX7 with 20mm lens at Henrys, Wex UK and Amazon Japan.
Silver GX7 with 20mm lens at Henrys, Wex UK and Amazon Japan.

DxOmark selects the best MFT prime and zoom lenses.

Short break from GX7 news:

DxOmark (Click here) posted the table of the best prime and zoom lenses for the MFT system. As usual takes these kind of tests with a grain of salt. There are different ways of doing tests and as we have seen from the past conclusions do change from reviewer to reviewer. That said results are not really a surprise for anyone here :)