OM System OM-5


Two-minute review

The OM System OM-5 is kind of new, but not in a big way. It’s really a refresh and an update of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, with new branding, improved stabilization and weatherproofing, and a couple of new features from higher-end models, including starry sky AF, and live ND filters for longer exposures in bright light. 

The main specs stay the same, including the 20MP MFT sensor, 121-point phase-detect AF, and video up to 4K 30p. That might sound a little disappointing, but there’s more to the OM-5 than the headline specs. 

OM System OM-5 specs

Sensor: 20.4MP MFT Live MOS

AF points: 121-point phase detect 

Video: C4K 24p, 4K 30p, FHD 60p, High-speed 120p FHD

Viewfinder: OLED 2.36m-dot

Memory card: Single SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II

LCD: 3-inch vari-angle touch 1.04m-dot

Max Burst: 10fps mechanical shutter (buffer unlimited JPEG / 149 raw), 30fps electronic shutter (buffer 20 JPEG / 18 raw), 30fps Pro Capture

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mic, HDMI Type D, USB 2

Size: 125.3 x 85.2 x 49.7mm

Weight: 414g (inc. battery and SD card)

For a start, like the E-M5 III before it, it packs a lot of features, controls and performance into a very small body. This is a pocket-sized interchangeable lens camera that can shoot at 10fps, or 30fps with 14-shot pre-buffer in Pro Capture mode. It has Live Bulb and Live Composite modes for watching exposure build ‘live’ at night, and its pixel-shift High Res capture mode can create 50MP images handheld, and 80MP images on a tripod.

The external controls are remarkably well laid out for a camera so small, with a real quality feel to them, and as well as an EVF you get a vari-angle screen.

OM System is pitching this as a go-anywhere adventure camera, but it’s perfectly suited to travel and vlogging too, thanks in part to some excellent, compact and affordable lenses. 

The OM-5 may not break any technical barriers, but as a piece of intelligent product design, it’s pretty remarkable.

(Image credit: Rod Lawton)

OM System OM-5 price and release date

• OM System OM-5 body only: $1,199.99 / £1,199 (about AU$2,150)
• OM System OM-5 with 12-45mm f/4 Pro lens: $1,599.99 / £1,499 (about AU$2,850)
• OM System OM-5 with 14-150mm f/5.6 II lens (UK only): £1,499

The previous Olympus OM-D E-M5 III was never a cheap camera, and that’s worth mentioning, because although the OM-5 has a new maker and a new model name, it's largely the same camera.

So if the OM-5’s predecessor seemed stubbornly pricey back then, the same applies now. The OM-5 is a powerful little camera, but it does not do anything remarkable for the money; it's worth its price tag in our opinion, but you're not getting a bargain in terms of value for money.

It’s up against some good cameras in the same price bracket, including the Canon EOS R10, Fujifilm X-S10, Nikon Z50 and Sony A6400, all of which have APS-C sensors. But then the Canon and the Nikon don’t have any lenses to speak of (it’s true!), and the A6400 is an old camera with no IBIS, which leaves the Fujifilm X-S10 as the most serious competitor.

The OM-5 has a smaller MFT sensor, of course. A lot of folk are convinced this gives it a serious image quality disadvantage – wrongly, as it happens. What it also has is a range of lenses that's broadar then those of it's rivals, and the lenses themselves are physically smaller. You can’t use a camera without lenses.

• Value rating: 4/5

(Image credit: Rod Lawton)

OM System OM-5 design and handling

• Mini-DSLR style design
• Flip-out vari-angle screen
• Single SD card slot
• Twin control dials
• Dual mode function lever

For a camera packing this performance, power, and range of features, the OM-5 is very small. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether you're using big professional, constant-aperture lenses, or the smaller zooms and primes from the Olympus range – and whether you're looking for a tiny travel camera or a big do-it-all mirrorless with serious grunt.

With smaller lenses, the OM-5 is just divine. If you want to use larger lenses, it really needs the optional grip (this doesn't take extra batteries; it's just a bigger grip) in order for it to feel balanced and comfortable.

Regardless of that, OM System (not ‘Olympus’, remember) has done a remarkable job of getting a lot of very usable physical controls onto such a small body. 

The OM System f/4 Pro lenses are a perfect match for the OM-5’s compact body. This is the 12-45m f/4 kit lens, a stellar performer (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

The EVF is good enough, though it lacks the outright resolution of newer and more expensive rivals, and the flip-out vari-angle screen on the back is a nice feature on a camera as small as this, and a useful one too.

The single SD card slot might deter power users looking for the additional security and backup options of a dual-card setup, but there’s a limit to how much you can fit into a body as small as this. One reason for choosing two card slots is to cover the possibility of card failure, which is rare. Another is to separate stills and video, JPEGs and raw, captures and backups – all of which are reasonable pro requirements, but somewhat outside the remit of a camera like this.

There’s only a single SD card slot, but then there’s hardly space for more (Image credit: Rod Lawton)


The twin control dials have a smooth, solid feel and a function lever on the back swaps between two sets of adjustments for these dials (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

There are two control dials on the top of the E-M5 and these work really well, and are given extra versatility by the dual-mode lever on the back of the camera which switches their functions. You do have to remember what you’ve set these dials up to do for each function mode, but if you can do that you’ll get a very quick system for changing a multitude of settings from shutter speed to aperture, and from white balance to EV compensation.

The OM-5’s external controls have a quality feel, and a logic that’s very endearing. Olympus (sorry, OM System – it still takes some getting used to) is very good indeed at making the controls on small cameras work as well as, or better than, those on larger ones.

• Design score: 5/5

OM System OM-5 features and performance

• 6.5-stop IBIS (7.5-stop with sync IS)
• Extensive and customizable Art Filters
• Pro Capture with pre-shot buffer
• In-camera focus stacking
• 50MP/80MP High Res Shot
• Live Composite, Live Bulb, Live ND

Practically every camera maker in the world now offers 5-axis in-body stabilization systems which it considers the best on the market. But OM System (see, we didn’t say ‘Olympus’!) and Panasonic between them have, we would say, the best. It’s perhaps to do with the smaller sensor size and mass, or the algorithms used, but the OM-5’s stabilization is pretty remarkable. It has its limits for video – an IBIS system simply can’t smooth camera movements like a gimbal – but for all the perceived ‘faults’ of MFT systems, the stabilization is remarkable.

The 20MP Micro Four Thirds sensor is half the area of APS-C but still delivers very good photo and video quality – you have to be a pixel-peeper to see the difference (Image credit: Rod Lawton)


The drive mode button offers access to 10fps shooting with the mechanical shutter or 30fps in Pro Capture mode (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

The OM-5 has many other strengths. One of these is its Pro Capture mode, which can capture still images at 30fps with a 14-shot pre-capture buffer to allow for your reaction time. So you can half-press the shutter release for a ‘rolling’ capture, then press it the rest of the way when the action starts, and the camera will record the half-second of action while you were still thinking about it. That’s clever. The only drawback is that the focus is fixed from the start – but that’s fine for setups where you know where the action is going to happen, such as the jumps in a horse race or the bar in a high jump.

The OM-5 uses a lot of computational features that include in-camera focus stacking, which you can use handheld, and a 50MP High Res Shot mode, also handheld, for those times when you might actually need the resolution of a high-res full-frame camera – and it really does generate natively higher-resolution images, not some kind of lame substitute.

On top of that, you've got Olympus’s Live Composite, Live Bulb and Live ND modes. The first two are really good for night shots – once you’ve worked out the settings and parameters – while the second promises the same effect as ND filters for blurring skies, surf and water. This is limited to a 4-stop reduction, however, when for long exposures in bright light you really need a 10-stop reduction.

Finally, Olympus’s Art Filters are worth a mention. These are not the pretty plain 'looks' you might get from other cameras, but actually rather good analog effects.

• Features and performance score: 5/5

OM System OM-5 image and video quality

The 50MP handheld High Res mode is perfectly practical for non-moving subjects. (Image credit: Rod Lawton)


That’s a lot of depth of field for a close-up, and it’s all thanks to the OM-5’s in-camera focus stacking, which works fine even for handheld shots (Image credit: Rod Lawton)


The OM System image stabilization is amongst the best. This indoor museum exhibit was shot handheld at 0.5 sec (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

A lot has been said, and probably will continue to be said, about the perceived deficiencies of the Micro Four Thirds format. First, it's half the size of APS-C; however, it's also far larger than the 1-inch sensor format widely employed in compact cameras, and far larger again than the sensors in phones and point-and-shoot compacts.

At low-medium ISO settings, you won’t see much difference in quality between the OM-5’s images and those from an APS-C camera. At higher ISOs you might start to see more difference, but again, it’s not huge. If you compare the OM-5’s results to those from a full-frame camera you'll see more difference but, even here, you have to weigh this against the OM-5’s far lower price, its portability and unobtrusiveness, and the performance of its image stabilization system.

This is extremely effective for stills photography, and pretty good for video too. For static handheld shots it’s so steady that images can look as if they were filmed on a tripod, and with care it’s possible to produce smooth panning movements too. It’s less effective for walking and filming, but that’s true of every mirrorless camera's IBIS system. The stabilization in the OM-5 is just about the best on the market, aided no doubt by the smaller sensor.

The OM-5 produces bright, punchy colors and good detail even in low light. This shot was taken at ISO4,000, and shows just how far MFT image sensors and processing have come (Image credit: Rod Lawton)


The JPEG color rendition is really pleasing. This ultra-wide shot was taken with the 8-25mm f/4 lens (Image credit: Rod Lawton)


Thanks to a combination of optical and digital corrections, images from the OM System Pro lenses are effectively aberration-free. This was shot with the 40-150mm f/4 (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

The autofocus is competent without being game changing. It doesn’t have the AI subject recognition found in the latest cameras like the Sony A7R V or Canon EOS R6 II, but its face recognition and tracking seem to be pretty ‘sticky’. It’s easily good enough for casual vlogging and photography, especially since the shorter focal lengths used with MFT systems give you more depth of field latitude anyway.

For its size, this camera delivers excellent video and stills quality, with a stabilization system that gives you a really high hit rate of sharp shots.

It’s also worth mentioning the lenses. We tested the OM-5 with three Pro f/4 Olympus lenses: the 12-45mm f/4, the 8-25mm f/4, and the 40-150mm f/4 (which is actually branded OM System). These f/4 lenses are a good match for the OM-5’s size and price (the f/2.8 Pro lenses and f/1.2 primes are a little large). All three are really well made and finished, and deliver excellent results.

The OM-5 isn’t just small and powerful in its own right; it comes with a small and powerful lens range too, which isn’t just lighter than larger-format alternatives, but cheaper too.

• Image and video quality score: 4/5

Should I buy the OM System OM-5?

(Image credit: Rod Lawton)

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Also consider…

Testing scorecard

OM System OM-5
Attributes Notes Rating
Price Good value given the features you get 4/5
Design Very compact body and some compact lenses too 5/5
Features/performance 50MP High Res, Live Composite and more 5/5
Image/video quality Not cutting-edge but highly capable 4/5



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