Olympus OM-D hands on review

Retro styling’s big in camera land at the moment. Can Olympus crash the party? Or has it turned up in the wrong outfit?

Olympus OM-D – retro styling

We rather like the Olympus OM-D's retro design, inspired by Olympus's OM line of manual-focus film SLRs. Despite the SLR looks, it's not as big as you might expect. In fact, it's almost too small to get a firm grip – similar to the Panasonic G3 and not as holdable as the Olympus E-P3. That can be remedied by adding the optional vertical grip, but at the expense of tinyness.

Olympus OM-D – viewfinder and tilt touchscreen

The OLED rear touchscreen is the same as that on the E-P3, but tilts up and down. The touch sensitivity is still a little sluggish; not smartphone-slick. The headliner, of course, is the eye viewfinder, which is a bright 1.44MP number and has a sensor that switches to the EVF from the main screen when you put your eye to it – a nice touch that also features on the Nikon V1.

Olympus OM-D – new power-zoom lens

The new 12-50mm lens has several tricks up its barrel. It can either be used with motorised zoom – rotating the ring a small amount activates a servo that zooms the optics in or out, not dissimilar to Panasonic's power zoom – or you can allow the zoom ring to float free like a traditional zoom lens. There's also a Macro mode, for 1:1-scale close-ups, that's activated via a button on the side. If you want to swap for something a bit longer in the zoom department, that's when you'll see the real benefits of the Olympus OM-D's new five-axis image stabilisation, which allows for pitch and yaw. Results are very impressive, and it's hard to shake it once it steadies the scene.

Olympus OM-D – Live Bulb

A genuinely astonishing new feature of the Olympus OM-D is the Live Bulb setting. If you've ever been frustrated by the inexact science of setting a long exposure to capture something like fireworks, you'll love this. Press the shutter button to start the exposure and you'll see the picture gradually exposing on the screen's Live View, so you can see when you've got the shot right and can stop exposing.

Olympus OM-D – Art Effects bracketing

Rotating the mode dial to Art brings up all the usual fun photo effects (such as Diorama, Dramatic Tone and Grainy Film), plus a new one called Key Line that tries to make your shots look a bit Manga-ish. But the most interesting addition is a bracketing option that saves multiple versions of your photo with each of the Art Effects applied, in case you can't decide which will work best. The downside is that it takes ages doing the processing before you can take the next shot.

First impressions bode well for the Olympus OM-D. We'll be back with a fully focussed review soon enough.

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