Of necessity, the rest of the control layout is pretty much pure D-SLR or CSC, but Olympus has gone for quite chunky keys – in terms of their depth – which look like a throwback to the first push-buttons to appear on 35mm SLRs. The on/off control is a lever, as is the catch for the battery compartment which is accessed from the camera’s base.

The memory card slot and the connection bay are at either end of the camera, but their covers are both so discreet you have to look hard to realise that they’re actually there. The end result is that, through OM eyes, the E-M5 looks gorgeous, although even in general terms it’s a very pretty camera with the same ‘hold me, touch me’ allure as the X100 and X-Pro1. The big decision is whether to go for the black or the silver, a choice that for many will no doubt be influenced by which finish they preferred in the 35mm days. It has to be said, however, the E-M5 actually looks very smart in both colours.
The external covers are magnesium alloy and the bodyshell is sealed against dust and moisture (as, indeed, is the optional battery grip). Sticking with tradition, there isn’t a built-in flash, but a neat little compact unit – also weather sealed – comes in the box. The test camera was supplied with the M.Zuiko Digital 12-50mm power zoom which is one of two ‘kit lens’ options and, while it’s not as compact as the alternative 14-42mm, it too is weatherproofed. If you’re feeling a bit ambivalent about power zooms, the Olympus lens has the advantage of retaining a conventional collar-type control rather than a rocker-switch so its operation is more intuitive.

The E-M5’s sensor is a new Live MOS device with a total pixel count of 17.2 million, the highest resolution in an Olympus digital camera to date. It’s mated with Olympus’s TruePic VI image processor which enables, among other things, Full HD video recording, continuous shooting at up to 9.0 fps and enhanced noise reduction so the sensitivity range is equivalent to ISO 200 to 25,600.

The effective pixel count is 16.1 million which delivers a maximum image size of 4608x3456 pixels, but as on the Digital Pen cameras and the E-series D-SLRs, there’s actually a dizzying choice of image settings – four JPEG compression levels, eight sizes and five aspect ratios can all be mixed and matched. The compression settings are called Super Fine, Fine, Normal and Basic and, while the image size settings are for Large, Middle and Small, the latter two can be assigned from a selection of settings (four and three respectively) in the E-M5’s extensive Custom Menu. Likewise, RAW+JPEG capture can be configured to capture any combination of JPEG compression level and image size.

Olympus pioneered active sensor cleaning via ultrasonic vibration of the low-pass filter (LPF), but this hardly seems to rate a mention these days. It’s not referred to in either the brochure or the manual, but be assured ‘Supersonic Wave’ sensor cleaning is still there. Instead, the big deal on the E-M5 is its sensor-shift image stabilisation system which has been upgraded to provide correction for movements in five directions (yaw and pitch plus roll, horizontal shift and vertical shift) and to give up to five stops of additional hand-held stability. Additionally, there’s a ‘Multi-Motion IS’ mode which counters low-frequency camera shake – such as occurs when you’re walking while shooting video – and gives, claims Olympus, “near steadicam quality”. Olympus also points out that the E-M5 image stabilisation also works with “uncoupled vintage lenses mounted via lens adapters”, clearly being well aware that a lot of OM glass is going to end up on the camera.