Retro style, modern features
So how do you design a retro camera yet keep all the functionality and controls of a modern digital camera?
While the E-M5 is essentially a Micro Four Thirds camera, Olympus has cleverly made some of the controls hidden or look like it was something else - for example, there are two command dials on the top of the camera, but one is cleverly styled to look like part of the shutter button, while the other looks like a shutter speed dial.
There are some minor drawbacks to this design - for example, the command dial under the thumb is a tad too high up for your thumb and instead of a pop-up flash, you get an add-on flash. But overall, the design actually works.
At first glance the E-M5 looks a lot like the classic OM-4Ti, but the E-M5 is slightly smaller than the original film SLR it's based on.
Personally, I would have liked it to be the same size as the OM-4Ti, but the E-M5 is comfortable and feels really solid in the hands, thanks to its magnesium alloy body.
In fact, the E-M5 is actually a lot heavier than it looks (though still lighter than most DSLRs) and is finished and weather-sealed to Olympus' usual very high standards for their high-end cameras.
It may look like an old SLR from the front, but turn the camera around or look through the viewfinder and you'll immediately see that it is a digital camera - the back has a large 3in touch-sensitive OLED screen and the viewfinder is not optical, but a 1.44-million dot electronic viewfinder (EVF).
The OLED screen is tiltable but you can't rotate it, i.e. you can angle it for low- or high-angle shooting, but not flip it around to face forwards.
Inside the retro exterior, Olympus has packed in the very latest technology that the company has to offer - there's a new 16.1-megapixel LiveMOS sensor, a new five-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation system and an improved autofocus system that works faster when in continuous autofocus mode.
The five-axis image stabilisation system works really, really well, especially when you're shooting videos - I shot a number of handheld videos and was amazed at how silky smooth videos were even when I was walking and shooting at the same time.
If you find the camera a bit small, you can also buy the optional HLD-6 battery grip - I'd call it a transforming grip since it actually works a bit like a two-stage rocket.
For example, if you just want a more substantial grip, you can simply add a section which gives you just that, which feels larger and has its own shutter release.
However, if you also want a vertical grip and more battery life, you can add another section at the bottom of the first grip, which gives you a vertical shutter release and a compartment for a second battery which will effectively double your battery life.
I'm not one for add-on vertical grips but I did find the first stage grip useful.
Professionals and portrait shooters will probably be happy to go for the second-stage attachment with the vertical grip and shutter release though.